Bipolar as Love Thief: Discarded Because I Am Bipolar

June 3, 2010 Natasha Tracy

In a world of education and tolerance, bipolar disorder shouldn’t thieve love from my life. But it does. Bipolar disorder slips into everything.

After my last post, where I commented on my fear around being bipolar in public, a discussion came about regarding attitudes, and how I’m the same as everyone else. Well, I beg to disagree. I’m crazy. And the implications of that are undeniable.

In a world of education, political correctness, and tolerance, it seems like the fact that I’m sick shouldn’t rob pieces of me, pieces of my life. It shouldn’t affect my work. It shouldn’t affect my friendships. It shouldn’t affect my lovers. But that, of course, is falderal. Bipolar disorder slips into everything, even when you’re watching and you think you’ve got everything covered, it still manages to steal.

The First Friend I Lost

About a year or two after my bipolar diagnosis, I was still deeply in the throes of being depressed and didn’t know how to really express it. And I had a best friend, Hanna*, who I would talk to about it. She too suffered from depression, and she could understand where I was coming from. We hung out together every day for more than a year, sipping lattes at the university. I saw her through boyfriends, and she saw me through my first girlfriend.

And then one day, she didn’t return my call. Or the next call. Or the one after that.

I finally did pin her down to ask her what was going on. She would only say that because I was bipolar, it was too hard to be my friend, and she didn’t want to do that anymore.

She had never discussed it with me. I had no idea there was a problem. I would have compromised with her. I would have taken her needs into consideration, if only she had asked. I cared for her deeply. But she disappeared. It was as if she had never been there at all.

The Last Friend I Lost

Last year, I had an index series of electroconvulsive therapy (shock therapy, ECT) treatments. In spite of professional, well-meaning medical personnel, I still believe ECT is barbaric and horrific, despite being helpful for some. Jessica*, my love, the person I felt closest to on the planet, agreed to help me through some of them. It was going to be hard for her, I knew, but she agreed to shuttle me back and forth to the hospital, make soup, and feed me meds. I was so utterly terrified that seeing her face was the only thing that allowed me to lie on the table, and let them put me under. Her hugs afterward were all that kept me standing upright.

After the first six treatments, she had to get back to her life, which was to be expected, and another wonderful woman stepped in to help.

But Jessica never talked to me again. I called her and called her. I sent her emails. I left her jokes on her voicemail. But we never had another conversation.

My heart broke. It breaks still. The one person I thought would always be there for me had left. No note. No discussion. No explanation. Nothing. After six years, she just disappeared into the ether.

And, of course, there have been others. Those are but two. It took me years to stop feeling pangs over the first one. I’m still not over the last one. I wish them both well, but despise the way they have treated me. I deserve better than that.

Discarded Because I Am Bipolar

I’m not like everyone else. I am crazy. I am sick. I am bipolar. People abandon me without a word. People think it’s okay to treat me like that. People think it’s okay to use bipolar disorder as an excuse.

I look around, and I see a humanity that I’m not part of, a race that I’m not in, not because I feel that bipolars are intrinsically unequal or divergent, but because the world keeps showing me that I am. It isn’t about what the guy down the street thinks, or about what a columnist opines, or even how my family feels, it’s about these close, personal bonds being destroyed by something over which I have no control.

Yes, I'm crazy, I'm sick, I'm bipolar, I'm different. I know. Life keeps telling me so.

*Names changed

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, June 3). Bipolar as Love Thief: Discarded Because I Am Bipolar, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

June, 23 2010 at 7:08 pm

Here's the flip side. I'm curious about others' experiences losing friendships by your own making. The reason for my own eroding support network is indubitably because I shut people out and will not/cannot accept their help.
Have you lost friends you made during periods of "normalcy" because you dropped off the face of the Earth in your next cycle of depression?
I sometimes grieve over the loss and general absence of people in my life because they eventually give up on me at a time when being a friend to anyone feels like climbing the tallest mountain. Sadder yet, those I've tried to reconnect with have shut ME out, because it was I who let THEM down.
I wonder if I'll die alone because isolation is the nature of my disease.

Richard J.
June, 20 2010 at 12:35 pm

Wow, what a great blog and comments as well. A year ago a woman beautiful to me came back into my life, in one of those cool magical type ways and had been rapid cycling during that time, so it was like a god send and just started a new job right before so cool. I just lost her 2 months ago as a lover and partner after my last episode, and I barely here from now.Sucks I feel for all of you. She aloso comes from a family that are itellectual and diverse with loved ones that are afflicted,to some extent, so it is difficult for me to grasp her not either understanding. Tring to get a new dialog going sinse she is the only one person that knows me well enough to get or to realy be of service. Being positve is so difficult right now. Losing my train of thought now Oops. :0

Natasha Tracy
June, 10 2010 at 8:09 am

Hi Suzy,
I'm not sure how Emma's boyfriend does it, but I can tell you what helps for me.
Recognition that I _am_ hypomanic is helpful. I don't always realize that's what's going on, but someone outside of me often sees it quite obviously. If I trust someone completely, they can tell me this and it may help.
If someone encourages me to use my energy in a positive way, that can help. Someone can offer to go for a walk with me, or go to the gym or even just listen to my ramblings.
And, unfortunately, I know there will be a crash afterwords so anything that person can do to calm me down, and make the high less high may make the crash less nasty.
I guess it just comes down to acknowledgment, support, channeling of energy, and preparation.
It's individual, of course, but if you have a partner up for those things, they can help.
- Natasha

June, 10 2010 at 6:30 am

hi emma and all, you mention your bf helps bring you back to reality during manic spells. how? i would love suggestions on the right, helpful way to act during those times.

June, 10 2010 at 1:06 am

It's funny how this disorder seems to take over our lives and destroy our relationships. I lost my fiance, because in his words he could not "risk our children being bipolar too". How frustrating!!! I was left completely heartbroken, it took me years to trust anyone again.
Luckily, my current partner is extremely understanding. Before we ever entered a steady relationship, I explained that I was bipolar and he was surprised that I thought this was a big deal.He is so tolerant and helps me out in every way he can - bringing me back to reality during manic spells, and trying to lift me when I'm depressed.
I find my relationship with my parents has also suffered since I was diagnosed. I think they partially blame themselves for my illness, despite them being amazing parents. One thing that I find most annoying is that since my diagnosis, my parents overreact anytime I express an emotion. If i am upset over something, they ask if I have taken my medication, if I am excited, they think I am manic. I appreciate that they are trying to look out for me, but it is difficult to cope with this overprotective nature at times.
In regards to friendships, I find myself to be somewhat opposite - most people distance themselves entirely from my bipolar and if I ever bring it up, it is met by an awkward silence or a subject change. I have lost friends who can't understand why I cannot leave the house and attend to their every whim when I am crippled with depression. I suppose it is a shock to have a friend who is attentive, enthusiastic, a bit overbearing and intense, and suddenly she is replaced with someone who can barely even get energy to speak.

Natasha Tracy
June, 8 2010 at 9:37 am

Hi Suzy,
I'm sorry this person didn't tell you about his illness until things were serious, but please try to understand that this type of disclosure is extremely difficult to handle and makes us very vulnerable. It is very scary to tell someone this kind of thing about yourself.
That being said, you can't possibly be a single, long-term caregiver. You do need to be a member of a team for those hard times. The other person's health can't come at the expense of yours.
But you can't help someone that doesn't want to help themselves. I understand fear of being committed, but that can't stand in the way of getting better.
If this is your bottom line, then you need to be clear that if he isn't getting treatment, then you can't be with him. Treatment might be psychiatry, therapy, a support group (often free), but it sounds like you need to see that he is trying something. And while he is getting help, you should too. Find a good book on bipolar disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and give it a read.
Right now you're both alone dealing with something very frightening. You both can get support, bring it out into the light, and make it less scary.
Good luck. I hop this helps.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
June, 8 2010 at 9:28 am

It sounds to me like the issue in your relationship wasn't bipolar, it was a person who simply didn't treat you well. That isn't part of bipolar, that's just part of being a jerk. Bipolar might have complicated it, but that person sounds selfish and lying and otherwise not-so-great.
We all get scarred by relationships like that - I think you're perfectly normal. A local relationship might be easier to deal with rather than long distance.
And of course, you can always talk to a professional to work out some of the resulting issues. Sometime you just have to talk this sort of thing out.
And give yourself some time to heal. What you're describing hurts, and it takes time for that hurt to diminish.
This was just one really crappy person. That person was the anomaly. There's nothing wrong with you. You just need some time.
Good luck.
- Natasha

June, 8 2010 at 8:19 am

i am in a relationship with someone who is bipolar. he has a lifelong history of mental illness, and had been diagnosed with many disorders. of course he did not mention this until our relationship was serious. i am a very strong, patient, loving, caring woman. But i am not sure this is something i can deal with forever. i can not imagine living without him, but at the same time i crave peace and happiness and easiness. he can not afford therapy, and because of his past knows how to tell them what they want to hear anyway. he wont open up to them. i think he fears being committed again, and part of this disorder is about denial. he takes depakote for seizures and that helps bpd as well. i am willing to work with him and be a team. i am not willing to do it all myself. but i need help on how to get him to work with me. i am prepared to do a lot before i give up on him, but i will not give up myself to save him from himself. please help me!!! i would love tips and advice on how to help him help himself. thanks.

June, 8 2010 at 4:42 am

Has something similar happened to you with dating a bipolar person?
15 years after having a bipolar person fall madly in love with me professing his lifelong love for me and then telling me he never felt those things I am still broken.
It sorta makes sense in my head now how the bipolar affected our relationship; I know nothing can be so simplified but...
We had a few months of professed love. We were traveling from coast to coast and talking sometimes twice a day. But, on his second trip to me he told me he didn't feel the same way I felt toward him. We agreed to live in the now and see where it took us; It grew into what I thought was true feelings from his part toward me. But, in heinsight he was continuing to rely on me during his bipolor episodes to have emotional support from me with none from him to me.
My last trip to his coast to move to his side of the country he admitted he had been dating someone else who had even moved in with him. I had no idea even though we were talking twice a day; Well, I felt like he was cheating as there were signs. I move there and it was as if he was still with me. Luckily I did not stay with him; But, the other person had moved out and it was as if had never resided with him for 2 months...
I met the other person who had no qualms about cheating and said knew I was the other person.
I kept looking for reasons for the cheating; I don't know if it was a combinsation of the disease, real feelings of nothing for me or lack of respect for our relationship... I still don't know...
I still love this person but have no way of digging up this with them. I have so many unanswered questions that I cannot think of getting putting myself out there in the dating world. I have been trying to date but am emotionally stunted. I cannot get close to anyone like people usually do when they first start dating; My dates may look at me with googley eyes but all I can do is roll my eyes and must give off that I'm not interested. But, It's just that I don't feel love or amourous thought can happen anymore.
I don't know how this relates to this thread; I have googled cheating within bipolar relationships and the only thing that sorta related was 'love thief'...
I'm interested in hearing other folks similar situations to mine... It may help in my healing.

Natasha Tracy
June, 5 2010 at 6:18 am

Hi Margaret,
You are a real trooper. You pulled yourself up from a very dark and deep place at a very young age, not even knowing what adulthood was. That's amazing. You're amazing.
People deal with the diagnosis differently and disclosure is a personal decision. In my audio next week I'll be talking about "Bipolar Betty" a person I used to work with, and what happened to her.
But I will say that it _is_ their fault. Society affects us all, but we act individually. We all have to be held accountable for our behavior. If we choose to behave out of prejudice towards a group, yes, society might have influenced that decision, but the individual is the one who chose the action.
I refuse to let people off the hook just saying that there is a prejudice built into society. That's a cop-out for bad behavior. It is not OK to treat badly a race, a religion, disabled, or any other group of people. And it isn't OK to treat the mentally ill badly either - no matter what influences might be around you.
You're an amazing role model. Thank-you so much for sharing.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
June, 5 2010 at 6:10 am

Hi Kassie,
As a brilliant friend of mine once told me, "loving you is very expensive.". I'll write on it sometime.
It's really tough to have a friend who attempts suicide. It's really tough to have a friend that hurts themselves. It's really tough because there really is nothing you can do. You have to just be there for them. In the best way you can. Be supportive. Unfortunately, you can't talk them out of it, and you can't fix them.
This is a really hard reality to deal with, and yes, it breaks some people.
I don't think it's acceptable that she treated you that way. She had an emotional reaction to a situation and took it out on you. That not any fairing than your doing it to her. She made the choice to behave the way she did.
And you are brave to forgive. It's speaks well to your character.
I'm sorry that happened. Know that it doesn't always work that way. That's what I tell myself.
- Natasha

Margaret Denvil
June, 5 2010 at 4:44 am

I have been bipolar since the days it was called manic-depressive, and am now 67. When first diagnosed at a time before effective medication, I received dubious psychological diagnoses, then had many ECT treatments and was confined to the local Mental Hospital by my parents, who could never accept that I was not just 'acting out'. I lost all my friends, my Uni scholarship and it felt like everything. I worked by sheer willpower out of the Mental Hospital until I had a job and was considered able to be released. I was spitting all medication into the toilet at that time as it made me feel apart from the world. It was inappropriate. I then had to learn for the first time in my life to lie to hold a job. Fortunately, I then met a compassionate psychiatrist who was 'on my side'. She never diminished the bipolar issues, but concentrated on what I coulld stilll do well, and I have had two very good careers and a family since. I have had to learn, painfully, that most of our culture cannot cope with hearing the bipolar piece, so I keep that for my therapist and several enightened friends. I never speak of it otherwise, but use it in my understanding of other folks'
issues. It is painful to know that I have to keep part of myself off limits, but I do have a duty to protect myself too, particularly from the pain of mis-understanding and fear. It is not their fault. Our culture demands perfection, and mental illness rather than being as common as arthritis or diabetes, is just not yet 'kosher'. Margaret

June, 4 2010 at 9:44 am

Hi. I have lost friends over this as well. Only two has stuck by, but she is long distance now so it may be easier for her to deal with it then it is being right in front of it. My husband is the second. He is at his wit's end right now with me tho. He has no idea what else to do for me.
The last friend I lost, was because she just couldn't handle the suicide attempts that I had. I had 6 in one year, and now a 7th just a couple of weeks ago. She was lost as to what to do for me too. She said she talked to me until she was blue in the face but nothing went through. she was right, I didn't want to hear what other people had to say. I was feeling the way I felt and it wasn't changing. Even with changes in medications. She found my blog and found entries about her, and wanted to charge with slander (which was really lible because it was written). she said she had consulted a lawyer which obviously she didn't because she knew the wrong lingo to tell us. She called my husband over to their house and if I went I was going to be charged with trespassing. My husband went over there and she told him a lot of lies. That was the end for me. She was on our calling plan and I ended up shutting her phones off that night. She didn't know it was coming but why would I keep someone on my calling plan when they probably wouldn't pay anymore? She hurt me deeply, a knife through the heart. I thought she was a true friend, as she also had bipolar and I felt that she understood what I was going through. Obviously, she couldn't, I guess because she never went that far down. Lecture after lecture from her, I was getting tired of it anyway. She still wanted the friendship and said they wanted to sit down and "hammer this stuff out" but I was unwilling by that point. I was hurt beyond belief and was not going to open myself up for that again. She just couldn't realize how sick I was and how much help I needed at that point. I ignored her calls and emails for a long time, but eventually wrote her one where I forgave her for what she did to me but would never forget and that I didn't want the friendship aside from the email that I sent. It was very hard to write, but it was something that I had to do. I needed her to know that I forgave her for putting a knife through my heart. I'm sure she still blames me for everything and doesn't see that she played a big role in what happened. Life is life, and what she does with the email is her business. Forgiving is a hard thing to do, but when done, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

Natasha Tracy
June, 4 2010 at 5:56 am

Hi Claire,
You're struggling with the questions I have been thinking about for years. Relationships beak-up for a variety of reasons, but when it's ones own lifetime illness that is the cause, it's really hard to take.
But one thing I can tell you is that it will not always be the same. Might get better, might get worse, but it will change.
Yes, the bipolar will always be there, but you'll learn how to handle it better. I have over a decade in, and you do develop strategies. Hopefully you're getting some therapy, CBT, if you haven't already.
And as to you when you should tell someone, I recommend pretty darn soon into a relationship. I think you need to know upfront if the person even might be able to handle it. I think you need to tell them before you get too attached to them. But that's just me. I don't want to invest in someone who can't even handle my everyday life.
While I will often word it exactly as you have "inflict myself on someone" you shouldn't think of yourself that way. You have many amazing qualities. I don't know you, but I know that you do. And yes, there is this one really big scary thing about you too. But you are both. You have lots of things to offer someone else. You are not an infliction, you are a person. Imperfect. Like everyone else. Your partner could get sick at any time, too. They are not immune.
I'm sorry that happened to you. It's tragic. But you will move on. In time.
Good luck.
- Natasha

Claire Wallace
June, 4 2010 at 5:21 am

I can certainly relate. My partner and I had an absolutely fantastic relationship for the first two years, then in April 2008 not long after I went back to school to study Law, I was diagnosed with bipolar. Everytime I went back to the Dr and was put on different or increased dosages of meds, I seemed to only get worse, and had a severe depression lasting over 3 months which culminated in me attempting to take my own life by swallowing 180 Epilim. That was the beginning of the end for me and my partner I believe.... We were told it would take between 6 to 24 months to stabilize, but we were not prepared for the damage it would do to both of us. I improved moderately for a few months but spent the most part of 2009 in a deep depression, totally depersonalised, I'd put on about 40 kg (90 pounds).... Finally at the end if last year my Dr hit upon an effective med combo and I've improved consistently since, but it's too little too late. My partner came to see me as someone to be cared for, not an equal, and is totally emotionally burned out. She had an affair with someone else as an escapism instead of getting help. An now I am fairly recovered, she has broken up with me because um able to look after myself again. She doesn't want to try again because the bipolar will always be there. She says things like "but what if you got sick again and we were paying off a big mortgage and you couldn't work"... She doesn't feel secure with me as a partner any more. Bipolar has stolen that reliable part of my character away.... I feel guilty because I let her down and I wasn't able to meet her needs when I was so sick.... But I know also that it wasn't my fault.... I know too, that it isn't her fault. Some people just aren't equipped to deal with this stuff.... It's sad....
Bipolar stole the love of my life. I wonder. Will I ever have another relationship? If so when do I tell them about it? Is it right to inflict this on someone else again?

Natasha Tracy
June, 3 2010 at 4:19 pm

Hi Adriana,
I'm sorry to hear that you can relate like that. I know how hard it is. I know how painful it is to have people vanish without explanation.
Thanks for sharing your experience. It does actually feel good to know that someone else has had that happen to them.
- Natasha

June, 3 2010 at 11:15 am

When I was reading your text I couldn't stop thinking about the friends I lost after my first strong "manic episode". They realized I was crazy and gave up on me. Because I spent all my money (I don't know where...), I was very, very happy and talking too much... They thought it was easier to deal with someone with depression, when they knew I was bipolar, they vanished. I almost lost my partner too, and he still have prejudice agaist my disorder, e.g., he thinks if I really want I can be "normal" and avoid crisis...
Every person that left me never talked to me about it as it happened to you. And I feel sad because I keep my friends no matter how they are, I'm always trying to understand people without prejudice.
But, I still believe in people and I'm not shamed to be bipolar or crazy!

Natasha Tracy
June, 3 2010 at 9:17 am

Well, I can certainly see how that relationship might not work for you! We've all met people, ill or not, who are emotional vampires. People who only take in relationships and never give. People who are drama central. People who can only talk about one subject, whatever that may be. And I agree, limits have to be drawn so we can maintain our own health.
And certainly I respect when people talk to me about their own limits. When I care about someone, I don't want to hurt them. And, for the record, I'm not an emotional suck. I don't constantly talk about bipolar. In fact, most often I don't mention my illness or how I'm feeling at all. My friendships are about stepping out of that. Admittedly, when I was younger, I was less able to compartmentalize as successfully, but now, it's pretty prevalent.
Part of what really hurts in my case is that people leave without even talking to me about it. Without even saying anything was wrong. I know how challenging this disease is. I wouldn't want to deal with it either. But when I love and respect a person I don't just abandon them because it's hard, and when I need space, or boundaries I talk to them about it. That, at least, would be a reasonable way of dealing with it.

June, 3 2010 at 9:05 am

This reminded me of a friend I once had. I met her in an intensive outpatinet program. She was really sweet and well-meaning but she was very intense. Very needy. I don't blame her Bi-Polar but her insistence to not accept it, therefore sabotaging herself at every turn. I started avoiding some of her calls because they were incessant. I felt like I was "stuck in sick" when I was around her. She only wanted to talk about Bipolar and her substance abuse, sponsor, etc (she also was rehabbing for drug addiction). It became too much when she once asked me to dump her pills (that she had gotten the night before at an ER for her fake back pain) and do some crazy ritual over the toilet that I am guessing they do in AA or whatever. I tried to let her down easy after she didn't get that I am not answering my phone for a reason and she left a "dear john" vm that sounded like a suicide note. She was exhausting. I don't think she was exhausting because of her Bipolar. Her parents bailed her out of every situation she ever had been in so she never took responsibility for herself. All of this happened after my first meltdown and hospitalization and I was still trying to be stabilized with meds. It was just an unhealthy relationship all around.

Leave a reply