My psychiatrist, bless him, has this to say about bipolar disorder:
“Some people have sensitive stomachs. Some have sensitive lungs. And people with bipolar? They have sensitive brains.” And that’s how he approaches the whole therapeutic process of treating people who live with bipolar disorder.
Now I have wondered, often sadly, how it could be that “other” bipolar people had partners, husbands, wives, who loved them in spite of and because of their specialness, their sensitive brains. How could it be that anyone could stand that level of intensity, of hypersensitivity, of hyperawareness, and even be attracted by it, and, even more incredibly, love that person who lives in such an idiosyncratic and sometimes hectic brain?
I know from my own experience that bipolar people often have a kind of “crackle” that sets us apart from the dull masses: an electric attraction, a fascination that by turns attracts and repels the “mere mortal.” I have watched in horror as these well-meaning “muggles” are chewed up and spit out by the intensity of my truth. I really don’t mean them harm. They get caught up in the gravitational field of my aura and can’t let go, and I can’t let them go until the polarity of the magnetic field flips and they are propelled beyond the boundaries of my attraction.
Seven years ago I said “Enough.” Enough of these mutually destructive relationships based upon fascination, power plays, purely sexual attraction, games. I found that I had become unable to handle both my illness and another person who was vying with my illness for a piece of real estate inside my brain. So I set relationships aside, and decided that perhaps Temple Grandin is right after all, in deciding for herself that she is incapable of handling a love relationship (she is a very high functioning autistic) because of the demands of her special brain. I thought that for myself, in the interest of damage control, it would be best to emulate her. I devoted myself to a life of religious asceticism within the framework of Orthodox Judaism, which is by nature anything but ascetic; yet I found a refuge in closeting myself in the world of Torah study, setting aside the normative Jewish feminine dedication to home and family life, not being possessed of a family, after all, and not remotely likely to have one.
In the service of honesty, I admit that I gave the Orthodox Jewish tradition of matchmaking a try; but after a few rounds (which did result in a couple of lifelong friends, but no husband), I gave it up. Life was better alone. I got used to it and found freedom in it. Seven years flowed by. I was content and happy with female and male friends, an exciting intellectual milieu, and no lover.
And then: the unexpected. He appeared, as it seemed, out of nowhere. Brilliant, intense, idiosyncratic, fiercely individualistic, sweet, sensitive, tender, loving, accepting, passionate: and he loves me. And I love him.
It does not seem to bother him that I must take 5 (five!) different kinds of pills to control my disease. At night, he asks me with genuine concern, in his dear, gentle English accent: “Have you taken your medicines?” I revel in his caring.
I think it did give him a jolt to discover that if I am sleep deprived I dissolve into a wailing puddle of pain, spewing tears and snot like a pot boiling over. That happened once, when he accidentally woke me early in the morning before I had had enough sleep.
Yet, with his soothing patience, I found I was eventually able to lie down and take a nap, and woke up feeling much better. And he was still there: he had not taken to his heels, as a lesser man might. And he loves me anyway. I am amazed and proud to say that he now protects my sleep, as he knows how important it is to my health. A lesser man might have taken it as a challenge to try to change the unchangeable, as if it were something I could control “if I wanted,” as if I was being manipulative etc., etc. (you can see, dear reader, that I have been through this kind of pointless struggle and am more than a bit jaded with it.) Instead, he sees it as it is: a physical need that I have.
I catch myself being apologetic about my brain’s need for sleep. How I have struggled with it! Now I must let myself rest, let it be a non-issue, for I have fallen into loving arms, and there is no need to struggle.
This love: the experience of being loved unconditionally, loved as I am, for who I am: this love is transformative. Simply knowing that if my brain is hurting, I can turn to him and tell him, and his love will surround me, hold me, support me without having to make it all go away, has already changed my neurology. I find that I am less irritable, more clear-headed, less likely to fall into dark places.
By nature I am reluctant to allow myself to become dependent on another for support. In large part this is due to the fact that I have not previously had anyone whom I trusted to catch me if I fall. It’s becoming more and more clear that this man, this one, is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, and I know I can trust him with my 360.
Baruch Ha’Shem (Bless G-d)
Postscript: unfortunately, the man described in this post tuned out to be a sadistic opportunist. If I had not been the person I have learned to be through life experience and willingness to learn from it, I might have been caught up in yet another round of psychological (and possibly physical) beatings, followed by “heartfelt” apologies, forgiveness, a honeymoon period, then repetition of the abuse cycle…thank G-d I recognized the signs after only three rounds. I am not at all sure that I can see this coming in advance. I might be better off foregoing.