Love, Love, Love, Love, Crazy Love
I want to know what love is, or isn’t. I seem to remember everything that’s related to it: dating, the first kiss, falling in love and of course, the inevitable destruction of my psyche when my bipolar behavior turns what should be a normal and unremarkable situation into a napalm bomb.
But what love is I personally couldn’t tell you. For me it was all about highfalutin’ concepts like trust, faithfulness and working toward the future as a couple, each of us contributing to making things better and making life really sing.
That was, of course, impossible for me to expect. We all know where unrealistic expectations lead. I’ve mentioned how those expectations cause incredible problems many times in the blog, and my opinion certainly hasn’t changed. But in the way-back machine when I was undiagnosed and unmedicated these expectations not only were my standards, they were critical. If you can’t make the commitment, don’t bother.
How completely ludicrous.
Dating: How I See Them
When I found someone that I thought exciting,intelligent and sexy, I was naturally bowled over because how many people do you find that exhibit all three traits? The more time I spent with them, the rosier the picture became. I could envision life together forever. I could imagine spending that life happy, content and secure in the knowledge that this person loved me more than anything or anyone else in the entire world.
Dating: How They Really Look
If only. If only, if only. If only I had taken off the glasses and realized that just like everyone else, these relationships were with people. And people are quirky, spiky, difficult, demanding, unrealistic and sometimes even mean and ugly.
I didn’t pay any attention to those negative qualities at all because infatuation is a powerful and blinding force. And when those love hormones slam into your brain you can’t think reasonably anyway. But imagine you’re under the control of those urges and you have a basic problem that you’ve never addressed — you can’t see the problems with others because you can’t see your own problems.
And there you have it; the recipe for absolute disaster.
Getting A Good Look At Myself
When all these relationships with others failed (after considerable time and a great deal of work, I’ll tell you) I finally came crashing down the cliff. It was the most recent relationship that caused my world to absolutely explode. It was from that point forward that I decided there could be no dating, no seeking of relationships. That included friendships, too. The only relationships I was to cultivate over the ten years from that nasty breakup was with my therapist and with my medical doctor.
But something happened to me that changed that point of view. I realized that as time was going by I was losing out on something fundamental to the health and well-being of your average human being. I was losing out on love.
I don’t mean sex. I mean the sharing, caring, interesting sort of love that brings satisfaction on a level that mere sex cannot. I mean a partnership. But after being diagnosed as bipolar and then going through all that effort to become better, would I really want to risk my sanity by allowing ‘love’ to come back into my life?
Back Into The Flock
So back into the flock I fling myself. And the idea of trying to go out and meet people is at the same time terrifying and exciting. Rather like watching a live NASCAR car crash.
There are many things to consider before jumping into the fray again. Am I ready for this, I mean, really ready? How can I tell if I’m ready? What about people being judgmental or worse when they find out that I’m bipolar, and what being bipolar can do to budding relationships?
What if they find out I’m not a svelte flamingo but a giant lumbering stork?
Can I prevent beating myself up over failed attempts?
And worst of all, what if they like me? What the hell do I do then?
Let’s Meet For Coffee First, Okay?
I did a little research on dating if you’re bipolar. There’s almost noting out there on the subject and the few things I did find were not all that supportive. They offer only generalized advice and most oddly, the majority of articles are written from the perspective not of the bipolar person but the person who dates a bipolar person.
Warning, Warning! If you date someone who’s bipolar, beware! Oh my god they’re too intense and you will be on a roller coaster ride for which you may not be prepared!
Well. There goes any hope of dating right out the psych ward window.
But I did find one place that is rather like Match.com for those people that suffer from a mental illness. At first it struck me as completely ridiculous. And it still sort of does but rather than scoff, I signed up anyway and then found out the futility of the exercise… you know what? There’s like five people on the site total and everyone’s too afraid to try and connect. At least it seems that way to me.
The picture becomes even more dismal when you realize that you’re one of those people that are afraid to meet up with others but you’re driven to find someone to be with, mating season or not.
How Not To Date
Mom and Dad warned us about people that we shouldn’t date. There are the obvious kinds and then there are the ones that have their secrets hidden deep down — until after you’ve paid for six dinners at a pricey restaurant, five bouquets of roses and three gleaming carats of hopelessness.
Also, be sure you never exchange cash in advance for a date. That’s not in the spirit of dating.
Let’s See Who’s Available For Love
And here comes the whopping huge dose of realism. Everyone out there — including you — has an agenda, hidden or not. They have likes and dislikes. They have expectations and they want them met and/or exceeded. Most importantly, they want them right now.
So you hit the local meat market and what do you find?
I Only Dress Like This On Weekends
If you’re looking for love and companionship then sometimes you have to be a little more forgiving of yourself before jumping into other people’s dating radar. You can’t be judgmental because after all, don’t you want the same fair, non-judgmental treatment from other people? So what if they’re wearing sixty pounds of makeup and a bad kimono. If you want to get to know someone, you’ve got to talk to them. Preferably in a language you both understand.
That means listening to yourself as well as being attentive to others. It means putting aside your anxiety for a moment and looking at possibilities without forming unrealistic expectations or unmeetable demands. It means being okay with putting yourself out there and most of all, it means remembering that everything is temporary until you’re at the altar — and even then, things change.
Don’t be hard on yourself. And whatever you do, don’t mention their makeup unless you meet at a Halloween party.
What To Serve For An Agoraphobic First Date
You have to do what’s comfortable for both of you. But every single article I have read (fine, there are so few of them as to be laughable) says to downplay your mental health issues at first and not to discuss them on the first date.
Well, that’s going to be hard when you’re making chicken nuggets at home on your first date or taking your medication along to a restaurant.
You can’t hide what you are and you should be truthful about yourself. But apparently that’s only allowed after the third date and you’ve established mutual liking for each other. Somehow this ‘rule’ seems both right and wrong at the same time.
Being Alone Is Not Being Lonely
Being alone is pretty much okay. It’s being lonely that sucks big time. It’s important to note the difference between the two and really understand it.
Believe it or not, many people do not understand that difference. I hate being lonely, very much so, but being alone? Who knew I could actually come to like it? When you’re alone it’s fine to do what you like without the influence and needs of others, and that’s not too bad if you’re in the healing stage of recovery and therapy. But lonely? It’s a form of torture if you ask me. It’s something that isn’t easy to overcome unless you have family, peers, friends and therapy to make it through.
So how has my definition of love changed? For me, the meaning of love is completely different. Now I seek someone that shows willingness, openness and the desire to be there for someone who loves you back. I’ll do it if you do it, too. Maybe then there will be love.
I’m hopeful that sometime I’ll find someone that actually loves me for me. The real me, the one that isn’t hanging by his fingertips from the nearest skyscraper or staring off into space wishing the world would end. The one that’s sensitive, caring and beautiful. The one that deserves love. That would be me.