On the Outside…

Can someone with bipolar disorder have a normal relationship? Although it’s a question that is as ignorant as it sounds, I can, to some extent, see how it could raise some red flags for someone on the other side. But if your loved one has bipolar disorder, it is possible to have a “normal” relationship.

Okay. I can admit that I’m probably not always the easiest person to live with. I can concede that. But I was never so aware of how many “bipolar bullet points” I was checking off the list until my wife and I had a truly candid conversation about my condition.

She knows how I hate the stereotypical things one hears about bipolar disorder, such as phrases like “walking on eggshells”, etc. But once the conversation began, it was clear there was no way back from where we were going. I was the cancer, I was the cure.

I must be thankful the conversation came about the way it did, however, because A) it was organic, and B) I wasn’t experiencing any signs of mania or depression. Just curiosity. And from what I had heard it had killed the cat.

But ignorance is not always bliss and I decided that this was one of those situations in which that was true.

It’s strange how, like bipolar disorder itself and those who suffer from it, the “symptoms” a spouse or partner of someone with it may exhibit are similar.

Similar in the fact that they can’t be cured, only managed. And even that is a stretch at times.

When my wife began to tell me about some of my “extreme” moments and how she would handle them, I felt microscopic in size. Not in the “oh, woe is me” sense, but in the “how could I allow myself to make her feel that way” sense. When I asked how she was able to handle all of my behavior without leaving or going crazy, she told me she could tell the difference between me and the disease. She had taken the time to educate herself on what bipolar disorder is and had listened at all my appointments.

She also said it was important to communicate, when it was the right time to communicate. Again, I normally would’ve taken this negatively, like I was too fragile to handle a conversation. But because we were able to have the conversation, we continued.

She reminded me that no matter what the situation, we had always worked through it. Even if it’s one where I may not be totally aware that is going on; even being manic and/or depressed at times, I still contributed and offered value. She told me she watched for my “triggers” and kept an eye on certain behaviors.

What I wondered was how I could be so blind or, even worse, careless as to what my wife experienced or how she felt during one of my episodes. How is she still here? WHY is she still here?

She told me. And then she explained it to me. And then explained to me how I wouldn’t understand so not to worry about it. She said it’s just like any other relationship when it comes to honesty and transparency, communication and trust. They’re all “must-haves” no matter the circumstances.

Regardless, however, it was a conversation and/or situation that could have been handled or dealt with negatively and it wasn’t. And those are the types of situations one should put themselves into any time they get the chance. I plan to fully from this moment on.

And remember, if you can take it without lashing out or getting sad, then take it. Those are the feelings you need to feel.

Let yourself feel them.

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