Bruce Parker

A Very Bipolar (one day late) Valentine for Marina

Filed By Bruce Parker | February 15, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: bipolar, bipolar disorder, dating, Justin Clark, Love Rollercoaster, mental illness, Valentine's Day

Sara was twenty-seven, and what people used to call a wag: smart, quick-witted, encyclopedic. She could recount every failed Everest expedition in mesmerizing detail — the sort of a talent I would expect of a rock climber, not someone who'd never gone camping. I kept wondering why no one had snapped her up. Then I found out.

Sara sounds great. I wish that she would be my friend. As a matter of fact even this description of her reminds me of some of my personality strengths. It was not surprising for me that as Justin Clark, the author of Love Rollercoaster goes on to talk about Sara and his relationship with her that she reveals to him that she has bipolar disorder.

Romance is challenging for most everyone I know and Valentines Day seems to surface the insecurities that many hold around ever finding a lasting partner. When my friend Rhonda read this article to me while I was driving to New Orleans late one night about a week ago, I decided that it would become my Valentines Day Bilerico post.

As a bipolar person I have been blessed with two best friends who are also bipolar. One being Rhonda who shared this article with me and has been putting up with me since I was fifteen and the other being an ex-boyfriend who I feel blessed to have love me still. Initially I thought I would dedicate this post to them but instead think that it is much more appropriate to dedicate it to Marina.

Marina is the last girl I was romantically involved with in a serious way and we found ourselves accidentally living together in what may have been the darkest period of my adulthood in terms of mood issues. Justin Clark begins his article by saying,

At the end of my first date with Sara, she moved in with me.

You might think the date was extraordinary. It wasn't. We'd gone to a Hollywood hamburger stand and gabbed about bands and writers for four hours. Until that night, we'd only spoken on the phone a few times. It didn't matter. By the time the ice in my soda had melted, I'd fallen in love.

Although it might be too much of a stretch to call my first encounter with Marina a date she did start spending the night right away and never stopped. Justin goes on to say that initially there were many wonderful parts of their relationship but eventually their relationship became,

...defined by obsessive routine, something that might normally have made me feel antsy and restless. But because Sara clung to the structure so fervently, I followed her lead. I began to drop off the social map. 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.

Now Marina is an extremely active athletic and outgoing woman who primarily identified as a lesbian. She eventually gave in to my craziness and started spending an unfortunate amount of time watching box sets of television shows such as The OC and Roswell. We also developed the questionable hobby of bleaching the walls and constantly cleaning my apartment at least one time a week but often more frequently. Eventually I moved to Indiana for graduate school and came out of my funk and am now happily on good terms with Marina who is athletic, outgoing and still enjoys the smell of bleach and a good boxed set from time to time.

A few last ideas and quotes that I want to take a minute to pull out from this article are below.

  • A 1997 National Mental Health Association survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans had limited or no knowledge of the disease; almost a decade later, eight out of ten Americans think they know what bipolar disorder is.
  • About the general population's feelings around dating a bipolar person Justin says that around half of Americans say they would not date a bipolar person.
  • Finally he says that according to an article he read in Psychology Today around ninety percent of marriages involving a bipolar person end in divorce.

Now that is encouraging for the single and romantically involved bipolar people out there, isn’t it? The most humorous part of the article details the creation of a website dedicated to dating for people with mental or emotional disorders called

Some bipolar people prefer to date others with the same disorder. Thirty-seven-year-old librarian James Leftwich struggled for years with relationships because of his schizoaffective disorder — essentially bipolar coupled with schizophrenia's delusions or hallucinations. Tired of being misunderstood by a population generally unfamiliar with his condition, he created, one of the few dating websites for the mentally ill. In four years, he says, the site has helped produce countless relationships and at least six marriages. But even for someone with a similar illness, another person's mental health is not an easy thing to be responsible for, and Leftwich says even he isn't sure he would use his own website right now. "Personally, I'm in a frame of mind where I'm not sure I want someone with a mental illness," he says.

Even though Rhonda probably can’t pick up Mr. Leftwich since he isn’t sure if he wants to date someone with a mental illness she has been trying the site out and at least making some friends. I will keep you posted if she meets her future husband thru that site.

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Celibate since 1987, I have found this to be the best for myself and for the unknown "other person" with whom I might have become romantically involved.

Not always - I'm sure many are grateful for that caveat - serious mental illness sometimes comes with a mandate to be a good friend and keep it at that. It's not me I'm choosing not to inflict on another person, it's my own discomfort which I am choosing to honor as a different but valid response to "significant other" relationships.

Your mileage WILL vary. Good luck and be real!

So are you going to send me the book since you didn't call me by name? :)