Plot Twist

I started writing this blog 8 years ago. I’ve been through a lot in that time.

I experienced dire pain that I thought would never end. I walked through it.

I lived with the dawning of hope, and I walked through the pain until I got past the dawn to the reality of the hope itself.

I found deep healing.

I am at a turning point that I could not imagine even a few short years ago. As I announced on March 12, 2018, I am dating a man. It has been very exciting. We have had two arguments. We talked each one through to resolution. I have forced myself to walk through the maelstrom of emotions all this new energy has brought up in me.

I’ve been going to my therapist weekly, but I’m back on a normal schedule of every other week. He’s kept me clear.

I do extra grounding visualizations in my morning meditations now. Staying rooted to the ground I walk on keeps me steady.

I’ve started exercising again, and it feels wonderful. I’m back to speed walking 2.5 miles every day. I want to be in top form because it means I’m closer to him.

And I’m at a turning point. It started when I realized I was nervous about the relationship. It has become important, and I don’t want to lose it. I wasn’t able to see him for 4 days, and it seemed like an eternity, and I ached. I think of him, and I get this feeling in my chest right around my heart.

I’m in love.

It’s the most incredible thing in the world. I want to share it, and I want to hide it. I want to tell everyone, and I want to whisper it to just a select few after they promise not to tell another soul. I want to cry. I want to run.

I’m exuberant.

I’m terrified.

Life has many questions, and none of the scare me at all.

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More About Dating and Bipolar Disorder

As mentioned a month ago, I’m dating. I didn’t plan it, but I mentioned my diagnosis the first time we met. He heard me, but he didn’t say anything. I think he realizes it has an affect, because I have to be careful with how involved I allow myself to get. I have to be conscious of how much time I’m giving him and how much I’m giving my recovery by keeping the routine that my stability is based on.

(Here’s a well-read post about dating and bipolar I wrote a number of years ago.)

So that I think is the key for me as a person with bipolar disorder when I date. My first priority has to be maintaining my stability. Without it, I’m not a good partner.

My partner has a part to play, too. He gives me the space I need to follow my routine. Encouragement from him means a great deal. Words that tell me he knows I’m working on myself are like gold.

I have certain things that are vital to my recovery: meditation, medication, therapy, exercise, and sleep. He can help me most not by monitoring those activities but by praising me for doing them.

I am devoting more energy to those activities these days. I’m going to therapy weekly, because this relationship is new, and it’s bringing up a lot of stuff that needs to be dealt with. My therapist is a disinterested third party and gives me honest, impartial feedback.

I’m taking my medication as prescribed. I have a problem with my feet, so I’m not exercising. My sleep is not good, so I’m going to make an appointment with a specialist.

Meditation is the most important thing I do without a doubt. I can sit and breathe and release energy that feels like it’s weighing me down. I can clear out so much in a short session. It’s not hard or complex. A friend asked me how to do it yesterday. I explained all you have to do is create a happy place in your mind where you can go and walk around and feel stuff in your body and then release the bad stuff. It’s that simple. Close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Walk through a door to a place that you create that’s happy for you. In that place, pay attention to your body, and release anything that is uncomfortable. That’s it.

My partner can help me the most by being open and by talking a lot about how he feels about what I’m doing. It doesn’t take much. As long as I know the lines of communication are open, I can walk through almost anything. Once I feel like I’m being dictated to or preached to or not being heard, I have a very different reaction.

Dating works when both parties work on it. I do my part by maintaining my recovery first and being attentive to him second. He does his part in a very similar fashion. He cares for himself and is then attentive to me.

Walking Through It

I’m concentrating very hard on walking through one day at a time. Sometimes, it’s one step at a time.

I had an excellent meditation early this morning. I lost some of the peace when I went through some morning events. I was able to walk down to the cathedral during a short morning break. A quick meditation there brought back the calm.

Dating has turned my routines topsy turvy. I’m not reading on the bus in the morning. I’m texting him. It’s delightful, but routine helps aid stability in people with bipolar disorder. So I’m learning to live with the disruption. I’m trying to feel my way through the new energies that lack the old routines. It requires a lot of maneuvering to get through these energies.

The dance of my life has been staid for a very long time. I’m learning new dance moves, and this requires a lot of allowing. I have to allow newness to enter. I have to allow new people to come into my space. I had a very predictable set of daily habits that are bending and warping to the newnesses.

For the past week, I’ve been meditating on walking through it. I start each meditation with the intention of finding the energy to just walk. I’m walking through the new one step at a time. Just walking. Just one step. Each step does not carry the thought of the subsequent steps. Just one. Just this one. This single step.

I can breathe through this newness one step at a time. I don’t have to think about future breaths. Just this one breath. Just this one.

I’m Dating

Yes, you read that right. I’m dating. It happened quickly. I’m elated at times. Other times, I’m shaking.

The man is wonderful. We met for coffee one Saturday morning after chatting on a dating app for several days. I didn’t plan it this way, but my diagnosis came out during that first meeting, and he didn’t run screaming from the room.

He’s actually very supportive. For a week, we texted often, and we saw each other in the evenings a few times. It all got quite overwhelming for me. I was having a lot of trouble concentrating, and I had to leave work early one day because I was simply not able to function. Luckily, I was able to see my therapist that day. The result has been that we’re being more careful about texting, and I’m doing more grounding exercises during my morning meditations.

The grounding exercises are key. They give me a stable foundation to each day. In my meditations, I’ve been concentrating on staying stable just one day at a time. I’m trying not to think past today.

I’ve been enjoying myself a lot. It’s been a lot of fun honestly. I’ve been alone for a very long time, so this all feels so new. I’m just walking through it one step at a time. I just keep walking.

How to Date a Person with Bipolar Disorder

My most popular posts are ones relating to dating and bipolar disorder. I’m glad there are so many people interested in this topic. I’m also a bit puzzled by it.

Are there rules for dating a person with bipolar disorder? Yes, and they are the same ones for dating a person without any diagnosis of mental illness.

Here’s my list of rules for dating a person with bipolar disorder:

  1. Be genuine.
  2. Think of the needs of the person you’re dating before your own in so much as you can without harming yourself.
  3. Laugh when the other person is happy, and comfort them when they are sad.
  4. Communicate clearly your needs and listen carefully to what the other person needs, too.
  5. Get to know a little about bipolar disorder by researching it on the Internet, through books, or by asking healthcare professionals.

Again, I don’t think this list is exclusive to dating a person who has bipolar disorder. In my opinion, it pertains to any relationship. A person with bipolar disorder wants what any other person does from a romantic relationship. We want intimacy, understanding, and ultimately, love.

Having stated what I consider obvious, I’ll give some thought to what many see as the difficulties of dating a person with bipolar disorder.

I have read several online forums in which some people complain that the person they are dating who has bipolar disorder is moody. I read recently one description of a bipolar person running hot and cold. In other words, the person with the disorder seemed quite close and caring and affectionate one day. The next, they were distant and curt and even mean. My thoughts on this situation are few. Please, don’t ever ask the person with bipolar disorder whether or not they are taking their medicine as prescribed nor if their symptoms are flaring up. What you might try doing instead is explaining to the bipolar sufferer how you feel when they behave this way. Talk about your feelings and not about their disease. Try to keep any discussion centered on your feelings about observed behavior.

In fact, I would suggest that you not talk about their disease at all, unless they want to. I have bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t define me. I am many things, and having bipolar is only one piece. When you are together with the person you are dating, find other things to talk about, like art or music or movies or really anything other than the disease. Don’t talk about their medication regimen or other aspects of their treatment, unless they want to.

Plan activities they like, too. Ordinary things can become extraordinary. Baking cookies together can be quite flirtatious. Romance in the kitchen is a lot of fun really. A person with bipolar disorder needs to eat and so do you. Cook a meal together.

If you want to be extravagant, cook the meal for your date. Don’t let them assist you. Make him feel like a king or her like a queen. Tell him/her to sit and relax. I really enjoy having friends over and cooking something with love to give them.

If you talk by phone often or send text messages regularly and that suddenly stops, don’t assume the worst. Your date may simply be having a low period. Your date may not be good at expressing what is happening, and they may not desire to. Don’t take it personally. As with other things I’ve written here, ask what you can do to help them feel better. Offer hugs, asking nothing in return. Don’t assume it’s the disease. There are myriad reasons for a person with bipolar disorder to feel low. We are just as prone to sadness as anyone in the general population. A low point does not automatically lead to serious depression, which calls for a doctor’s intervention.

I can’t help but reiterate a person with bipolar disorder that is under treatment wants what every person does. We aren’t different.

What does one do when the disease really appears to be altering your date’s behavior? There may be times in which you find them behaving unreasonably or even in a bizarre fashion. All I can do is relate my experience and personal knowledge. I am not a doctor. However, I am a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health, and I have been trained in how to relate to other people with mental illness.

Here are my suggestions for dealing with a person who is acting out of the ordinary:

  1. Be genuine.
  2. Make sure you and your date are safe.
  3. Communicate using “I” statements. Don’t pummel your date with “you” statements and accusations.
  4. Speak about concrete examples of behavior that you are observing.
  5. Be respectful of your date and yourself.

I think it’s important to point out, however sad it may be, that the disease can affect a person negatively, and your feelings may get hurt. Only you can decide whether to continue dating an individual with the disorder. Only you can tell if that person is actively seeking help or not. Each situation is unique, and every person is special.

Mental illness carries a tremendous stigma. It is not fully understood by doctors and is less so by the general population. Having one does not mean that a person is not worth the effort required in forming a romantic relationship. All relationships need work.

If you are dating a person who tells you they have bipolar disorder, you should feel honored they shared that information. Thank the person for opening up. I dated a man for eight or nine months and told him my diagnosis only to have him abandon me, leaving my life without a trace even though I was completely stable during our time together. It scarred me.

Dating is all about enjoying yourself. Ask your date if they are enjoying their time with you. Talk often; listen more. Explore your own feelings and your date’s. Don’t assume any particular behavior is a symptom.

Finally, be genuine.

Bipolar Dating Ideas

Can it be so very hard to date when one has bipolar disorder? If the disease is untreated, then daily life is hard and not just relationships.

Is it so very hard to date a person with bipolar disorder? Again, if untreated, then everything is going to be a struggle.

Relationships are difficult for all of us regardless whether one has a mental illness or not. Conversing, listening, deciphering body language, and understanding are not easy with a veil of worry cast over one’s eyes. “Is she listening?” “Does he care about this topic?” Our internal dialogue bounces with questions and conceptions.

Add bipolar disorder to the mixture, and a cauldron seethes boiling and popping. Let me speak from experience.

I once saw a drama depicting a man meditating. Actors moved slowly behind him reciting lines of his wandering thoughts, distracting him. It raced to the forefront of my mind that I thought in an entirely different way. My thoughts never wandered in and out. They charged. They bombarded me. I could simultaneously hold a thought and understand I was conscious of the thinking, and I knew on five different levels my brain was electrified with inspiration, thinking about thinking about thinking about…sigh. It tires me now to remember.

Yet, I’m very lucky. With my prescribing nurse practitioner, we’ve found a regimen that works. With the job training and WRAP, I’ve found a written system I use to calm my racing thoughts. I found help, and I believe it’s out there for all of us.

Getting help was the first step for me. I’m stable, and with that knowledge, I can reach out to friends and associates, searching for a mate. That search is exciting. The Internet is open with a plethora of sites waiting for us. Some cost. Some are free. Our local areas have many places we can volunteer our time, opening the door to meeting many new people.

What to do then becomes the question. How do we spend time getting to know someone? How much of ourselves do we reveal and when? Those questions plague people with bipolar disorder. I started slowly with my current beau. So far so good, but so far is so far.

We’ve met for coffee. We’ve lunched together. We’ve sat by the water and strolled through the park. We haven’t seen a movie together. We haven’t done many things together. He’s busy and far away. I’ve been busy with job training. Life happens. We’ll see where things go.

I enjoy imagining free or low-cost things for us.

  • Walks along the seashore.
  • Casual days in the park.
  • Picnicking.
  • Driving on country roads.
  • Taking in scenic spots.
  • Visiting free museums.
  • Meeting at the coffee shop.
  • Sightseeing like tourists.
  • Roaming a bookstore.
  • Leisurely meandering through the local library.
  • Reading aloud together.
  • Sitting in the sun.

Really, the list is endless. There are so many joys of life to be gained by exploring the ordinary world around each of us. The artist Andy Warhol once said, “Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again.” Finding beauty in the ordinary is what I strive for. Making a date of the usual turns any day into magic.

Looking for magic in a relationship turns any couple into a happy one.

Let’s make magic happen. Let’s be open to the warm touch of another. Let’s recover. Let’s do it together.

The Good News

Followers of this blog will know that I have spent some time in mourning recently for a former lover who took his own life. I can report that I’m well on the way to healing. The initial shock was tremendous, but as with all things, time heals. There will be a memorial gathering for him in a week, and I will attend. I doubt I’ll share anything, but I will be there supporting my other friends.

On the job front, I can happily and loudly report that I passed my written and oral exams, and I am now a Certified Peer Specialist Intern in mental health. I can also shout out that I will start my internship at a local mental health clinic in early June.

I am going to a family reunion at the end of May, and I’m taking the opportunity by stretching my stay to have a nice long visit with my parents and family. When I get back from that trip, I’ll walk straight into my internship.

Things are really moving along quickly.

Things are not moving quickly in my romantic life. My beau lives two hours away, and I haven’t seen him since January. I was traveling too much for job training, and his job schedule keeps him very busy. We’ve spoken on the phone a number of times, and we’re still interested in each other. However, being apart does not make this easy. There’s no cuddling, and that makes me sad. At the same time, it makes for wonderful dreams of reuniting.

Through the statistics of this blog, I can view how people find me. One of the highest ranking terms is bipolar dating. To those searching for love and acceptance as a person with bipolar disorder or with a person who has it, I can safely assure you that it is possible to find a partner.

There is no magic pill to swallow that will make your perfect match appear, but then that’s true for everyone and not simply those with mental illness. While having a disability can add a layer of difficulty to the mixture, it’s not necessarily the defining factor. No person is solely defined by any one particular point, and we with mental illness are not either.

I truly believe in the tried and true formula of finding a mate the old-fashioned way. There are people in clubs who have similar interests and are also looking for companionship. Volunteering is a great way to meet others. The secret – and it’s no secret – is finding a way to get outside one’s head and open up to the possibilities  that abound all around us.

Opening up is easier said than done for some of us. I had my own long, dark period. It lasted for years, and every aspect of life was a chore or nearly impossible. I have been in that deep despair when simple acts of self-care like brushing my teeth were close to impossible. I clawed my way out with the help of loving caregivers, medication, and therapy. I did not do it alone.

All the time, I wondered where the right man for me was. It’s just a thought, but now I believe my focus should have been on being the right man for someone else.

When I take the focus off me, I win.

It is paradoxical, but it starts with loving me and spreading that. I give love more freely when I love me. I give more of me when I take care of my simple daily needs.

I no longer believe in countering negative self-talk with positive affirmations that I find unconvincing. I have no evidence from my past that looking at my reflection in the mirror and reciting clichés ever made me feel better. What worked? A lot of time and effort put into finding the right combination of medicine, meditation, exercise, and therapy from many loving caregivers.

This thought that I start from a place where I love me first is new. I was taught long ago that I had to ignore my inner voice and my feelings and only concentrate on the needs of others. I have no evidence that action ever helped me.

Today, I have abundant evidence that loving me allows me to then reach out and give. I struggled with guilt and shame for decades. Today, I live openly and honestly.

Today, I live in truth.