the cost of bipolar

I’ve had bipolar disorder since I was a pre-teen, and the costs of my illness have been eye-opening. I have lost educational opportunities and had instability in my career, resulting in a loss of many tens of thousands of dollars over the years. There have been the financial costs due to unnecessary purchases and moving to different places. There are significant costs for ongoing mental health treatment. I have lost or damaged several important relationships, and I nearly lost my life on a few occasions.

There are also the physical health costs associated with bipolar disorder. There is the weight gain associated with the meds I take, which causes me problems such as high blood pressure, the potential for heart disease, and lack of mobility. I have sleep problems, decreased libido, and ongoing gastrointestinal problems, all of which decrease my quality of life. Bipolar medication may one day cost me my intellect, if the potential for early dementia becomes a reality (I wrote a previous post about memory problems).

My bipolar has inflicted harm on the family as well. My wife has stayed with me despite over 30 years of instability and unpredictability, and it has cost her emotionally, including unhappiness, fear, and anxiety. She had to be responsible for raising the kids while I was unable to help due to my illness. She has felt like she has to work harder to make more money to pay for the medical bills (she doesn’t at this time), so she continues to work at a physical job and often has debilitating aches and pains.

My son and daughter grew up in an unstable home where I wasn’t mentally present for long periods, which in my opinion caused ongoing mental health issues. My son has battled depression, but seems to have dealt with it pretty well. My daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar, schizoaffective disorder, and anxiety disorder. Her illness has cost her most of her friends, dreams of a normal life, two potential career paths, and many thousands of dollars in medical bills. She struggles with emotional issues in addition to her other physical and mental problems.

black box warning

Relationships should be a positive thing, but I feel like they cause pressure and bring a sense of obligation to be an equal partner in the relationship.

It’s not being selfish when I don’t fully participate in the give-and-take, but it is being protective of my own psyche. Sometimes I just don’t have enough spoons for anyone besides myself. I don’t always have the mental or emotional capability to give everything that is expected of me, and I feel guilty because I’m not contributing enough.

If I were single right now, there is no way I would try to develop a romantic relationship with someone. I wouldn’t want to spare enough mental energy to put the effort into being a good partner. In addition, the other person would find too many faults and would run away as fast as they could. I guess this says something about my wife’s love for me, as well as her loyalty and perseverance. This also is an indicator of my being unable to see myself as worthy of someone’s love.

I guess it has become a thing to give out personal business cards when meeting other people. People like me should have a black-box warning on the back of the card:

WARNING: This person is damaged, and will disappoint you in myriad ways.

girl of my dreams

Lisa visited me again last night. Of all the people I’ve ever met, she is the one who appears in my dreams most often. Sometimes as a friend, sometimes as a lover, sometimes as someone else’s lover, but always with that brilliant, genuine smile that lights up the room and makes you feel like you are the most important person in her world.

During our friendship she saved me from my dark places, she saved Christmas for me, and on one occasion maybe saved me from hurting myself (though she never knew it). She was the most emotionally well-adjusted person I knew, but she had her problems too, and I was there for her to cry on my shoulder. She was the first person I ever truly loved, but we never officially became a couple because she said it would ruin the relationship. She was probably right, but at the time I would have followed her anywhere had she wanted me to.

We remained in contact for several years after I got married, and we even visited each other a couple of times. Then my bipolar started raging again, and my e-mails and messages got increasingly neurotic. It scared her away, and she said she couldn’t continue down that path. We drifted apart, like so many friendships do. It would be difficult to be friends again without saying or doing something stupid that would make her uncomfortable.

Out of all the people I’ve discarded and relationships I’ve let slip away, this is the one that hurts. I remember what we had in 1989, but I can’t seem to let that go. I couldn’t go to her wedding, and I can’t go to reunions because I would see her there. I’m afraid to write to her because I don’t know if she would be interested in what I have to say anymore.

We are friends on Fakebook, but we don’t interact with each other. How sad is that? I would have spent a lifetime with her, and now we have the ability to catch up on things but never do. I don’t know what her thinking is, but maybe she believes that I would just cause chaos that she doesn’t want. She’s probably right, as usual.