Part 21: There’s Nothing Easy About Bipolar Relationships

Part 21 of the Surviving Bipolar Series
Illustration of a young couple in love standing close to each other
Bipolar love is fast and intense. | Image made by author with Canva AI.

My love of writing started long before I started writing on the internet.

Instead of newsletters, blogs, and Medium stories, I wrote fiction in brightly colored spiral-bound notebooks and poetry on scraps of paper.

I also wrote letters. Lots of them.

I love to write letters and send greeting cards. Like the warm embrace of a hot cup of chamomile tea, writing letters filled me with joy. I set aside time every week just for letter writing.

One of the best gifts from moving to Tennessee was I left behind dozens of friends in Wisconsin. Each was a chance for me to tell my stories in a unique and personal way. Those letters and later emails were where I first discovered my voice as a writer.

Writing letters is an art form. I wish now I’d kept copies of all of them, because those weekly diatribes better document my life during those years than my journal does.

With every stroke of my blue Bic pen, I poured my heart and soul out on the page.

Often, my scribblings revealed thoughts and feelings I couldn’t write in my journal. It felt easier to tell my pen pals about the turmoil in my heart than to make a permanent record of it in my tattered notebooks.

It only made sense when my relationship with Tiffany started with letters.

Romance through the mail

Letters were the lifeblood of my early romance with Tiffany.

I met Tiffany in part 17, a blonde-haired goddess who made me forget about my mental health struggles. While our attachment grew slowly, my feelings sped away faster than a Nascar driver.

Of course, that’s the way it goes with bipolar. You never plant the seed of love and nurture it through gentle care for weeks or months.

Instead, you meet a person, see one thing in common and a kind smile, and 5 minutes later, you are head over heels. Before the end of the night, you may even joke about a lifelong commitment. Though, inside, part of you hopes it’s true.

This is the one! your bipolar brain screams with joy.

With a heart brimming with love, you plan your life together. This is it, the real one, the last one. You’ll be together forever.

Then a few weeks pass. The flood of giddiness passes with the end of a manic cycle, and depression sets up camp.

Your new companion, no longer thought of as your love, is nothing but an irritation. You like nothing about them and may even confess your hate before stomping on their heart.

Like a flashlight shining in a dark cave, you see the error of your ways. In a moment of clarity, you end the relationship and cut the dead weight out of your life. You vow never to speak to them again.

Neither emotion is reasonable.

In a nutshell, that describes my history with Tiffany. It lasted for years, an on-again-off-again relationship with more twists and turns than a theme-park ride. Very little of it was reasonable. At least, not on my part.

Pinterest Pin
Dive into Part 21 of the 'Surviving Bipolar Series': 'There’s Nothing Easy About Bipolar Relationships'. 

This piece offers an unfiltered glimpse into the complexities and challenges that define a love story marred with bipolar disorder. 

It's not just about the highs and lows of the relationship, but also the resilience and understanding that keeps it together.

#SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
Please pin on Pinterest. | Graphic created with Canva AI.

Doubts from the start

May 20th 1995, I wrote in my journal:

“I wonder what will happen with Tiffany. I wonder if I’m ready for anything to happen. Am I attracted to her? I want to say yes, but I’m not sure. But she made the first move, and that’s always been what I prayed for. Oh God, why are things so hard to figure out?”

That paragraph describes about every relationship I have ever had.

One of the toughest parts of bipolar is how it blurs the way you see the world. False feelings and misinterpreted events make you doubt everything, both inside and outside your mind.

I wanted to like Tiffany. I wanted to love Tiffany, but I had no idea how I felt. Sadly, that trend continued throughout the years we danced through our hurricane.

Tiffany had five brothers and sisters. Her family was like mine in size, but her family took the time to connect with each other. Once I left Wisconsin, I fought to keep my family out of my life.

Tiffany’s family was quick to welcome me into theirs. They invited me for family dinners, hiking trips, and to sit by the fire while they camped at a park close to my home.

Those moments hiking mountain trails or splashing in waterfalls were some of the best times we shared.

Tiffany’s dad always looked at me with a raised eyebrow. I knew he doubted me as a possible son-in-law.

He had good reason to be suspicious. Maybe he saw the chaos in my eyes I tried so hard to hide. He encouraged me to move on several times, but I was never smart enough to listen.

I was 23 and living in the moment. No matter how many voices in my head screamed otherwise, I knew it was Tiffany I wanted. She was my future.

There was no question, or so I thought.

The doubts were there

Just two days later, I screamed my frustration in four-letter words in my journal. Margaret was my ride to see Dr. Burt, but life was messy, and we were running late.

My dad raised us with the phrase, “If you’re on time, you’re already late.” We got everywhere 20-30 minutes before we needed to.

Margaret’s delay meant I would walk into Dr. Burt’s office a minute before my session, and the idea made my blood boil.

Add to it, Margaret and Patrick were fighting.

Nothing serious, just a typical disagreement about some tiny stressor in family life. As I listened to them say cutting remarks to each other, it stoked the fire of my anger.

In huge all-capital letters, I gouged these words into my journal:

“Why do I even think about getting married? They argue about such stupid things! I’m getting so angry, I can’t even control it, and I have no reason to be upset. How could I ever be married without killing someone?”

Yet, later, when Margaret and Patrick told me their doubts about Tiffany, I refused to listen.

“She’s the one,” I told them, and then refused to discuss the subject further.

Illustration of a young couple holding hands and walking near a waterfall
Our hiking trips are my favorite memories. | Image made with Canva AI.

Medication was no cure

Even though I was finally on medication for bipolar disorder, I was far from stable.

My emotions came in rapid waves, like tsunamis coming from 10 different directions.

Tiffany caught the brunt of those damaging waves, each one cutting her deeper over the next few years.

When the noise in my head got to be too much, I turned and ran. I cut Tiffany off like she never existed. Then I pretended like I had never had any feelings for her.

Months would pass, and I’d refuse to even mention her name.

I was sure I was over her until I saw her again, at a store or a convention. One smile from her, and I was back in, sure as ever she was my soulmate.

I wanted her back in my life, needed her back.

This song reminds me how I felt during most of my relationships.

Not just my story

One of the most challenging aspects of writing your memoir in public is being sure you don’t tell other people’s stories.

As much chaos as my mental health caused, Tiffany had some struggles of her own. It’s not my place to tell her tale, but it explains why she kept coming back.

I made no part of our relationship easy on her.

An evil monster in the back of my head knew she was always there, waiting. Whenever I felt lonely, I pulled her back in, like a sadistic fisherman drawing in a trophy-sized fish when it’s just inches from freedom.

There’s much more to my years with Tiffany, but for today, I’m going to stop here.

Tiffany and I both hurt each other repeatedly, but then she met a wonderful man.

They’ve been married for many years now. We’re still friends, all three of us, and I couldn’t be happier for them. He was the right man for her, and she was the right woman for him.

As for me?

That’s a much longer story. Eventually, I’ll get to that.

Until next time, keep fighting.

Read Part 22

Coming soon!

Pinterest Pin
Dive into Part 21 of the 'Surviving Bipolar Series': 'There’s Nothing Easy About Bipolar Relationships'. 

This piece offers an unfiltered glimpse into the complexities and challenges that define a love story marred with bipolar disorder. 

It's not just about the highs and lows of the relationship, but also the resilience and understanding that keeps it together.

#SpeakingBipolar #mentalhealth #mentalillness #bipolardisorder #mentalillnessawareness
Please pin on Pinterest. | Graphic created with Canva AI.

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