Maintaining A Stable Relationship With Bipolar Disorder
I met my boyfriend on Tinder. I was hypomanic, shaving my legs in the car on the way to his apartment. He opened the door, a jet of black curls winding out of his skull. I talked and talked and talked and talked.
“What’s this?” I asked and then interrupted when he tried to answer. He didn’t know what pressured speech was. Neither did I. I just knew I was nervous and excited. The words tumbled out of my mouth without my permission.
‘Why do you have this?”
“What’s this for?”
Standing in the bedroom of a man I’d just met, I picked up his things without asking him. He smiled, ever patient.
“That’s well - It’s a collector’s item from a video-”
“Why do you have so many of these?” I started picking up one antique lighter after another.
Bipolar Disorder Relationships Require Patience
His patience is something I’ve come to admire and respect as our relationship has progressed. He rarely gets angry. I’ll launch into one of my monologues on psychology or writing. Usually, he’s all for it. Sometimes, though, he’s tired. Sometimes, he feels like he’s sitting in a class that he didn’t sign up for. Sometimes, he tells me to slow down, to give him a break. I’ve learned to listen and understand that he still loves me even when he needs a break.
I told him about my mental illness that first day we met. I meant to wait, but it spilled out of me like I’d been uncorked.
“So you go to the University of Florida?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Me too. I was at the University of Florida, but I got sick and they told me I have schizoaffective disorder. It’s sort of a mix of bipolar disorder two and schizophrenia I think. I had to be hospitalized and UF didn’t try to help me get a medical withdrawal. So I left.”
I shrugged, looking up at him, “And now I’m here.”
He nodded as if I’d told him I prefer mustard over ketchup. I kept talking.
“Do you like it here? My psychology professor wasn’t great, but it’s so much cheaper than UF, and there’s no stupid football team...”
I kept droning on like that. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had completely overshared (as usual), bulldozed him with intimate and intense details from my life. Oversharing is common in bipolar disorder, but I didn’t know this until recently. I told my boyfriend early on about my bipolar disorder symptoms, and he didn’t run in the other direction. I told him about the mood swings. He’s seen me making a mess in the living room and ranting about my book in the middle of the night. He’s seen me unable to get out my bed all day because I’m so ashamed to be me. He’s had to see it to understand it. See the symptoms and hear me out as I try to put words and names to them.
Successful Bipolar Disorder Relationships
Successful bipolar disorder relationships require open communication. Both partners need to be educated about the illness. Otherwise, it’s like trying to navigate a forest without a map. You may take some right turns, but you don’t know how you got there or how to get there again. I have to be self-aware enough to understand when I’m experiencing a symptom. Then, I try to explain it to my partner. I’m lucky that I happen to be interested in psychology, devouring any mental health book I can get my hands on. Educating myself has helped me and my partner understand my illness. We’re a team.
I’ve heard that bipolar disorder relationships are always a disaster. A roller coaster. A terrifying ride with ups and downs that wear out the partner without bipolar disorder. And while I’m not saying bipolar disorder relationships are easy, if you have the right tools and the right partner… it can be successful just like any other relationship. To be honest, I like my symptoms. Not all of them, but some of them. My illness makes me funny and impulsive and entertaining and imaginative. These symptoms can all lead to bad decisions if I take things too far, but they also lead to an exciting relationship and life.
I needed a partner who could keep up with me when I’m hypomanic, jumping from idea to idea. I needed a partner who could help me up when I’m depressed, laying on the couch all day. I was lucky enough to find someone who loves me for all of me, including my illness. Bipolar disorder relationships require continual maintenance, just like our mental health, but they’re worth it.
Written by Anonymous.