You’ve met an awesome new person, you feel an immediate click with them, you feel amazing, everything is great! If you have Bipolar Disorder, that can potentially be very bad. That click and the honeymoon feeling of meeting an awesome new person is the result of a flood of endorphins that your brain produces in response. That endorphin flood can kick off an escalated cycle and send your mind running into hypomania or mania.
Probably 80% of the correspondence I receive is from people asking questions about this. They meet an awesome person, things are amazing for anywhere from a couple months to a year, and then it all comes crashing down in a storm of chaos, confusion, and depression. In the course of that year, both parties may end up making life-altering decisions as a result of the escalation.
There is a very common theme in this correspondence. The passion can be overwhelming and exciting, but it’s the conviction that really cements the idea that this it is all real. It’s very common for a person with Bipolar Disorder in a dominant escalated cycle to be absolutely certain of what they feel without zero doubt or any reservations.
I rarely make absolute statements because there are so many gray areas, but I am willing to here. If you are Bipolar or love a Bipolar person, doubt is a good thing. A typical mind is supposed to have doubt at times. A lack of doubt, or one of my loved ones pointing out that I’m having no doubts, would be an immediate reason for me to start scrutinizing my mental state to ensure I am not escalated. A lack of doubt leads to scenarios like this:
“Of course it’s a good idea I move to another country to marry you even if I’ve only known you for six months! It’s ridiculous for you to suggest otherwise! Look at what we have! How special it is! I’m going to quit my job/school, sell my car, and buy a plane ticket! I can’t wait to start this new chapter of my life with you!”
To expand on that, many people with Depression and Bipolar Disorder subconsciously chase new relationships as a result. The endorphin flood is powerful, it can knock out depression in many people for a little while. As a result, the Depressed or Bipolar often incorrectly conclude that the key to their happiness is finding the right person and relationship.
They then attain it, that honeymoon feeling eventually wears off as time goes on, the depression sets back in, and then they conclude that they aren’t really in love because the depression swallows it up. Then the mentally ill person either leaves or feels that spark with someone else, which causes them to pick up and move on.
“This person is the wrong person because I don’t feel good or feel good about the relationship.” That is incorrect. The depression is just doing what depression does; depressing our ability to experience emotions correctly. Sooner or later, it will overwhelm the endorphin flood as it trickles off.
Love is a product of the mind, and therefore, is very vulnerable to mental illness.
When You Feel That Spark or Click
For people with Bipolar Disorder: Be wary, even if you’re well-medicated. Your body does increase its tolerance to meds and the endorphin flood can tip you into escalation even if you are medicated. If you start getting ideas of drastically changing your life within the first six months, go through whatever processes you have on confirming whether or not you are escalated. Talk to your support network or mental health professionals. If you’re not or poorly medicated, you should plan for an escalated cycle because it’s probably going to happen. Listen to the people around you if they are expressing reservations. It can save you the pain of blowing up your family or relationship.
For people with Depression: That honeymoon feeling is going to eventually go away, one way or another. A relationship will not fix the problem. It is only a temporary reprieve in the overall storm if you’re not treated. Talk to your doctor. If you are correctly treated or recovered, there shouldn’t be an issue or it should be manageable.
For the partners of the mentally ill: Be wary. If your new partner mentions they have Bipolar Disorder, it always pays to be wary lest you make life changing decisions because you get swept up in the intensity of it all. The biggest tell is a lack of doubt or any fear from the other person. A person in a reasonable mentality is definitely going to have some doubts about moving to another country or spending the rest of their life with someone they just met. A lack of doubt or fear is quite likely a symptom of Bipolar escalation. My general rule of thumb is not to make any major life-changing decisions unless you’ve known the person well for at least two years.
The key phrase there is “known the person well” not necessarily “been in a relationship with”. Two years will give you a pretty good view of the ups and downs. It will also give you time to see how the person approaches their mental health and management as well.
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