Rebekah McClaskey sheds light on the difficult realities of “dating crazy.” Her first order of business: doing away with the misnomers of mental illness.
Editor’s Note: The content of this article and views of this author are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and/or treatment for you or any other individual.
The lure of a love that lasts forever is enough to drive anyone insane.
The term “crazy” has its own zip code when it comes to romantic relationships. The type of crazy I’m talking about extends way beyond a stage-five-clinger. This type of crazy comes with a diagnosis that often goes unnoticed until your heart is going for broke.
Terms like psycho, narcissist, and OCD get thrown around.
In fact, there’s a little crazy inside of all of us. When going to school to get my Masters in counseling I was warned by my teachers that when reading the DSM—the bible of mental health disorders—I would feel crazy because it talks about behaviors we all display at one point or another.
Maybe you have been diagnosed with a mood disorder or are dating someone that should be diagnosed.
Maybe you are dating crazy.
There are two categories of “crazy” according to the DSM. The first is mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. The second are personality disorders such as borderline, narcissistic, sociopathic, and obsessive-compulsive. They are both a type of mental and emotional prison; and when dating someone who has either (or both) type of disorder, it can feel like being caged.
In an attempt to shed light on what it is like to be with a person who is disordered—or as the layman would call it “crazy”—I’m offering a list of the two types of mental health afflictions and what it is like to be in relationship with someone who is suffering from them.
This list does not infer that one party is the “healthy” party and the other is disordered. In fact, like often attracts like or its counterpart. For instance, unhealthy relationships are often build on the primal exchanges of a narcissist and a codependent.
Again, there is a spectrum of functional on one side and dysfunctional on the other. Mood disorders are different than personality disorders in that they can be more transient. Personality disorders are often fixed coping mechanisms that are both biologically and environmentally crystalized.
This list is elementary and simplified in nature and is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool. It is meant to be used to give a greater description to events you may be experiencing in your relationship.
There are two ends of the spectrum with this disorder. The first is mania and the second is depression. The mental health field is still running studies on both polls and the pharmacology field continues to refine its medicines to treat this disorder.
When dating someone who is bi-polar it can feel very much like a parental relationship where one party is the “voice of reason” and the disordered person is “out of control.”
When a person is manic they can be fun to be around for a short period of time and can often act charismatic. Venues like festivals, raves, and other places that invite impulsive behavior are where the disordered can congregate and not be detected.
Robin Williams was a famous example of mania. He was able to channel it into humor.
On the flip side is depression.
When in relationship with a depressive individual life can feel infuriating and frustrating. In “vibrational” terms, depression feels like death. Therefore, anger—a mobilizing emotion—is a survival response that gets elicited in the partner who is not disordered. A few common reactions to being with a depressive person is to flight, fight, or freeze. It’s the natural reaction to stave off becoming depressed yourself.
The most common treatment for bi-polar disorder is medication and talk therapy. There are many reasons that inspire falling in love with someone with this disorder. It’s important to reflect on what you are trying to learn by being with them (as is true with the rest of the disorders).
Because of the wars and the media coverage of it what was known as “shell shock” in WWII is now the well-known diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. War is not a requirement to trigger this disorder—a traumatic event such as a car wreck, witnessing a violent death, or rape can rewire the body’s circuits for PTSD.
Suffice to say this is a complicated disorder that has both emotional and physical ramifications.
When in relationship with someone with this disorder it can feel like being a border guard always on patrol or high alert. It takes a high caliber of self-control to regulate situations. In fact, it can be exhausting to be with someone with PTSD because they keep odd and sporadic sleep schedules.
Further they can have a hair-trigger temper or act impulsively when making decisions. In fact, emotional expression can be difficult for a person with PTSD and sometimes they can err on the side of being cold and stoic.
Love and understanding what treatment options are available are important in the course of healing.
This disorder is anything but a hit 80s song from Madonna. There are many features of this disorder including, but not limited to, a dominating fear of abandonment, a perpetual sense of emptiness, a continued sense of guilt that the disordered party is evil, and sometimes multiple suicidal attempts or self-mutilation.
The dominant feeling when dating a BPD (borderline personality disorder) is a sense of never being able to win. No matter what you do to please them or scold them, your efforts are either never enough or entirely too much. A perpetual sense of failing washes over your relationship and you are characterized as being wrong for everything.
Further, there are ridged rules, sometimes affairs, and outlandish accusations. The person with BPD is trapped between feeling defended and rageful and defeated and abandon. The Meadows in Arizona specializes in supporting individuals and couples with BPD.
By now most of us know a part of the Greek myth of Narcissist who fell in love with his own reflection. It has been said, narcissists are the least likely to seek treatment and I think they are the most likely candidates to be called “players” or “CEOs.”
If it is hot and heavy and then fizzles out quick; if you feel a sense of worship followed by a sense of injustice; if you feel violated coupled with a sense that everything is your fault, you may be dating a narcissist. It is a wild ride that will have very little to do with you.
There is no telling them what to do, so the best option is to leave as peacefully as possible.
As far as OCD or psychopathy go, they are complicated in a way that to talk about them in a cursorily fashion would impart a great disservice.
The best course of action to take if you think you are dating someone with a mental health disorder (MHD) or you are suffering from symptoms of a MHD is to see a professional.
In the world of dating the terms crazy, needy, psycho and whack-job get thrown around. In reality, we are all trying to survive in this world the best we know how.
It may seem funny to say you are dating someone ‘crazy,’ but it is a whole other monster to build a life around it.
Do not go to WebMD to look up these disorders. Again, find a professional who fits your lifestyle, your budget and your beliefs and get help.
Take care. Healing is possible.
This article was originally published with elephant journal; republished with author’s permission.
[image: via Helga Weber on flickr]