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Why Demi Lovato's Engagement Is a Big Deal for People With Bipolar Disorder

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Yesterday, Demi Lovato, an actress who has been open and honest about her struggles with bipolar disorder, took to Instagram to make the major announcement that she is now engaged. I think I speak for almost everyone when I say getting engaged is a big deal, but getting engaged with bipolar disorder? That’s absolutely huge.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Just like Lovato, I’ve been manic, I’ve been hospitalized, and I’ve done a lot of things that I admittedly regret while being symptomatic. And as someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I’ll be blunt in saying that it can make holding down a relationship extremely difficult. In fact, at one point in my life, I gave up on relationships altogether. I figured it wasn’t in the cards for me due to my diagnosis and its severity.

But then, someone who’s absolutely perfect for me swooped into my life and swept me off my feet. Despite my diagnosis, she found a way to love me and all my flaws. On July 11, 2020, after being engaged for over a year, we finally got married.

And although no one asked me for advice, here are four things I learned that are important to have a successful marriage with someone who has bipolar disorder:

1. Inform your partner of what bipolar disorder actually is and what it looks like for you specifically.

While this doesn’t need to be done on day one of the relationship, it most likely needs to be done eventually. And I don’t mean sending your partner a WebMD article either. It was so important for me to sit down with my wife and explain to her what my diagnosis means and how it shows up for me specifically. For example, having the conversation of what my mania looks like — because it’s different for everyone, and an article can’t tell you a person’s direct experience.

2. Allow your partner to talk to your loved ones for support.

It took one instance of having a panic attack due to a depressive episode before my now-wife asked for my mom’s phone number, because she doesn’t always know what to do in crisis situations — and that’s OK! Even I don’t know what to do in some of my crisis situations sometimes. So, she thought it was important to have my mom’s number so that when she doesn’t know how to handle something, she has someone to call who does.

For example, two months ago I had my first episode of psychosis in five years, and it really was scary for us both. So, not knowing what else to do, my wife called my mom who was there five years ago and had experienced my other psychotic episodes. My wife was grateful to have someone to guide her, and I was grateful she had her own support in what was an extremely stressful situation.

3. Communicate how you feel with openness and honesty — and really delve into why

For those who don’t know, frequent bursts of anger are very common for people with bipolar disorder. And I’ll be honest — sometimes I still really suck at expressing myself. However, anger is a secondary emotion, and usually, I’m just anxious about something . But it’s so important to explain why to my wife once I’ve calmed down.

The last time I can recall this happening is when her car broke down, and she didn’t know the login for our insurance company to get roadside assistance. For some inexplicable reason, that made me incredibly angry. And that was something I had to reflect on and figure out why I felt this emotion so strongly.

Eventually, I realized it just made me really scared when she didn’t know the username and password, because what if I wasn’t available? Or what if something happens to me and I can’t take care of things for a while?

Examining my anger, and later expressing my fear, was extremely important to our relationship, and it’s essential I continue to do it every time. Because both of us can’t help the situation if she doesn’t know how I’m really feeling.

4. Learn to trust your partner when they suggest you might need extra support from professionals.

At first, when my wife began suggesting that I might need a medication adjustment or to seek out an emergency therapist appointment, I was a little offended. But as our relationship bloomed, I realized I need to trust her because a lot of times, she sees things that I can’t. As an outsider, she doesn’t make nearly as many excuses as I make for myself. So, while I still don’t exactly love when she suggests I need extra help, now I listen. I know she has a much more objective lens than I do, and she only wants what’s best for me.

And at the end of the day, that’s what counts. That your partner wants what’s best for you and makes you a better you — just like Demi described in her Instagram post. She wrote, “I’ve never felt so unconditionally loved by someone in my life (other than my parents) flaws and all.” I think that resonates with so many of us who share the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

All we want is to love and be loved back. I’m lucky enough to have found that in my wife. I never thought I would, and some days I still feel like I’m living in a dream because I have. But eventually, I had to let go of my preconceptions and realize that I could be loved even with bipolar disorder. More importantly, I could get married even with bipolar disorder. It would just require a little extra work from the both of us.

Header image via Demi Lovato/Instagram

Originally published: July 23, 2020
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