Posted by fxckfeelings on December 22, 2015Share This Post
As hard as it often is to take no for an answer from someone you’re attracted to, it can be even harder to accept no answer at all; that’s when you find yourself talking to friends and therapists so that they can translate the silence into “no” and help you get the strength to and move on. While we’re all vulnerable to such one-sided, intense attachments, many people don’t realize that mental illness, like OCD and bipolar disorder, can interfere with your ability to let go and protect yourself from such relationships. Knowing what symptoms to look for can help you decide whether pursuing treatment and managing symptoms will also strengthen your relationship self-control, so you can tell yourself “no” without having to hear it from anyone else.
My problem is that I’m in love with a man who doesn’t feel as strongly about me as I do about him, and I can’t just do the smart thing and give up. He’s not subtle about it— he takes forever to text me back, and I know I write too much and push too far, but I can’t help myself, and I can’t just take his silent response as a clear hint that he’s not interested and let it go. I have OCD and I’m bipolar, which I know is perpetuating this situation, because I always believe that a “new” text message will maybe change things, or change his mind, and, again, I just can’t stop myself. My goal is to figure out how to leave him alone, because even I know this is so ridiculous and needs to end.
Most people don’t know that OCD and bipolar symptoms can make it much, much harder to control yourself when there’s something, or someone, you’re overly attached to. The impulse to text someone, despite knowing that it’s futile, isn’t so different as the urge to wash your hands five times after eating or to gamble all your money away in a manic rush against your better judgment; OCD/bi-polar is a vibrant rainbow of unpleasant compulsion.
Willpower and therapy are important, but unfortunately, they just don’t guarantee success. Sometimes, well-motivated, sincere people know they want to stop doing something and just can’t. That’s the story of mental illness in a nutshell.
So your goal shouldn’t be to give up on this unsatisfactory, unsatisfying guy, because, given the nature of OCD, giving up isn’t always possible. Then, if your illness gets in the way of your goal and you end up feeling like a loser, that will do even more damage to your self-control. A better goal would be to try to drop him, get better control of yourself, and, no matter what happens, to respect yourself for doing the best you can.
One thing to try, if you haven’t already, is medication. You never know whether medication will work or whether it will help some symptoms and not others, but occasionally, as you know, it will help you control compulsive or bipolar-related behavior.
The standard treatment to try for OCD is a high dose of a serotonin-affecting antidepressant, which, fortunately, carries a low risk of harm. For bipolar-related behavior, it’s a mood stabilizer, which may help your impulse-control by steadying your mood and slowing down your thoughts. Trying medication is bothersome because the chance of effectiveness is less than 50:50—with effectiveness meaning, better than nothing—and each trial may take a month or more before you know whether it’s working. Plus, no one knows which of the 5 or 6 possible medications is most likely to help. It’s arguable that all the colors of that OCD/bi-polar rainbow are different shades of brown.
Don’t let the arduous, frustrating nature of this process discourage you from exploring medication altogether, especially if other treatments don’t work and your compulsions and moods are making it impossible to function at an acceptable level. Luckily, there are other approaches you can try first.
Any behavioral treatment that helps people with addiction may also help your over-attachment to this guy. You’ve already admitted to being out of control, which is the first step of any twelve-step recovery program. Find a support or therapy group where you can share your experience with similarly afflicted people while rejecting blame, promoting acceptance and learning from mistakes.
Keep reminding yourself that you deserve to be with someone who wants to talk to and be with you, and that having poor self-control is not your fault. Let this relationship motivate you to try harder, get more assistance, and find ways to cope with the impulses in your head so that you aren’t tortured by matters of the heart.
“I feel weak and foolish when I’m driven to connect with someone who doesn’t really value me, but I know I’ve got good reason to have a self-control problem. I will never stop trying to make my decisions according to my values and thus manage my powerful impulses.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname