I wish he told me he had bipolar disorder.
I keep telling myself that if only I had known the signs when it first started showing up, troubles in our relationship wouldn’t have escalated so much the way that it did.
I started dating Joe back in 2014, and he was just such a dream: tall, well-spoken, and we just knew how to fun together.
But as it goes, life isn’t always a pretty picture and looking back on it now, I think he tried to tell me about his condition in different ways: that he sometimes wouldn’t be able to sleep for days, he would be irritable for no reason even with sleep and a proper meal, or he would outright not want to talk to anyone for days at a time.
I don’t know when it was that he stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication, but towards the start of last year, he was so different from when we first dated.
He would read too much into my messages; accuse me of things he thought I was doing behind his back, and the things we found funny soon became annoying to him if I tried bringing it up.
I thought he was just high-strung from stress at school where he was due to graduate in the summer, his situation at home with a sick mother, and just being strapped for cash often.
Things came to its lowest point when we engaged in a screaming match over something so insignificant that I don’t even remember what it was now: I left crying, and the next morning, I found out he was brought to the local police station because he ran amok their neighborhood in a rage.
Turns out, he got into a full-blown manic episode after our fight, and a kind-hearted person at the police station was able to read into his incoherent answers, his flare-ups, and his paranoia and recommended he be taken to an institution specializing in mental illnesses.
So then it was that the next time I spoke to him, we were in a controlled environment with nurses and doctors and he finally told me his secret: that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his younger years. It was a bomb dropped on me for sure, more so because at the time, I didn’t know what to make of it.
I find it important to note though, that even with his rising mania at the time, he never laid a hand on me when we fought.
I don’t know if there are 20-somethings out there in the same situation I am in, but all I know is that after his hospital stint, I see him trying.
I see him disciplining himself to take his medication regularly, accepting that it is now a part of his life.
I see him trying to make amends with those he unknowingly hurt; I see him wanting to be closer to his family.
And for me, that is enough to give our relationship another go, but this time, we are both more educated about his condition and making the best of the good that is there.
It is important to get educated on the causes and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and how you can reach out for help, or help someone with a mental illness. Peer support is especially important as people with bipolar disorder can often feel they are alone in their condition. While it is not curable, people with bipolar disorder can still live full, productive lives with healthy lifestyle choices, regularly taking their prescribed medication, and seeing their doctor often for updates on their health.
It is important to remember as well that the story above is entirely the experience of the author.