A new romance is a beautiful thing, but I find it even more beautiful when mixed with bipolar disorder. My emotions, depth of feeling and admiration are enhanced by several notches when compared to my non-bipolar romantic encounters of the past, before I became ill.
I love the wonderful heady feeling created by a brain awash with hormones and chemicals. The racing heart and butterflies in the tummy, the tingling excitement when we hold hands, all the hallmarks of romantic attraction. Everyone who falls for someone experiences these feelings. But, add bipolar into the mix and these feelings ignite into an orchestral serenade of sound and colour that is richer and brighter than imagination can conjure.
Bipolar illness is a mood disorder, and at a basic level, it causes extremes of mood. So normal feelings of happiness and elation can escalate tenfold. Attraction becomes a super-charged love. It’s love on steroids. It’s love built on diamond roses. It’s breath-sucking, heart-racing love. It’s like being a teenager again, only wiser!
It is a wonderful feeling, but it could be dangerous for me if I am not careful. The escalated mood could spiral out of control and become a manic episode, so I need to keep myself grounded, stick to my treatment plan and make sure I get good quality sleep.
It’s a wonderful feeling, but it could lead to problems, as the other person can’t hear the same orchestra or see the same colours as me. It could result in a disparity of feelings if I don’t keep a check on my emotions. It could lead to disappointment if I jump in with both feet – as the bipolar half of me has a tendency to do. The sensible half of me luckily knows I need to stay grounded and take each day a step at a time, celebrating everything that comes with it.
Despite the risks that come with the illness and relationships, we have had an incredible few months so far. Sharing everything about how the illness can affect the developing relationship has helped. So has setting expectations and creating boundaries for each other. We have shared our feelings and emotions which have helped us both stay grounded, and I have described the stunning sounds and colours created by the orchestra! We cherish time together and time apart.
Talking, listening, sharing and caring is so good for the soul and strengthens the blossoming romance. I am so lucky to have found someone so wonderful who I am in tune with and who really gets me! Life is good 🙂
Dumped by text. I knew it was coming; I was just waiting for the “you’re dumped,” and I just knew it would selfishly be delivered by text instead of in person or by a phone call. That’s the way she is.
Being in a relationship while having bipolar disorder is not easy at the best of times, but when both parties have bipolar disorder; well, the journey is set to be a rough one. To be successful, having a plan is vital. ‘Know what we are dealing with’ would be a good place to start. To understand each other’s needs is important, but it has to be two-sided; both parties must understand the other person’s needs, not just their own. If this doesn’t happen from the start, the journey is destined to arrive at failure, sooner, rather than later.
Having a daily routine is an important part of managing bipolar disorder. What happens when one person is trying to stick to their routine, but the other one doesn’t have one? There is a potential risk that the person with a daily routine is dragged off course and into the unplanned path of the one without a routine. When this happens, maintenance of mental health becomes increasingly difficult.
Communication is an essential element in the relationship, but general chit-chat is not communication. Real communication is the ability to talk about issues openly in a conversation (verbal, not text) without fear. When one person is fearful of speaking up about a problem, the relationship has no backbone.
Neediness brings challenges to the relationship, too. Sure, we all have needs; emotionally, mentally and physically, and if these are not met, the relationship will spiral downhill quickly. What happens when one person is high maintenance in the needs department, but the other only has two basic needs? The balance is uneven, and one person has a lot of hard work on their hands. Neediness in a relationship is healthy, but it can also be a deal-breaker if it becomes too much.
My needs were simple; in fact, I only had two needs. The first is ‘space.’ I needed space to stick to my documented daily routine (which is actually a treatment plan for a sleep disorder) My second need is ‘alone time’ so that I can have headspace to pursue my creative activities. I also need some downtime to do household chores and gardening! If I don’t get to stick to my routine, I very quickly become unwell and if I don’t get the headspace needed, I end up feeling crowded and miserable.
So what did I do wrong? In general, terms, nothing specific. Regarding routine, though; I gave my power away by letting her drag me off my essential daily routine to her ‘live life as it comes’ approach. Nearly every afternoon, she would text or phone and ask to ‘come for a cuppa.’ That’s ok, but she would then stay for the rest of the afternoon and evening. She had no consideration for what I may be doing at the time or things that I may need to do. My valuable time was not important to her. So, we would sit on the couch, (nearly always) eat take-away and watch TV. I got bored very quickly and yearned for my headspace. But, I was fearful of saying so, as I just knew it would be seen as a rejection, and she would sulk, or worse – throw a tantrum and dump me!
So what did I really do wrong? In my terms, I didn’t communicate as I should have and I didn’t stand up for my own needs. In her terms; despite trying to meet her needs by sacrificing my daily routine and allowing her to take the lead in every decision of what we should do with our time; it wasn’t enough. My afternoon nap is an essential part of my routine and the number of times it had to be sacrificed, because she phoned/texted during it, was too much for me.
In her terms, one of the things I did wrong, was I didn’t give her ‘enough attention.’ She soaked up so much of my time. We saw each other nearly every day. I listened to the things she had to tell me and I tried to be sympathetic where it was needed. But perhaps she didn’t feel she was getting enough because I was privately yearning for at least some headspace. I couldn’t cope with seeing her every day; it was too exhausting.
Another thing I did wrong, was not to be able to cope with her high need for intimacy; every day if she got her way. I did manage to speak up and tell her she was wearing me out, but this seemed to fall on deaf ears. The end result on my part was misery, which led to low libido – so she would be miserable because her physical needs were not being met. Total failure and relationship-killer.
The final thing I did wrong last night was to say no when she asked me to go to her house for dinner. I needed to cut the grass, as it was at the stage of overwhelming me and it had to be done in the evening when it was cooler. I should have sacrificed doing it ‘because’ she had suggested me going to her’s for dinner. Saying ‘no’ was sufficient enough for her to decide her needs were not being met and send me the ‘you’re dumped’ text this morning.
The sad thing is; this is the 4th time she has dumped me by text over 18 months. I was gullible enough to go back to her each time she decided the relationship should be back on again. It has taken me this many times of being dumped by text to learn a lesson that the biggest thing I was getting wrong, was staying in the unhealthy relationship.
Hypersexuality and manic episodes are known to go hand-in-hand, but hyposexuality (low or no sex drive) can also be present as part of the bipolar illness. It is a known side effect of bipolar medication, so identifying whether it is the illness or the medication to blame, is not so easy. However, it is also easy for the psychiatrist or doctor to just blame the medication rather than talk about it and try to help with the problem.
How do you know if it is the medication? Well, if the symptom starts not long after, even a few months after starting new meds, they likely the culprit. If the symptom starts when you have been taking your meds for some time, they are not likely the cause and further investigation will be needed to identify the issue.
Hyposexuality often occurs during depressive episodes and when you think about it; it does make sense. However, hyposexuality can also occur even when those episodes are mild or during a well period. It is rare to experience this during mania, though. When experiencing hyposexuality during a well period, meds are often blamed by the medical professionals, even when you may know it’s not the meds.
Sexuality can be difficult or even embarrassing to talk about, so often people end up suffering in silence, and this can result in relationship problems and low self-esteem.
Hard as it may be, the best place to start is talking it over with your partner if you are in a relationship. The more they understand, the less chance there is of harming your relationship. Talking about how you feel or don’t feel, as the case may be, might be a big weight off your shoulders and might improve yours and their self-esteem. Even if you are not in a relationship at the time, it can still affect your self-esteem and spoil the relationship you have with yourself, or even make you reluctant to start dating.
Another important thing is talking to the doctor who is treating you. They may know if it is a medication side-effect and could negotiate a different type of med for you to try. If they seem reluctant to take it seriously at first, keep pushing the issue, as it is your health, wellbeing and relationship at stake here. Your doctor might suggest counselling as an alternative to changing med, which could be a good course of action. They may also want to explore further to see if it is a medical issue causing the problem.
If you are suffering from hyposexuality, know that it is not you to blame; you are not doing anything wrong. There are some options out there for you and your doctor to consider that may improve the situation. Bipolar disorder sucks, but one consoling fact is the illness, and symptoms are episodic, and this too may pass without any intervention required.
I think I have given myself a dose of it, accidentally; or rather, by over-enthusiasm. I fell in love with blogging almost straight away after writing my first post, and never looked back. From then, I couldn’t contain my excitement as I researched topics to write about and thought of stories to tell. Blogs were flowing from me every day, and I loved it.
I was amazed that I was getting likes and followers; so many, so soon. It was more than I expected in my first month of blogging! So, I decided it was time to create social media profiles for my blog to help spread the word. I guess that was the point I opened the door to technology fatigue. Having created Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr ‘My Bonkers Brain’ profiles, I then became consumed in social media like I never had before. Reading, liking, sharing, searching for those like-minded folks to follow and paving the way for my own followers. Who knew it could be so absorbing and time-consuming? I loved every minute of it, though, don’t get me wrong – it was, and still is exciting, not to mention, fascinating.
Having bipolar disorder, I can very quickly develop an obsession and become solely fixated on that thing, to the exclusion of everything else in a day. That is what happened to me and why I had to drop off the face of the earth for a few weeks. I became obsessed with the blogosphere and social media and just couldn’t walk away and do something else. There were so many blogs lined up in my reader, and I just had to read each one; each new blog took me on an exciting journey through other people’s experiences. There were so many tweets in my Twitter feed, more pins on Pinterest than I could keep up with and Tumblr, well, I just haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
The obsession took hold straight away but after a few weeks, I was able to spot the warning signs; which for me, is a great achievement – having self-awareness of the symptoms of my illness. Okay, so I knew I was obsessed, but could I do something about it? No. WordPress and My Bonkers Brain social media profiles were in my waking thoughts and never left me throughout the day, and I didn’t mind. I was doing something worthwhile, and it was boosting my confidence no end.
The obsession became a real problem when fatigue set in. But, still, I couldn’t let go of the laptop, I was in danger of becoming ill, and I knew it, but couldn’t quite stop myself. My head was buzzing with ideas for blogs, stories and poems and they each deserved a chance of digital life. My social media profiles needed nurturing, and my topics needed researching, so I didn’t stop for a rest, despite being aware I was becoming too obsessed.
Fatigue jumped out at me and bit my brain – hard. I was suddenly exhausted every moment of the day and had hit a blank wall. I couldn’t think of anything to write. Nothing; not a sentence, not a single word flowed from my fingers. The choice to slow down had been removed from me, and that was not a bad thing. I was pushed into a period of forced rest to recover from the fatigue. I was so tired I couldn’t even watch television for a couple of weeks. When I tried to keep up to speed with my personal Facebook wall, I was overwhelmed and just had to switch off and leave it. So, there I was, unplugged from technology completely to recover from the fatigue and able to overcome the obsession by forced rest.
I have resumed my relationship with technology, but my lesson is learned. The social media profiles are not as important as I had originally thought. My head is not buzzing with blog topics, so there is no pressure to blog every day. My self-imposed pressure for non-stop social media surfing and blogging created the obsession; I know the signs and danger of it now, so won’t – or, with the best will in the world, will try not to make the same mistake again! I will blog, but not every day. I will surf social media, but not as if my life depended on it. I will research, but only topics on a controlled list of things to write about. Management is my key to wellness.
I am sure I am not alone and many other people have walked this path before me. Hopefully, this blog will help others spot the warning signs and take action before the fatigue kicks in!
Being bipolar feels much like wading through treacle in a cold, dark, stinking cave. But, sometimes it feels like being the ball bearing in a pinball machine, whizzing around, smacking my head against everything.
I feel like two completely different people; one of me with a bit of a handle on life, and the other like a space cadet terrorised by my acute senses, hallucinations and my screaming, racing brain. I feel out of control in manic episodes and the depressive episodes leave me numb, lifeless and disconnected from my body and the world around me.
The depression makes my body so heavy and fatigued. I feel like I am living in a lead suit. The mania makes me vibrate with boundless energy with no means of shutting down; but oh so soon, I crash back into the lead suit.
The hallucinations make me feel like I am crazy, mad, insane, and not deserving of my place in this world. I hide away unable to make sense of the warped and distorted world that I am trapped inside.
The bipolar rapid cycling robs me of my platform of stability; it leaves me with no choice, but to climb aboard the roller coaster, put my hands over my eyes and hope for the best. Once the roller coaster is in motion, the only way off is to jump and terminate my existence.
The suicidal impulses suck the breath out of me and paralyse me with fear. I get pinned to the couch by an invisible glue, an overwhelming gravity. Then later I’m left with a sickening feeling of guilt and shame that makes me sob for hours and haunts me for weeks.
Some episodes slam me into a wall and smash my world apart to expose the goblins and demons that terrorise me with psychotic images and sensations. My emotions are smashed against the wall over and over, relentlessly. My senses are torn to pieces by walls of sound that break into shards of glass and seek me out with rapid fire motion. Like heat-seeking missiles. They tear through my muscles and cause intense pain.