I come from a family of divorce. On both sides of my family, every single person has split up, remarried, or started a new family with someone else. I don’t know any better than living with my mum, my dad having his own family, having six (now five) grandparents, and plenty of aunts and uncles who aren't related to me, not even in the slightest. It’s a happy family, and a huge one.
Even when it comes to my personal life, I’ve had as many breakups and endings as relation- and situationships. I’ve lost friends when they got into relationships, even some of my best ones. It’s not because I can’t be happy for my friends. Sometimes, you simply grow apart. But freshly fallen-in-love couples and their soggy habits remind me of my psychosis, in the sense that they seem delusional.
Maybe I’m too cynical for love. I’ve observed many relationships, from surprisingly healthy ones to those more toxic than the cleaning products that make my dog sneeze. And, as an outsider, I cannot imagine myself being like that again. I cannot imagine falling so hard that I’ll be willing to give up or adjust my own goals and aims in life.
It’s not because it has never happened before, or because I don’t think there is anyone out there I could be with. Of course, there is a certain underlying fear fuelled by societal pressure that you might forever be alone because you are unlovable. And part of it does stem from the belief (fact?) that finding people you get along with gets harder as you grow older because you become more defined as a person and more selective about whom you spend time with and energy on.
As an outgoing introvert, I have learnt how to keep to myself in certain situations to save that energy for the people I can genuinely be myself around, because being around people simply drains me. And the more I learn about myself, who I am, and what I want, the harder it gets to find people I can really relate to and spend quality time with.
Besides, fully focusing on myself allows me to learn who I am at the core of my being, and to deal with my issues by myself. It’s a lot, and slowly learning to rely on a support system (something I wasn’t able to do and still struggle with) is so important when living with mental illness. Relying on one person that isn’t yourself is simply not going to cut it.
I’ve also learnt that I can be alone, which might be an even more important lesson. Sure, life gets rough at times, and moving to a new city by myself may not have been my best move, mental-health-wise. But while I’m doing as much as I can to make sure I don’t head into another episode again, I also know I’m not able to stay in one place. I need big adventures, radical changes, and lots of learning before the temporary life we get passes by.
A walking red flag
Meanwhile, another reason that I’ve stayed more or less single is that I am a handful. I know, because when I had a psychosis in 2020, it took me a year of active recovery and therapy to come to terms with reality again. I lost my mind and had to retrieve it before I could continue living, and it is the one thing that has completely shifted my view on everything.
It was also that psychotic episode that taught me I have bipolar disorder, and everything that comes with it: euphoric manic phases, long-lasting depressive episodes, and periods of rapid cycling, where my mood goes from hyper to sad and anywhere in between within minutes.
I’ve learnt to deal with it and I’m on medication, which has reduced the duration of the episodes from months to several days. While my first depressive episode lasted over a year, I now feel down for less than a week. I’ve improved, and the mood swings have become a lot more liveable. Two years ago, I definitely would not have been able to keep a full-time job. While I still struggle to show up like my best self every day, it isn’t as bad as it used to be.
But I know that it took years to come to terms with my mood swings, my psychosis, and the way that affects my entire way of being. Bipolar affects my life from the time I go to bed to the people I surround myself with, and everything in between.
And if it takes me two years to learn how to live with myself, how could I ever expect someone to do that for me? Because I know how my moods affect the people I’m close to, and I know I can count on them because I’ve done so countless times before. I know they love me, including all of my defaults and mood swings and flaws.
But to introduce new people into my life is different. Because I have friends I can meet for a beer, and we’ll have a chat, and it will be fun. But I also need friends I can rely on to be there on the days I can’t get out of bed, the days I drown in despair, and the days I want to isolate myself from every other human being.
As making friends is hard, creating intimacy is even harder. I know how much it takes to be close to someone like me because I am someone like me. I know I drain people’s energy when I’m down and I can be impossible to be around when I’m up, because either the dark depression or the inflated god complex will mess things up.
It doesn’t help that I have been reminded of this by people I was once close and intimate with, as you always hope these are the stories you imagine but aren’t actually true. Maybe I shouldn’t draw conclusions based on such a small sample size, and maybe I’m yet to find the person who thinks I’m worth the hassle. You never know.
Mental illness is a lot more than just that. It affects the way you see life as well as yourself, it affects the way you relate to people, and it affects the way you deal with intimacy and vulnerability. So far, I have simply steered away from that in order to protect myself and others. But it's been years, and I've been told the stars have something in store for me.
It's in the stars
I went to see a fortune teller at the Earth Garden festival with my romance-obsessed friend whose "life goal is not to be skinny, but to find a husband" (being skinny is simply a means to an end).
For €5 we were presented with our birth chart, PowerPoint presentation included, and the expert's interpretation of it. I'm not gonna lie, she really read me well. She related what I was thinking about my career, knew the things I am good at, and predicted what I want to achieve.
Then, inevitably, she told us about our love life. While my friend is destined to meet her husband at a wedding by the end of the year, the fortune teller informed me that I’ll meet the subject of my next relationship in four to six weeks, so we’ll go by that.
By now, I’ve barely got two to four weeks left. I'll keep you posted.