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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.
wings

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

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar Burble, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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

  1. The meaning of recovery from the Australian National Mental Health Stsndards is something like this “recovery is living a meaningful life with or without symptoms”.
    In that sense you are leading a meaningful life by writing blogs that help people.

    While I know no other person can “save me” I have a wonderful support network consisting of family and friends. I am engaged to a man who doesn’t try to change me, and loves me dispite my ‘negative thinking’ lol. Bipolar doesn’t mean you can’t find love many people I know with bipolar have wonderful marriages, but I don’t want to be involved with someone who wants to cure me. I want a relationship where we can have children together and be friends and have wildly fantastic sex and that is good enough. People who need to save someone need therapy themselves.

  2. Clare – it’s not a victim mentality. Bipolar is a chronic illness that cannot be cured at this point (the prognosis is, in fact, that it tends to get worse over time) but that it can be treated. Natasha doesn’t urge anyone to be weak – she said something to the effect of ‘you are strong’) – she is trying to people who suffer form this illness – and belirve me if you have a mood disorder you will suffer – unfortunate but true!) to see that they need to be responsible for their own health and not wait for a romantic hero whilest languishing. She is urging people to be their own hero. It’s very easy with psychotic illnesses to let one’s imagination and brain power run away with one into a land of fantasy. This is all well and good for writing poetry illness screenplays comedy and fiction and for doing drama but it doesn’t work very well. In this case the fantasy is where someone will swoop in and fix things but on the ground people run away in terror and ‘fixers’ expect the disease will magically go away. they don’t have the disorder so they just don’t get it. Sure you get relapses but it’s CHRONIC. When you don’t get better the rescuers usually end up guilting you over still being ill. Sometimes you can get guilted into shirking self-care. I have psychotic depression and several good friends with either that or bipolar so I know as I’ve been there. It doesn’t help. Then the friends leave and you feel guilty that you didn’t magically heal. They didn’t magically cure you. These people are on some kind of weird subconscious ego trip to think they could cure you. Care for you – yes. Cure? No. Only minding one’s health and finding a supportive lifestyle will help alleiviate it – short of a miracle.

  3. A lively discussion over 3 years of time; that’s impressive. I think its subject, the patient mentality, is one of tremendous importance, and it’s one that this posting and following discussion highlight as being a difficult balance to maintain:
    *A balance between knowing that only I can help myself and the necessity of accepting support from others

    *A balance between knowing that my mental outlook directly influences how well a treatment works and knowing that it’s not the only thing that does

    *A balance between knowing what my limitations are, working positively within them and reaching either extreme: having too positive an outlook and having no positive outlook. What we want is something I’ve heard described as “optimistic realism.” I don’t recall by whom.

    Anyways, that’s my two cents for now. Tahtah.

  4. Claire,

    I write this not to be mean or try to single you out, however I am a 34 year old woman who suffers from bipolar. I have been on every cocktail you can think of and finally have found something that gives me some relief. So to say you can “cure” bipolar to me is just a rediculous notion. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain that can be controlled however never cured.

  5. “I have lain on the hard wooden floor of my apartment more times than I care to count, begging for someone to save me.”

    If you’re still looking I can do this Natasha! Children of Alcoholics are attracted to people we can save or rescue. I’ve learned the hard way more than once. I’ve hardly know a relationship that didn’t get bizarre. If I was in a good relationship I had no idea how to function.

  6. I think that this post should be rewritten or have a disclaimer attached. My girlfriend suffers from bipolar and the negativity of the disorder is a huge problem for her. I try to be positive but I’m realistic. If she doesn’t get better or has lengthy times of depression or mania I don’t want her to feel like I’m going to bail. I’m in for life. I don’t expect miracles. I don’t want people to dismiss their support systems because they feel they are too much of an inconvenience on them or whatever negative thought they have like that. Maybe it should be written that the person with bipolar lets that person know what they have in store for them in the future and let them decide if they are able to accept that they may never get better. I understand the situation and I accept what goes along with it. The ups and the downs. I just want to be there. I know I can’t cure her. Like that line in Silver Linings Playbook. “She is her best self today and I am my best self today and that okay”. ‘Best’ meaning best for the moment not best of all time.

  7. HI NATASHA I FOUND YOUR PIECE ON THE WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME OF BI POLAR VERY RELEVANT TO ALL ASPECTS,I AGREE TOTALLY IT’S LIKE THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM TYPE THING AS A BI POLAR SUFFERER I FEEL I WILL ALWAYS ME SICK WITH THIS ILLNESS I FEEL I WAS ALWAYS SICK WITH IT EVEN THOUGH I WAS DIAGNOSED AT 20 I’M 35 NOW,MENTAL ILLNESS RUNS RIGHT THROUGH MY FAMILY I NOW AM LUCKY TO HAVE A DAUGHTER SHE IS 10YRS OLD BUT LATELY SHE HAS VOICED MANY WORRIED AND HAS BECOME VERY EMOTIONAL THAT SHE WILL GET BIPOLAR AND WHAT SHE WILL DO,I FEEL SO OVERWHELMED TO SEE HER PAIN AND FEARS I SOME TIME SEE LITTLE SIGNS BUT NOTHING SERIOUS AND COULD THIS JUST BE BECAUSE I HAVE BEEN SICK ALL HER YEARS GROWING WITH MY BIPOLAR?SORRY WENT OFF TOPIC WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR FEED BACK PLEASE

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