At the age of 21, I met a boy with Bipolar 1 Disorder. It didn’t take long for him to share with me what he had been suffering from since birth due to genetics and what he was finally properly diagnosed with by high school, after years and years of testing and various medicinal attempts. I remember him sharing his condition with me and the nervousness in his eyes. I, at the time, had only heard of the taboo conceptions of bipolar as “mood swings” or “mood changes,” so I believe I didn’t realize the severity of the disorder back then. I also remember my mom being very upset telling me not to continue to date him and that it would only bring me trouble. I made sure she knew that in no way was I going to judge someone for something that was completely out of their control, because at the time, that is the way I viewed it.
For the first month of dating, the two of us spent as much time as we could together and just completely fell in love. He brought me things and we enjoyed life. It was pure bliss. He was the first boy to ever ask me to formally be his girlfriend and it was the most joy my little 21-year-old heart had known thus far. I remember he wasn’t even making eye contact with me while asking he was so nervous. I remember where we were sitting and the surge of pride that someone finally wanted to actually be with me coursing through every inch of me. But that was short-lived. A week after he asked me out, he tried to sleep with my best friend and from there things went downhill. Like a complete dumbass, after not eating for two days out of sheer stress that this wasn’t what I hoped it would be, I confronted him. He denied it, of course, and threatened to break up with me for not believing him. He then proceeded to harass my friend for telling me and I, like a dumbass, stayed with him. I felt that I had already fallen in love with him and I didn’t want it to go to waste. From then on, the abuse of both mental and emotional forces continued for the next nine months. He would use me for my car, my money, break up with me, make me feel bad for not being able to have sex with him due to a medical condition, kick me out of his sober living environment, and would disappear constantly. He would yell and always put me down, and at the time, I believed all of it. I thought I deserved it because no one had ever wanted to be with me before.
It took him the nine months we were together and another five of being homeless on the streets of Pacific Beach to finally seek treatment and start his chemical dependency program. He would sleep at a middle school at night, walk the streets during the day, and work a Labor Ready system for any money he could attempt to feed himself with. I used to visit him and bring him water and blankets because I still very much had a special place for him in my heart, despite finally giving up on him after nine months of abuse. He was my best friend.
In those five months, he started to become the man I wanted him to be and I fell back in love with him. Once I saw what he could be with medication in his system, watching him attend AA meetings even without an addiction, properly attend his chemical dependency meetings and appointments, and how much he wanted to live, I wanted him again. For another six months he put me through a waiting game because he felt that I had “abandoned” him to be left on the streets until he finally decided to get back with me. I will never forget the day I was leaving therapy crying because he would not commit. I called him upset and told him that my therapist had said to me “have you ever considered that you are trying to be with someone that doesn’t want to be with you?” I was so distraught and started to believe what she was saying and shared it with him. I said “it’s okay if you don’t want to be with me but I cannot do this to myself anymore if you don’t.” His immediate response was “no, no! Okay we are back together! Don’t cry.” We then dated for another five years. We lived together for a year and a half, which was the worst decision I could have made considering we are polar opposites in almost every aspect of the things that matter. I was lazy and he was OCD. He wanted a housewife and I wanted to watch TV and play with my cats after work. We were never understanding of each other’s natures, and no matter how much we tried, we never could be.
The toughest part was probably when the emotional abuse would resurface through certain triggers well after he was already medicated and taking care of himself. But because he was in the mindset that he was no longer doing things wrong, he never wanted to talk to about it. I was left to sit with my unopened wounds for almost 7 years that he never wanted to listen to or take responsibility for, and it ultimately led to our inevitable downfall. The episodes were some of the worst times though because I felt so hopeless. I would read books and books on how to combat the triggers and what I could do to help him snap out of it, but really it just came down to space and time. There were some really, really bad ones like the time that he got lost driving to my family’s vacation house when they came out for my brother’s wedding. Him getting lost triggered him and caused the relapse of a horrible episode. By the time he made it back to my house, he proceeded to take his emergency medication, break up with me, propose to me, break up with me, and then get back together with me all within the span of two minutes.
There were plenty of times that I felt unequipped for such a disturbed soul. But then there were more times that I felt I was the perfect person to take the emotional beating because I had already been doing it to myself for as long as I had known. I just felt as though my external should reflect how I allow myself to be treated and I wasn’t at my “cutest” back then. I remember feeling bad for myself constantly and wondering why he would do and say the things to me that he did. But he was my best friend, so I stayed.
He tried several medications that would zombie him out for months at a time and for years he showed no emotion. He was lifeless and cold. He sat me down and broke up with me after kicking me out of the apartment we found together, on our four year anniversary, and told me that I would never come first in his life. He was stone-face and I was sobbing. Even then I didn’t realize that was true because I did not want to believe it. I learned to be patient with him and to keep him away from certain things, including drugs and alcohol. He was never necessarily “tempted,” but any type of substance would immediately cancel the functionality of his medication so it was just not an option. I learned to stay quiet for fear of getting yelled at the very beginning and it really stuck with me until I became such an angry person- anger that I am still, unfortunately harboring today.
Bipolar, 1 especially, is an awful disorder. It is specifically targeted toward manic depression and suicidal tendencies that unfortunately did verbally surface throughout the course of our relationship. Bipolar brings a sick illumination to the emotions that catalyzes the highest of highs but the lowest of the lows anyone has ever known. It is an extremely frightening disease that exceeds “mood swings” tenfold. The master behind the disease is manipulation. These people, whether they are aware how well they are capable of it, are masters of manipulation. My ex had convinced me of so many things that simply were not true all through the use of this tool. The only way to survive this horrifying disease is medication and a sober lifestyle. Also, a willingness. The patient has to be directly willing to dedicate their lives to maintaining the disorder as much as possible or else they will not survive it. A high percentage of those that suffer tend to overdose or commit suicide as the pressures of the lows can be too much to want to live. It is and will forever be the scariest disease to me based on this personal experience.
My deepest advice for someone that has found themselves in love with another with this disorder is to take care of yourself. Never will I judge someone that is caring and selfless enough to look past its evils in order to support and unconditionally love someone that unfortunately suffers from it. Never will I judge someone that brings another that is afflicted with it because you are warriors. Should you choose to continue to love this person? It is hard to say. I went through seven years of my life having no idea who I was without being the person that loved someone with bipolar. I am only now just realizing, at 28, that I have no idea who I am, and I am doing it without my best friend. My best friend that I know I will miss every day. But it was just not the life I wanted for myself anymore. I remember reading a book back then saying that no matter what you had endured throughout the day, to take at least 15 minutes to do something for yourself; they suggested a bubble bath. I never did this for myself. It was always about him, never me. And, ultimately, that is why I ended things with him. I realized that never was anything going to be about me. If you are the type of person that is okay with that and you want to continue loving someone like this, I have the utmost respect for you and absolutely no judgement. But, just make sure that you are finding yourself and finding time for yourself in the process.
Society easily confuses the disorder with mood swings and throws the term around far too loosely. Bipolar is nothing to compare a bad day or having a fluctuation of moods in a short span of time to. It is a serious mental imbalance that can effectively ruin and end lives if not properly diagnosed in time or if ignored. The main focus should be properly diagnosing and also proper medication dispensing when it comes to this particular disorder. For years, patients will endure trial and error processes as they “try” new medication, wait for the body to metabolize it, and see how it affects them. My personal suggestion, having written for a home drug test corporation for a while, is DNA testing. If you are suffering or the one you love is suffering from Bipolar and has not found the right combination of medication yet, try DNA testing. You will be able to specifically tell what your individual body’s DNA will react to as far as medication and know what it will not react well to before even taking it. This could potentially save lives. Another thing to make sure if you are the one loving someone with this disorder, is that they are willing to take medication in the first place; that they are committed to changing their lives for the better. You cannot force anyone to do something they don’t want for themselves. If you have to wait for them to come around and you still want to make it work in the meantime, I respect that. But just know that you will never be able to maintain a healthy life with them until they are willing.
The term “crazy” is another one that is thrown around loosely. Most people that find offense by the term have been diagnosed with the imbalance or another, but those that have not, or do not struggle with anything, throw it around like it’s nothing. Having known “crazy” for seven years, and having felt it myself, it is nothing to joke about. I made the mistake once or twice calling my ex that and, let’s just say it did not go down well. It is never our right to judge anyone for anything; especially something that someone is legitimately born with.
In my heart, I know we both know that I did everything I could to make us work. From attending AA meetings, chemical dependency meetings, therapy sessions, holding him at his worst moments, taking the abuse, finding sober living houses with his mom, supplying food and shelter, sneaking him into my parent’s house so he didn’t have to sleep on the street, buying him clothes, and loving him absolutely unconditionally- blah, blah, blah- there was nothing I did not do for him. Ultimately, he did not want us, and that is fine. He was only capable of loving me behind loving himself and I know he loved me as much as he could. But it was never going to be enough. No one should ever feel guilt when choosing to be as selfless as possible by loving someone with this disorder, or others. Please, please, please never beat yourself up about making this choice. I know you truly love them and that is always okay. But make sure you are not losing pieces of yourself in the process. You might just be like me one day, at 28 realizing you have no idea who you are without that person. That too is okay, but always remember to be kind to yourself in the process. It makes all the difference, I promise.
#dontcallmyexboyfriendcrazy His name is Sean and he has Bipolar 1 Disorder, but it will never have him.
- Megan Blahnik, 2018