When I Decided It Was Time to Tell My Significant Other About My Bipolar Disorder

I have bipolar disorder. Like some people with bipolar disorder, I was misdiagnosed at a young age as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) and improperly medicated. I was 6 years old when my parents started me on medication for it. This was 1985.

It wasn’t until I was much older that a diagnosis of bipolar disorder was brought up. It fit. I knew then my symptoms, behaviors and actions were a result of my bipolar disorder and not ADD.

People don’t like talking about bipolar disorder. Most people don’t understand it either, as I have learned. They tend to think of bipolar disorder as something that is unmanageable and that affects every moment of your life, your decisions, your actions and behaviors. I’ve learned (for myself) that my disorder only affects those things when I am in the midst of an episode. I am a normal, functioning, loving and caring human being when my disorder is under control and I’m not symptomatic.

I have had few depressive episodes. Most of my issues seem to stem from manic episodes or hypomanic episodes. From taking risks while driving, extreme need for sexual intimacy, drug use and inability to sleep.

Recently, I came into a new relationship with a wonderful man. There had been some talk about previous women in his life and their struggles with mental health issues. It made me nervous my bipolar disorder was something that could kill off a budding relationship.

Why would this man want yet another woman with a mental health diagnosis? Would he run away? Would I be judged? Would he think I was “crazy?” Most of all, did or could he understand what exactly bipolar disorder was and how it affects those who live with it?

After several weeks of our relationship, I decided it was best to tell him. If my diagnosis was something he could not accept, then I needed to move on and so did he. Opening yourself up to such raw emotions is extremely difficult. I remember thinking, “This will be it. It will all end here. My diagnosis will ruin a relationship with a man I’ve begun to fall in love with.”

In the spirit of fairness, I told him. Surprisingly, he listened. He didn’t judge, run, laugh, and most of all, he didn’t think I was “crazy.” He asked questions, and I tried to explain my version of bipolar disorder to him the best I could. We are both still learning about each other. There are still days where I have to remind myself to speak up if something doesn’t feel right. I have to remind myself to be open and honest about how I feel so he can help me through any issue should it arise.

The hardest part of living with bipolar disorder is the fact that when you do something, be it positive or negative, people want to blame your diagnosis for it. If I don’t get enough sleep, then I must be manic. If I cry because I’m sad, then I must be depressed. I never want anyone who I care for deeply to “blame” my actions on my diagnosis. I can and do have “normal” feelings, emotions and behaviors.

It has now been four months since we have been together, and I have had one episode of mania. He has been extremely understanding of my diagnosis. I’m still trying to make sure he understands what bipolar disorder is, how it works, how it can affect me and how to help me through an episode.

To be accepted fully by someone is such a wonderful feeling. Throughout my life my mental health issues seem to get in the way of relationships. I know these things can be frustrating for people without a mental illness. I know it isn’t easy, but I am deserving of unconditional love and support no matter what my diagnosis is.

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