So imagine that you’ve been seeing a man for a few months, and things are going great. You like him, you like his friends, you like his moves in the bedroom. You wonder if he could be husband material. Then he sits you down and tells you that he has bipolar disorder. You find yourself unsure about whether or not your courtship should continue.
But don’t leave him.
As someone with bipolar disorder, I am here to tell you what you need to know about dating someone like me, so you that can keep developing a relationship with this wonderful guy.
1. People Who Are Bipolar Are, For The Most Part, Just Like Everyone Else
OK, so we go to therapy and take medications every day, but so do half of the people in New York City. If you date someone with bipolar disorder and they’re doing well, they’ll pretty much be just like any other guy you would date: they’ll tease you when you snore, roll their eyes when you want to watch “The Haves and Have Nots,” and, hopefully, scramble you some eggs after sex. The point is, people with mental illness work, play and live out their lives just like so-called “normal” people.
2. We Spend A Lot Of Time In Our Heads
You will never know how much time we spend overthinking about something you said at dinner last Tuesday. If you knew, you’d probably break up with us. However, that does not mean that you shouldn’t speak freely. We’ve been through all that therapy, and we’ve spent more than one session learning how to regulate our emotions. So say what you mean and how you feel, and we’ll figure out how to react. Chances are, we either know how to handle it, or we are working on it.
3. We Are Going To Need To Talk About Our Feelings
People with mood disorders — bipolar, depression, borderline personality, anxiety and others — have learned that holding in our feelings is bad. It makes us feel very intense negative feelings, and they are usually about ourselves. Moreover, when we feel bad, we have bad thoughts and might want to do bad things, like polish off a whole bottle of liquor, call up our ex, or get behind the wheel while in an agitated state. To ensure that we do not end up drunk dialing someone, or worse, we have to make sure our feelings do not get the best of us. So we have to talk. Be prepared for a lot of “When you did X, it made me feel like Y” and, if things get serious, an invitation to couples therapy.
4. People With Bipolar Disorder Get Very Manic And/Or Very Depressed
If we fall off in our treatment, experience a traumatic event or our meds stop working, we could go into relapse. Don’t expect it to look like Dre on “Empire.” A manic episode feels like the most productive, most energetic time in life. We need less sleep. We are more social, in an erratic sort of way. We seek out risky behavior that we’d never do in our right mind. A depressive episode, on the other hand, feels like walking through peanut butter. There’s sadness, the literal inability to pull ourselves out of bed, tearfulness, and a lack of concentration. If you date someone with bipolar disorder long enough, you might have to see them through an episode. However, undesirable things happen to everyone, even people without a mental illness. Everyone you date and care about is bound to live through some bad stuff. There is a treatment for a bipolar episode, things to make the person feel better. And it turns out that two aspects of such treatment include support and companionship, which you should give to any significant other.
So don’t dump your dude just because he has a mood disorder. You could end up having a relationship with an emotionally in tune man who is aware of self and talks openly and honestly about his feelings.
Besides, you have done worse…
Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.