Friday 14 November 2014

Dating Someone with Bipolar

There are many articles on personal mental health and these are incredibly important in their own right; I’ve often used them to help me when things aren’t going so great. However, I did not realise how isolating actually dating someone with mental health can sometimes be. Due to mental health stigmas and a general lack of understanding it is often difficult to talk to anyone when your partner turns round and states that they wish they were dead. After a while you run out of reasons to show them how wonderful life can be and how important they truly are to the world. I had this moment and broke down in tears because I felt I couldn’t help the person I love. It took time but I realised the most important thing; it’s not my fault. I am not the reason they don’t want to be here. It is chemicals in their mind causing emotions which cause them to feel this way. So I thought I would share my experience of dating someone who suffers with bipolar.

My boyfriend was diagnosed with bipolar towards the start of our relationship. He was grateful for the diagnoses because for many years doctors had wrongly diagnosed him and even prescribed anti-depressants-certainly not what you should give to someone with bipolar. I didn’t really know what bipolar was, but after a bit of internet searching and talking with my boyfriend I started to understand and this is kind of it;  Sufferers of bipolar go through stages of mania where they almost can’t stop moving, thinking or talking. It is as though anything is possible; ‘hey lets jump off the roof because I can’. On the reverse of this there are bouts of depression often leading to self-harm, suicidal thoughts and sometimes suicide. These moods can last for weeks, months or even years. This is all well and good but anyone who has any experience of mental health knows that everyone is slightly different and so, although I understand the basic outlines I don’t pretend to fully get it. I tell him I see his brain as a solar nebular-beautiful to look at even if I don’t fully understand it.

He was nervous about  taking medication for the bipolar, which is understandable due to his past experience, but also because he didn’t want to become ‘zombie-like’ with no emotions. He did experience some side effects when he started the meds, he would often twitch involuntarily and sometimes his legs gave way. It was saddening to see him get upset and I was worried as if he was going to collapse I wouldn’t be able to move him as I’m fairly petite and he is 6ft4. We did have a moment where his legs gave way in a supermarket but he held onto me and I supported him as we walked home, it took quite a while longer and he was annoyed at himself but it didn’t matter. After a few months the side effects faded and he was back to his usual self.

What was difficult was explaining to him how ‘normal’ emotions work, that often people do have ups and downs, even on a daily basis-he wasn’t overly pleased at this revelation as normally he experiences long periods of being mega happy. He has been treated for nearly 2 years now but it has not been easy. Medication is not the final answer or a magic fix by any means. There are still times when he’ll tell me he wants to die. He still gets upset and angry at the world because he wishes he was dead. It hurts a lot to hear and sometimes I feel like quitting because it’s so hard. Someone once told me I should end things with him because of the stress and worry and upset but as soon as they said it I knew that it wasn’t an option. I don’t have to stay, no one has to stay with anyone they don’t want to, but I love him and I wouldn’t change him for the world.

When you date someone with bipolar, or probably any other mental health thing, it can be heartbreaking-why is life that bad you want to die? You feel like you are slamming your head into a brick wall because when someone goes into a depressed or down mood it is very difficult to say anything to help, often they need time, sometimes that’s alone, which can also be hard. People comment on my patience and how strong I am but I’m only strong on the outside. I struggle and sometimes I have what I like to call ‘kitchen floor breakdown’ when you just sit on the floor and cry because what on earth else can you do.

Please don’t get me wrong, the majority of the time we have a wonderful relationship; we go out, discuss how whales should have gills, debate human evolution and dance like we are in an 80’s aerobics video-you know what all couples do! And it is these moments that make the few bad days/weeks irrelevant; the bipolar is not important to me, it is just one of those things in our relationship. Some people have long distance relationships, some have partners which don’t speak the same language as them and some have partners with mental health issues. Dating someone with a mental health issue can be trying at times but if you want to be with someone it shouldn’t matter. My boyfriend has no control over his bipolar as it is just chemicals in his brain, just like love is a chemical and you wouldn’t break up with someone because of that.

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