The simple answer is that we get to find out what’s really important in our relationship. When friends are used to always being there for each other it's courageous to risk months with no certainty of regular contact, especially when one person lives with mental illness and the relationship is crucial to their stability.
That's what happened during the summer of 2013, and let’s be honest, it wasn't easy. We were as careful about planning as time permitted and put such safeguards in place as we could contrive. We made it through what was without doubt the most challenging period in our friendship, and one of the most trying of Fran's life, but there were times when it hurt to be so out of touch and times when I was genuinely concerned for Fran's well-being and safety.
There are healthy and unhealthy aspects of any close relationship. The healthy include mutual support and encouragement, having someone to share things with, and simply 'hanging out'. For Fran, this means knowing that no matter what happens, I will be there for her if and when she needs me. Less healthy aspects mostly come under the banner of co-dependence, which we looked at earlier.
Difficult times help distinguish the healthy aspects from the unhealthy ones, assuming you genuinely want to find out. A summer 'apart' was daunting and potentially dangerous, but Fran wanted to go and from the start we saw it as an opportunity to counter co-dependence in our relationship and discover what was left when almost all of the familiar structure was removed. I believe we succeeded, and emerged stronger for the experience.
We learned to let go of the need to be in touch as regularly or for as long as usual, and to make the most of whatever opportunities we did have to be together. In the chaotic uncertainty of the summer, with plans changing all the time and us frequently under pressure to decide what to do next, we were forced to relax our attachment to specific outcomes. Instead, we learned to focus more on the present moment, and work together with whatever we found there.
In short, the summer taught us to trust. To trust ourselves, each other, and whatever life brings us.
Gum on My Shoe: One Step at a Time with My Bipolar Best Friend Chapter 8 ("Embracing Joy")