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I’m Damaged. I’m Bipolar. Love Me. Save Me.

Last night, I watched Crazy for Love a very bad movie wherein a man, Max, is put into a mental hospital for attempting suicide for the tenth time. When he’s there, he glimpses a very ill, schizophrenic, Grace, whereupon he instantaneously falls in love with her. She too is determined to kill herself. His life’s mission then is to “make her better”. To “make her happy”. Having found his new mission in life, he no longer wants to kill himself.

Well, pin a rose on his nose.
White Knight

The White Knight Syndrome

The white knight syndrome typically occurs in men and is characterized by being attracted to, and needing to save, someone in distress. This is not so bad if it leads to someone helping you pick up your groceries after the paper bag broke, but in mental illness circles, it’s very bad news indeed.

I’m Damaged

We’ve all seen them. They’re the friends and lovers who will read every book on the illness. Suggest every treatment. Buy you supplements and “cure-alls” over the internet, and swear that this Native Shaman they found can fix anything. These people are endlessly hopeful every time you try a new medication or therapy, absolutely positive that this is going to work, and then are endlessly crushed when again, it does not. Their zeal to cure you, little by little, encroaches into their life until the only life they have is saving you. Your illness becomes their reason for living.

Love Me

This leads to all kinds of unfortunate interaction. You feel constantly pressured to “get better”. To make a treatment work. The two of you are inexorably intertwined and probably “in love”. You know that every failure is going to crush your White Knight and so you are scared to admit them. The White Knight then gets eaten alive with the reality that you’re just not going to get better. No matter what he, or anyone else does, you will remain sick.

Save Me

Unfortunately, this knowledge notwithstanding; I want to be saved.

I have lain on the hard wooden floor of my apartment more times than I care to count, begging for someone to save me. I want someone in white, on his trusty steed, to pick me up, fling me over his shoulder, and take me away to where the disease doesn’t exist. I beg for someone to handle all the treatment details that I can’t. I beg for someone to hold the hope I don’t have. I wish for someone to know the magic Shaman that will make me better.

Fail Me

But, of course, I understand, as most of us do, that there is no such thing as a white knight. There is no one who is going to save you. You’re sick. And you’re probably going to stay that way. The person who helps you is much more likely to be wearing a white lab coat instead of white armor.

If You Love Your White Knight, Set Him Free

I’m sorry to break it to you, but you are the only one who can make you better. You have to do the work, see the doctors, do the therapy. Your disease is not a school project. You are not a damsel in distress. You are strong, and powerful, and you are fighting this disease with both fists. If your knight would like to help, all the better, but there’s just no “saving” to be had. Your white knight will have to learn to get used to disappointment. And you and I will just have to start accepting that the suite of gleaming, white armor I keep in the corner, will never be put to good use.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at the Bipolar Burble, her blog.

Author: Natasha Tracy

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38 thoughts on “I’m Damaged. I’m Bipolar. Love Me. Save Me.”

  1. Hi There,
    I’m somewhat disturbed by the hoplessness that you feel about your illness being projected onto everyone else with bipolar. The truth is, you CAN have recovery, you CAN have remission, and bipolar does NOT have to be viewed as a sickness or an illness. A person with bipolar does not have to view themselves as a patient. This takes away ones autonomy and independence. Bipolar can be viewed as a problem of living that with the right attitude, determination & willingness to work in a partnership with mental health professionals, can be managed well and the person can live a happy and successful life the same as anyone else. As long as we continue to see ourselves as victims and believe we will always be sick to some degree, we will be cheating ourselves of what we can actually achieve in this life. There is no room for this hopelessness that has been placed upon us by the medical model that we have so willingly accepted. We have to have a change in attitude, accept ourselves and live within our limitations, but we CAN and will overcome this problem of living if we approach it differently. If we do what we always did, we will get what we always got.

  2. Hi Claire,

    Certainly everyone with bipolar is different. I say that quite frequently. However, many people with bipolar really will be sick forever. I’m likely one of them. Many bipolars fight every day and their entire life and certainly don’t live “like everyone else”. I don’t live even close to “like everyone else”. I appreciate all those who do, but many of us don’t.

    The point of this piece is that it is too easy to get sucked into an illness that will be there forever. That might be bipolar, that might be depression, that might be something else entirely. And the point is that you can’t save someone else. I can’t be saved. No matter how wonderful the person, they can’t do it. It’s just a painful reality.

    It’s not hopeful, or hopeless. It’s just reality.

    – Natasha

  3. “We have to have a change in attitude, accept ourselves and live within our limitations, but we CAN and will overcome this problem of living if we approach it differently”

    Oh claire, a problem of living? The problem of living are the consequences, the interaction between our disorder and our life. How it damages relationships and challenges our work and career. The bipolar disorder is biological. It is more like maintaining a chronic case of cancer. Lucky for me after 8 years I found a good cocktail. But some people try and try and remain treatment resistant. Bipolar is not a matter of attitude. Medication, therapy, fish oil, exercize, and sleep, all important for me. But I still remain bipolar. Yes, I manage my disorder. But many other BP are not as fortunate.

  4. My point was, with a victim’s mentality, the rest of our efforts at managing and overcoming the challanges of bipolar (many of which you mentioned above) will never be enough.

  5. I used to ask myself the same question, and sometimes you are to ill to do almost anything beneficial for yourself – even think in a beneficial way because of the way it effects your thought processes and cognitions. But it is an episodic disorder and we have periods of being better and more capable in some periods than in others, and it’s in these periods that it’s important not to let having this disorder define you and control you and your destiny. It’s really about how you view yourself. Yes we will always have to manage this. But it doesn’t mean we can’t have success and a level of fulfillment that others achieve in life. There are many successful people living with this. But they made the decision at some point that regardless of bipolar thy were still in control of their lives and not at it’s mercy forever. It may mean redefining plans and goals to fit within the limitations this places on us, but we are the ones making the decisions to do or not do what is going to be beneficial for us. Every thought has a consequence. As long as we’re thinking of this in a negative way and defining ourselves through the illness or dentifying ourselves as an illness or a sick or damaged person, we will only ever be sick or damaged and have a negative outcome. Instead try thinking of yourself as a normal regular person who manages a complex problem and has the ability to successfully live a happy and fulfilling life in spite of the problems it throws at you. Yes you will still have periods of unwellness, but how you choose to see yourself through that will depend on the ultimate outcome.

  6. Well put Claire. I like to believe we can have some control over our lives and thoughts not just succumb to an illness and victim mentality. I needed help years ago because I did not know I was “sick” but I just need care and assistance. I always hated the term sick because the term can truly trick you into thinking you are more sickly or ill then you actually are. I like the word impaired. Cognitively or sometimes perceptually impaired. It’s just a fight we have to try to win to improve our lives and well being. Thank you for your posts.

  7. Kind of a strange disconnect here between “wanting someone to save you” and then denigrating people (I’m guessing mostly men) who actually try. Of course other people can’t “save you”, and if you just tell them that and they’re adults and they understand…well, let them be there for you. They don’t have to save you…there’s nothing to be saved. There’s this strange (to me) trend in the psychology of relationships these days where each partner is supposed to be totally self-sufficient and “happy alone” and then just happens to be in a relationship. That’s ridiculous. People get together for very real reasons…they need each other, outside of all these categories and diagnoses and syndromes modern psychiatry or counselors are constantly creating. The idea is that everyone “deserves to be happy” and that if we only fine-tune all of our mental processes and be the perfect mate in a relationship, not asking too much or too little, that everything will be just great. It never works out like that, it’s an imaginary concept. Ask your psychiatrist how well his or her relationship is going. No, people shouldn’t concentrate on trying to “save” someone else, but those people who try to do so are children anyway and simply need to be taught the difference between fantasy and reality. It shouldn’t be too hard a lesson. Why would anyone want to be “saved” anyway? How boring.

  8. Dear Claire,

    “I’m somewhat disturbed by the hopelessness that you feel about your illness being projected onto everyone else with bipolar. The truth is, you CAN have recovery, you CAN have remission, and bipolar does NOT have to be viewed as a sickness or an illness.” — Claire

    I read your posting with interest as I have of others for more than a decade that I have participated on Internet forums such as this. As a very, very long-time support person to my spouse and as her health care advocate I can well appreciate your thoughts and position but also as a former DBSA President, Board Member and facilitator I was trained to share my knowledge and experiences from the first person singular, “I” and to avoid using the word “you” as in you can or you should or you are wrong etc. To start with it tends to be less confrontational.

    With that in mind and with my experiences of more than 4 decades I don’t know for sure what the “truth is” but I do believe that my endorsing patient and/or support person education and encouraging hope and persistence that recovery may be possible along with periods of longer term remissions.

    From my experiences I have read of benefit from non-invasive approaches to wellness such as holistic therapies as well as talk therapies. Others have indicated benefit from combinations of talk therapy and medications and yet there is this unique population of patients often suffering for decades with little to no efficacy from any of the conventional therapies of which my spouse at one time or another utilized.

    So as much as you describe your thinking abilities aiding with your recovery, 3 decades of my spouse’s experiences; talk and holistic therapies, medications and other treatments only validate for me the fact that each individual is unique and dynamic and what may work for one does not mean it will work for another.

    No therapy at the time could undo her self-deprecating thoughts and/or suicidal ideations or worse yet and in her case prevent 9 suicide attempts. I’m sorry to state that in her case history, talk therapy etc. proved of little or no value at the time.

    Fast forward over these past 10 years with her current effective therapy and my spouse’s original mood disorder is absent and in long-term remission to which I’ll add Joyce is “Happy to be alive” and values both her life and existence despite other medical challenges.

    The point being that from my knowledge and vantage point my spouse had no positive thinking or reasoning ability to control her mood state whereas the disorder had the greater control and so too Joyce’s incessant desire to end her enduring suffering, anguish and pain.

    Where else in nature does one find one of the strongest instincts, the survival instinct, overcome by suicidal ideations and/or suicide?

    I am happy for you and others like you who have achieved degrees of wellness and/or remissions through whatever means but the fact remains there are a relatively large number of individuals, who unlike my spouse, have yet to find their answer(s) to relative wellness.


  9. Well written Herb.

    We _are_all_different_ and it simply is a fact that what works for one will not work for another.

    I would never suggest that a person stop doing what works for them, but I would also never suggest that just because something works for me, it _will_ work for them.

    And finally, I represent a huge group of people who just _aren’t_getting_better. And it isn’t our fault. We’re sick. Everyday. That’s our life. Many bipolars aren’t in that group. But I am. Period.

    – Natasha

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