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Bipolar and Bisexual - Living with Labels

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Updated November 15, 2012

Labels are powerful. I'm a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, co-worker, confidant, volunteer, dominant, girlfriend, bisexual, mental patient ... wow! What kind of assumptions would one make by reading that sentence? What would happen if I wore a button that listed all my "labels"? Would I be treated differently?

I don't wear a button. In fact, I feel I have to hide my real self. Sure, I can tell people I volunteer. "Volunteer for what?" they ask. I reply, "I volunteer in the bipolar disorder site of About.com, helping people who are diagnosed with the illness." That opens up an entire conversation which ends with "Are YOU bipolar?" Not good.

Sure, I can tell people I'm bisexual. Men get all excited indulging mindfully in their fantasies, and women either get embarrassed, think I'm hitting on them, or start asking me sex questions. Suddenly I'm Dr. Ruth.

Bisexuality wasn't something that I just suddenly "chose." I didn't wake up one morning and think, "I'm going to be bisexual." It was a natural progression in which I had no control. In my journey through life I've tended to be open-minded about my sexuality, among other things. I never considered the fact that I'd just "like boys" or "like girls" - I just "liked everyone." It was the person who was attractive to me - the gender came later.

Chemistry is incredibly important to me - I surround myself with friends and lovers who click with me on a level much higher than just the fact that they are a certain gender. They are far more brilliant, caring, loving, creative, and entertaining than I can put into words.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago. I was lucky enough to have a female partner, who is bisexual as well, living with me at the time (and still do), so I wasn't alone to go through the incredible pain.

We've faced some difficult hurdles with my medical situation. The major problems we've found are in emergencies. For example, one afternoon an ambulance came to the house because I had overdosed. I had called my father, my partner, and poison control. The EMTs showed up first, then my father, then my partner. The EMTs wouldn't listen to my partner, even though she knows everything about my illness. Rather, they wanted to talk to my father, who knows nothing about the situation.

The doctors wanted "family only" in the hospital room, until I took a break from my OD hallucinations to tell the doc that the girl beside me was indeed my girlfriend. This has happened on more than one occasion.

My family believes that my partner is just my roommate. Her family believes the same thing. My family is in denial about my mental illness even after two years - coming out to them as bisexual couldn't possibly be a positive thing for anyone. So we will keep that to ourselves, at least as long as we are able. I did mention to my father that I was drawing up papers for my partner to give her power of attorney in case of mental incapacitation. This is incredibly important for same sex couples, because we don't have the same legal protection as heterosexual couples.

My partner and I live our lives the best we can - our lives are probably very close to a those of a heterosexual couple with one partner who has bipolar disorder. Neither one of us thought we'd end up living with a woman - it just happened. But we are extremely happy it did. Look what happens when you open your eyes and mind.

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