Living with someone who is bipolar – Anna Spargo-Ryan

Living with someone who is bipolar

Living with someone who is bipolar

People on the internet say “I thought you broke up with Gaz”, because I told half of a story and then didn’t tell the rest of the story. And then when I say “not exactly”, they say “but he’s a dick!” and so I write blog posts about it. This is a very personal subject and not one that is easy to write about, and I think quite a bit of it is going to sound like defensive battered wife talk, and maybe it is or maybe it isn’t.

It’s important that you understand that by not leaving Gaz, I am not defending his behaviour and I am especially not ignoring it. I’m an emotional idiot at times, but I’m not stupid.

The thing is, Gaz is bipolar. Living with someone who is bipolar is a special kind of hell. A complicated hell where nothing makes sense, ever, and occasionally someone yells at you.

Living with someone who is bipolar is like going to the supermarket and putting all your shit in the trolley, only to get to the checkout and discover that you’re actually riding a polar bear in space.

Living with someone who is bipolar means that sometimes you stand opposite each other and they reach inside you, pull out your heart and then put it in the waste disposal unit while laughing.

Living with someone who is bipolar means that some nights you lie awake and wonder where they are because the bed is empty.

Living with someone who is bipolar means that other nights you like awake and watch them breathe because sometimes you weren’t sure if they still would.

Living with someone who is bipolar means that sometimes they say things they don’t mean and you say things you do mean and the two never meet.

Living with someone who is bipolar means that there are times when you put up with behaviour that is inexcusable because the world is a ridiculous and terrifying place when it doesn’t make sense.

Living with someone who is bipolar means that sometimes you want to leave because bipolar is all kinds of fucked up.

I will never excuse the things he does as being “because he has bipolar disorder”, because that’s just not true. But he has stood by me while I’ve fought (not always successfully) my own mental illness demons and he has done a damn good job.

Our history is fraught with some terrible, horrible things, and that is one aspect of our relationship – the one I wrote about here a couple of weeks ago.

But another aspect of our relationship is a man who pulled me from the horrifying depths of crippling anxiety when I honestly, seriously thought that no one would. There were two ways I could go: the way where I jumped in front of a train, or the way where he pushed me into the world again.

Now I want to do that for him, because he saved my life. And I have a time limit, and a plan, and it’s not the same as slipping back into what was before because it’s easy (because it isn’t).

At least for now.


Edit: I’m sorry if this reason isn’t good enough, but it’s what I’m doing right now. Maybe for ages, or maybe just for a week, or whatever. This is mostly so you don’t get confused when I say “Gaz is snoring” or “Gaz is going to the shops” and you think he lives in a different house.

  • Jessica

    April 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm Reply

    Because, obviously, we – the faceless internets – are in a fantastic place to judge your life like it’s some sort of breakfast meal (ha!), I doubt I’m the only one who’s frowning a little. You say that he’s manic/depressive – if he has a formal diagnosis for this, is he doing anything about it? I know medication can be an awkward topic, but I also know that it can be the difference between life and death in some cases.

    If he’s not doing anything to look after himself (and by that I’m not saying “If he’s not on medication” because there are plenty of ways to look after one’s self that does not involve pharmaceuticals, although they’re a pretty good place to start), then it’s not your job to do it for him.

    Honestly, I’m not judging you (because you are not a breakfast). I’m just saying that guilt is a super-powerful thing. You don’t owe him anything, so please go into this with both eyes open and don’t go back to The Way Things Were just because it’s easy.

    Sometimes, it really is important to look after #1. And by that, I don’t mean Gaz.

    • Anna

      April 17, 2012 at 10:04 pm Reply

      I know, and I know you’re right, and I know how it sounds, and I know what I would say if someone else said it.

      He is medicated, but he has lapsed on his counselling, so he’s going back. I need to give him an opportunity to do that, because the times when he isn’t a jerk (which, to be fair, is quite a lot of the time) are sublime.

      If he still sucks and it all still sucks (and I have put a time limit on this), then I will still leave. Just not quite yet. I think he deserves it?

      • Jessica

        April 17, 2012 at 10:31 pm Reply

        *reads, nods*
        Regarding time limits (which are good), if things go downhill before then, you don’t have to stick it out until some arbitrary date.

        (I’d like to think I’m saying the things I wanted someone to tell me, but they never did. It’s amazing how many ‘battered wives’ I’ve found *after* but they were all invisible while I was stuck there.)

        • Anna

          April 17, 2012 at 10:35 pm Reply

          I agree. And you’re right. Because you’re clever and insightful and a good friend.

          The good news is that I rarely have trouble reaching out to people and asking for their help. I’m much less good at actually following through with taking them up on their help, but I am learning.

  • Jessica

    April 17, 2012 at 10:03 pm Reply

    (By the way, Ms A, tell me to go away if/when I say anything inappropriate.)

  • Karen

    May 10, 2014 at 4:11 am Reply

    I laughed at the first part and agreed (on my own terms, of course) with the second. My husband was living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder for our dating and engagement and the first 3 1/2 years of our marriage. I stayed because I loved him and when he was good for me he was very, very good for me… and when he wasn’t good for me I, eventually, would sometimes with he just wouldn’t come home. Ever. I’ve heard others echo directly to me what so often went through my head in the undiagnosed years- It is like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Except blindly of course because it was always a surprise as to which of the two was in charge at any given moment.

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