Love and transformation: Fail

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.

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8 Comments

  1. What a lovely experience to check in with your blog and find you in love.

    Fifteen years into my marriage I can assure you that a bipolar person can love and be loved unconditionally. My husband would agree that while our bout with my breast cancer eight years ago was dramatic and life-changing, it is our everyday life, living out the reality of the bipolar/neurotypical dichotomy, where we find our greatest challenges and joys.

    Ahhh, sleep. Yes, my sleep is also our Holy Grail. We bought our vehicle in part because its heated leather seats and fully reclining passenger side allow us to do the travelling we love while I still get my sleep. When we’re home, he has given up evening television-viewing in favor of reading the Bible. That’s because I am down from seven (!) medications to three meds and eight supplements, and I no longer take a knockout dose of Ambien. Instead, my evening ritual of a warm epsom salt bath, reading and quiet conversation encourages a gentle, restful sleep with no hangover.

    I wish–no, I pray–for you that you will find continued peace and joy with this strong and caring man. You obviously appreciate that he is a rare jewel.

    Reply
  2. I believe that your experience, Laura is something I should remind myself too. I shouldn’t sell myself short because of my mental illness either. Sometimes much the way my poor self-confidence plays out sometimes I limit my sights to only other disabled people, and for the wrong reason, that automatically they will understand more and treat me more equally than anybody else. Sometimes I have been just settled with being alone, despite my desire to love and feel loved. I am glad that you have succeeded in not denying your right to a healthy relationship and looking for people on the basis of actuality in their support and ability to relate to you in healthy and positive ways. Congrats!

    Reply
    • You bring up an issue here that I think is very worthwhile to think over: should we limit or projects for partnership to only other disabled people, whom we are fairly sure would understand or special needs (as we could theirs), and feel safer in opening ourselves to them? I think it could go either way. I had a long term relationship with another bipolar that was by turns elating and devastating. It was the embodiment of bipolar-ness: the heady soaring highs, followed by the crushing lows, all times two, or maybe squared. I came the closest I have ever come to carrying out my suicidal fantasies. Thank G-d and my excellent therapist, I was able to (with great difficulty) extricate myself from there jaws of death that was that relationship, but it spooked me badly, and I constantly reality-check add a result, which isn’t such a bad thing especially when the reality adds up.

      Trevalee’s comment below about life with a loving neurotypical is very comforting indeed.
      I would not classify my love as neurotypical, exactly, but it’s important for those of us with “card-carrying” special brains to know that it is possible to have a loving and real partnership with a neurotypical person.
      Stay open to miracles. Stay unlimited. Keep your focus on staying healthy and grounded. There are no guarantees in this life. And you never know what’s right around the bend. Could be something really, really good.

      Reply
  3. This is so lovely, Laura. I’m so very happy for you to have found someone who makes you feel so loved! It IS a transformative experience to be loved unconditionally. It is a precious, precious thing, and even though it might seem to come easily, every relationship takes work to maintain – just don’t forget that part (not that I believe you would, but.)

    🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you, DeeDee. You yourself, writing about your life with Mr. Chickadee, inspired me to even consider the possibility of a real and healthy love relationship, partnership, maybe someday marriage with someone who loves me for who I really am, through the layers of illness and trauma that cloud lesser men’s vision. Yes, work: that is a huge part of it. If we can continue, 7/24/365, to “watch each other’s 360,” I think we will do fine, even through the rough spots, with a lot of help from G-d.

      Reply
  4. gracielynne62013

     /  October 21, 2013

    Oh my God. I am so sorry that this happened to you. I am reading through your blogs in the hopes of understanding you more clearly. I was excited that you had found someone then dismayed that he was in fact an imposter of love. There are so many like that out there. I too have come to the point in my life where the pursuit of love is not on my list of priorities. I have God’s love and for now that is safe.

    Reply
    • I think that if one cannot trust one’s own perceptions, then going for God’s love is a good idea 😉

      Reply
      • gracielynne62013

         /  October 21, 2013

        Yes, I agree although it seems as if my perceptions line up with His Spirit.
        It is others which seem not to have a clue who continue to try to sway me. I have learned to live my life to please others is a futile attempt in the achievement of happiness. It is only I who must live within my skin.

        Reply

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