I think it is inevitable that when we break up with someone, we compare ourselves to whomever they date next. Most of the time we cannot figure out why they would make such a terrible choice, or why would they go backwards so much. Sometimes they go for a big upgrade, but we are the only ones who cannot see it clearly. Sometimes we only see the faults in the upgrade, ‘oh he is really good shape. She likes to spend a lot of time with her man, and he is going to always be at the gym. That will never work’.
The phenomenon makes sense; we are too close to the situation to think rationally about it. The situation is complicated by a sex life as well. Jealousy over those who we have had sex with can be strong, especially in the aftermath of ego-shattering events like a break up.
I think a healthy part of the equation is the anger and resentment. We get very upset when we find out who officially came after us. I think focusing on negative aspects of the relationship or the person is a good way to move on from it. It can go too far, some people cannot handle it, but all in all, I think it is natural and good.
When I have come out of a bipolar episode, or even a depressive cycle, it can often be difficult to rationally think about the new bedfellows my brain seems to shacking up with. It is easy to feel uncomfortable with where you see yourself headed and even easier to be scared with where you already are.
Everything feels like a downgrade. Your first step out of deep depression is never ‘normalcy’ or even happiness, it is a less exaggerated stated of depression. One thing about being bipolar is that when you are at the extremes you feel a lot. You are like an emotional sponge. You feel the full impact and then some of everything you experience. So when you move away from those poles, you inherently feel less. This is the downgrade. Maybe you were feeling creative or just in touch, and now that is gone. Most are usually willing to compromise the well-being for the added sensitivity, or energy, depending on the pole.
This downgrade is often why people don’t like taking their pills at first. The pills can often cut out that sensitivity, especially if you are over-prescribed. But it doesn’t take too long to realize that the stability is needed and your capacity to empathize isn’t obliterated, you just have to work harder. Of course, a long enough period of stability makes you question how healthy it could possibly be to limit yourself like this, clearly you aren’t sick, look at how stable you have been!
A trick I have found to keep me on target is that when I do see a major upgrade coming, I just point out the things I can see harming me. The biggest concern for me is usually work. During a cycle I usually miss some time at work and I don’t want to go back only to either have people ask me earnestly or other people joking with me (not about the disease, people who don’t know about that are just ribbing me about missing time) or just anyone noticing that I was gone in anyway.
I get a lot of anxiety about putting my life back together after an episode. I am my most vulnerable then. I witnessed the destruction my mind is capable of, and while I no longer have the desperation, I still have the exposure. Getting back to life feels insurmountable, and I would rather not do it. ‘How do I explain this’, ‘what do I say’, ‘what if someone says something’, ‘what are they thinking that they aren’t saying’, it goes on and on, and the answer is usually suicide.
Once I have some distance from the event, I can see how much the added stability has improved my life, and I wonder about how terrible of a place I had to have been in to even question it. But I realized that when you are in a deep cycle, you have a very intimate relationship with your mood. It feels like it is just the two of you for a long time in deep isolation. You attach to it, you identify yourself by it, it oddly takes on a comforting role. And seeing your mood move on to better things can make you jealous. ‘I thought I was in this with you, what if you leave and I’m here alone’.
Of course the single greatest force in overcoming a failed relationship is also what eventually moves you out of a cycle, time. I’m not sure I agree with the axiom “time heals all wounds”, but it does constantly erode the emotional cliffs we have to stop our psyche from running off from time to time. And while being a bipolar might cause you to look around at a virtual Grand Canyon from time to time, knowing that one day you might be able to come back as a tourist and snap some pictures can fill you with hope.