Bipolar disorder doesn't need to be a deal-breaker.
You're not imagining it: mental illness is on the rise. It may be that it's just being diagnosed more. Or maybe we live in such confusing, crazy times as to push us all a little closer to the edge.
If you're single, it can be a daunting time to make the effort to experience dating and find someone you can be with. Intimacy is important to our health and happiness, so we need strategies for love in these maddening times.
Bipolar disorder is more prevalent these days. In any given year, 2.6 percent of US adults will have an episode, and in 2.2 percent, it will be considered "severe."
The more you date, the higher your odds are of running across someone with this disorder. Among people who have bipolar disorder, you're far more likely to meet them when they are manic, because they are more likely to be out and about then.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy and activity levels. These changes are so extreme that an affected individual may seem like a different person when they are up, as opposed to down. Everybody has moods, but bipolar disorder interferes with normal daily living. It can be manageable when it's recognized and addressed. The problem is that people may not know they have it, or if they do, they hide it.
If you happen to meet a Bipolar person when they are up, you'd likely find them to be exciting, brilliant and sexy. They could be the most charming person you ever meet. A little mania can make it possible to be productive all day, then dance all night and be unstoppable in the sack.
Mania, at least the mild form known as "hypomania," can be quite appealing. A slightly manic person is likely to be talkative, have high energy, and is really enjoyable to be around. The person who has it usually doesn't want it to end. Who DOESN'T like being up? The problem lies in the downside. When the mania subsides, exhaustion and depression take over, and often persist far longer than the manic period.
There's a temptation to hide the dark side. When we date, we put our best foot forward. The other side of the story isn't told. The single Bipolar person is likely to date when they are up and tend to be downright anti-social when they are down. If you meet them and fall in love with their brilliant side, you're bound to be left wondering what's happening when they come back down.
Lots of people take medications for depression. Some anti-depressants can cause mania in non-bipolar people. The medications for Bipolar disorder are different from anti-depressants; they are meant to stabilize a person so they don't become manic.
Bipolar people have a tendency to go off their meds because they like the high energy manic state. Unfortunately, this increases their odds of crashing back to the bottom of the pit of despair once again. It isn't pretty, and they aren't likely to tell you about it on a first date.
If you're falling for a Bipolar individual, but have fears about their illness, here are six things to remember:
1. When seeking a relationship, remember that people are complex.
There are clues that will help you detect a bipolar pattern:
- Listen for stories of sudden or radical changes in interests, jobs or relationships.
- Take note if they say they have made and lost fortunes.
- Stay tuned for delusional idealism, excessive energy, or suicide attempts.
- Watch for drug or alcohol abuse, especially self-medication for moods.
2. Don't let their charm obscure your view.
It's fair game when you like someone to ask their mental health history, or if they take any medications. At the bare minimum, keep an active awareness that people have many different states, and you don't know a person until you have seen their range.
3. Know that it's not easy being with a person who has Bipolar Disorder.
They'll wear you out when they're up and be painfully miserable when they're down. It takes a certain kind of patience and calm to maintain your center around this kind of chaos. Keep breathing and keep your eyes wide open. Don't make any important decisions (like getting married or entering a business deal) until you have seen the whole picture. The door is there; use it if you need to.
4. Don't give up if you also have BPD.
There are many people in the world who are familiar with your challenge. People can be sympathetic or even supportive. The right person won't be afraid of your diagnosis. He or she could know about it from previous experiences. The right person can accept you as you are, and provide one more anchor to the stability and satisfaction that you need.
5. Telling the truth about your mood swings is the first step.
You will build trust if you confess early. People who can't tolerate your swings will bail out. This is OK. Say goodbye and tell the truth to the next person. Eventually, you'll find someone who understands. It's much easier to live outside of the closet, less musty.
6. Understand that hope is on the horizon.
Genetic testing continues to reveal clues about why people have mood instability. If you haven't done it yet, seek help specifically for your condition. Consider getting genetic testing, and seeking treatment based on what you find. Don't simply accept that you must take pharmaceutical drugs for the rest of your life.
Learn the lifestyle tricks that help you stabilize. Find practitioners who are willing to look deeper and help you develop a foundation of health. Find creative work in which your nature is a strength. You too can live a happy life and find a partner who loves you deeply.