By Kimberly Zapata
Let me start by saying I’m sorry, not for who I am or what I’ve done but for being silent for so long. For shutting down, and shutting up. For closing myself off. You see, it’s taken me awhile to gather the nerve to write these things, mainly because I am scared you will respond — and terrified you will not. But what can say: I miss you.
Even though you ghosted me, I miss you.
But I have a few things I need to say, and I hope you will listen. Wherever you are, I hope you understand.
I know I wasn’t always the best friend, or the easiest friend to have around. I was moody and needy, flighty and melancholy, and — at times — I was a buzzkill.
My presence had the power to bring down the mood. I can admit that.
But that is because I have a mental illness — a complex and unpredictable illness known as bipolar II — and while some days are “normal” — I am happy, spontaneous, lively, and loud — other days I am erratic and unstable. I am impulsive and suicidal, and I am so broken I cannot move. I cannot get out of bed, I can barely breathe and — on those days — I break promises.
I’ve cancelled many a plans.
Of course, I know it must have been frustrating for you, not only to “deal” with me, but to see me living in such a state. To see your friend turn from a fun-loving girl to a ghost in an unshowered shell. But I wish you didn’t disappear on me when things got rough, because I needed you.
On those dark days, I needed you. I really did.
But instead of sitting with me and listening to me, you left. You walked out of the proverbial door because I was too much.
My mental illness was too much.
Of course, you never said that explicitly —you never told me we couldn’t be friends because I was “crazy,” because I was dramatic or too intense — but then again you never told me anything. Instead, you slipped out of my life slowly, the same way helium seeps out of a mylar balloon.
But the signs were all there.
First, came the excuses, then the cancelled plans. You stopped inviting me into your home or out to parties. To the mall. To the bar. And before long there was silence. My calls were going unanswered. The texts I sent you were received, but never read.
And that silence? It hurt so bad.
I need you to know it hurt, not to make you feel guilty, but to help you understand. Because admitting you have a mental illness is tough — it is one of the hardest and most vulnerable things a person can do — because of shame. Because of stigma. Because we fear losing our family and friends and to be shut out for doing so: no one should experience that emptiness and loneliness.
No one should feel that pain. But, like so many others, here I am.
That said, they say there are three types of friends in life — those who enter for a reason, those who enter for a season, and those who enter for a lifetime — and I suppose you were one of the former: our friendship had a time and place. A season, and that season has passed. But that doesn’t make me feel any better.
That doesn’t make the end any easier; in fact, it still hurts.
I miss you every day.
But while we didn’t “make it” — while our friendship didn’t last — odds are you will have another friend like me, not necessarily with bipolar disorder but with another mental health disorder because 42.5% of the American population struggles with (or will struggle with) a mental illness and they will need your help.
They will need your love, your support, your shoulder your ear, your hand.
So hold them. Help them. Listen to them. Remember no one is perfect. Friendship isn’t perfect: it isn’t all smiles, laughs, and love. But I assure you they are trying. They want to be a good friend.
They are fighting. They just need some help. They need support, and you can be that person for them.
You’re not obligated to lift anyone out of their mental health issues, that’s not possible or a burden I would expect anyone to bear, but you can be a guiding light. And that, will mean the world to someone like me.
I know you.
I believe you can be that friend. If not for me, for the next friend who is suffering.
© 2017 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Scary Mommy