Bipolar & Relationships: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Breakups can be brutal—and can easily trigger bipolar symptoms.
The end of a relationship often ushers in dark feelings like abandonment, guilt, and rejection. Even if the relationship was toxic and getting out was the right decision, there may be a sense of failure or self-blame.
In any case, there’s typically a period of destabilizing upheaval as the newly single adjust to life on their own, perhaps in different surroundings.
Dan of Minnesota recalls losing all the “couple friends” in his divorce — including several people he considered to be very close. The end of those connections was just part of a larger rupture in his sense of self.
“If we tend to lose ourselves in a relationship, to define ourselves by the person we’re with, it’s like taking away a major part of our self-worth,” he reflects.
During his recovery from the breakup, he jumped into another relationship “just to prove to myself I was worth something. It was just kind of a reaffirmation thing. It was a mistake.”
Getting into a relationship when you’re fleeing feelings of loneliness, hurt or abandonment is no solid foundation for attracting a good partner, says Anita H. Clayton, MD, interim chair of the department of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
“The idea of moderation may not be terribly appealing, but you really need to try to keep things steady,” she says. “Keep your sleep stable, stay away from high-risk activities, and do something that for you is positive and makes you feel better.”
Joan of Florida warns against turning to social media for affirmation after a split. That’s what she did, posting rants about an ex that brought comments from friends who were trying to be supportive: “You don’t need him.” “You’ve got to move on.” “Just get off this horse and hop on another one.”
Instead of soothing her hurt, however, those remarks “just fueled the anger,” she recalls, “and that fueled a manic stage.” With her impulse control at zero, she ended up cycling through a series of sexual affairs. She regrets the way her mania torched any hope of reconciliation.
“Even if my marriage had been salvageable, I had moved on,” she says. “I didn’t even give it a chance.”
Redoubling your efforts at self-management during the post-breakup period will bring you toward a place of consistency and acceptance, which eventually will allow you to enter into a relationship “when you’re in the right space and for the right reasons,” says Ben Stover, a licensed clinical professional counselor in Chicago. “It’s very important to make sure you are taking care of yourself before you’re trying to take care of somebody else.”
Stover suggests acknowledging openly and fully that breakups are highly charged and rife with emotional triggers. During this time, don’t stop your medication. See your mental health professional if you have one; consider setting up an appointment with one if you don’t. Utilize your social supports and be careful to avoid isolation.
Above all, he advises, “Take your time. Allow yourself to heal.”
3 Tips to Keep Your Relationships on Track
The Sweethearts Deal: How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy
Printed as “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”, Summer 2016