Love Rollercoaster: What It’s Like to Date Someone With Bipolar Disorder

It’s easy to confuse love with mania. The trouble is that love is fleeting.

At the end of my first date with Sara, she moved in with me.

You might think the date was extraordinary. It wasn’t. We’d gone to a Hollywood hamburger stand and gabbed about bands and writers for four hours. Until that night, we’d only spoken on the phone a few times. It didn’t matter. By the time the ice in my soda had melted, I’d fallen in love.

Sara was twenty-seven, and what people used to call a wag: smart, quick-witted, encyclopedic. She could recount every failed Everest expedition in mesmerizing detail — the sort of a talent I would expect of a rock climber, not someone who’d never gone camping. I kept wondering why no one had snapped her up. Then I found out.“There’s something you should know about me,” she said, a couple of hours into the date. “I hope it doesn’t scare you off.”

Panicked thoughts raced through my mind. A jealous ex? An STD? I tried to remember if I’d sipped from her drink.

“I’m bipolar,” she said.

“Good,” I replied.

This was the odd humor Sara and I had already established, but I wasn’t entirely joking. I’d had several close bipolar friends, and had once been in a long-term relationship with a bipolar woman, Nyla, whom I still consider the smartest person I’d ever met. From a distance, I’d seen how much energy it took Nyla to keep her episodes under control: weekly doctor’s visits, blood tests, complicated regimens of medications.

And yet for all their problems, my bipolar buddies had always kept things interesting. Take my friend Jerome, hired one summer to drive a van full of rich and annoying European teenagers across the country. Somewhere in the Midwest, without telling the kids or his employer or anyone else where he was going, he simply got out at a gas station and walked away. “I was bored,” he told me. Irresponsible, yes, but hilarious.

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