I have known for a long time that isolation can be a trigger to a bipolar episode; however, I didn't realize how slowly isolation can creep up on you, whether you have bipolar disorder or not.
I truly enjoy working from home, don't get me wrong. I love it, in fact -- flexible hours, working in the comfort and peace of my home, my husband being close by, and getting to work in my PJs!
I never thought of it in terms of being lonely, because I'm not that. But I am isolated -- I live out in the country (and I love it, the peace and quiet), and what neighbors there are, are very quiet as well. Actually, none of us even know each other -- it's not the type of place where you borrow a cup of sugar or anything like that. We're all pretty reserved and stick to ourselves.
And I don't really go out, except for doctor and therapist appointments, or to the store and, of course, for Date Night with hubby on Fridays (just so I can't be accused of being agoraphobic).
But isolated? Yeah, I guess so. I hadn't thought of it that way. I really don't have a social life (a lot of it is because I don't go out to bars). I really hadn't cared about it until I thought of writing this article. And when I started thinking about it, I was convicted by my own words, since I've written so much (so many articles) about how isolation is one of the biggest triggers to a bipolar episode.
I was always ok with being isolated. I was ok with not having friends. I'm married to my best friend, and I thought that was enough. I have a strong support network (I do live with my primary supporter after all, and I talk to my mom pretty much every day).
But I don't have any friends. I thought I didn't need them. And yet in my articles, I tell people that in order not to become isolated, they need to have a social life in order to stay balanced and be stable with their bipolar disorder. I tell them that they need to have a social life in order to manage their bipolar disorder well.
And yet here I am, convicted by my own words.
I met someone in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), who told me I should get on Facebook.com, and I would meet some friends. I did! Online, granted, but friends, nonetheless. I re-met people I knew (out there) that I hadn't talked to in quite a while – and we caught up on things.
That led my curiosity to classmates.com, where I was able to get in touch with several people I knew not only from High School, but Jr. High School, and even Elementary School! What fun it turned out to be!
Now, I don't feel so isolated. I actually have friends. And my little "home" world doesn't seem so "off by itself" any more. When I take my breaks from work (or my husband is watching the races or his wrestling on TV). I can spend a little time chatting with my friends.
For those of you like me, whose bipolar disorder has affected your social life -- even if you don't go out much, there are other avenues to avoiding isolation. Getting online can help, as it did me. Even www.bipolarcentral.com has a forum where you can stop dwelling on yourself and talk to others about your bipolar disorder.
The point is, isolation CAN be a trigger to a bipolar episode, and we need to avoid that, as we do all other triggers to episodes.