Loving Bipolar

Now, by the title, you may think that this article is about learning to love your bipolar diagnosis, and, in a roundabout way, it sort of is. But more so, this piece serves as a reminder that having bipolar disorder does not make you unlovable.

Content warning for parental abuse and neglect in the first paragraph and for mildly graphic mentions of self-harm and suicide at the end of the first paragraph; mentions of death and domestic violence in paragraph three.


Some backstory:

When I was young, my biggest fear is that I would grow up to be exactly like my bipolar mother. And this scared me, not because of her diagnosis, but because of how she behaved. She did not take medication. She did not go to therapy. I watched as she pushed every person in her life away and then cried. She manipulated people. She abused drugs and alcohol, often to the point where she chose those things over her own children. I was neglected and traumatized. At age eleven, I even watched her slit her own wrists and listened to her tell me that if I left in response, she would kill herself. And the last thing I ever wanted was to have kids because I couldn’t bear the thought that I could ever even possibly make them feel half as bad as I did.

As I drifted through life from age twenty-one to age twenty-seven, I lost my ability to self-validate, and I forgot exactly how I used to self-soothe. I was, instead, dependent on others for consolation and for authentication, and, while I was aware of how unhealthy that was, I didn’t know how to stop it.

At twenty-seven, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, too, and the fear that I would “end up exactly like my mother” resurged—only this time, it sprung to life with bonus atrocities because now, I also feared for my relationships. My mom was in an on-again-off-again abusive one until she died. My examples of relationships, then, showed me that “people can’t love me without being intoxicated” and that “no one ‘normal’ will love me because I’m ‘crazy.’” I internalized these from a young age and carried them with me through adulthood. It was only with the help of therapy and medication that I was able to unlearn those negative thoughts and begin to relearn healthier ones. That said, small parts of me still very much hated other, much larger parts of me. And, with all of my self-discontent, I couldn’t see how anyone would want me. Because dating people with bipolar disorder, I thought, was a life-sentence. I knew that it was difficult, excruciating—even, from both first- and second-hand experiences, and because of that, I knew that if I didn’t have bipolar disorder, there was no way in hell that I would ever date someone who does. That warped thinking came from a special form of self-loathing.

Fast forward to twenty-eight:

I have just suffered a hellacious ankle injury that left me immobile for months. I’m going through the worst depressive episode of my life after a year-long manic episode, and my partner—whom, for months, I had been absolutely petrified and paranoid was going to break up with me because of my mood disorder—breaks up with me because she cannot “handle” me now that I’m so “down.” Cue: homelessness and the sad reassurance that everything awful I feel about myself must be true.

But I’m almost done with university, and I have friends who—thankfully—will always have my back. So, I keep showing up. Despite this gaping pit of depression I can’t seem to claw my way out of, I continue going to classes. Most of them. Somehow, I do my course work, even if it’s not 100% my best work. I let it come down to the wire, and then I force myself to write my 74-page capstone. I keep going to therapy. Every session. I keep taking my medication—every day, like clockwork. I am on autopilot, and while I do not feel even the slightest bit human, I am, surprisingly, still managing my life in a way that does not lead directly to destruction.

Until I met him, and then…suddenly, I didn’t have to just “manage” anymore. You see, E’s the first person I’ve ever been interested in who also has bipolar disorder. And while I was not looking for him, he still found me—as love often does.

In his bones, I found shelter—not from the outside world, but from myself—and with his unknowing aid, I unraveled parts of myself that I thought were so far gone I would never see them again. Through his words, I discovered that I was capable of restitching the fragments of myself that I used to keep hidden away beneath my floorboards. As he grew, I grew, and as he learned, I did, too. In E’s eyes, I began to see the reflection of a me that I had missed for so many years—a me that I didn’t even think existed anymore. Because he has bipolar disorder and I am so madly in love with him, I revealed to myself that people can and will have the capacity to love me—even if I’m bipolar—in the same exact ways and to the very depths and intensities that I so love him.

And that revelation was life-changing for me. But this is not one of those stories where the princess is rescued by a knight who receives all of the glory, despite the efforts she may have put in. Instead, this is an allegory for how other humans may serve as beautiful and necessary catalysts for your own love and hard work. Because while I could not have done this anywhere close to as easily or as quickly—or, hell, maybe even ever at all—without him, it is still I who had these epiphanies. It is still I who connected all of these dots. But, don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful to E for putting me into this specifically aligned place where I was able to view through him an entire future that’s so much happier and more well-adjusted than any future I had dreamt up before.

What these last few months have taught me is that bipolar self-love is magnificent. It’s awe-inspiring, all-encompassing, and transcendent. Bipolar romantic love is very much the same—passionate, cavernous, transformative.

To all of my bipolar babes who feel that they are unlovable—you are not. You are not something to “deal with.” You are not someone to simply “handle.” You are a force to be reckoned with, and despite what anyone says about how bipolar disorder makes one “unfunctional,” you are living proof that that is not the case.

You are enough.

You have always been enough.

And you will always be enough.

The Umbrella & Why You Don’t Have to Fit Under It!

As with all groups, extremism is a trap anyone may fall into after a certain amount of immersion with like-minded people. Often, extremists don’t realize they have abandoned their true cause and are all operating from the same platform. Hate.

Essentially, they have aligned themselves with other extremists. Full stop. In doing so, they find themselves members of a seperate entity that is inclusive of the very groups they may be railing against. They are united in hate and the furthering of their own agenda above anyone else’s. Thus, narcissists and psychopaths often infiltrate causes for their own gain. The most extreme manifestation of this being cult leaders.

Where am I going with this? Just as it is important to differentiate between “having Bipolar” vs “being Bipolar”, it’s important to maintain your individuality rather than develop a mindset that you must think and advocate like all who have Bipolar. Similar to those who elevate themselves based on being the “sane ones” (I don’t believe anyone is), some of us develop the notion that only those with Bipolar are approachable and start to believe all those without our struggles are bigoted. The initial stages of this include hyper- sensitivity and character assassinations. Furthermore similar divides can be seen between the various diagnoses and believing your’s is the worst, so others are “barely Bipolar“.

The reality: JUST BECAUSE WE SHARE A BASE DIAGNOSIS DOES NOT MEAN WE ALL HAVE TO AGREE WITH EACHOTHER AND/OR BECOME AS JUDGEMENTAL AS SOME OF THOSE AROUND US.

So let’s take a look at a clear divergence of thought amongst our community. This is information for you to extra-polate your own opinion and I have no agenda, although I will state my opinion.

Some required definitions:

Etymology- is the study of the history of words. By extension, the etymology of a word means its origin and development throughout history.

Merriam-Webster states four definitions of Bipolar, for the purposes of this blog I will address two:

  • 1. having or marked by two mutually repellent forces or diametrically opposed natures or views
  • 4. psychology- being, characteristic of, or affected with a bipolar disorder

The general rule of thumb? The first definition listed is the preeminent app-lication of the word. In truth, Bipolar is an adopted word, which mostly gained traction in the 90’s to replace the term manic depressive. This was an attempt to eliminate the association of mania with maniac. Prior to this relabelling, the term Bipolar was most accurately applied to various scientific observations, i.e. a zoological term and electricity. However as with all things, at the time it simultaneously became an adjective used to describe opposing viewpoints.

The designation of Bipolar as a diagnosis was not a stretch, as it is both a scientific label and an identification of conflicting mindsets (so to speak). Although this is accurate, it was still a usurping of the word that continues to have active alternate meanings within society today. Due to this fact the latter part of the definition of etymology does not apply, in so far as the word has not evolved into a singular meaning and the likelihood a scientific term will evolve into this singular definition is low.

Whether you believe people are hypersensitive to the use of Bipolar, whether you don’t care, or if you believe being incensed by the word is justified…well that’s the point. You are entitled to your stance. I, myself, believe the labelling of weather as Bipolar is not inaccurate or offensive because it is the description of a scientific phenomenon.

Guess what? Many disagree including people I associate closely with and who cares? I’m not an extremists, they aren’t either. WE CAN AGREE TO DISAGREE! Also, I don’t mind if the word is used to describe opposing views. This all falls within the parameters of Bipolar as it is defined.

In my opinion, stigma perpetuation includes ascribing all erratic behavior to Bipolar accurately diagnosed or not, indicating someone needs to “up their dose” because someone has deemed them Bipolar, and/or basically when it is used as a characterization of any individual rather than a diagnosis. The latter being kind of a catchall for the misuse of the word.

Since this application misses the mark entirely it is also fair to say using Bipolar to reinforce a negative of any kind is a misuse of the word and contributes to stigma. Yes opposing viewpoints can be labeled as such, but the label is strictly meant to highlight a rift between two parties. It is not meant for the purposes of editorializing and casting a negative light on the conflicting ideals.

Hurricane Marie

Below is a poem I wrote about a friend—who was also my roommate—after she got her bipolar disorder diagnosis in 2015. This was long before my own diagnosis, but I remember her getting her test results, coming home, and then sliding down the wall and sitting in the hall floor in silence for the remainder of the evening. I wanted to do anything to help—but I couldn’t.

We were never romantic, but I romanticized the work below because it seemed more impactful that way. She was, however, one of my best friends. About two months ago, I re-read this poem for the first time since receiving my own bipolar disorder diagnosis, and I let her read this work for the first time since its creation, too. When I did, and I was discussing it with her—just after a hugely depressing break-up that was the result of my having bipolar disorder and my partner not being able to “handle” that—I wept at the hopeful thought that someone could love me like this in the future, too.

And no, her name is not actually Marie, but she did give me permission to share this.


The shuffle of plastic against ceramic as I sit echoes through the open door and out into the hall.

When the haze clears, my eyes settle upon personal care items strewn across wintry laminate tiles—the color of which has been watered-down with the contents of each bottle, over and over again, at altered intervals. I sit her items back upright and into the places that she can never seem to find on bad nights;

last night was a bad night.

Peeking in as I pass by, bleach-stained rug in hand, she looks so pure. She rests on her stomach as curls cascade down the gradients of the cheeks I’ve grown so used to cupping, and her body remains spread across as much of our bed as she can tangibly inhabit at once. I drag myself, so used to dragging her, to the kitchen and clean. I wipe up all of her messes, bleach that godforsaken bathroom rug once more, and sweep;

she sleeps.

Then, I mop the bathroom floor—freeing her from having to take responsibility for any of the repercussions of the aftermath that is Hurricane Marie, for she doesn’t need to worry about the stress of cleaning up that which she cannot control.

By 9am, I’ve snuck back into bed. And just when I believe that the amount of love I feel for her is only overcast by my own cosmic levels of exhaustion, soft hands begin pulling at my shirt until her face becomes adjacent with mine;

she is worth everything.

What is bipolar love?

I used to walk through parks, woodlands, sit outside my house until 4am, and meditate on the meaning of life and love. At 12 years old, I had never felt a force of love from my parents, and the few friends I had were not ones that I could love unconditionally. The lack of love from my own parents formed the introversion of my inner self. My emotions hardened and if anyone came near me, I would walk away. I would also never let anyone touch me, not even family. My mum said that this behaviour hurt her a lot. I could not bring myself to tell her that she was part of that problem.

My parents never showed their love for me or my brother, I didn’t know what it was. (I was 19 when I first told my mum and dad that I loved them. And I was able to hug them. It was my first year of university).

But the love I felt came from the life around me. The more time I spent in nature, the more my true unconditional love began to flow out from me and back into nature. I hugged trees, picked flowers, cried whenever I saw a dead animal (and wanted to die with it.), I ran my hands through the grass, I took my shoes off and walked in the shallow waters underneath the weeping willow. I spent hours in parks and woods, I was me. I was free. I had separated from humanity, and took nature as my family and my love.

The more I sat in the fields in the countryside, the more I began to feel within me. As I meditated and focused on the beautiful bird song, my senses heightened to a point to where I Could no longer feel what was around me, but I could still feel that love inside me. The love burned my heart and it felt like I was moving towards a flame of love that had such force and heat…I then passed out.

When I saw my psychiatrist, he told me that it was all in my head, and that it was probably due to a hypomanic episode. I realised how easy it is for a doctor to disregard anything their bipolar patient feels, ridicule it and blame it on the illness.

This caused me much pain, because love is love. The doctor would not disagree with me if I said I loved my mum. But here he is looking at me with pitiful eyes, denying my expression of my love towards the love of the nature around me. I never spoke to him about that love again.

Human love I see like the love I have of nature, but I realise that very few people are worthy of true love. all I ever wanted from a relationship was mutual unconditional love, a fun and spontaneous spirit of exploration, and a trust that cannot be equalled anywhere else.

But thanks to manic psychosis, I have never known that beautiful love, that a man and woman can have. My experience with a mentally abusive secret husband, left me begging to die, and I no longer wanted to be with a man ever again. I lost that trust. There was never a love, there was an infesting hatred towards him that started the moment I woke up and saw him. …….

However, after the abuse and divorce (he would not let me divorce him, so I hate to pray that one day he would divorce me, and by the grace of God he did).

I still wait, for that unconditional love, I have so much to give and so much to share. (But I have a feeling, that for me this could be a dream and not a reality.)

So for all bipolars who are lucky enough to have found true love and true freedom, don’t waste a single moment of your lives together. Share everything together, be together for a love that will hopefully never die.

Safety Plan: Escaping Abuse

This may seem excessive, but a victim of abuse can become a homicide victim. Take what applies to your situation, as this is a “worse case scenario” safety plan.

Set up a Venmo/Cash App! Venmo even sends you a Debit card, no charge. People in the know can easily send you money and likely will.

Before you get out or if it’s clear you can’t, tell your children to hide in the pre-planned hiding spots in the house. Ideally any child capable of calling 911 has a burner, ON SILENT INCLUDING TURNING THE SPEAKER DOWN SO A DISPATCHER’S VOICE ISN’T HEARD, have them call 911 with it, but tell them not to speak. Tell them just to leave the phone open and try to keep the light from the phone covered. If you can safely get the kids out, i.e. a backdoor when the abuser comes in the front, do it!

If you don’t have a car or the abuser incapacitates it (slashes tire(s) or something):

  • If in your own neighborhood, chances are good some neighbors are aware of the situation. Therefore, don’t be embarrassed. Ask if you could run to their back yard to hide at a minimum until the police arrive. Ask 3 different ones and hard as it is, try to ask the ones your abuser wouldn’t think you speak to.
  • Plan on getting children out and assigning each house #1, #2, #3. Tell them which one to run to right before they leave, so you know you minimize the chance of the abuser seeing them. Now you know where they are. STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING AND STAYING AS QUIET AS POSSIBLE!
  • If you are in an isolated location, scout out and again label #1#2#3 hiding spots and let the children know. Ideally, try to hunker down if you know they didn’t see where you hid. It’s easier to spot a moving target. AGAIN, STRESS THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING AND STAYING AS QUIET AS POSSIBLE!
  • Hiding in the car if it can’t be moved is ill-advised. It won’t take a determined abuser much to get in, they’ll probably accomplish the task before help arrives. Although if you are leading the abuser away, consider having the kids hide there, crouched down, and remind them to call for help. Keep a burner in the car as well, in the confusion they may forget their’s.
  • Every night, when not driving anymore that day, put a gas can partially filled in the car if you’re hesitant to stop in public and just want to keep going. Extreme fear happens, right?
  • DRIVE DIRECTLY TO A POLICE STATION, FIRE HOUSE, OR HOSPITAL IF IT’S APPARENT YOU WON’T OUT RUNOUT RUN THEM. Even if your abuser is law enforcement, it’s still the safest option in that moment.
  • If you’re leading the abuser away from children. LEAVE THEM! Make sure as well as you can they have gone undetected to a safe zone. They have a burner, let the police/ designated safe person find them. Tell them exactly what to say. Leave a script, if your child can read, at the safe zone where it can’t get wet, even in a plastic baggie. Leave a seperate note with the script for the police/safe person. If using a safe person, plan a meeting spot.
  • Keep a go bag in the car and in the house, but hide things outside the go bag in case the abuser grabs it. If no car, potentially in a water proof bag even in a bush outside. These things are not only more important than a go bag, they are also more portable.

Things to hide outside of the go bag throughout the car or somewhere else:

  • Burner
  • Venmo/Cash/Means to access money
  • Knife/Taser AND Mace (trust me some people fight through mace pretty easily, as witnessed first hand at BLM events)
  • Forms of ID, including vital paperwork such as birth certificates and passports. Also, can take a pictures at a minimum with the burner.

The go bag. Ideally pack backpacks kids can carry as well, unless you think it will slow them down too much.

  • If you are aware money will be scarce pack no prep needed food (granola bars & whatnot)
  • If winter, skip underwear to save space, thin p.j. bottoms or long underwear. Have the kids sleep in these so they can pull pants over them.
  • Pants. In reality you should sleep in pants you can wear in public, less you have to pack and you want to appear sane to judgmental pricks. Shirts and shoes by all exits if possible.
  • Slippers with soles are best to slip on quickly. Accessible coats with gloves, hat, and hot hands (maybe even a space blanket) already in the pockets. Make sure kids know how to activate the hot hands and that they can put them anywhere, they don’t have to just be used for their hands.
  • REMEMBER THIS IS A TEMPORARY SITUATION.
  • If you can, there are many coats that stuff into bags. Even down one’s.
  • A few small things you know will bring the kid(s) comfort. A book like Beverly Cleary to read to them.
  • Jewelry, both that you want to keep or hock.
  • If summer, should be esier to pack clothes. You can swap out slippers for slides/flip flops, but consider the need to run before you make that choice. Consider again the packable jacket, as in a rain coat.
  • Flashlight: Here’s the thing. Kids need to know they should probably not use them. The goal is to go unseen. Best for use only if you’ve lead the abuser away and they really can’t see. You can also instruct them to turn them on if they know you’ve lead the abuser away and they hear the voice calling for them is definetly not the abuser.
  • If you do have a car, blankets and more no prep food.

If the abuser is an officer of the law (meaning DAs and retired officers too):

  • Have kids contact someone other than the police. Ideally give them more than one name in case they have trouble reaching someone. Hopefully, if a neighbor agreed to help they will agree to help without insisting on contacting the police.
  • Ditch the smart phone make sure location is turned off of burner.
  • Definetly don’t count on using any card/account your abuser knows about.
  • Unless you somehow managed to get a letter notarized from the abuser that states the children are allowed to leave the country. DON’T TRY TO, EVEN WITH A PASSPORT! If the abuser is law enforcement, but has no parental rights and you have passports and/or necessary paperwork…you may consider this an option. Yes they’ll get the border alert possibly, but if you know you can hide immediately or get distance it may be worth it.

Expensive to prep?

  • Food pantries stock many foods that don’t require prep.
  • Goodwill or charities like churches are excellent options for procuring clothing, blankets, shoes, and so on for when you need duplicate or triplicate of anything.
  • Burners are cheap nowadays with easy to add minutes. As little as $5 increments. I don’t recommend this as the first choice because it doesn’t allow for contacting anyone but police, but shelters will also offer phones that dial 911. Your old phones don’t have to have service to call 911, either.

Preplan a destination, but also prepare to worry about it when you get some place safe. Someone my be able to meet you or you can access the internet from a safe server (Library, Cafe, FedEx express even has computers and you can print).

Planning ahead includes preparing for plans to get derailed. Prepare for this so you are calm enough to improvise.

Bipolar 1 manic psychosis

Hi
This is my first time I am sharing my experiences of life-changing manic episodes. When I say life-changing, I mean mania that develops into a psychosis, and renders the mind uncontrollable and actions that morph into a whole new reality, that is when decisions on life take a turn for the worst.

My first manic psychosis was when I was 16. I was undiagnosed, (although the doctor thought it would be interesting to put me on antidepressants when I told him I was depressed). I had just started college and was doing A-levels at the time. I wanted to be a vet. My life was good, I felt good, in fact better than good, my thoughts were racing away like a horse at the grand national, and I was the jockey riding this uncontrollable horse. I won the race……and I entered a whole new reality.

After becoming so high that I hadn’t slept for nearly a week and a half, missing classes and wearing feathers in my hair, my brain decided I was a native American orphan. (I only know this because a kind friend told me). I had apparently made up a name for myself, which I cannot write here because I fear being too exposed…..but I can tell you that the name had 12 letters and 5 syllables.

My mum then told me the rest of what happened in that manic psychotic episode….she told me that I had become aggressive towards her and made threats. I had a piece of paper in my hands at the time, and I looked at it…my mum had changed my name legally be deed poll, to the wacky name I had somehow made up. ..she said that she was frightened that I would do myself harm if she didn’t change it.

I was 16 years old, so I was not legally able to change my name myself. I did not know what to do. After the manic psychosis, I had crashed down into a depression, and this information made it worse.

I kept that name for 17 years…I was too paranoid to change it, I was bound to it. I have old passports, mortgage, bank accounts, loans, degree certificate..all in that horrible new name.

Thankfully, after some rehabilitation and some spiritual direction from my parish priest, I was able to fully confront my past experience, and I changed my name legally back to my baptised name which I use now. However I cannot change back the name on several legal documents, including my divorce papers.

This was the first life-changing bipolar event.