My Experience Dating Someone Who Has A Mental Illness

Dating is never easy, throw a mental disorder in the mix and it becomes a new level of difficult. For three years I dated someone on and off who had bipolar disorder. While at the time I felt like I was happy and equip to handle the challenges that accompany BPD, I soon realized that I was biting off more than I could chew. My boyfriend at the time never hid his disorder, even before anything happened between us romantically, he shared that he had been diagnosed with BPD at age 7. Like most people, I thought he just suffered from mood swings. “I get bad PMS, it’s like the same thing” I would naively tell myself. Everything was fine for the first few months, no episodes or outburst, but he would sometimes tell me that he was afraid he would have one soon or that he was feeling depressed. He said an episode could come suddenly and that mentally it would be like he was gone, but that he would always come back. I didn’t really understand but I was 18 with my first serious boyfriend so I shrugged it off and said I could handle it. For months things went on totally fine and then I noticed that suddenly the tone of his voice changed and he started acting more irrationally and had trouble recognizing when something was risky. He would go from loving people to hating them, certain then uncertain. I struggled to keep up and make sense of it all. I didn’t know anyone else who dealt with this and it made me feel like I was alone. I spent most of my days researching the disorder so I could learn more about what he was going through and the best way for me to help him manage. I started journaling so I could keep track of when his episodes took place but also found that it was extremely therapeutic for me. It’s still so interesting for me to look back at the journal entries and see my thought process.

I felt like with enough medicine, therapy, and love, we could have a happy, “normal” relationship like anyone else. I ignored statistics that said that most couples with a bipolar partner would be divorced, and I ignored warnings from people who dealt with similar situations. It was important for me to try my hardest and see things through. I started reading online forums and found that I wasn’t alone after all. So many people deal with similar, difficult situations. While these forums provided comfort they also proved to me what I started to feel was true, our relationship would never be without major bumps in the road and this would very likely end in a breakup. I felt so helpless when I came to this conclusion but I knew that I had to make a choice. Either I could deal with these blowouts and episodes every few months or I would have to end the relationship. I decided that the most beautiful life I imagined for myself didn’t involve someone who would reject advice and his medicine. It was a hard decision at the time but looking back I’m so happy that I made it because that tough decision because it opened me up to so many other possibilities. Dating someone with a mental disorder, especially bipolar disorder, has always been a sensitive subject to me. People with mental disorders are people and they deserve to find love and start families like everyone else. I know that some people who end a relationship with someone with a MD start preaching that those with MDs shouldn’t be in relationships, but I don’t think that’s true. Failure of any sort is not inevitable. With effort, education, and understanding, I truly believe you can conquer anything. That being said, I don’t think this type of relationship is for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend dating someone with a MD if you’re insecure or searching for stability. The continuous uncertainty can becoming very taxing. If you’re looking for someone to lean on, this type of relationship may also not be for your because in ways you will have to be a caretaker and be the rock for your significant other. Of course everyone is different and people with MDs have various levels of self awareness. Although I didn’t realize how much the relationship was affecting me while I was still in it, I found that afterwards I had more insecurities and felt more uncertain about men in general. It has been a journey and I am still processing certain aspects of it. I learned a lot about others and myself from being in a relationship with someone with a MD and even though it’s been a few years, I’m still interested in hearing other people’s stories, experiences, and opinions.

If any of you have a MD I want you to know that I feel for you and I recognize how much effort you put into holding it together. If you have a loved one who has a MD you’re not alone in your journey. There are so many others out there who are dealing with the same feelings and situations that you face. I recommend that you find a community or join a support group so that you can get the support that you need. I’m interested in hearing if any of you have dealt with anything similar. Please comment below any questions or experiences that you have had so we can keep the conversation about mental illness going.

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