One important fact to know about me is that I have Bipolar Disorder. This diagnosis is debatable depending on which one of the many doctors I’ve seen since I was 12 you may ask, but this is what makes the most sense. This fact about me is important because it shapes how I view my world, my relationships, and myself. It also greatly impacts how others view me and interpret my actions.
Now, I’ve titled this post “When You Can’t Trust Yourself: The Struggle to Know Love”, because with having a mental illness, and being able to recognize it, there is a tendency to question everything you feel, especially in terms of close relationships. “Are my best friends really mad at me or am I overreacting because I’m depressed?”, “Am I really in love or am I manic?” Questions like these arise almost daily for me and the answers are rarely easy to come by. There is an almost constant fear that my own brain is lying to me about my feelings and how I interpret environmental and social facets of my life. The only way I can get reassurance is having steady, unwavering feedback over a fairly long stretch of time.
This need for a long term feedback to either validate or invalidate how I’m feeling can put a strain on my most important relationships. If I feel that my closest friends are mad at me for some reason and I don’t get the constant reminders that they aren’t, then I may pull away, which only makes them keep their distance, if they notice at all that I’m out of the loop. There is always an internal dialogue with my rational mind and my impulsive mind that has to point out that we all have our own lives and issues, especially as we grow older, so just because I don’t hear from them for a while doesn’t mean they love me any less or they are mad at me. As tiring as always having this internal dialogue can be, I am thankful that I can see life in more than black and white, when not in a full blown crisis, because that wasn’t always the case.
However, one of the issues I’ve struggled with the most is understanding and knowing romantic love. It is very easy to get caught up in a manic episode and think that I am in love or falling in love, only to find a few weeks later that my brain was lying to me. Here is another instance of where I need consistent, long term feedback, from myself, to know that what I feel is real. I have to do a heavy assessment of all the areas of my life to realize whether or not its real love or a manic episode.
1. Did my feelings for this person start out strongly or did they develop over time to what I feel now?
2. Do my feelings for this person change when my mood changes?
3. If this person and I have an argument/disagreement can I truly forgive them or does a resentment linger?
4. Can I really open up and share my feelings with them, or are our conversations only superficial?
5. Do I have a nagging feeling of something just not being right with the relationship?
6. Does my attraction to them go beyond sexual attraction?
7. Can I explain to others, in clear language, why I love them?
8. Can I, and do I want to share with them when things in my life aren’t going well?
9. Do I trust them with knowing my weaknesses?
These are just a few questions that I ask myself in order to assess whether or not what I feel for someone is real love or an illusion caused by a chemical imbalance that will subside at some point.
On the upside, when I do find that my feelings of love are real and not a symptom of bipolar disorder, the overwhelming satisfaction and relief is blissful. To know that I have found someone that see’s me for the person that I am, and loves it, and not as my illness, not as a sexual object, and not as someone to occupy time, makes all of the internal turmoil worthwhile. And to know that I am capable of loving someone is just as much of a relief, because sometimes I felt like I would never be able to do it.
That is a small look into my world as of today. Hopefully I can keep up with the writing and hopefully this resonates with someone else.