Family can be wonderful. I love my family, I value my family; but, oh, I how cherish my friends.
There are many levels of friendship of course, and many reasons for friendship. My friend of longest standing (we do not use the term "oldest friend" for obvious reasons) has known me for 42 years. We see each other only every month or so, but inside ten minutes will be finishing each other's sentences. A friend who was once my neighbour moved to the States seven years ago but we text nearly every day. Another friend is my eagle-eyed Moodscope buddy who regularly comments on my score and supports me through my down times. I love them all.
2016 was a bad year for many of us. It was particularly tough on my family. We had broken bones, surgical operations, a serious car crash, the stress of demolishing and rebuilding our house and things going disastrously wrong for my son Tom and his partner. Oh, and a worse than usual bipolar cycle for me.
In the middle of this, I nearly lost a very dear friend.
Oh, it was entirely my fault; not that that made it any easier.
I had known Raz for only a year. Although I had told him about my bipolar he had not lived through my cycles of mania and depression. And I had not told him what to expect, for there always seemed to be other things to talk about. Many, many other things: that's friendship.
So, when my mania arrived it was a shock. Who was this unreasonable, demanding, jealous, raging creature? Who was this person who abandoned him just when he really needed a friend? I wrote my blog "Bipolar Exploding Hedgehog" (26th October 2016) and cut myself off.
I regretted it of course. I regretted it within 48 hours, but the damage had been done. After an exchange of bitter and angry emails Raz retreated into silence. My texts went unanswered and even unread.
"Let him go, Mum," said Tom. "Some friendships are not meant to last forever."
But I couldn't let go. Friendship is too valuable to just – let go. Especially in hurt and anger.
On Christmas Day I tried reaching out yet again over that chasm of pain and betrayal. And this time Raz replied. Perhaps it helped that we share a Christian faith and Christmas is a time of peace and reconciliation.
It's taken a while. We have had to feel our way into something that is not quite the same. To trust each other with silly jokes and to share our creativity together; to lean on each other again. We are mutually fearful of further misunderstanding. The flip side of love is pain.
But it is worth it. It was worth reaching out again and again. I don't know if I could have done it for years rather than the two months it took. I do know it would still be worth it.
Friendship is a most precious gift.
A Moodscope member.