This is a topic that I have been seeing a lot in the blogopshere. I have been reading various articles that essentially state that you shouldn’t date someone with mental illness because they will “go off on you” or that they will “go crazy” or that they are selfish. Which, I will be the first to admit, can or have happened in my experiences with “normies”. I have scared some of you off, I have had breakdowns, I have addictions, I have yelled at you for no reason, I have a sense of entitlement at times, I have acted extremely selfish at times. I get why it does scare you off because no one wants to be called out for no apparent reason, no one wants to deal with their significant other sleeping for either 2 or 12 hours a day, with no inbetween, no one wants to wonder if their significant other is going to kill themselves at night while they are asleep. It can be scary. But a relationship with someone who has bipolar can also be very rich and fulfilling. So I created a list for those who are contemplating dating someone with mental illness or are dating someone with mental illness some tips and tricks from my personal expertise and experience as someone who personally struggles with bipolar II disorder.
1. Be understanding of our sleeping habits
Whether we sleep for three hours at a time or thirteen, we need our significant others to understand that when it comes to manic and depressive episodes, our sleep will be affected. Usually the more manic you are, the less sleep you get and the more depressed you are, the more you will sleep. For me personally, no matter my manic state or lack thereof, I could sleep eighteen hours a day if you would let me. In relationships, I was constantly criticized on how much I slept. It is solely due to the fact that my brain, and those who have bipolar also struggle with this, doesn’t make the chemicals that normal people have in order to sleep, and feel rested after eight hours. So because we are constantly exhausted and fatigued, we sleep a lot. Even on medication, I still sleep a lot and I have come to conclude that I need it in order to not be an anxious, depressed, or a manic wreck.
What you can do: let your person sleep because they need it. They will make time for you. In this sense, it’s good to be a little selfish and sleep as much as they need to so you get their best, well rested self.
2. Know that mental illness isn’t always hereditary.
Although one family member having a mental illness could affect you developing a mental illness at some point in your life, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will. There are a lot of environmental factors and brain chemistry factors that can affect one’s moods or actions up to the point where one is diagnosed with mental illness. I happen to prove my own theory wrong considering my mother is schizophrenic. Although the chemistry of my brain may function similarly to my mom’s, we both started having symptoms due to our surroundings / environmental factors. She didn’t have symptoms of paranoia until she was 50. I also don’t know if mental illness is a trend in her family because she was adopted. Regardless, one of the most hurtful things I was told in a relationship was, “I don’t want to have children with you because I don’t want them to have bipolar disorder”. I feel as though one should love a child that comes into this world regardless of physical, developmental, mental, or emotional state and as a parent would love a child who had any sort of disability, they should love their child with mental illness.
What you can do: as long as the person with bipolar has the same common core values and beliefs that you have, there should be no problem when it comes to procreating. If adoption or foster kids seem like a viable option, then do it. But if you are really wanting the person to change who they are for your benefit, maybe it’s not the right person for you to date.
3. We are responsible for our actions!
If you were ever worried about your bipolar significant other “going off on you”, don’t be. Even though we have a mental illness, it gives us a reason, NEVER an excuse for our thoughts and actions. There have been times when I have yelled at my boyfriend and acted out of character for myself for no apparent reason other than to start a fight. I’ll be the first to admit that. It’s not a common occurrence, but it has happened enough for me to stand up and apologize for what I did or what I said. Yes, mood swings are real, and guys a dick bags, but that doesn’t justify being rude or uncalled for actions.
What you can do: if the bipolar person acts out of line, give them the opportunity to calm down and apologize for their words and actions. In this case, you gotta be the bigger person and even though they wronged you, it doesn’t give you an excuse to continue the fight. If they never apologize for their actions, they aren’t ready for a relationship. They need to grow in the fact that bipolar doesn’t give you an excuse to do whatever you want.
4. Learn give and take with selfish/selflessness
One thing that I have been told in many relationships is that I am the most selfish selfless person there is. When I am in a relationship, I am constantly worried about my other half, making sure they are okay, making sure they are taken care of to the best of my abilities. While these thoughts and cares are always in the back of my mind, my bipolar comes into full swing and let’s say I am super depressed, usually that person drops everything to support me. Because my depression and manic states are constant, a lot of attention can be put on me and my moods in order to make sure that I am stable. I have been called selfish multiple times because of my sleep schedule; that I don’t make time for them. I also have been called selfish for making everything about me when I am suicidal and needing too much help. For a bipolar relationship to work, each person needs to be both selfish and selfless and here’s why. If you are selfish, your needs and wants will be met and when you’re selfless, your partner’s needs and wants will be met. Communication is key. I’m bipolar and need my sleep so I am gonna make sure I get my ten hours. But those other six hours when I am not working, I will devote to you and your wants and needs.
What you can do: create a list of what your wants and needs are in a relationship with your bipolar partner. That goes under the selfish category. Now create a list with your partner in mind or even with them on their wants and needs. That is the selfless category. Figure out what matches in each want or need category and create a Venn diagram. Put the similarities the center circle. Put the differences that were left out of each other’s selfish/selfless categories into the differences of the Venn diagram. That will be what you will work on to be more selfless.
5. Be there and communicate
This is the most important of all for a bipolar person. If you’re mad, we know. If you’re sad, we know. If you are distraught, don’t understand our illness, are upset with us, done with us, apathetic towards us, we know. You should never hide how you feel in order to not hurt our feelings. Yes, we may be sad or upset with how you feel, but I would rather know than not know. I want to fix the problem. If you don’t understand a certain aspect of bipolar disorder, tell us and we are happy to explain it to you. If you don’t communicate, we kind of know what’s going on and have an inkling of it, but nothing beats you telling us what you feel, how you feel it, and why. And when there is something wrong with us, and often times there will be, we just ask you to be there. Listen, ask questions, hold us as we cry, and say that you’re there for us.
What you can do: just be there for each other, through thick and thin.
I have a feeling that I will sequel this later on as I think about it more. But there is a start on dating someone with bipolar disorder.
Til Next Time,