Life with bipolar has a lot of ups and downs...and not just for moods. I think relationships, romantic ones, become one of the hardest parts of your life to manage and to keep balanced when you have a mental disorder.
Romantic relationships include allowing someone into your innermost circle and letting them see all of you – the good and the bad. Not just the loving friend, dedicated worker, or friendly neighbour – in order to have a strong and healthy relationship, eventually you need to share everything.
Relationships can be toxic, and a toxic relationship can often affect a person with bipolar disorder more than someone without. I've had relationships that had helped me heal, and some that have driven me to near-suicide. A few years ago I was lucky enough to meet “the one.”
I barely knew “the one” and was just starting to form a friendship when my life took the biggest downturn yet. My grandmother, who I called my “other mother” died unexpectedly. A month later, my other grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My mother had a relapse in her ITP, my father became seriously ill and had to have a quintuple bypass, and my brother could not handle the stress and was committed to a psychiatric ward for suicidal depression.
In six months.
This was the worst time to start a relationship, and yet the time when I most needed someone to lean on and to support me.
Shortly before the start of this, “the one” had been committed (again) for schizoaffective disorder and had just started a new regime of medication. Definitely a bad time to start a relationship.
What happened next, was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to either of us.
We became friends. We talked on the phone almost daily, giving us both a “check in” and a routine. We scheduled occasional dates on weekends – we lived in different cities which forced us to take it slow. We second guessed our feelings over and over. Is this from my depression? Will I feel this way once my medication is balanced? Is this love?
Exactly six months after my grandmother died, we became “a couple.”
We were both a shining light in the dark, guiding the other. A beacon of hope that YES there was something good waiting for us at the end of our dark journey.
I used to say that I wouldn't date someone with a mental illness – that it would be too much strain on our relationship. While I still think that two people with the same triggers and patterns can be destructive, I know that finding the understanding and support needed with mental illness isn't limited to “healthy” people, and that sometimes the best thing for you is someone who is in just as bad a place as you – ready to make that journey towards better health with you.
It will be three years this month since my grandmother died. Three years of specialists and follow up care for both my parents, and hospitalizations for my brother.
The most important anniversary of all, is this July. It will be three years since we decided to be a couple. Three years of mood swings, hysterical crying, mania, and days where I don't get out of bed.
That morning, I will wake up as “Jane T.” for the last time. My best friend will do my makeup. I'll put on a designer gown. My mother will drive me crazy, and I will drive her crazy with at least three anxiety attacks.
That day, we will promise to love each other in “sickness and in health” and truly understand what it means to follow through on that promise.
Read the rest of Jane's posts here.