This is my own take on the reasons for my emotional withdrawal since my diagnosis.
These are the reasons:
According to my therapist, the tendency for emotional withdrawal for bipolar disorder is caused by the depression component of the condition. The emotional withdrawal is something that is completely unexplainable to other people who are not mental health professionals or bipolar sufferers as well.
Dealing with Our Own Stuff
The other reason I can attribute towards the withdrawal is that in my case, the diagnosis overwhelms us and we stagger to reconcile with the fact that bipolar is a lifelong illness and that things will never be the same as before, and we need to take time to deal with that alone as well - or with a group of trusted people.
After the diagnosis, there was just a long period of trying to rehabilitate and trying to cope and normalize life as much as possible, there was no time to deal with other people's dramas and issues. So this was a factor for emotional withdrawal as well.
Avoiding Stimuli and Further Stress
The other reason I could think of which contributes to the emotional withdrawal in my case also is that I can't be bothered to explain to people anymore why I withdrew from them since for sure, after having been very gregarious and outgoing prior to my breakdown and diagnosis, there are sure to be a lot of questions as to why I have suddenly changed.
Avoiding More Misunderstandings with Others and from Others
The other problem is that people tend to take emotional withdrawal from them personally and as a form of rejection of their friendship or their presence in your life, so it's not going to be an easy thing to just say that "I just needed my space." Believe you me, I did tell them that I just needed space, that's the best way that I can put things without going into the details of it.
Unfortunately the people who surround me are quite self-centered people in the sense that everything that I do or anyone else does, they can't accept it as just that, they have to really think that it has something to do with them and they feel slighted... I do not have the time to nurse their egos or hurt feelings.
This also tells me that they care more about themselves than other people, so it is evident that I cannot tell them that I have bipolar disorder since they can't even respect my explanation that my emotional withdrawal has nothing to do with them... they don't believe it. They are not likely to believe the bipolar disorder would cause people to avoid "their greatness."
In my case, they held me accountable for their feelings. We all know that bipolar takes so much out of us that we really do not have the time or the energy to deal with that anymore since we are just struggling to stay off the edge.
Avoiding Judgement from Others
The stigma of mental illness or mood disorders is still quite great - despite awareness programs. Coming out to people who are hurt and slighted by emotional withdrawal would just cause them to judge me more than they already have. So, I just choose to just go my own way and have as little contact with them as possible and just live my own life and devote myself to emotional recovery and my own wellness program - after all, it is I who would have to live with Bipolar disorder for the rest of my life, not them.
So that's also another reason for my emotional withdrawal - not wanting to explain to people anymore why I have changed so much and why this and why that. Why? Why? Why? All the whys and answers in the world will not change the fact that I have bipolar disorder and I have to live with it.
The problem with many people I've had to deal with is that when we share an aspect of ourselves with them, is that they tend to think that they can be the judge and jury of any matter that we share about ourselves, instead of just being understanding or accepting as we would ideally want them to be.
Prior to my diagnosis, this tendency in people was more tolerable and can easily be ignored or handled, but now it's a different matter altogether since I have become more sensitive and vulnerable.
I do not need more people to judge me or to recall to me how different I was before, that I seem to be the ghost of the person that I once was. I do not need people to remind me about the full life that I used to live through passing comments. I do not need people to remind me of the self that I had lost already, since I know that more than they can ever imagine. I do not need people to look down on me just because of this or judge me... more than I already have judged myself.