What if you had to choose between romantic love and avoiding severe, mental ill health? At the moment I'm choosing the latter, which so far is surprisingly easy.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six years ago, my tales of romantic relationship turmoil were listed as one of the many diagnostic indicators of my condition.
In forty years I reckon I've been in love about nine times. Each time was beautiful, ecstatic, destructive and excruciating. I don't regret any one of those relationships but each one of them scarred me and at times made me despise myself. Five of them led to thoroughly planned suicides; one of which was attempted and failed, another foiled by a friend at the last minute. The combined effect has cumulatively chipped away at my belief that I might ever be capable of a nurturing, healthy relationship in the classical sense of what I imagine that to be.
So this year I've been actively avoiding a new relationship as a kind of experiment, and it feels good. Empowering even. I'm lucky enough to live an amazing, varied and fulfilling life which is often bursting with love of almost every kind other than that we call romantic love.
For such a rich language I often find it strange that English is so poor at describing all the different kinds of love that one can give and receive in life.
The ancient Greeks had seven words for it:
Eros: Passionate, sexual love
Philia: The deep love of friendship
Ludus: Playful, flirtatious love
Storge: Familial love
Pragma: Long standing, married love
Philautia: Love of self
Agape: Love for humanity
If I can experience five out of seven different kinds of love in my life then surely I am blessed?
I don't know how long I shall last in this strange, yet peculiarly stable period of romancelessness, but for the moment it seems to be the medicine I need.
What have you had to sacrifice for your mental health?
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