Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Failed at Love Again or Just Another Manic Episode (I'm Bipolar, You Know)

One Sunday, while still depressed from yet another love affair gone south, I came across a quote from Wolfgang Goethe: "If I love you, what business is it of yours?" A lightning bolt struck me as I realized that being in love has nothing at all to do with the other person. It's like saying to her "I love you, but it has nothing to do with you". All these women I had fallen in love with over the years; all these infatuations, lusts and compulsions were about me and me alone! But what about everything I learned? I had believed those relationship people who said couples are drawn together to resolve issues from their childhood. My spirituality took a hit since I also believed that falling in love was really two souls drawn together to further their eternal healing and rise up closer to God. What about the evolution angle? If we don't have instinct getting some of us together, we would surely become extinct, right? Still those dang words of Goethe are so clear to me. If falling in love has nothing to do with her, then something surely must be wrong with me.

When I fall in love, I lose my ego boundaries. All I think of is being with her.

I don't eat. I lose interest in important things like my job, my bills, and my friends. I'm moving a million miles a minute like some hyperactive child... well, like a maniac. So I looked it up. Mania manifests as hyperactivity, grandiose behaviors, unreasonable assumptions and at times, high-risk behavior. So that's it, I'm manic! No wait! There's a sadness I feel too, a stressful kind of depression going on. If her voice wasn't on the phone, then I'd rather not talk. I'd die a thousand deaths waiting for my email to be answered. Did she read it? Is she ignoring me? Is she reading another man's email? Where's my cell phone? Is it charged? I would call myself to make sure it worked! I doubted myself constantly. I promised and I prayed. Argh! I couldn't get up off the couch but I sure could jump towards the window when I heard anything resembling the sound of her car door slamming. Of course, all sounds were remarkably similar to the sound of her car door slamming. Isn't that depressing? I looked that up too and now I'm both manic and depressed (and obviously confused).

So what triggers this love stuff? Why her and not her (nod head left to right). Why now and not then? The distinct and brutal clarity I derived from Mr. Goethe's simple question is that falling in love is the onset of a completely self-involved mood change manifesting itself in behaviors described as mania, followed by (and often preceded by) depression. I looked that up too. The Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual (DSM IV) defines these alternating mood swings as Bipolar Disorder. So that's it! I have a mood disorder!

Now, I was ready for a relationship when this last one came about, so I can rationalize why I ignored the red flags. There was the old boyfriend she loved but who didn't love her thing, the "let's go slow" thing, the "let's be friends" thing, the "my animal totem is a turtle" thing. Flags? What flags? I didn't care! Sure, I can be a friend. Yeah, slow is good-sure, sure, I can do slow. Heck, I would have done anything: I just wanted a girlfriend. I could see she was starting to fall for me, too. Well, she tried to, anyway. There was the come here - go away thing, the wonderful huggy-kissy coffees by the river one day but the next day I'd feel like an autism therapist... here turtle, turtle. I was confused. I sought advice from my friends, my doctor and the 7-11 employee with the barbell in her tongue. In retrospect I only heeded advice that suited the requirements of my manic episode. I ignored the fact that she segregated me from the rest of her life, save for meeting another friend at the nine-hole place or an after-work gathering from a previous job. I ignored my friends' admonitions about always being available. I listened to the "Go out and win it!" instead of the "What's in it for me, anyway?"

Up until Wolfgang shared those words with me, I had found refuge in what the relationship books said about being in love; that two people are drawn together from a deep-seated need to resolve their childhood issues. Well that appears pretty selfish now, doesn't it? Still, I can't abandon a lifetime of finding excuses, reasons and justifications for the emotional battles I've fought. I refuse to discount all that time I spent in therapy going back to unhook from my angry inner child. Besides, me and my little inner guy finally have an agreement.

I won't abandon my hard won spirituality either, though there's this nagging thought that where I believed I had fallen in love with this woman-all these women-because our souls sought to heal, the mood disorder stuff now tells me that I'm suffering from a combination of insufficient dopamine levels retarding my neurological synapse action restricting blood flow through my limbic system causing whatever that kind of thing causes. Well, disorder or not, my God and my soul stay put. Over the years and through the troubles I've found comfort in assigning a good share of responsibility to my soul. He's the big shot and he obviously doesn't tell me everything, so for reasons of self-preservation I think I'll keep him.

My behavior in this last affair was particularly troubling. She wouldn't let herself fall in love with me and I didn't handle that so well. It showed. Why is emotional dissonance so powerfully disrupting? Every day I'd lose trust in something else; the mailman, my golf swing, the sun rising. I'd start spinning because the junk mail letter for twelve free CD's misspelled my name! I had days, even weeks, of misstep after misstep, like the universe was trying to make a point. One day in particular I was having a terrible time. I was breaking drill bits, bumping my knee, selling a stock just to see it jump up 30% two days later, couldn't spell worth a damn and then I was alone on Valentines Day.

This was the most intense relationship I'd never been in. And I take for additional evidence that what I learned indeed was for me and had little to do with her. She was a catalyst for my journey, acting as a mirror or sounding board. Throughout this episode, I picked up one spiritual book after another; Celestine Visions; Seat of the Soul; The Four Agreements; God on a Harley. I found solace in rocks - spiritual vibrations to sooth my soul. I had my palms read, my chart charted and my numbers numerologied. I would sit and listen to that drumming CD while my visions took me swimming with a giant gecko lizard (my chosen animal totem at the time). Jeesh! Is this love as the Lutherans taught me?

Like most people in the midst of turmoil, I knew I'd get by. A friend once said she could handle the breakup of a relationship. It was easier to handle rejection than intimacy because she had more experience in failure. Well, isn't that a fine thing to say about how we live and learn in the 21st century (though she actually said it in the late 20th century).

Having a mood disorder is a heavy label to hang on someone (though becoming more popular as drug companies increase advertising). It isn't as popular as codependence, but it's getting there, and rightly so. Just as we believed the earth was the center of our universe, only to eventually agree with Copernicus that we are not, and just as we believed that alcoholism was a moral dilemma caused by a lack of will power and moral turpitude, only to discover a genetic component, so will we find in the comfort of a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis the means (and medication) to accept a bit more of ourselves and cope yet one more day, through one more rejection. Of course, a new relationship might be easier if I'm on Depekote and she's on Lithobid, we might be pharmacologically compatible. Only our therapist would know for sure. I read that fish oil helps this condition. Omega 3. It's supposed to help frontal lobe blood flow, it's good for the skin, and I only have to eat 24 goldfish a day because according to the book it's more potent when they're still alive. I got the book at the airport from a young bald guy wearing robes.

Just why is it a "disorder" anyway? Isn't bipolar just another version of individual? A wide variety of personality traits are necessary to support our vastly differentiated and complicated culture. Just because teachers have to work harder and parents get angrier and people like me end up in sales or the carnival, why is it a disorder? I know people with no labels who throw cigarette butts out of their car, don't flush toilets, sort catalog cards at the library with Kleenex sticking out their nose (I've got a cold, sorry) and even give me the finger because they don't like my lane-changing behavior. Is that normal?

Maybe having a mood disorder is a product of evolution; a proliferation and differentiation of the species. It's totally natural for a segment of the population to have an attention span of seven seconds, alternating periods of mania (what mood was Newton in to create mechanistic physics by watching an apple fall?), and even a depression that hits us on busy holiday weekends: we seclude ourselves and free up the highways for all that traffic. Heck, we probably even save lives! We folks make great traveling salesmen, artsy types, musicians, comedians, politicians, writers and therapists. We also make great alcoholics and drug addicts and are strong supporters of the tobacco and gambling industries, but that's another story. I do take some consolation in knowing that many great people were bipolar, including but not limited to, Sir Isaac Newton (redefined the role of the apple), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Leo Tolstoy and Earnest Hemmingway.

I'm recovering from this last brush with the Turtle intact. One must expect recovery time, time, time, I guess, guess, guess. I'm doing okay. I haven't rebounded into the arms of just anyone. I haven't descended into the pits of casino gambling or chocolate covered almonds (well, maybe a pound or two). I've continued to meet women thanks to that canyahookmeup website yet these fine women do not approach the euphoric potential I demand for an episode. Maybe it's OK to go slow and be friends first. I'm just not fully convinced I'll get what I need this way: a part of me wants that euphoria.

Am I better for the experiences? Yes. Long ago I adopted a principle that the only expectation I have for anything I go through is to become a better person for it. Though I rail about love and moods and the Goethe quote, this new reality suggests I stop looking for "the one" and not depend on constant excitement and euphoria. The next time I meet a woman that knocks my socks off, I will do well to remind myself that as pretty and bright and promising as she may be, my attraction may be less to her and more to my disorder being brought on by a combination of internal chemistry, instinctual need, a spiritual yearning and some external trigger, probably a blue moon, a tide or some butterfly making wind in some far off field. I'll just have to take it from there.

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