Loving and Living with a Manic Depressive/Bipolar Person

I don’t know when I first heard the terms manic depressive or bipolar, my understanding was it is a mental illness that sometimes people were hospitalized for, “put away” because of it. Even now I find it difficult to explain because usually a person who suffers from manic depression or bipolar are also alcoholics, addicted to pills, addicted to sex, or suicidal. These are secondary ways the person tries to deal with his disease. Psychologists tell me MD’s are difficult to treat because they don’t want to take the medication that will prevent them from experiencing incredible highs. Would anyone want to give up feeling that good even if the same drug prevents you falling into the depths of depression?

I will tell you my story of a manic depressive I once loved and tried to understand. Maybe my story will help you if you love an MD, if you have an MD friend or if someone in your family suffers from this condition. It is hard to understand them because they will be sky high in the middle of tragedy and when wonderful things happen to them they will sink into that dark hole. The moods have nothing to do with reality. And you cannot fix him. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is walk away early for your happiness as well as his My first experience with a manic depressive was after a second divorce. At the time I was in a high profile TV career where image was everything. I was myself suffering from depression heavily laced with anxiety trying desperately to compete in what had been in a man’s world. I repressed my feelings. Someone once said I wouldn’t say s… if I had a mouthful, gross but the idea was that nothing could crack that façade of smiling, being the authoritative person who brought you the news twice a day and was on top of the ratings heap. I couldn’t risk that by ever “letting go”.

John taught me how to “let go”. My ex whom I was in the process of divorcing had been a totally different person after we got married than he had been when he was my significant other. He became a controlling, vindictive and a social climber. He married someone he thought was a ticket to belonging to a wealthy group of people. His favorite word was “appropriate” mine had been (before I married him) outrageous. I had to hide that as a TV personality and a wife. I tell you this so you’ll know why I was ripe for John to enter my life. You might want to look at your own life when you became close to a MD, John had his own band when he was in his 20’s and 30’s; in his 40’s he was a concert prompter and an agent. He actually became my agent. At the time I was in demand to give speeches and seminars not only locally but for national conventions as well When I met him I dismissed him as a younger guy, lots of fun, with hardly any money but who seemed to live life to the fullest every moment. I had almost forgotten how to laugh. John taught me to laugh, not just cocktail party laughter but belly laughs. He loved Albert Brooks and Woody Allen movies; John was so witty he could be the center of attention with everyone from millionaires to the down and out, all feeling a big boost from just being around him. He was younger; his lifestyle of drinking and smoking pot, laying back on the beach under a full moon, playing his guitar and singing was heaven to him and he was smitten with me. He hated the social climbers but he also knew how to live in that other world, booking big bands, dealing with temperamental musicians, convention planners and executives. If he wanted to, he could charm them. He courted me with flowers, gave me a CD of music he wanted me to experience. Later in our relationship he gave me a CD of my favorite songs and another one in which he sang some of those favorites in a recording studio. Can you imagine anything more romantic than listening to love songs he recorded for you and a couple of love songs he wrote for you? Nothing compares. Now in this little tale I have told you are several of the distinct signs that you are dealing with a manic depressive. MD’s fall in love hard. They are very lonely. No one understands them or even more important accepts them so here you come along and now finally the person he can love, will love him even if people think he is eccentric, the kind of crazy that creative musicians have. ”This is who I am. Love me”….caveat...”Love me even when you hate me because I have hurt you so badly. Love me unconditionally and I will take you on the ride of your life. What you don’t know is how difficult it is to jump off when you are dangling high in the air with no net and yelling for help yourself, something he can’t understand.

Reconcile yourself that you will never, never know this person. He doesn’t know himself and you cannot be his savior. I use the “he” gender here but it is equally true of the MD woman. The MD male practically beg you to fall in love with them; you are the center of his universe. That is heady intoxicating stuff for a woman who early on in the game is already thinking, house, family, neighborhood picnics. Forget it! You can never depend on him to attend events that were planned. You will find yourself turning down dinner and party invitations for the two of you. Your friends tell you he seems more than just a little eccentric and that he treats them badly, but you fell and you fell hard. They in his mind are in competition with him for your attention, your love. He has to present a professional image, so he will have one drink and wait to eat much later. Why? He wants to smoke pot and drink on an empty stomach. It will take him where he wants to be fast. He can get stoned and smashed out of view. He does want you to be with him but it is hard to feel romantic with someone who can barely focus and is “three sheets to the wind”, a term my father used for drunks. I didn’t even know he had an alcohol problem until we had moved in together. I had a bad day and as often happened I would go to bed earlier than he did. He would tell me it was his inner clock, set when he was a musician playing late night gigs. When I did wake up at 3am I found him downstairs asleep on the couch. No, passed out on the couch. MD’s self medicate to bring them up from the deep depressions and down after days of being on a manic high, like the depressive traits of booze. Then it was the pills, all kinds of pills to keep the demons away, to sustain the high he needed to do business, to live. The amount of all of those substances increase, but only after ten or eleven at night when he can be alone on an empty stomach and be experimenting with just the right mix of pills, booze and pot.

He will hurt you. He loves you. He has taken the pains to really know you perhaps more than any other love in your life and he will use the knowledge to hurt you. He needs you terribly and he resents that dependecy and besides you are begging him to change, to give up the drinking, the pot smoking, the drugging. If you don’t approve then go away so he can find that just right mixture of happy in his concoction of “goodies” and by the way you’re a prude who won’t join in this wonderful feeling of bliss where only he can take you.

He will spin tales with you when he is up, about the house you will have, the journeys you will take, perhaps the family you will have. It has as much substance as if you were talking about Alice’s Wonderland. Well, at least you already have the mad hatter. Will you leave him as all those other people did who only pretended to understand him, or will he force you to leave when you come across an open letter on the table…a letter from a current lover who can’t wait to be with him. And this sexual promiscuity, by the way, doesn’t start when things go wrong. It is there from the beginning. Even in the first stages of falling in love with you he will be seeking sex, often threesomes, often women who will give oral pleasure. It is part of the sickness.

But when I started this I told you I learned something very important about myself. When John and I broke up, he was smoking pot in my mother’s backyard, my mother whose home was in a retirement community. He was smoking pot and playing Dan Fogelburg love songs on a boom box. When he was gone I experienced so much pain I wasn’t sure I could go on TV, not sure if I would fall apart. On some level I thought laughter and joy left my life when John left. It took me a year to realize that capacity was within me. John unlocked it and for that I am eternally grateful. He taught me to laugh to live the moment to savor midnight walks on the beach.

The wild ride was over. Some other woman would hop on. I did date a couple of manic depressives after that but as soon as I realized what they were I was out of there. I watched it unfold in two women who were friends. I came to realize I am basically an introvert that relied on them to keep me entertained. I wanted to be in that world they inhabited when they were high. I moved to the West Coast for four years. I ran into John when I returned. I had to remind myself this was the man I had once loved deeply. He was working as an agent and booking big talent acts in the convention center. John’s body had become soft. He had man boobs. I know that alcohol can destroy testosterone. He no longer seemed masculine to me. He had bad neck problems that required medication. I winced. I knew that was now another excuse. He asked if I needed an agent. I told him no I was filming a pilot cable show but maybe someday.

The calls came on a Saturday when I had been shopping. My machine showed nine messages. The first one was from a woman I barely knew, she said she knew John and I had been close and he always spoke so highly of me. They had found his body Saturday morning on the living room couch. He was surrounded by empty bottles of wine (How can you be an alcoholic if you drink wine he would tell me), a bong, and bottles of pills. His friends disposed of them before the medical examiner arrived. I went to the memorial service. None of his three wives would stand up and speak for him. I did. I talked about a man, so bright, so creative and yes so loveable. I told the large crowd assembled in the shore of the Atlantic Ocean where his ashes would be tossed that John taught me so much, most of all that the gift of laughter, of joy lives within. No one else can give it to us. He told me when I saw him shortly before he died that there was no one he enjoyed walking the beach on a moon lit night with as much as me. +I think of him often when there is a full moon. I hope that finally John has found the peace that eluded him all of his life.

Did you really want to read this story? Maybe not, on the other hand, maybe at some point in a relationship you will remember what I wrote.

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shai77 4 years ago

Such great information to have out there, so many people need it because they're at a loss and unsure of what to do in this situation. It can be so hard, it's good to know when you're not alone. Great job, thumbs up.

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