Dating is enough of a challenge when you are 39, divorced, have 5 kids, and are roommates with your best friend and her kids. Now throw in “Oh, by the way, I’m bipolar.” and you just became The Crazy Redhead in Phoenix with all the Kids. That inevitable train wreck, soon-to-be-psycho-ex.
Crazy has been my word for years. My word to despise, my word to prove wrong, my word to embrace, all depending on the day and the context of its application to my life. It never fails, I’m on a second or third date with a guy I really enjoy, and the “Ex” conversations always seem to come up. It also never fails, that they have a “crazy ex-girlfriend who was SERIOUSLY bipolar.” I sit there, cringing inside. A billion thoughts and questions in my mind… “Was she ACTUALLY bipolar, or was this just another careless misuse of the word as an insult” or “not all bipolar people are crazy, and not all crazy people are bipolar!” or “I’m bipolar as fuck, and I am amicable with all but one of my ex’s, nor have I been labeled the Crazy Ex” or even “maybe you MADE her crazy, dude!”
Then I cringe again, as I realize my illness DOES make me a challenging person to be in a relationship with. I DO suffer from mood swings, highs and lows, manic anxiety and haunting depression. I have become acutely aware of my body and its warning signs in my 39 years on Earth. I have realized, while I may have very little control over these episodes (in spite of my mood stabilizers, and preventative care), it’s still not the responsibility of my romantic partners to tolerate any angry projection or all-consuming depression. It should not be the “price” they pay to enjoy my many incredibly awesome days. So I have chosen to try to isolate myself on those days. To go to the gym two (three, four?) times in a day to exhaust my manic episode away. Or to quarantine myself to my room, coping with suicidal ideations and crushing sadness. I know myself well enough to understand and trust I would never act on those thoughts, ever. I have five beautiful children I could never let down, and could never be without, but to convince someone else of that is a tough chore.
Guys tend to walk on eggshells around me. Not because I’m a temperamental nightmare, but because they see me as this delicate little flower that will shrivel up and die at the slightest touch. Not so much because I’m a woman, but because I am DAMAGED. I so badly want to show them how strong you have to be, to endure decades of this shit. I’m no flower, not by a long shot. I’m a hearty Midwest Girl that lives in the desert. I’m more like a cactus. Enduring the heat, monsoons, and everything in between. Somehow making it through the most brutal conditions.
I either wind up with a passionate, equally moody man who becomes angered that he cannot fix me (I don’t require fucking fixing), or I find someone emotionally stable, and incredibly positive, and I feel the need to hide away and endure those terrible days on my own.
The latter dynamic becoming a “safe house” for me emotionally. The place that I know will always be happy and joyful, so I am fearful to taint it with any talks of my illness. It becomes an afterthought, something I never mention, and downplay. When the dark days or manic days do knock on my door, I come up with every excuse in the book to avoid contact with my partner until it passes.
So I can maintain that surreal cocoon of happiness. I have actually been accused (more than once) of cheating, because of this habit of mine. To hide out during the storm. This accusation in particular just guts me. I’m thinking, “here I am, killing myself on a 60 mile bike ride, saving you from having to deal with this part of my life, trying to exorcise (or literally exercise) the demons, and you accuse me of infidelity because I won’t answer my phone?” I wish I could communicate all of these thoughts, but some days, even sending a text message explaining how I feel is cripplingly overwhelming.
So why bother dating a bipolar human at all? What benefit could possibly come from this dynamic? I can tell you, while I may be a challenging partner at some intervals, I think my abnormal brain makes me pretty cool.
You will rarely, if ever, meet someone as uniquely creative and artistic as a bipolar person. We feel things very deeply, we are incredibly passionate, and looking for ways to lighten the emotional load inspires some pretty amazing art.
You will never receive a more compelling love letter than from a bipolar partner. We are so in tune with our brains, we have ways of describing what’s in them that goes far beyond what most are capable of. We are spontaneous as hell, but usually very tidy and orderly. For me, keeping things in order externally helps me keep things in check internally. When we laugh, we laugh hard. We don’t do half way. You will never be bored dating a bipolar person. Overwhelmed? Yes, at times. Sad? Of course, it’s sad to see anyone we love hurting, for any reason. Just know, we are a pretty awesome group of talented people. We will also usually knock your socks off in bed. I think that passionate side can be a huge asset.
I understand not everyone chooses to treat their illness, and of those who do, there are many different medications and alternative treatments out there. We know our bodies, probably more so than a “regular” person, but a relationship with a bipolar person who actively participates in self-care, can be just as rewarding as any relationship out there.