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serenityNOW's avatar

Is my relationship conundrum exacerbated by having Bipolar/Manic Depressive Illness (see the details...)

Asked by serenityNOW (3419 points ) January 26th, 2013

So, I met a guy. Wonderful, right!? Not quite.
It’s only been a month, and I’ve been getting quite temperamental. If he doesn’t call for a day, I start to get edgy and aggravated. My mind fills with negative images. I feel like I’m in crisis mode. Then, when we talk, I feel better. Yet, as the day stretches, and I still haven’t heard from him, I feel a distinct change in mood, and I have to force positive thoughts in my head: “he’s busy at work; he’s looking after his Mother; or, God forbid, he has plans.
I’m generally not a clingy person – if anything I need my own space. To add to this, if he was calling/texting too much, I’d feel oppressed.
So this is the problem: I’m a grown man: mature, and generally pretty grounded.
I think it’s the Bipolar, which has been manifesting in a more pronounced manner these past couple of months. So, Jellies – I guess my question is, is this normal? I only see it getting worse as time goes by – if I’m this invested now, what will happen if/when it really gets serious?
This question isn’t specifically for the Bipolar Jellies; maybe I am just “heads-over-heels” and really adore him? No offense to the any histrionic teenagers that may be reading this, but it makes me feel young and hormone-y. Am I in the danger-zone? Should I just call it quits…?

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16 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I agree that it is characteristic of people I know with bipolar disorder. It certainly is just like me when I’m cycling. My mood totally hangs on the next communication with the object of my love.

Now should you call it quits? Hah!

Can you call it quits? Because if you can, then I don’t know if you’re really bipolar. You would have remarkable control for someone with the kinds of needs we have.

And actually, calling it quits is part of the pattern. It’s pushing away. Because what we really hope is that if we try to end it, then they will come after us, and hopefully with the ferocity we have in going after them.

I think if a person is going to love someone who is bipolar, they need to need to be desired as badly as anyone can possibly be desired, and they need to return that desire, too. That’s the way we seem to be. All or nothing. Especially when we’re not under control.

The thing is, we enjoy the intensity so much, and probably need the intensity so much, and we’ll take it whether it’s good or bad because without the intensity we might as well not live. Although the bad can be deadly, too. But, speaking for myself, there were times when if I couldn’t have good intensity, I would take depression as better than having no feelings at all. There were times when I would find myself messing up perfectly good things because they had been stable too long.

So what have I done? First of all, I’ve decided to accept that this is who I am. I need these feelings. I can’t live without them. So I just have to get them as responsibly as I can. Second, I try not to hurt anyone, including myself. But it isn’t good to hurt myself in order to not hurt others. In the end, that ends with suicidal feelings, and that hurts others, in its own way. Sometimes, it’s ok to do things that hurt others if it keeps me alive.

As to relationships, I tell them as much as I know about myself and my patterns. I.e., that I will try to push them away at times. I will try to cut them off at times. I won’t want to do these things, but it is fear that makes me do them. I’d rather end things under my control than wait for the end under their control. But I really don’t want to end things, I just want more than they can give, and that will probably always be the case.

So we need to negotiate a way through this. How can I make my unreasonably demands while trusting you to take care of yourself? How can I tell you I really need you now, without you feeling like I’m desperate, or me worrying that my desperation will turn you away? Can we develop a code to work through this? Can you understand that I do need you, but you don’t have to drop everything for me. Can we find ways for you to reassure me without making you crazy?

I’m saying don’t quit. But share everything you know about yourself with your love and then asking them to help you find ways to get the complex things you need without making them nuts, too. And tell them what you need as accurately as you know, warning them you will still have surprises for them.

We don’t do this on purpose. We are different. We need love more than other people do. We need intense experiences more than most people. Stability isn’t that desirable. Although we want it, because we don’t want to die. And this isn’t an exaggeration. Depression can lead to death. But it isn’t being dramatic either. We don’t use this as a weapon. We want to stay alive as much as anyone. It’s just we have this little problem.

If they can understand the difficulties, and are willing to work with us, then good. And if they don’t want to deal with it, then they are doing us a favor—keeping us from wasting our effort with someone who doesn’t want to deal with it.

This isn’t easy, and it never will be easy. Sometimes I think we should only be with other people who are bipolar, so they will know what is going on. I’m 56. I still feel like a teenager with hormones. This happens regularly. I don’t expect it will ever go away. So we have no choice but to learn to live with it and cope with it and not hurt those we love, but also not kill ourselves.

serenityNOW's avatar

@wundayatta – If only there was a way I could click, “Amazing Answer!” Thank you for the deep thoughts on this frustrating matter. I don’t know how much to divulge up front. I agree with the sentiments of wanting to be honest, but I do fear if I state what I “need” upfront, he will be, I don’t know the right word – dispirited, perhaps. Discouraged. I hate being the “needy” type,” but right now it is indeed what I want. I was just riding out for a pack of smokes, and thinking maybe I wasn’t seeing the whole picture. Like I mentioned, if our roles were reversed, and he was the one desperately trying to contact me, I’d pull away. So, maybe it is more ideal that he’s not constantly in contact?
But, it just doesn’t feel that way.

wundayatta's avatar

It wouldn’t be for me. Remember, we play games with ourselves in our heads, trying to make sense of why we don’t seem to be like everyone else. I really think we have to give in to our nature and be honest and take it as it comes. If our beloveds don’t respond well, it will hurt, yes, but in the long run it will be better. How much pain do you want? I know some can be alluring. It makes us feel like life really matters and we are doing the most important thing we can be doing. But too much pain will kill us. It’s not a joke. One out of five people with bipolar disorder kill themselves. This is why.

So I think we owe it to ourselves to try to get what we really want. Even if it pushes people away. That’s a short term loss. Eventually, I believe we will all find the lover who can take us and truly crave us as we need to be craved, but also give us space when we need that. They don’t call it craziness for nothing. But some people can deal with it.

I know you want to protect yourself, but I don’t think it’s possible. I could be wrong, of course, but I guess I’d rather see you learn how to cope with this pain, leaving yourself free to risk again, rather than just pulling back and keeping from risking ever again, in hopes of saving yourself pain. As if that were possible.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@wundayatta wrote, “Share everything you know about yourself with your love and then asking them to help you find ways to get the complex things you need without making them nuts, too.” That’s beautifully said. That sums it up for me.

Balance is the keyword. I would carefully and lovingly explain to your beau what you want and need and ask him the same. Find the common ground.

Bipolar has played an important part in my many past relationships. I called them relationships when they were really just tricks. That’s the disease. I was in love instantly and would be picking out new china in my mind the second the main course was served on the first date.

I am doing things differently with my current boyfriend. We’re going slowly. It’s frustrating at times, and it’s scary. What’s even scarier is that he’s normal, yet he’s still attracted to me. He’s mentally healthy, and he’s still interested in me. We’re developing a healthy relationship, which I’ve never had in any capacity in my life, and it’s terrifying.

Balance.

Best of luck.

Shippy's avatar

I could be way off here. But I feel like I know what you are talking about. I get kind of clingy on my SO, which in the past I was not at all. I am going through a bad bipolar phase at the moment. I find when I am rested, and occupied I am less inclined for this type of reaction. It’s difficult as some days I practically ignore him, then other days I am all over him. I think for me what works is as mentioned above, resting well, going for a walk and being interested in my own life. It helps to create a balance in my head.

serenityNOW's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake – “I was in love instantly and would be picking out new china in my mind the second the main course was served on the first date.”
Man, oh man… it really is “instant,” right?!

@Shippy – I don’t think you’re way off by any means! I appreciate the feedback. I guess I’m not happy, but at least relieved that I’m not the only one. I think I’m going to experiment and not contact him for the day. I’ll see what happens. Despite the fact that patience isn’t my strong-suit, I just want to see what happens. (I’m thinking easier said then done.) Still, I almost feel like this is also a dignity thing. Has anyone else felt that? In the end, I do want to keep my pride.

KNOWITALL's avatar

My mom is bi-polar and goes through a lot romantically because of it. She gets interested, and then obsessive, then is done and doesn’t care one bit. She tends to overwhelm people with her love and sometimes it’s seen as too much.

wundayatta's avatar

I always struggle with the pride thing. I always lose. I’ve decided to see my passion as a strength rather than as a weakness. It’s better than beating myself up all the time for being unable to hold back.

Actually, I believe it. I think that we know what we want very quickly. I think we can see things in people that others don’t see for a while. So when we love instantly, it’s real. It may not last long, but that’s a function of circumstances. It’s not because we have bad judgment.

Maybe I say this just to make myself feel better about my behavior. Maybe it’s true. But I’ve spent many years beating myself up and that hasn’t changed the behavior. It’s built into me. I don’t think we can stop behaving this way—not without making ourselves miserable. And that misery leads to suicide, so I’m not going there any more. I got a little too close last time.

So I fall in love. I know I’m not supposed to. I know I made promises. This is not something I can control, and trying to control it has serious negative consequences for me. So I give in. I go with it. And the vast majority of the time, it just plays through and nothing comes of it. The rest of the time, people are too far away for anything to happen.

I think it makes sense for us to accept our craziness. It’s easier to manage it, I find, when I accept it than when I fight it tooth and nail. That’s because when I fought it, I never won. Not once. But acceptance allows me to work with it; dance with it; do jujitsu with it; use its own energy to keep it from being destructive to me.

I’ve found some people like this idea. It makes it a little easier to live with bipolar when you don’t have to fight it all the time. You can dance with it and accept the things that are good, and dance away from the things that hurt you. Love and passion are good things. So is desire. And there are people who want to be loved and desired the way we do it. I think it’s pretty special, but I’m prejudiced, of course. And it makes sens that if we want to be loved, and we want to be loved so deeply, that we should offer that kind of love when it comes bursting out of us, uncontrolled, anyway. You can’t fight it. You can only dance with it. That’s what works for me, anyway.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

I am bipolar. I have been the same way in past relationships. I was like that with my husband and I actually made our relationship turbulent. But we were perfectly matched and he understood me. I have found that it takes the right kind of person to put up with me. When it does they work with you.

I think you should let this guy know what your feeling and that it is the bipolar that causes it. He should be able to make a decision if he wants to be put up with it or not. If he doesn’t he’s not for you.

Adding stress of everyday life and the relationship to the mix and the bipolar can be exaggerated. I have to admit it is a lot for another human being to put up with.

My emotional state was almost always turbulent and most times my husband actually felt helpless.

I have found that as much as I loved my husband since he passed I am much better by myself. I lead a lonely life but it is a lot less emotionally involved. So now I am more depressed. I just can’t win lol.

I do have to add one more thing @serenityNOW, Ironically when I was having a bad time my husband used to close his eyes put his thumb and his middle finger together on both hands and say ”SERENITYNOW!” If I was mad at the time it would set me off and make me madder than a hatter. lmao.

wundayatta's avatar

@nofurbelowsbatgirl It’s probably no coincidence that you lost your husband and you are less emotionally involved but more depressed. Love is very important to bipolar folks, I believe. Without it, we get depressed. In some of us, that depression leads to death. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t have enough love in my life, I’d be dead. That’s just me, though. Other bipolar folks will be different. This is just to say that you should be careful. Watch your depression. Do something about it before it starts really pulling you under.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Thank you @wundayatta funny you say so because I can feel my body shutting down. I am off to the doctors in 4 days to see what he says. Thanks for caring. :)

serenityNOW's avatar

@all – So he called me yesterday, twice, so I felt satiated, and went to bed comfortable. Today, no communication… I left him a voicemail, trying to sound confident and in control, but in all honesty, I’m stewing. I think I’m in a place right now that being alone – save for family and friends – is the best thing to do about this. I hate to say it… really do. However, I don’t know how to broach the topic of my “constant” need of… what exactly? Validation? I’m not even sure of the needs I’m desiring, but I know there is something that’s missing; my needs aren’t being met.
I’m thinking I’ll wait it out a couple of more days, and see how I feel. Patience, sadly, is a character-trait that I lack, or is tricky for me. I guess I’d feel better about his “absences” if he made out at least some sort of acknowledgment that he’s been unavailable. I don’t need an apology; just want him to at least say something about it. Grrrrr….! Having said all that, I don’t think this bodes well for a long term relationship, which is my lofty ambition.
Plus, he owes me $60 worth of ganja, so I better stay on good terms till he delivers

@nofurbelowsbatgirl – I hope you’re visit helps… weird, too, about the “SERENITYNOW” quips. Sorry if it manifests some sad memories :(

Also wanted to add that everyone’s deep thoughts and reflections on this topic are immensely appreciated. Fluther always tends to surprise, delight, and inform at the same time, so thanks!

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

@serenityNOW Thank for taking the time to say that. I can say that if I had of thought about the serenityNOW thing last year I’d be sad, this year however it poses a different emotion and that is of laughter.

I can only imagine my husband saying in his booming voice SERENITYNOW! with his handsome stoic face in the booda stance and giggle. So no worries. :)

I hope all goes well for you.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@serenityNOW We all have something missing, I think, and there is no shame in telling your friend about it.

Breathe. :)

GracieT's avatar

I know that I’m late coming to the party, but here goes. I’m BiPolar. My husband isn’t. He said something that I thought was extremely insightful once early in our relationship. “I realized that no matter how hard on her I was being, she is harder on herself.” Pretty soon after that he told me that at times it was overwhelming. If we didn’t/don’t talk, I sometimes decide that he isn’t keeping up with me, that I see something “shiny” that interests me ever so much and what we have isn’t nearly as interesting and I’m ready to move on. I guess my point is simply to talk to him, he will be more inclined to be honest with you if you’re honest and open with him. Besides- without being honest, what kind of relationship do you have?

serenityNOW's avatar

@GracieT – Well, that ship has definitely sunk. (In the end, it was actually a relief.) Yes, it hurt – temporarily. I’m just at a point when I come first. I have to get my self emotionally balanced again and mentally stabilized. (Easier said than done.) He was a nice guy, but I deserve that at a bare minimum. I need someone who is grounded and mature. I glad your partner is both insightful and open. Sometimes, as bipolar’s, I think we can be intolerable, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we deserve good people and good relationships.

It’s also no coincidence, in my mind, that we ended up smoking a lot of pot together, and that always messes up my brain chemicals. Drugs and meds are big no-no. I was only able to connect those dots after I ended it. Yes, something as innocuous as pot can really screw the living shit out of my brain. Well, live and learn.

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