Women Are From Venus Men Are From Mars And Dating An Untreated Manic Depressive Will Suck Both Into A Black Hole

One of the first things I did after I was diagnosed with manic depression, when I finally had a name to put on the destructive set of behaviours I had been living with, was admit myself into a hospital the first time I became suicidal. It was my decision… I thought at best it would be a place where I could learn something about adjusting the behaviours or simply something about the disease. At worst I’d get a new pair of slippers.

Between diagnosis and being admitted into the hospital I also decided it would be best to break up with my girlfriend. It wasn’t easy, I was eighteen and in love. I didn’t know what the disease was or what it was going to take to control it, but I knew it wasn’t something I wanted her to be a part of… from what I can remember I think the recovery process I saw laying ahead was something I had to do without other commitments.

Unfortunately I didn’t learn much during those four weeks, and I proceeded to spend the next fourteen years living untreated and unmedicated. And I still dated. Not often, my brother is the speed dater, I had Relationships. And once I felt comfortable in those Relationships I made sure to explain to each woman I had manic depression. There was nothing about it I could explain because I really had no idea what it meant… I didn’t have the ability to make them understand what it would be like dating someone with a major depressive illness who could also spend several days speeding like a meth addict.

But no one seemed to be scared off, in fact once I had admitted to having some kind of major flaw, a couple of them clamped on to me a little harder. I think some of them saw the poetry and writing I was doing as being the outward expression of the disease, and somehow that made it safe… or “dangerous”. Or maybe they heard “depression” and thought “soulful”. I don’t know. But I wasn’t [always] using the words “manic” and “depression” to score chicks, I was trying to warn them… I was trying to give them an out. I knew what the behaviours were, even if I couldn’t explain them to the potential girlfriend — or anyone else. I knew I couldn’t and I know I wouldn’t date someone exhibiting the same behaviours…

Most of the women I’ve dated were damaged in their own way… I have a substantial history of trying to protect and… I guess ‘cure’ women of whatever crap they’ve become buried in. I’ve chased off abusive ex-boyfriends and tried to give girls then women a safe place to hide from their massively screwed up home life… my point is I’ve taken on responsibilities and tried to solve problems. And I think in any relationship we should take on certain responsibilities… like if she’s going through a bankruptcy, or a doctor finds a lump.

But if she suddenly decides every piece of furniture needs to be taken to the backyard and burned; or maybe only she has the power to stop a comet from destroying Earth so she has to strip naked, steal a boat to get into the middle of the river where the Power is Greatest; or maybe she can’t leave her bed for two days; or she’s inventing problems to justify the depth or her depressions… I’d have to get the fuck out of there.

Being tossed into a situation where I would have to react to any of those scenarios would be too much. Even as someone who is now properly medicated and in treatment and learning about mental illness I could never be in a relationship with someone untreated or someone just starting their treatment. There’s no way. It’d be like two alcoholics getting together… and someone five-years sober is way more likely to relapse when in a relationship with someone who just got their blue two-month chip.

In fact one of the things they tell you in AA is to Not date another alcoholic. I think the same thing should definitely apply to people with a mental illness, but I’d go further and recommend no one date an untreated person… period.

Last Spring a woman left a long comment on one of my first posts… she was trying to figure out if she should date someone with manic depression. This is some of what I wrote:

“Patient and persistent people will exhaust themselves and ruin their lives caring for someone with Manic Depression. You are not trained, you are not a nurse. You may be someone great for your friends to talk to and share with and communicate, but communication is not your friends problem, he has a disease…

“If he’s unmedicated and living that life, the only reason you might want to stay is if you have a need to be a mothering nurse to him. Unmedicated Manic Depressives are blackholes for your emotions and energy. There is absolutely nothing you can do to fix them, and there is absolutely nothing they can do to get better without medications and a good doctor.”

On any average untreated depressed day we are shiftless and moody and cranky and depressed and dark and tired and really, really fucking annoying. But as much as we’ll play self-serving games of “Pity Me”, we’re not as likely to physically hurt someone else as on our manic days when we are a danger to ourselves and the people around us… ever been out driving with someone in a full on manic? Ever hung out with someone who believes they can fly?

Quite frankly someone exhibiting the manic mannerism of ‘forgetting the consequences of every action’ would drive me fucking crazy… while I was in the hospital I met a news photographer who bought new furniture when he went manic. His wife would come home to a yard filled with that mornings living room set, and a living room filled with the new stuff. When I go manic I can’t stop fucking talking, even when I can see I’m being patiently tolerated…

My manics aren’t such a huge problem as the downs, however. But imagine dating someone who can’t wash themselves for a week because they’re too crippled by depression, or who can’t speak to your friends, or who can’t be outside… or imagine having to contemplate your lover has committed suicide because they haven’t responded to your phone calls this week. The women I’ve dated while untreated went through each of these over and over because they became stuck in my gravitational pull…

I’ve had a few people ask me through this blog, and in my Offline life, if they should take a chance on someone who has either just started treatment or who hasn’t yet started treatment for a mental illness… and, based on my own experience, there’s no way I could ever give that recommendation. I really don’t think it would be fair for either person.

Eventually the women I’ve dated while untreated realized the complete lack of motivation I exhibited was not a lifestyle choice and moved on… I believe they came to the realization the time they spent trying to motivate me or urge me forward or listen to my stories or put up with my crap was a complete waste of time for both of us. At the same time it’s interesting to look back and see how much they grew during our time together while I acted like a signpost for where they started…




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Classic, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Intervention, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mary, Mental Health. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Women Are From Venus Men Are From Mars And Dating An Untreated Manic Depressive Will Suck Both Into A Black Hole

  1. thordora says:

    My husband is going to therapy (finally!) and to be honest, one of my biggest fears is that they will find out that he’s also mentally ill (schizophrenia runs in his family). I keep telling myself it would have manifested by now, but the fear is still there.

    What bothers me is I don’t think I could handle it. I have enough trouble dealing with me, even medicated me. And then I feel guilty because he’s stuck by me through all of this.

    The manic can’t stop talking….oh boy, is that not fun. Being helpless and in thrall to my mouth sucks….but imagining being on the other side of that? ICK.

    We need t-shirts, us crazies. 🙂

  2. bromac says:

    My husband is the reason I am treated. He has saved me. Though, he also has ‘issues’ that he has had towork through. I have been in counseling for years, b/c of him, and he has just recently ended his counseling for anger. We are at a place that I don’t think either of us ever imagined we could get to.

    There is no other man on this planet who could help me the way that he has. I know that and I am eternally grateful to him.

    I am BPII. I don’t know if that matters. Many times I can not identify with your mania. I guess my symptoms are lessened all around, but my depression is certainly crippling.

    Incidentally, I am weaning off medication, for procreation purposes. So, we’ll see how far my husband and I have come in the last several years. I have already been battling this morning.

    But, back to the topic. I think it can be done, as people like Thor and I (and all other married bpd’s can attest to), but it is only a very, very special person who is able to achieve that kind of selflessness. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

  3. exactscience says:

    I was reading the post with a little knot in my stomach growing and growing, wanting to tell you you were wrong. I wish you were, it might make it easier.

    I was in a relationship with someone who I loved and then someone else both ended because of my mentalism.

    The first was for tumultuous I went from depressed to full on manic and back to depressed, she remained evenly depressed. We spent a great deal of time inviting each other in and then shutting them out from the pain. We couldn’t decide if the other was help or hindrance. What I will say is that the good times when the crazy tipped out of heads for awhile was fucking awesome, maybe vice versa.

    The second girl, was a friend, she took me A and E after a suicide attempt and we started dated two months later. I mistook care for love and mania for my love. Mania meant I moved too fast too quickly and when the depression hit I kicked out against her (metaphorically) and blamed her. It ended horribly with me in a pit of depression trying to get her to hate me for ending the relationship just so I had a reason for the depression.

    The first relationship may have lasted, I am both happy and sad it didn’t, we spent too much time accidentally hurting each other. The second one I am ashamed of what I did, I was undiagnosed and untreated and thats my only defense.

    I am attracted to crazies, I don’t know why – maybe its that On The Road bit about the only people for me. Also I like to believe my relationships didn’t last as long as they did out of a sense of duty created by the fall into a black hole.

    I wanted to disagree with you Gabe, I really did, but I have to agree given my past actions

  4. dame says:

    I’d tend to agree with you as well, although i seldom like to say ‘never’ or ‘always’ about most anything. certainly it would take special people to care for such a relationship, and i still believe in special people, so, yanno.
    i’ve only known a couple people who dealt with manic episodes, and their relationships failed consistently, but it seemed whenever they were manic, they’d feel good, stop meds and were off running … so the fact they weren’t regularly treated would have a great deal with struggling, if not entirely impossible, relationships.
    The two alcoholics analogy is a good one, although i’ve also seen couples seek treatment to kick the hooch together and succeed, so there are always those few people that seem to be exceptions to the rules.

  5. bine says:

    i feel i should comment on this, but i can’t.
    i’m grateful for the insight though. it’s priceless.

  6. Kitty says:

    Such an honest post, Gabriel.

    My sister in law divorced her BP husband because he refused to take his meds. He was like a different man when he was untreated, not the man she married. It was really sad because he was such a great guy.

  7. Gabriel... says:

    I think the Alcoholic analogy holds up… if someone has a partner who is an alcoholic you can bang your head against their disease for years, they are not going to accept their role in getting better or do anything about it until they’re good and ready and by then you’ve spent half your life living in a shack down by the river with four kids and a dog with three legs.

    If someone with their bipolar left untreated goes manic at random intervals, or can’t fend for themselves for ten days at a time, then you’re either living in a state of fear or panic or confusion for as long as they’re untreated. There are far too many failures and disasters… as far as I’m concerned the woman currently dating me is taking a chance even though I’m treated and closer to being sane than I ever have been. In America, for example, marriages where at least one person has manic depression the divorce rate is around 90%… and that’s counting both treated and untreated manic depression.

    And I really do mean fear… I’m a relatively minor-manic (talktalktalktalktalktalktalktalktalkwalkintotraffictalktalk), but if I had the manics my little sister used to have — which involved having to get places no matter who was in her way so she could save Earth — people would have ended up in the hospital. When BiPOne’s get into their Manic Mode the safeguards really do come off, they become very acutely focused on whatever bizarre fantasy their brain shoots at them… not every manic episode is the same of course, but it’s not like we choose when we’re going to have them or what level they’re going to finish.

    If X starts exhibiting the behaviours associated with a mental illness after a relationship has started, there can be a role for Y. Documenting the behaviours is a good first step… videotaping or making an audiotape of the behaviours would be good. But the last thing someone on a manic high wants to see or hear is a lecture or pamphlet telling him he’s out of control… how could he be when he’s controlling The Universe? If you can get him to a doctor, great… but taking an alcoholic to an AA meeting doesn’t mean he’s in recovery, or that your life is going to improve.

    You’re right Bromac, there will always (heh) be exceptions to any rule, and absolutists are all crazy.

  8. thordora says:

    “But the last thing someone on a manic high wants to see or hear is a lecture or pamphlet telling him he’s out of control…”

    My husband used to do stuff like that all the time. It would send me immediately into a spinning rage.

    Thankfully, once I pointed it out to him, he stopped.

  9. bromac says:

    “In America, for example, marriages where at least one person has manic depression the divorce rate is around 90%… and that’s counting both treated and untreated manic depression.”

    Well, that’s depressing! And enlightening at the same time, I feel special.

  10. bipolarworks says:

    I don’t believe that this is true with the right person. My experience has been otherwise.

  11. Good post. I’ve wrestled with this question so many times over. Well, not “wrestled” with it, just pondered it. If you’re mentally ill, regardless of Bipolar/Manic Depression–whatever the diagnosis–which would work out best? Getting involved with another person with a dx or someone without?

    I have dated two women very briefly who carried diagnoses: Once while I was untreated and not even diagnosed (she was diagnosed with Bipolar and being treated.) The other was diagnosed with Depression; I was diagnosed (incorrectly then) with Depression so we were both being treated.

    Neither worked out. Now, was that due to instability within ourselves or simply because the relationships just…pfft?

    Actually, looking back with the former, she was a bit unstable. With the latter, I seemed too unstable.

    However, I have dated (again, briefly!) other women that have not carried diagnoses while untreated and the question still remains, did any of my behaviour nuke the situation or did it fall apart simply because they were no longer interested or I wasn’t.

    I know with one, it wasn’t because of my behaviour at all! In fact, she seemed just as “crazy” as me. But I found out the real reason much later, after the fact, why she dumped me.

    Another while I was untreated? I left her as I wasn’t interested. She didn’t have a dx.

    My only two long term relationships were with one woman who had no diagnosis (although in hindsight, I believe she needed some serious therapy as her father committed suicide as did her sister who had Schizophrenia.) I left her.

    The other was ex-partner and out or respect for her, I would rather not get into her mental health history. There is a tiny bit there, however.

    Nonetheless, ex-partner did not have Bipolar as I do so obviously I was a bit more of a handful.

    Like dame, I would never say “no” or completely disregard the opportunity if I really fell in love with the person. I don’t like to be black and white about issues or people.

    Still, could it be an absolute disaster? It is entirely possible! If everyone starts going nuts at the same time or even if one person starts going nuts and the other person can’t take it…

    On the other side, all individuals are different. And all relationships are different. You could still have a complete disaster on your hands with someone who isn’t mentally ill.

    I know you have written and approached this from an “untreated” perspective and I’ve taken it perhaps more in the “treated” direction. We can all have relapses, though.

    Maybe I’m a fence sitter or again, maybe I just believe that every individual and situation is different. And yes, to echo dame as well, it does take special (and patient) people to deal with it, but they are out there. And, the special and patient people are both people in the relationship.

    It takes two to tango, right?

    Oh, and I’m also the type of person that’s a total “care giver.” Ingrained since childhood from parenting my parents.

  12. markps2 says:

    This sounds trollish but anyways.
    Gab. wrote “you’ve spent half your life living in a shack down by the river with four kids and a dog with three legs.”

    I would have really liked to had that life of living on the river ( with a woman)and having four loving kids and a family dog.

  13. Gabriel... says:

    The dog has a really bad case of kennel cough and won’t stop humping your leg…

  14. God bless my crazy Husband for seeing me through my unmedicated “I SWEAR I’LL BE FINE!” years. I think he’s insane for having done it, but he stuck by me and helped me through finding the right meds and now, recovery and living.

    I have no idea how I would’ve survived without him.

    I still think he’s a little off his rocker to have dared, though. Makes me even more grateful for him.

    Great post!

  15. voodoo child says:

    My brother also was bp . He never would medicate
    He was one of those who did lots of street drugs. He could not have a relationship of any sort, with anyone except his mother. Its sad he went to a shrink for a settlement. He was treated for depression. Your post helps me to understand his plight.

  16. Gabriel... says:

    Voodoo: Anything I can do to help out… it’s more typical than not for someone with manic depression to self-medicate with some sort of drug. If you ever come back I’d be interested to know what you meant by this: “Its sad he went to a shrink for a settlement.”

    Mercurial: I’ve had a few people… girlfriends in my life who thought they could do me some good by sticking with me, and to some extent I knew that’s what they wanted to do… there’s something to the idea we set ourselves up for failure on occasion as almost a test for the loyalty of those around us. I’m definitely grateful for the people in my life right now… the only ones left from Before, however, would be my immediate family.

  17. only4now says:

    My husband finally opened up to me that he is very depressed. I wonder if it is manifesting on it’s own or brought about by my depression.

    Am I making him blue? Does living with someone who is BP make an seemingly happy person sad?

    I think he dropped as low as I did this last time. It cannot be good for a person to live with a depressed individual, can it?

  18. voodoo child says:

    Thanks Gabriel, He was diagnosed bp long years ago. A few years ago he got hurt offshore. In getting a settlement and disability, he never got meds for bp. I don’t think he told the doctor that he was bp, to not to hurt his case. Well he died for the second and last time, August before last. He shut every one out and took control of our mother. For a few years before that. It’s hard because we were very close except for the last 10 years.

  19. Hi only4now, this is not my blog, nor my topic, but I’m going to jump into the foray re: your comment.

    I’m going to, again, say my “Everyone is individual,” line.

    However, I think how our illness can manifest itself will have emotional effects on our partners. They are human. But I think it is just a question of how. Will they be long lasting, or will they be able to move on after our “manifestations,” and we stabilize? It depends.

    The most important thing is that we do not blame ourselves. We have an illness. It may make us feel sad, guilty…who knows, but hopefully if the relationship can work, you can communicate about these things. Just like your husband recently told you that he was depressed, right?

    As far as your husband, I don’t know. Perhaps you can start communicating a bit further about it and see. Perhaps he can seek some medical attention, and investigate in that manner. In fact, I think that would be a good idea, regardless.

    The reason that I say this is because of two things you wrote in your comment. The first is that he “finally” told you. This sounds like it’s been going on for some time?

    The second is that you said you thought he dropped as low as you did recently. If he did have a very large drop in mood…well, maybe he should speak to a doctor, don’t you think?

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