Having a mental disorder like bipolar disorder is hard. Dealing with other people while having a mental disorder is really hard. Having romantic relationships and dating with bipolar disorder is really, really hard, especially when your disorder stops you from doing what you want and everyone ends up disappointed.
I’ve always had difficulty connecting with people due to my disorder and dating was no exception. Most guys I’ve dated ignored it or reacted poorly whenever my depression or anxiety took over my personality. Luckily, my current boyfriend is beyond understanding. He anticipates my needs and has learned quickly how to take care of me when I’m low and how to pull me in when I’m high. He even understands that a high will, 9 times out of 10, be followed by an equally strong low.
My boyfriend and I have been dating for 6 months. He knew about my disorder even before we started dating. He knew exactly what he was getting into, having been previously educated pretty substantially on BPD via his own explorations with mental health. I’m so lucky to have him. I anticipated my disorder is a pain, an inconvenience, and a burden. But I’ve found, now that I have someone who is a good fit for me AND my disorder, there is a new level of awful. Disappointment.
How Bipolar Disorder Breeds Disappointment
My boyfriend makes me stronger. He believes in me and makes me want to be better in all aspects of my life, even beyond the disorder. He’s been encouraging me to work harder, eat better, and exercise more. I want to please him because I know my happiness makes him happy; we end up in this never-ending cycle of happy!
But usually, I end up breaking it by being too low or too high to function and keep our commitments going.
We signed up for a gym membership together at the beginning of the year. We went in the evenings, 3-4 times per week. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been in a good, balanced place. Small bouts of depression and anxiety, but usually late at night.
These past few weeks, my peaks have been stronger and lasted longer. We haven’t been to the gym in two straight weeks. All I feel is a disappointment to myself. I know it’s not my fault necessarily, but it hurts when he comes home from work and wants to go to the gym, but I feel too drained or too unfocused to want to leave the house. He hides it well, but I can feel his disappointment, too.
It’s a small thing, getting dressed and going to the gym for an hour or so. Our gym is less than a mile away. it’s not a hurdle, but when I get low or when my thoughts begin to rush, I can’t cope with the idea of going out. Usually, I feel better after exercising. But it takes a certain degree of discipline and focuses that I just can’t muster.
How to Combat the Disappointment
I’m trying to figure out how to deal with this disappointment – both the disappointment he feels about the situation and the disappointment I feel in myself for not being stronger.
The hardest thing for me is to let go of the former. He insists every time I bail, that it isn’t a big deal. I know that it bothers him deep down, but pestering him to talk about it is only a way for me to try to apologize to make myself feel better. Picking at a small problem just makes it bigger. We have a good enough relationship that I know he will come to be with large issues, so I need to learn to let go of the little things.
As for myself. It’s a hard journey accepting your flaws and weaknesses. It’s hard to not let them get the better of you. I’ve always struggled with that little voice in my head that tells me what an awful human being I am for being weak and letting people down. Lately, that voice is quieter because I have my boyfriends’ voice – louder and clearer – reminding me of my strengths. At the same time, I recognize that disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration… they are all healthy and okay to feel.
I deal with these emotions by letting them in only for a little while. It does me no good to sit and focus for hours on how disappointed I am. I let it bother me for a few moments, then-then, I focus on the good. If we can’t go to the gym because of me, it’s up to me to find something else we can do. Whether that’s squats in the living room or yoga, I can find ways to bypass what I fear about going to the gym while still making us exercise.
There is no “solving” this problem. There is only dealing with it in such a way that it doesn’t affect the good of our relationship.