At the start of this post I must emphasise that I am not a medical expert or counsellor. I am bipolar and this topic relates to personal experience.
As a child bipolar affected me badly, albeit that I hadn’t yet been diagnosed. In fact it took 46 years before I literally landed on the doorstep of two highly experienced medical doctors. One being my psychiatrist and the other an empathetic, wise and a highly qualified psychologist specialising in mood disorders.
As a reference point, I have shared my childhood (as well an adolescent and young adult behaviours and feelings) in the following posts ;-
An eating disorder :
Subsequent to these stages in my life, I got married, got divorced and spent years out of the dating game. I focussed on being a mother, building my career and creating a life for my daughter and I. Once I began to feel comfortable in my own skin, I jumped heart first into a long-term relationship. This ended in disaster, with me in tatters, my child upset beyond words and all the fears and issues from my earlier years rearing their ugly heads.
It was then that I had to ask myself the following questions ;-
- Am I to blame?
- Why do I attract disaster mongers?
- How am I going to carry on?
- How can I prevent this from happening again?
From these thoughts and serious soul-searching (as well as terrible depression, meltdowns and periods of extreme positivity and strength), I found what I believe to be some of the answers.
I asked myself if I was to blame and I answered with a resounding yes. I wasn’t good enough, I really didn’t deserve to be loved, I was a failure in relationships, my personality was awful, my expectation of relationships was totally out of whack and I was un-loveable.
These thoughts haunted me. I was acutely aware of the feelings of rejection and disappointment that plagued my precious daughter and I was ultimately responsible for this.
I went from black abysses and powerlessness, to extreme bravery and crazy motivation. I see-sawed up and down, up and down, without being able to find any sense of balance. Needless to say, it was an awful time in my life.
I know it takes ‘two to tango’, however I decided to read as much as I could about relationships. To my absolute surprise I realised that my expectations were well within the norm and my partner’s were the ones out of kilter. That was such a relief to me (I still struggled with the trauma this had caused my child and I am not quite over that yet).
Why had I put myself into these two relationships, could I ever trust myself again. It took me some time to arrive at this conclusion ;- I was desperate to belong and have someone in my life who I could partner with, be honest and completely trust. I had dived in and given it my all. Nothing was too much effort for me. I loved selflessly and unconditionally. I thought that they would to. They didn’t.
They were emotional predators. Having honed in on my weakness, they abused this knowledge and took what they could without reciprocation. This sucked the life out of me and when I had nothing more to give, they told me that I was not committed and was letting them down. They also punished me for this. They sulked, ignored me, locked me out, continually made reference to other women that in their lives.
They made comments like ;-
- “If I kill myself, it will be your fault and you’ll have to live with that.”
- “Why can’t you be more like xxx?”
- “I know that you are hiding things from me!”
- “Why don’t you care about me anymore?”
- “I’m tired of your abusive behaviour!”
- “You aren’t looking good, perhaps you should do something about your …..”
- The list just went on and on and was eerily similar on both occasions.
Both of them would have outbursts about these issues and then shortly afterwards behave as is nothing at all had happened. They said I that I was making this up. Alternatively I was being overly sensitive and blowing things out of proportion. More often than not they blatantly denied that the outburst had happened.
This sent me reeling and made me question my own sanity.
It was after the second relationship ended that I bought a book by Janine Driver – ‘You can’t lie to me’. It was such an empowering book and I do suggest you read it if you haven’t.
In this book she addresses these types of issues, gives guidelines and provides safety measures.
Here are some that I found hugely helpful :-
- The situation I described is called ‘gaslighting’. This is carefully crafted and purposefully done to confuse you, throw you off-balance and manipulate you. Janine says that if you find yourself say ‘huh?’, then you are not stupid or crazy, you are a victim of gaslighting. This will generally not happen in the honeymoon phase of a relationship but when the gaslighter believes you are in ‘boots and all’. If you have divulged any ‘weakness’ or fear, this will constantly be used against you and gradually wear you down.
- For myself the lesson was to not let my insecurities become in any way the basis for relationships, but rather to take things slowly. Enter relationships prudently and from a point of confidence and empowerment. You are less likely to become a victim if you do.
- Decide what’s in it for your partner. If they have nothing to lose and can potentially gain much from a relationship with you, treat this as a huge red flag.
- Stay away from people who don’t take responsibility for their actions. If someone continues to blame others for bad experiences, chances are he/she will do the same to you.
- Find out about past relationships, if they were tumultuous find out why. Don’t just take your partner’s word for it, find out for yourself – it is after all your own life and happiness that could possibly be at stake.
- All that glitters is not gold – if someone appears to be too good to be true, then he/she is. It’s as simple as that.
- Finally, go with our gut, it won’t let you down. So many times I have ignored a gut feeling and then deeply regretted it.
As bipolar sufferers we are potentially at risk in relationships because of problems with self-image, feelings of worthlessness, extreme mood swings, shame and vulnerability. These are qualities and emotions that abusers thrive on.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are being abused, run for the hills. Even if abusers promise to change they won’t, they enjoy abuse too much and get a thrill from destroying people down and causing turmoil. Abusers are evil, don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Remember that just because you have a mood disorder doesn’t mean you are less entitled to love, care, togetherness and respect. You are worthy of great love, joy and partnership!
Good relationships are empowering, they don’t cage or stifle you. You may be fragile but that doesn’t have to stop you from being wise!