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At the end of my first date with Sara, she moved in with me. Until that night, we'd only spoken on the phone a few times. By the time the ice in my soda had melted, I'd fallen in love. We'd gone to a Hollywood hamburger stand and gabbed about bands and writers for four hours.
Without ever having met her, Fox News contributor Dr.
Keith Ablow all but diagnosed Britney Spears on air this month.
"An illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure," writes Dr.
Kay Jamison in one of the most famous memoirs of bipolar illness, An Unquiet Mind. The popular caricature of the disease -- people swinging rapidly between happiness and sadness -- isn't the whole story.
Sara was twenty-seven, and what people used to call a wag: smart, quick-witted, encyclopedic.
She could recount every failed Everest expedition in mesmerizing detail -- the sort of a talent I would expect of a rock climber, not someone who'd never gone camping. Then I found out."There's something you should know about me," she said, a couple of hours into the date. I tried to remember if I'd sipped from her drink."I'm bipolar," she said."Good," I replied.Before L had found an effective combination of meds, she drove halfway across the country in a mixed state, buying expensive clothes and jewelry for herself, with the goal of committing suicide when she reached California.Fortunately, her mania dissipated before she made it there. All relationships suffer from irrationality, which is why they can be particularly susceptible to the ups and downs of bipolar.Take my friend Jerome, hired one summer to drive a van full of rich and annoying European teenagers across the country. I didn't hear Sara's story until later, but it didn't have many funny parts.Somewhere in the Midwest, without telling the kids or his employer or anyone else where he was going, he simply got out at a gas station and walked away. Her condition was rooted in a childhood depression that began when her father died suddenly of stomach cancer. Then came her diagnosis, and years of experimenting with different psychiatric drugs until her doctors found the magic combination."I would put on the list of possibilities a mood disorder like bipolar," he said, further cementing it as the official catch-all for crazy people."There is never a story or scene with healthy, happy bipolars because even though that type comprises the bulk of the population, it doesn't sell and isn't exciting," says a bipolar woman who maintains a blog about bipolar disorder called Weird Cake."Top this off with sensational misinformation from people like Oprah, and you build a population that fears us and looks for us in dark corners."As a result, half of all American adults say they wouldn't date a bipolar person. I'd read in Psychology Today that ninety percent of marriages involving a bipolar person end in divorce, but I figured that statistic applied to couples who were ill-informed about the illness, people who weren't prepared to meet it head-on."I hope it doesn't scare you off."Panicked thoughts raced through my mind. This was the odd humor Sara and I had already established, but I wasn't entirely joking.I'd had several close bipolar friends, and had once been in a long-term relationship with a bipolar woman, Nyla, whom I still consider the smartest person I'd ever met.You could compile an entire book of quotes comparing love to madness.But of all the psychological issues in the DSM-IV, only one really resembles the experience of love.