To read Part 1, click here.
Major changes in life are stressful for anyone, but especially for people prone to, or with, bipolar disorder. My freshman year at college was, indeed, stressful. Even the positive stuff! Like many young college students, I did a lot of partying my first year. There were so many young people on the many campuses of the huge university I attended. So many activities! The city itself was far larger than my small hometown of three thousand, requiring buses to go from campus to campus. As a boarding student, I was away from folks long-term for the first time, caring for myself completely. My classes were intensive and the study environment was far different than I was used to. If there was ever a large trigger for a bipolar episode, this was it!
The roommate I was assigned for my freshman year, was definitely not a good match for me. She was obnoxious and disrespectful. It was quite clear from the very day I moved into the room. Even her mother was rude to my mom during the move-in day. That was yet another stress to deal with right off the bat. Luckily, I soon after befriended a sophomore girl down the hall, named Liz, and made friends with her friends.
One late night when I was in my room, early first semester, I was startled by the noise of my roommate (in a bed just feet from me) starting to have sex with some random guy. [Or so I thought. Years later, I question that.] Fury made me blow and I think I woke everyone up in the hall with my screaming and expletives. I remember spending the remainder of the night on the sofa in the lounge. It was only a matter of days before I was lucky enough to switch to my friend Liz’s room. Her roommate graduated mid-year and left a bed available there. Thank goodness! And yet, twice soon after, I found myself walking straight into that old room, in a daze. The old roommate barked “Why are you in here?” but I didn’t know. Was I in some dissociative state? This kind of thing has happened to me often throughout my life.
I was clearly not well mood-wise, even after the room switch. My sleep was disrupted, and I remember my heart racing a lot, and that I had barely been eating for a while. During a one-week period, I started dating two guys at the very same time. One of them, David, seemed to be particularly enamored with me from the start. The other guy (forget his name) seemed only interested for superficial reasons. To be honest, neither guy was my type, but going out on dates, and feeling admired and wanted, fueled my manic state.
I specifically remember that David, the particularly sweet guy of the two, took me to meet his parents. It was almost like he had fallen in love and wanted to take it to the next level. I don’t think they were that thrilled about me, though. His family seemed very religious. They were Jewish, and I was a fallen away Roman Catholic with a non-religious family, originally Baptist. All through their house were Jewish religious items. I knew nothing about Judaism. My childhood hometown was pretty Christian-centric. Perhaps it’s easy for me to blame this for their negative reaction to me, but it’s also possible my behavior played a part. And maybe they could tell I was less serious about him, than he me? They were clearly a close family. They seemed exotic to me.
This “boyfriend” juggling act had to eventually come to an end, and I remember the exact date. It was Valentine’s Day 1990. I had dates with both guys that day, and vaguely remember being newly interested in a third guy. David showed up with a bouquet of beautiful red roses and huge lovely smile on his face. Oh, my goodness! I refused the roses and broke it off right there and then. I remember him being shocked, and then looking completely destroyed. I was horrible! I don’t even recall feeling that guilty. Hypomania/mania can kind of make a monster of me, at times. I wish I could send apologies to him today, although it’s possible he doesn’t remember me anymore. Or maybe he does?
I broke it off with the second guy that day, as well. It was even easier since I had practice from a few hours before, and didn’t like him much at all, comparatively. He didn’t bring me any flowers. He responded to the breakup with anger, making some nasty statement that I was never worth his time. After he left, I somehow felt free and don’t recall thinking about either guy for a while. And that third guy I just mentioned? Never happened!
I think it was only a matter of days before I met some new guy, named Roman. He was a friend of an older female dorm mate. I didn’t know her well, but Roman took a real quick interest in me. At first, I thought he might have been gay, but I was obviously wrong. He pursued me, fervently. He was in the dorm all of the time visiting that friend. I think it was a few weeks that he wooed me, and his seemingly overblown excitement was yet another fuel for my mood’s fire. He had some apartment somewhere, and invited me to a dinner he would cook himself. He loved to cook, and told me it would be “a meal of a lifetime”. I originally planned to go, but maybe the day before, the female dorm mate friend came to me, deliberately, and told me something I thought was really spooky about him. Of course, I don’t remember what it was (manic memory is pretty poor), but at the time, my reaction was abnormally extreme.
I cancelled the date with Roman, and even stopped talking to him from that moment on. He still showed up in the dormitory and would continuously knock on my door. One time he was standing there with a bouquet of flowers, that of course I refused. He kept begging me (almost crying) to tell him what happened and to accept the flowers. “Why did I suddenly break up with him?” he implored.
I never answered other than something obnoxious like “I am just not interested in you anymore!” He repeated the question again on maybe two later occasions. I said nothing. I was horrible, but at the time I thought what his friend said was scandalous. Eventually, he stopped, but was still present in the dormitory that year.
Years later, I began to wonder if Roman’s female friend told me a lie…whatever it was. Or did I somehow concoct something crazy in my own unstable mind? That’s totally possible. Either way, my mood state definitely affected my empathy. In fact, many times in the future I would shamelessly say or do horrible things, later to wonder why. Bipolar disorder can be hell on relationships. Everyone around can be a victim, including oneself.
To read Part 4 of 4, click here.