Bipolar disorder and relationships

Very often I meet people with bipolar who are convinced they are unloveable, will never have a relationship, marry, etc.

Perhaps I am not an objective judge of such statements, seeing as I am in a 3+ year relationship, during which I got diagnosed, landed in depression so deep I couldn’t walk without help, mania that got me into hospital, fought (successfully) a substance abuse problem and remain without steady employment. Our relationship survived all those things and remains in great shape. *knocks on wood* So my answer to that is, basically, no. You are NOT unloveable. You CAN have a relationship. You CAN get married. Have a house, children, garden, whatever else your heart desires.

Having said that, bipolar is going to make it much more difficult.

There are the obvious reasons. When you are single and depressed, your ANTs are going to revolve around the topic of “I will never ever met anyone at all”. (Be suspicious of any thought containing words “never”, “always”, “everybody” and “nobody”.) Perhaps you used to be the life of the party, socialise regularly and drink the toughest guys under the table. And now you go to sleep at 11 every night, having consumed large amounts of anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers and antidepressants. Obviously, your possibilities for meeting The One have somewhat diminished.

I was in a relationship in 2010/2011. We went out all the time. We clubbed all night. We used drugs to keep us awake. We had the most amazing sex. And then I was put on antidepressants and told drugs were a no-no. Within two months he left. I was no longer the person he wanted – life of the party, endless fun, sleepless nights ended. He broke up with me via text message. I wasn’t sad about the split. I was furious. Because I thought this person loved me. And in my book love isn’t about going out and getting drunk. It’s about support, deep intimate friendship, sex (yes), accepting each other for who we are. This person was only capable of number three on the list. In retrospect I am very grateful that he left, because it taught me a lot about what love actually is and isn’t.

When you have bipolar, you are going to have mood swings; need medication and therapy; find it difficult to keep a job, especially a stressful one. But then guess what — most people have problems. It’s easy to get ourselves into the thinking pattern that tells us “we’re broken, while everybody else is doing well”, especially when we use Facebook to gather information about how our friends are doing. They post smiley pictures, inform us about a promotion they just got, change their status to “In a relationship”. But Facebook lies. People don’t post “today was a really boring day”, “I didn’t get a promotion today” or “I went to a date out of sheer desperation, he was terrible, but we still had sex because I want a boyfriend SO MUCH”.

My partner doesn’t use drugs, hardly ever drinks, doesn’t go out partying because he’s had enough “good times” to last a lifetime. We watch TV together, we work on various sorts of art, he encourages my writing, I encourage his art. We share what happened in our lives today, and listen with interest. He was single for 12 years before meeting me. I was single for 4 months, after the split from the Party Boy. Both of us had no expectations when we met. We just liked each other, and spent more and more time together. Five years ago I might not even notice him at all. I was busy making money, spending it on alcohol and parties, dating half of the town I live in. I am convinced that now, bipolar and all, I am a much more interesting and deep person than I have been back then.

Living with BP you are unlikely to meet The One at a crowded bar. But then, without BP you were also unlikely to meet The One while intoxicated. The One For Now perhaps. A bad boy/girl. When people bond for life, they generally don’t connect because they share the love for party drugs. Relationships built purely on physical attractiveness are doomed to fail, because attractiveness diminishes with age whether you’re single or coupled. The things that people truly connect about – shared interests, shared vision of the future, similar sense of humour, love for art/reading/music – don’t go away when you are diagnosed bipolar. The illness hasn’t diminished your chances of finding a partner. If anything, it has narrowed the pool of potential partners by cutting out the ones you wouldn’t want anyway.

You are not defined by your pills, depressions and manias. People with diabetes find partners. People with thyroid issues find partners. Even Kim Kardashian got married, and let’s agree she’s not the most interesting person in the universe. You have a lot to offer. Don’t focus on what limits you; focus on what makes you special. And scientific research seems to suggest bipolars tend to be quite interesting indeed.  Can you have a relationship? Yes. Can you be loved? Yes. Can you be happy? Damn right you can. I know. I checked.

Photo: Ahmed Rabea,  “Love Coffee” (CC 2.0)

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