A section where I take one topic and hit it from two different bipolar perspectives. This is the place where we encourage you to join in on the conversation, share your experience, and let us know where YOU stand.
Today is a very special edition of MindTrip CROSSFIRE, we have one topic with two different perspectives still but one of those perspectives is from someone with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and the other perspective is from someone with a diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia.
MindTrip CROSSFIRE: Bipolar vs Schizophrenic: When Do You Tell Your New Love About Your Mental Illness–Or Do You Not?
Contributors: Dori Owen & Allie Burke
WHAT THE HELL: I’LL TELL
I learned I had a bipolar I diagnosis while I was married and didn’t have much choice about telling. It wreaked havoc on our relationship, yet years later he become one of my fiercest advocates. He is proof that at least one person in this universe can love me through months of mania, years of depression, and two stays in the Pajama Hilton.
I walk the single path these days. I like being on my own, but occasionally I foray outside my comfort zone. I Plenty O’Fished once and met someone I’ll call Tucson Dude. First date was promising. Definitely chemistry. He didn’t drink, either, although I did not disclose it was due to my psych meds. Early conversation killer. I have no idea why, I must have given some kind of clue, but he asked me if I “was bipolar.” Well, first, I’m not my disorder, and secondly, he thought bipolar disorder was borderline personality disorder. This fish was tossed right back into the sea.
The next one up was Summer Romance Dude. To avoid the kerfuffle of Tucson Dude, I just told him straight up, “I have a mood disorder,” at the point I knew we were going to a place of commitment. Like, how do I hide the med buffet if I’m staying at his house? I’m happy to report my disclosure did not kill the deal. Ultimately, it was because he was an asshole.
It has taken me 20 years to learn to love myself as who I really am. I don’t have that kind of time to convince potential boyfriends. You either love me or you don’t. So what the hell. I’ll tell.
Learning she had Bipolar Disorder 1 as an adult, Dori has used her tumultuous journey of diagnosis, noncompliance, hospitalizations, and ultimately acceptance and self-advocacy to tell her story to others to share the “oh, me too” moments for people to understand they are not alone in their mental illness journey. She has a Tumblr blogspot; is an author on Ask A Bipolar; created the Facebook Diary Of An Arizona Girl; is an artist and writer; and a frequent blogger advocating mental health awareness. Dori holds an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno and worked for 20 years as a government project manager. She lives in Arizona with her beloved dog and cat. She also has a grown son in Portland, Oregon who very much resents being introduced after her pets. But she loves him the most! You can find Dori at: Tumblr Twitter and at Ask A Bipolar
FINAL ANSWER: DON’T TELL AT ALL
Why is mental illness relevant to your relationship? What bearing or value does it have on the love that you share with your partner? It’s not a fatal illness like Cancer or MS; your dude isn’t going to have to push you around in a wheelchair at some point in the next ten years.
I mean, you could argue that he might be in a wheelchair, if you have depression and your self-mutilating thing is to cut off your legs to release your pain. You could argue that it’s a grand possibility, that if you have paranoid schizophrenia, that you are going to commit suicide, or if you have bipolar disorder, that you may have these debilitating periods of mania wherein you will take everything out on him to an intense point that he will want to take off running.
But that would be to say, indefinitely, that you don’t hold the self-confidence in yourself to survive a relationship like someone without a mental illness could. And if you don’t have that confidence in yourself to make things work—to not die by your own hand, or whatever—if you don’t love yourself completely, you’re in no position to be in a relationship.
How can you expect someone to love you—mental illness and all—if you don’t love yourself?