Having bipolar disorder is complicated; it takes over so many aspects of my life that I might as well be in a relationship with the ups and downs. When my manic episodes surface, I spend all of my energy riding the waves that are rising and crashing. Here’s why I’m in a relationship with my diagnosis.
1. Symptoms are sneaky.
Especially with bipolar two, the symptoms are more subtle than the clear manic states. When I’ve just impulsively slept with a guy who isn’t good for me, I beat myself up thinking I just have terrible taste. Later, though, I found out that I was actually a manic episode. Symptoms don’t always lean on the doorbell, instead, they often sneak in through the back door. These sneaky symptoms make it challenging to find a healthy romantic relationship because I’m always wrestling with my mind.
2. Mania feels like the excitable energy of a new flame.
I never have to worry for long that I’ll feel a lack of confidence or inspiration. A manic burst of energy is right around the corner. Episodes of mania result in fervent stretches of emotional expression and connection with those around me. Much like the ecstatic energy a new flame stirs in me, mania awakens all of the cells in my body.
3. Hypomania masquerades as passion.
Perhaps more dangerous than mania-induced fits of sleeping with strangers and spending all of my money, hypomanic symptoms are more subtle. To all appearances, I am a passionate human functioning at 200%. I’m juggling multiple jobs, have all the friends in the world, and am a fiery lover. Hypomanic episodes for me can last months on end, burning up my energy while those around me applaud my accomplishments.
4. The inevitable depression feels as soul-crushing as a breakup.
Being a creative soul, the highs are great for writing, crushing on others, and generally pursuing experiences I love. However, there is an inevitable crash at the end of every manic episode; sort of like the couple that fights and has make-up sex only to do it all over again the next day. Despite having been through the same cycle more times than I can count, the soul-crushing sadness never ceases to feel like it will never pass.
5. Keeping up with the upswings and downswings takes all of my energy.
In theory, it sounds fun to be up for days with superhuman energy and then sleeping for just as many days. But, this lifestyle is exhausting. Similar to a hot guy who only wants the absolute best of me, then leaves me with an awful hangover to deal with alone, bipolar is a fair-weathered partner at best.
6. Bipolar disorder sends a ton of mixed signals.
Shannon Alder, an inspirational author said “Sensitive people usually love deeply and hate deeply. They don’t know any other way to live than by extremes because their emotional thermostat is broken.” If the thermostat is broken, the whole environment is off-kilter. One second my mood is extremely hot and the next second I’m acting cold as ice. The mixed signals are confusing as hell to those around me and even more frustrating because I have difficulty self-regulating.
7. It’s not all bad. Actually, the illness can be sort of beautiful.
A friend recently said that she always thought I was just prolific, but it makes sense that I’m actually bipolar. Carrie Fisher, the amazing actress, and writer best known for her role in Star Wars, was very public about her experiences and with bipolar. Carrie said “At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”
8. Just when I think I’ve kicked the symptoms, they surface again.
Much like an ex that I think I’ve totally gotten over, my bipolar disorder gives me a reality check by popping up during the most unexpected of times. All of a sudden, I’m working 60 hours a week like a maniac, shrugging it off that I just love my job. A combination of appropriate medicine, professional help, and a balanced lifestyle wards off most symptoms, but not always. Sometimes it’s inevitable they pop back up. Healing isn’t linear and often I struggle even when I thought I was free.
9. It’s almost like experiencing domestic violence. My friends know something’s wrong, but they can’t quite pinpoint the cause.
One day I’m beaming thinking I’m the greatest person to walk the earth and the next day I’m inconsolable thinking I’m the worst. Especially when the lows strike, I fall off the face of the earth and the motivated person my friends know disappears. Because my symptoms are all over the map, I have a hard time knowing what they are myself, never mind communicating them to caring loved ones.
10. I’ve grown to love the disorder, despite its toxicity.
Similar to a long-term toxic relationship, bipolar disorder is all that I know. I’ve had varying levels of symptoms for about a decade and despite the toxic crash, bipolar and I have been on a roller coaster ride together. Mania has helped me work handfuls of jobs at once, write like a mother f*cker, and balance all of the relationships in my life. Like a toxic partner, though, the risk is not worth the reward. It’s much better to treat the symptoms and find a way to live more in the middle.