My mom always told me to guard my heart when in a relationship. She told me my heart is fragile, and if broken, would take quite some time to repair. So I grew up knowing how to take care of my heart in friendships, familial and romantic relationships, and professional relationships. What I didn’t grow up knowing was how to protect myself from something like bipolar disorder and the trouble it causes. I’ve been in my share of bad relationships, with family, friends or partners, but no relationship can compare to the four ways my bipolar disorder is like being in a bad relationship.
1. It’s controlling.
My strict parents and nosy partners always seemed to ask the same three questions. Who are you hanging out with? Where are you going? Who are you talking to? Not only would they constantly inquire, they would control the answers. Bipolar disorder may not ask the same questions, but the outcome is the same. During a manic episode, it controls what I feel, how I act and what I say, with no regard for my thoughts or feelings.
2. It enables harmful habits.
When the manic side of my bipolar disorder takes over, I am not myself, much like when I would change myself to suit my partner who actually was a negative influence on me. When I’m manic, I become impulsive and promiscuous, engaging in risky, foolish behavior without any concern for the consequences. Bipolar disorder doesn’t care about the consequences either. I make poor decisions when I’m manic because bipolar doesn’t care about what happens to me, it only cares about the self-destructive “fun” we could have.
3. It’s not supportive.
Much like an unsupportive family or friend, bipolar depression discourages me from doing what I want to do. It tells me I can’t do anything, and that includes trying to achieve my long-term goals. Bipolar depression tries to talk me out of being successful, even if it is to just succeed at getting out of bed.
4. It ruthlessly insults me.
I’ve already covered how bipolar disorder doesn’t care about my feelings. Like my sister and I when we were younger, bipolar disorder calls me names, tears me down and insults me. It tells me I’m fat, ugly and worthless. It knows exactly what to say and exactly how to say it to make it hurt the most, because it knows me so well. It strips away my confidence and makes me believe these insults are true, and I believe it, because it is a part of me.
I would never let a partner, family member or friend treat me the way my bipolar disorder does. I would stand up and assert myself, say no and leave the situation. Unfortunately, I just can’t up and leave my bipolar disorder. Instead, I can manage it, and not allow the mania or depression to control me. It’s like I’m breaking it off with a verbally abusive boyfriend, but we still work together. My bipolar disorder and I have to coexist, have to talk every once in awhile and have to be civil to one another. But I don’t have to let bipolar disorder control me, tear me down or make me doubt myself. With medication, therapy and coping skills, I can “break up” with bipolar disorder and take back control of my mind.
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