More on Bipolar Relationships - The Sunny Side

John McManamy Health Guide
  • This is my third in what is turning into a series of pieces on loving relationships - the good, the bad, and the ugly. My first piece - Domestic Violence and Mental Illness - focused on what is not so good. Just so there are no misunderstandings: There is no link between bipolar and violence, but we do need to be mindful of the emotional wear and tear we place on our partners.

    But for anyone willing to put up with us, we represent the best the human condition has to offer. Last week - in What We Bring to the Table - I brought up our seemingly limitless capacity for empathy, and how this makes us natural healers and nurturers. Basically, in our journey, when things are falling apart, many of us experience something akin to a spiritual awakening. We sense a closeness to our own divinity and humanity, which translates into an uncommon ability to connect with others.

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    In support of this, Cindy posted these words of wisdom from Elizabeth Kubler Ross:

    The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  Those people have an appreciation - a sensitivity and an understanding of life - that fills them with compassion, gentleness and deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen!

    Sadly, too many of us - we the beautiful -  fall into the isolation trap, which is the topic for a future post.

    As for all the other things we bring to the table, I would describe it this way: We represent everyone else’s personal entertainment system. Call us a walking highlight reel, a greatest hits collection, a top 100 list - when we walk into a room someone is going to want to take us home.

    This represents the sunny side of bipolar, one that lights up the lives of all we encounter. I frequently have to remind beleaguered partners that this is what they were attracted to in the first place. Yes, chronically normal has its strong points, but when you are looking to hear “God”, “neuron”, “Einstein”, and “A Love Supreme” in the same sentence, only bipolar delivers.

    Kay Jamison, in her 2004 book, "Exuberance," quotes Kipling describing a meeting with Teddy Roosevelt: "I curled up on the seat opposite and listened and wondered until the universe seemed to be spinning around and Theodore was the spinner."

    Dr Jamison does not refer to TR as having bipolar, but many others have, noting both his manic (bordering on dangerously crazy) tendencies and his massive depressions. Significantly, TR’s dark side imbued him with the kind of powers of reflection and introspection that seem to elude those the hopelessly normal. This is someone who read a book a day and wrote 40 books.

    So as well as a personal entertainment system, those lucky enough to take a bipolar home with them are privileged to snuggle up to a deep thinker. Plus an empathic healer and nurturer. Wow! What’s the catch?

    Oh, that’s right. We’re bipolar.  

    But normal is not what it’s all cracked up to be. In his book, "A First-Rate Madness," Nassir Ghaemi describes a classic study from the 1960s by Roy Grinker of a group of college-aged men he deemed to be mentally healthy and normal. The catch was they suffered a bad case of “average-itis.” They conformed to a norm, but hardly represented an ideal. Dr Grinker even came up with a term for these dreary and unimaginative individuals - homoclites, “those who follow a common rule.”

  • Why would anyone want to be stuck in a relationship with a homoclite?

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    Oh, that’s right. They don’t have bipolar.

    Much more to come ...

Published On: November 06, 2011