“The rule of unconditional love; it is in the giving that you make the other person realize.”
This is a love story. Not a typical love story. But I love story about unconditional love and the soul’s ability to see beyond what is seemingly in front of you. Love isn’t blind. Love is what makes it possible to truly see a person, no matter their faults. And yes—it’s the longest of the blogs I have ever written……..
I met Paul unofficially in April 2013 via friends of friends on Facebook. I was in the midst of struggling with deep depression and anxiety. In only the way the Universe knows how, Paul became my guide and teacher. He is bipolar. He understood what it felt like to feel swallowed in darkness. We chatted everyday on Facebook. I officially met him in June 2013 at a show I was hosting called “Dancing the Wheel.”
Did you ever have a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a long time? And when you saw them, you just couldn’t stop hugging them? That’s how it was when we met in person. I just couldn’t stop hugging him. In a strange way, he saved me. He was the one, who after years of struggling with anxiety and depression, finally convinced me to go on medication. I was at the time, married, albeit despondently and I only saw Paul as friend. My husband was supportive of me, but tended to take things personally when it came to my depression and anxiety—and it was hard for me to deal with that. When you suffer from depression/anxiety-it’s usually irrational;’ people just can’t take things personally.
Our friendship did a bit of 180 when our roles were reversed. I met Paul over coffee and we went for a walk. Shortly after, Paul’s illness exacerbated and he became very depressed. Ironically—I became the one coaching him. After years of therapy and finally being on meds—I changed. I changed a lot. I became a completely different person. So coaching him was easy for me—because I saw myself in him.
A few months before this, my marriage started falling apart. I was changing. I became more independent—something I hadn’t been in years. And for the entire time I was hand holding—I know in my heart that I got married for the wrong reasons. I was afraid of being alone, I needed to prove a point—and my husband and I just drifted. It’s no one’s fault when a marriage ends—sometimes people float apart because of growth.
My friendship with Paul was just that—and remained that for many months—a friendship. I didn’t find being around him difficult, even though he insisted he was. Bipolar is one of the illnesses where you as a friend or family member—need to learn to step back and not take things personally. Moods fluctuate like night and day—and if you are not able to step back and realize that it’s the illness and NOT the person—that relationship will never work. Sometimes we just hung out and watched movies—other times I would let him vent and cry or do whatever he needed to do. I was his friend—I wasn’t going to give up on him and I wasn’t going to let go. When a friend is in a state like that—you don’t just walk away. Whenever he needed me—I would be there. Depression sucks. It sucks badly. It’s hard and people who don’t “get it” don’t understand what it means to have someone there to—well—just be there. When someone can just listen and not expect anything. The whole time—I always reminded Paul that I had him—“I got you.”
When my marriage finally ended—and I filed for divorce—I still remained friends with Paul. And then one day-after months of friendship—and shared endings and beginnings…and a mutual understanding of what it feels like to feel depressed and anxious and not have anyone “get it”, he told me he was falling in love with me. And I found that I had fallen in love with him. It wasn’t out of sympathy-and it wasn’t out of trying to save him-and it damned well was not because my marriage had failed and I needed a rebound. It was because, unequivocally -I saw myself in him and him in me. And that’s that.
My therapist was very watchful of me—she told me that being in a relationship with someone who is bipolar is not easy. I can tell you—that’s not true. In fact, since we have been together-I have had no issues whatsoever dealing with the ups and downs of what comes with Paul’s illness. It’s not hard being with someone bipolar if you can separate the person from the illness—and that’s not the easiest thing to do. I need to sometimes, walk away and remind myself, when he is grumpy or moody—that it’s not me. We know when we need our “personal” time—and if he gets to overwhelming he does not get offended when I grab my book and hide in our meditation room for some quiet time.
You also have to be an amazing listener—with a great filter. When hypomania kicks in and the rambling goes on—you need to be able to filter. It doesn’t mean that you are not given the person your un-devoted attention—it just means that you know they are experiencing a different state of mind and will talk about EVERYTHING. You can’t get annoyed. You can’t tell them to shut up. You just need to put a strainer on your brain and let things go.
You also have to be able to be a major support—and by that—I mean being able to take care of yourself so you can support your friend/lover/family member with bipolar when shit hits the fan. You need to be able to be strong enough-that when you hear things from them that may hurt (like discussing suicidal thoughts) that you can handle it and know what to say and how. And that is not always easy.
The most important part about being in a relationship with someone who is bipolar—is that you need to be able to have 100% unconditional love for that person; that you accept them as they are. They are not broken. They are especially not broken if you are able to be that extra puzzle piece they need to push forward and not give in.
I am so proud of Paul—everyday……having a mental illness is not easy. He makes me proud every day.
This is the first time, I can say, ever in my life—that I truly know what it means to love and care for someone completely. Despite his illness-he brings out the best in me—so much so that my friends, family and coworkers have noticed how much I have changed.
No one is obligated to love you. And you are not obligated to love someone. Love can only last a lifetime if it’s unconditional. Love is not governed by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.