Loving Relationships - What We Bring to the Table

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I wish I could figure out loving relationships. Last week, in a post entitled Domestic Violence and Mental Illness, I observed:

    I won't mince words here. Even if we are loving and compassionate and caring people, even if we are not engaging in any type of abusive behavior, our illness has the cumulative effect of wearing our partners down to the breaking point. They feel spent, violated. And - irony of ironies - many wind up as depressed as we are.

    Vanessa took strong exception to my statement, noting in a comment:

    Although you are, perhaps, referring still to those with bipolar disorder who are not fully well, the statement seems to be a blanketed and overarching one. Some of us do not have partners who "wear us down to the breaking point." Instead, we see the beauty of a person who is dealing with a debilitating illness and STILL is loving and compassionate.

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    Thank you, Vanessa, for speaking out. Yes, I do feel it is my duty to point out the downside of our illness, which often includes the hell we put our partners through, but I would be remiss not to validate and amplify your comments. Indeed, in loving relationships, we bring a whole lot to the table, and I think it starts with the transformative experience you hint at in your reply.

    Certainly, none of us planned on having bipolar. The deal, as we understood it way back when we were growing up, was to expect a reasonably smooth passage into adulthood with maybe a few detours and hair-raising adventures along the way. Instead, our brains got mugged. Our air supply got cut off. Our world spun out of control.

    Just like that, the deal changed. Instead of success and companionship and love, we found ourselves marginalized and isolated and on many occasions despised. As social outcasts, we lost our confidence and sense of self-worth, forced to endure endless rounds of hardship, humiliation, and deprivation.

    Believe me, after you’ve lived a life as a nobody long enough, you are never the same. Sadly, many of us lose the battle. We may not be technically dead. Clinically dead but breathing, is how I would describe it.

    But those of us who get through it describe something akin to a spiritual awakening, an emergent sense of greater closeness to one’s own humanity and divinity. We may never lead the lives we once imagined, but in many ways we are leading much better lives than we ever could have imagined.

    Is this a quality that can light up the lives of those around us?

    Nassir Ghaemi in his recently released “A First Rate Madness” endorses what a lot of us already know - that our personal suffering makes us far more sensitive to the needs of others. We are attuned. We are accepting. We reach out. We respond with compassion.

    Crazy thing, we the “crazy” are natural healers and nurturers. Often, our own self-stigma prevents us from seeing this. We tend to over-ruminate on our failings, downplay what makes us special to others, and take ourselves out of the relationship game.

    Why do we do this to ourselves? We who have so much to offer. Clearly. Vanessa is telling us something. Clearly, we need to be listening.

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    Consider this the beginning in a conversation on loving relationships. Please feel free to share your wisdom and insight. Comments below ...     

Published On: October 30, 2011