Love can be the most wonderful emotion. It can bring both joy and sorrow simultaneously. Even the best and most solid relationships can often be difficult. It is especially challenging when a partner has bipolar disorder. This is not to say that you cannot have a good, strong, long-lasting relationship if you or a loved one have bipolar. But I will warn you from my own personal experience with bipolar that relationships are a lot more challenging to manage. By means of an explanation, I will offer my spouse`s perspective with regards to our relationship, or what we sometimes refer to as our “bipolar love”.
I am diagnosed with bipolar II with rapid cycling. The rapid cycling can add a whole other dimension of daily surprises. It is difficult to treat at times given the rapid mood changes. Those with rapid cycling, like me, can experience multiple moods in a week or within a single day. I myself, cycle between moods per day, per week, and sometimes per month. It is dependent upon things that trigger me, like deeply stressful personal situations. I can experience being stable, manic, depressed, indifferent, and worst of all, suicidal.
My spouse describes loving me as a cross between the two movies 50 First Dates and The Notebook. In 50 First Dates, Adam Sandler`s character spends his life reminding his girlfriend Drew Barrymore (who suffered severe brain damage in a car accident shortly after they met) every morning who she is and everything about her life before and after the accident when she wakes up, by means of a video. Her character can only remember 24 hours of memories at a time. Therefore, every day is a new day for her. She remembers nothing from her past, and each day is a fresh start.
With rapid cycling, I can go from being a loving wife and mother, and in the same day, second guess myself and my accomplishments, question whether I want to continue being a wife and a mother, and at times crave my freedom and independence. I then struggle with the shame, the pain, and the remorse I feel when these thoughts overtake me. My spouse has the difficult and agonizing task of repeatedly reminding me, that I am where I want to be, and where I am meant to be. It can be exhausting and utterly heartbreaking for him. But without his reassurances, support and encouragement, I would most likely make terrible decisions I would most surely regret later.
If you have not seen the movie The Notebook, the love story of Noah and Allie, I encourage you to watch it. In the Notebook Allie has dementia and Noah spends his time reading her their love story. Every so often Allie will come back to him and remember everything about their life, for that small moment in time Noah has the love of his life back. Noah cherishes the moment even if it’s just a few minutes. Like these two characters, I love hard and with every fiber of my being and so does my spouse. With bipolar disorder, one day I will shower my spouse with love and affection, I crave his time and attention, and yet sometimes in the same day I am cold, distant and indifferent. His touch will sting as I become numb and completely lost in my own head. For my spouse, I have gone away, exited the premises, and there is no indication as to when I will return. This admittedly for him is the most difficult part. He calls it my “Notebook mood.”
There have been some truly long and difficult years between us, but he has learned to enjoy the moments when I am fully there and we love intensely because neither of us knows when I will be gone again, like Allie in The Notebook.
Though I have painted a grim picture of what a relationship is like with someone with bipolar disorder, it does not mean that we are doomed to a life of instability and constant daily suffering. There will be good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, and even good months and bad months. We learn to cherish the good times and ride out the bad times; holding on to one another until the storm subsides and the roller coaster ride of emotions ends or changes direction.
This is not to say that we haven’t perfected our relationship. We even divorced once and got back together. Loving someone with bipolar is not easy! It takes a whole lot of loving, patience and understanding, a strong sense of humor, commitment, communication, and compassion. But if you ask my spouse, he will assure you that I am worth it!