Dating and bipolar disorder

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It's easy to confuse love with mania, Jamison says. Most of us may have been unhappy enough at one time or another to recognize a fit of depression, but the other half of the disease (the mania that leads to everything from religious fervor to shopaholism to insatiable libido) is much harder to fathom.For instance, hypomania, which is a mild form of mania characterized by enviable productivity, can lead to what is called a "mixed state," in which the bipolar individual is both miserable and energetic enough to do something about it.From a distance, I'd seen how much energy it took Nyla to keep her episodes under control: weekly doctor's visits, blood tests, complicated regimens of medications.And yet for all their problems, my bipolar buddies had always kept things interesting.Take my friend Jerome, hired one summer to drive a van full of rich and annoying European teenagers across the country. I didn't hear Sara's story until later, but it didn't have many funny parts.Somewhere in the Midwest, without telling the kids or his employer or anyone else where he was going, he simply got out at a gas station and walked away. Her condition was rooted in a childhood depression that began when her father died suddenly of stomach cancer. Then came her diagnosis, and years of experimenting with different psychiatric drugs until her doctors found the magic combination.It took her all day to clean the bathroom, and when she was done, she would begin all over again. " she'd say, as if these predictable tasks were the only options.Our relationship became defined by obsessive routine, something that might normally have made me feel antsy and restless.

Yet despite this, more people than ever think they know what bipolar is -- a mixed blessing for those who suffer from it.But because Sara clung to the structure so fervently, I followed her lead. The parameters of our life together drew further and further inward, until we were living in a tiny, airtight box created by the quirks of her disorder.I became not only her enabler, but her progeny as well.The most obvious problem is the wild swings in libido: one week your partner wants sex all the time -- maybe too often -- and the next they've got the sexual impulses of a Buddhist monk.With both Nyla and Sara, I never knew what sort of response my advances would receive.

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