Bipolar disorder can make a person quite unpredictable and wildly varying in their moods. How does one love such a bipolar person? The author explains from experience.
In a previous post on #mentalhealthawareness, I had written about how it feels like inside the head of a Bipolar person, and what to expect and what not to from a Bipolar person. I’d promised I’d write on loving a Bipolar person. And so here I am.
Bipolar disorder in women is on the rise and the worst part is, in a country like India, the disorder is being ignored among diagnosed individuals, without realizing how much it can worsen life for them.
As a Bipolar woman, it has taken me quite some time to come to terms with the fact that I’m not as normal as I would’ve liked to be. The pressure of being ridiculed, of being ignored, of having my behaviour dismissed as a rant for attention, has always been on a crazy high. Many times, those factors have triggered bouts of my manic phase more than anything ever has.
Most Bipolar people have one saving grace. It is a myth that Bipolar people are mostly inclined to the creative side, mostly being artists, musicians or singers. However, it is true that some Bipolar individuals turn to these creative mediums of expressions (sometimes, they are advised to) after being diagnosed, to express themselves, be heard, or simply to assure themselves that they are not alone in this battle.
I was a writer and poet for as long as I could remember and by the time I found that I was Bipolar, I found my art evolving as much as my personality was. (In good ways and bad.) However, I cannot stress enough as to how beneficial artistic space can be to Bipolar people. There is no good art or bad art, it all lies in the perceiver’s eyes, so it is best to leave a Bipolar person and his/her art un-judged in terms of morality or even quality.
Also, building communities that are open to understanding mental wellness is absolutely mandatory. Only in a society of non-judgmental and accepting people, can a person with a mental disorder survive as well as, heal in peace.
I am in a good place now, so much in peace with myself and so much in love with my husband who has been a pillar of support all these years. His selfless love and acceptance is what made my illness not that big a deal and easy to live with. I’ve been healing over the years and I’ve begun to accept myself more as a person and my Art has been massively improving with all the acceptance and self-love I’ve been doing. I encourage you to go back to your artistic self if you are Bipolar and you are in denial about your illness. It helps. It truly, truly helps.
When I write on ways to love a Bipolar individual, remember that I write from personal experiences. Your bipolar friend/ partner/ mother/ sister/ brother/ father may not be as traumatized or as liberated as I am. Take every point listed here, with a pinch of salt. Do not hesitate to call up your psychiatrist to cross-check the validity of each point stated here. Feel free to ping me if you want further insight.
So here are the ways to love a Bipolar person:
Saying stuff like,
“Oh come on! you’re not Bipolar. Everyone has two or more drastic psyches in them. You just need a break”,
“Bipolar? You? It cannot be. You had a fairly good childhood.”
“Tsk. All the things women these days do for attention. Tsk. Tsk”,
“Bipolar? No. It’s all in your head. Let me pray for you. Nothing that a good prayer cannot save”
can only trigger extreme anger and pent up frustration and sometimes, self pity or self blaming. A Bipolar person needs to feel understood in order to feel safe in their space. You owe them that much, so please DO NOT DOUBT THEIR ILLNESS.
Trust me when I say this. I’ve never felt more attacked than when I’m being told stuff like, “Do not wake the monster! She supposedly has Bipolar or something!”.
While personal space deserves its own special article, personal space for a Bipolar person deserves a book, a movie and maybe a daily tele-series. I cannot stress this enough. A bipolar person cannot feel at home, let alone loved, in a space that is suffocating, hateful or mocking of their condition or mental state. Try setting judgments aside and be open enough to understand a Bipolar person’s need for personal space.
There was a time when I had opened up about my Bipolar disorder to someone close, and they could not help bringing that up in every family gathering.
“Don’t trigger her please, we do not want any outbursts tonight”,
“Please leave her alone, let’s go talk in the next room”.
Whilst these comments might have been made with the best of interests to guard my personal space, this publicizing of my state of being was a breach of trust too. We know you care, but do not step over thin lines. My illness is mine to share, to cry about, to deny, to laugh at. Unless specifically asked to, do not feel like my illness is your flag to hoist.
Sometimes, the best of us feel blue for no reason. Life gets monotonous, for all of us. And when a Bipolar person is feeling under the weather or is anxious for the basest of reasons, do not prod if it is the illness acting up or something else.
Most times, being Bipolar is a roller coaster of sorts. We have no clue as to what is coming or when it is coming. Needless to say, we sometimes do not have reigns over how we handle situations, like other people. It is not always because of being Bipolar.
Do not be pressured to always probe into the difference between our Bipolar selves and our real selves. Most times, we have morphed into being both at two different times or being the same at the same time. We are learning to live in an avalanche of feelings and in trying to accept the person we are at that particular point, we are trying to change what could be changed.
So please do not keep picking out the difference between our “true” selves and our Bipolar selves. It gets pretty overwhelming for us, honestly.
We can be quite a handful at times and even a little (read “lot”) childish at times, but do not, I REPEAT: do not always tiptoe around our vulnerabilities.
Sometimes, we need that hug you have been afraid to give, we need that shoulder to cry on, we need that late night talking underneath the stars, and maybe an extra glass of wine you’ve been saving up for some special occasion. Do not always treat us like we might erupt any minute into million ounces of lava and spew hot ash from our mouths. We are flawed, but we are people too.
Yes. I said that. Some of us have multiple disorders that come with being Bipolar and many of us may be delusional without even speaking about it. We may be too scared to tell that to you or anyone else. We might not trust our doctors enough or we might plainly be too proud, too obstinate to admit we need help.
So when we are on the brink of self-harm, or when we threaten to harm other people, please do not take it personal, but PLEASE BE FIRM. You are not obliged to put up with our tantrums that may or may not stem from our disorders, we know. Be kind to us, we need kindness more than anything else, but also be firm. Like I said before, we can be quite a handful.
Again, you are not obliged to be abused or ill treated, and we are sorry if our disorders seem to you like a ticket to un-reprimanded recklessness.
Some of us hate being denied freedom because of our illness and it can, in many ways make us wilder than we mean to be. Some of us become children that need to be disciplined again, some of us plainly need to be left alone, but please do not encourage violent behavior or abuse. Stand your ground, take the role of a leader, even if we are older than you are; we need to have a role reversal sometimes.
Sometimes it is advisable to call up our doctors discreetly and ask for help when the situation threatens to get out of hand.
Though we might become quite unruly in our manic phases, show us by example that it is never right to raise your voice in an argument. Please be firm, but gentle. Being rebuked or loudly criticized or chastised will only undermine our self-worth, and cause us to act up more, and become more rebellious than the previous time.
By this, we do not mean to tie you indefinitely into a relationship that has every possibility of turning abusive. We just mean, maybe you could reflect on reasons why you wanted to be with us, to love us, in the first place. Maybe like all the poetry we read under the stars and all the sappy movies we watched together, love is the answer after all.
This is mandatory. No matter how much you love us or we love you back, set boundaries with us. This might hurt some of us, but show us by example that it is not okay to breach these boundaries of mutual respect no matter what, so that we have a sense of direction and restraint even in our greatest rage.
Hug and show physical signs of love quite frequently, take us on dates, cook for us or help us when we cook, sign up for language/Art classes with us, get creative with us, teach us something you’re good at, watch movies with us, fill the living space with music when the silence gets suffocating and above everything else, make time for us. Even if you receive lesser doses of love (we’re sorry, we are trying!) than you give away, please don’t stop being generous with love. We respond to love remarkably well, I swear.
Show us why it is okay to be vulnerable with you. Show us why we can knock down the walls we’ve built around us for ages, when we are with you. Show us why we can trust you to take the lead, in times of weakness, and show us how you trust us back so that we can keep building on the trust we’ve created together.
Trust us with the new puppy, the milk that’s boiling on the stove, the last piece of cake (or not!) and even if we do mess up from time to time (like you are bound to, too) tell us it is okay and that you still do trust us and we need not start from the scratch each time we mess up.
Do not feel threatened if we want separate spaces. Sometimes it is for the best. There’s nothing wrong about having separate lives: that is what even normal couples are encouraged to have. Some of us might get clingy to one person and it might not be the best of situations and there’s where separate spaces becomes kind of mandatory.
By separate spaces, I do not mean separate sleeping arrangements. I mean space to create art, space to read or even do nothing in, space to be ourselves without intrusion or judgment.
Bipolar people can be incredibly creative. So please give us the first push if we are bored or uninspired or slowly on the verge of getting destructive. You do not have to be obvious, but the right movie, the right words, the right poetry or painting maybe all the inspiration we need to start creating art of our own.
If we are not comfortable sharing or discussing our work, please do not push us to do just that. Some of us are very touchy about such things.
Sometimes all we need is a good cry and a trustworthy shoulder to cry on. Do not push us away or mock the fact that we cry often. (Again, not all of us do.)
Sometimes we talk the nights away, and if you’re not too sleepy, do listen. We are pretty interesting people with fascinating minds. Our ideas can be mind-blowing, we are told. And sometimes we talk about our vulnerabilities and our fears and all the sadness that we transform into cocoons around us, you might want to know about all that. So stay up with us a night or two, will you?
We are broken people. (Not all of us portray ourselves that way, but trust us, we are) We are all searching for answers in our own little ways, but we (bipolar people) are running away from it. Life gets too overwhelming for us, words mean so little when we feel a void inside of us. All we need is to be understood without being judged. Our Art too. We deserve that much at least, don’t you think?
Yes. Most of the facts about Bipolar people you know are assumptions. Not every statistical study is right. We are all unique and wired in our own quirky little ways. We do not all cry for help in the same language, and NOT EVERYTHING WE DO IS A CRY FOR ATTENTION OR HELP.
We like being fussed over. (Who doesn’t?). It makes us feel loved. As it is, when your world is all black and grey, there are very little silver linings to spot. When you celebrate us, our little triumphs, we feel worthy enough to deserve all the little things in life and maybe our world won’t look so bleak anymore.
I know, that’s asking too much. But there’s where love starts right?
Show us why we matter. Show us why our Art, our feelings are worth your time and more. We will love you back, I swear.
Because honesty, there are no medicines our doctors can give that will heal us or let us open up, break walls like love will. Love is your revolution to all the resistance our mind and body will ever put up. Love is the answer we’ve been running from. I swear, we heal even though you will be told Bipolar disorder is not curable, only staunched. No, we heal. We heal better and faster with love.
Thank you for trying to understand us. Thank you for loving us.
The only thing we ask of you is to not turn your back to another friend you might meet anywhere anytime, with mental illness too. Help us heal, with your love. We will love you back, our hearts have always been capable of love, inspite of the walls we build around ourselves.
Image source: a still from the movie Heroine
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Poet. Published Writer. Spoken Word Artist. Entrepreneur. Avid Reader. Amateur Boxer. Wannabe Motivational Speaker. Dog
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