Meeting a girl who changed everything.
My first glimpse of Tiffany was of her perched on the hood of her uncle’s white Chevy Nova. Wearing cut-off jean shorts and a pink t-shirt, the scene took me back to my childhood and visions of Daisy Duke sitting in a similar pose on the General Lee.
“You were saying?” my friend asked, bringing me back to the present. I knew I was saying something, but Tiffany and her gleaming smile washed everything else in my mind with one blink of her blue eyes.
“I, uh,” I tried to put my mind back in gear, but it was no use. A chance encounter forever changed my life.
Tiffany was the cousin of one of my new friends. Derek, his dad, and two brothers had just moved to my small town, and we clicked the moment we met.
Derek was hot, or so my female friends told me. All I knew was he had a great sense of humor and was always up for doing something fun. Often, the fun meant getting into trouble, but that’s a story for another day.
The best thing about Derek is he arrived after my hospital stay. I’m sure one of my friends told Derek the story, but he never acted like I was anything other than me.
In the weeks since my time in a psychiatric hospital, it became painfully clear who my true friends were, and I had a lot fewer than I thought. The truth crushed the social 23-year-old guy I was then. I thought I had hundreds of friends. Even worse, I believed I needed to have hundreds of friends.
Jump forward nearly 30 years, and now I know you really only need two or three people who believe in you and accept you for who you are. Everyone else is just a blip in your story, often one without a name when all is said and done.
Derek adopted me as his big brother, and I thrived in the role.
Going against recommendations
When I was in the psych center, I attended a mandatory class on relationships. The counselor leading the session gave strong recommendations for life after the hospital.
“Don’t start any new relationships, not for a year,” she told us. I didn’t have a girlfriend and had no one in my sights, so the advice fell on deaf ears.
Besides, I told myself, that’s really only for addicts. I’m not an addict.
In my sessions with Dr. Burt, he made a similar recommendation.
“You need to adjust to your diagnosis,” Dr. Burt told me. “You need to find out who you are with bipolar disorder before you add anyone new to your life.”
I knew who I was. Or, rather, I thought I knew.
I promised to follow Dr. Burt’s suggestion, but one look at Tiffany and her tanned legs, and I was a goner.
Falling hook, line, and sinker
“And who are you?” Tiffany called to me, crossing one stunning leg over the other.
Words escaped me.
“This is Scott,” Derek told her. “He’s the one I was telling you about.”
Wait! My brain started working again. What’s he been saying about me?
“It’s nice to meet you,” Tiffany smiled at me, and my thoughts swam away again. “I’m Tiffany, Derek’s cousin.”
Tiffany’s smile made me feel drunk, and I stumbled as I tried to take a step towards her.
“Smooth,” Derek whispered in my direction. “Real smooth, man.”
In those brief moments standing in Derek’s driveway, my whole mindset changed. Life was no longer about work or hanging out with friends. Tiffany was my future, and everything would now revolve around her.
Bipolar skips the steps
Isn’t that the bipolar way? There’s no getting to know someone or trying to find out if you’re in any way compatible. Instead, in a flash, you know you’re destined to be together. Fire burns inside you like a raging forest blaze, and nothing matters except the new relationship.
The only problem with a raging fire is it quickly burns itself out. Just as you can become obsessed with a person in a moment, your heart can also grow cold just as quickly. Love can turn to hate just as fast.
Tiffany became an integral part of my story, but sadly, often not a good part. She met me at the start of my mental illness journey, and she shared in my greatest triumphs and was subject to my worst abuse in the years that followed. I could fill a swimming pool with all the tears I made Tiffany cry.
Tiffany’s mental health is her own story to tell, but let’s just say she wasn’t perfect either. The next several years were full of make-ups and break-ups, laughter and tears. We would probably still be dancing the old steps had Tiffany not met Jordan.
As painful as it was to learn, Tiffany wasn’t the perfect woman for me, and I definitely wasn’t the perfect man for her. Part of me knew that all along, but it didn’t stop me from pursuing her time after time.
Jordan finally swept Tiffany off her feet several years later, and he’s been the best husband she could have ever asked for.
I’ll never regret my time with Tiffany. We’re still friends, and she’ll always have a special place in my heart, but Jordan was her gift from God. Every time I see them, I’m reminded that the start of their relationship was the right ending for ours.
Relationships with bipolar disorder are tricky. Tiffany may have been the first woman damaged by my mental illness, but certainly not the last.
If you’re newly diagnosed and single, please follow the advice I ignored. Give yourself time to know who you are with your illness. Then, when you’re stable, and I mean really stable, not “I feel good today so I must be stable,” then consider starting a relationship.
I could have saved both Tiffany and me a ton of pain had I waited even a few months to figure out who I was. I wasn’t even on the right drug cocktail yet, and that parade of medication took me through some scary times. Each twist and turn bipolar threw at me damaged my relationship with Tiffany.
Don’t be like me. Give yourself time. The right person will understand, no matter how long it takes.
If you’re already in a relationship, here are some tips to help you be successful.
Until next time, keep fighting.
Read Part 18