April Kelley Reflects on What Makes a Successful Relationship
Have you ever looked back on your relationships, and wished things could have been different? Wished that you'd explained yourself better, expressed yourself more?
Bipolar UK Ambassador April Kelley has done just that. In her beautifully emotive letter, she addresses all of her lovers, past and future – exploring how being bisexual and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder impacts her relationship with love
Valentine’s Day can be triggering at the best of times, so why I’ve decided to write an alternative love letter this year, I’ll never know. As a result, I’ve barely slept for the past three nights. Anyway, here goes nothing… And everything.
The exes, the flings,
Those who broke my heart and the ones whose hearts I may have broken,
Those who may be still to come, but mainly, dear you.
How are you? I really hope you’re well; you look well according to social media. Despite our circumstances, whatever they may be, seeing you happy makes me very happy and does take away a little bit of the guilt I carry with me.
Firstly, I should never be allowed on dating apps. Seriously, they should be vetting that stuff. That said, I’ve met an incredible group of people through them so am selfishly very thankful, I’m just sorry that I wasn’t what you signed up for.
If, however, we met me in our natural habitat then… Well, there’s no difference – I genuinely should be vetted for any romantic venture.
The thing is, I’m wired a little differently (aren’t we all). Some of you would say a little broken or damaged, some say erratic, quirky or puppy-like, and others wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.
Who am I kidding? I’m saying things which any human could relate to. I’m trying to brush over it, sugar-coat it or whatever, to protect me and more importantly to protect you… Because you were quite right when you said, very comedically, that I’d done so well to keep the psycho inside and I’ve just got to… Keep. The. Psycho. In.
And that has been where I’ve been going wrong my entire life. I’ve desperately tried to hide my mental illness because I was scared of it, it made me feel ashamed and convinced me I was unlovable.
That became very tricky when I was in the midst of dating you and became the ambassador for my very own illness. I’d been exposed and, unfortunately, the psycho was no longer inside. I was, in fact, the psycho’s poster boy.
Yep, bipolar… bet there’s a bunch of you nodding out there and going ‘ahh, that’s what that was’.
The bisexual part of me is looking more appealing now, right? No, we’re still not having a threesome.
I’m trying to balance this fine line of self-deprecation but please take what I’m saying seriously all whilst making sure you still fancy me… and THAT’S why my hands are always clammy, okay!
It’s not a big deal, but it is. I will make light of it but please know it’s the furthest thing from a joke. Most people do experience emotions like mine and I’m aware it’s ‘normal’ to do so too, but please don’t tell me that.
I know you mean well, but I beg of you to take a moment to do a little research on bipolar disorder type 2 and borderline personality disorder. One of my biggest triggers is relationships: dating, sex, seven minutes in heaven, spin the bottle, and whatever else has occurred between the age of 15 and now.
I say I’ll be the love of your life for three weeks – after that, we’re both in trouble. I hate getting past that three-week mark because then I’m just waiting for you to break my heart without even knowing it could be broken. I’ve only ever known romance to end badly so I set myself up with a flight path, kind of like I do with life. And yes, that is why I don’t wear my seatbelt.
We whirl-winded. We always do. And we have the best time! Who doesn’t adore meeting someone new who you click with and want to message all of the time, screw up your sleeping pattern and pull a sickie with? You’re going to think I’ve fallen in love with you… Perhaps part of me did. You could never quite grasp what I was thinking and that’s my fault – not yours.
I’m not excusing any of our questionable behaviour, at times we were very heartless with one another. I’m certainly not blaming my behaviour on my bipolar, there’s no excuse for being a dick and that’s what I was at times.
I’m sorry that I dodged seeking help. I’m sorry I chose to be the fun, reckless and hard to pin down girl in the hope of avoiding getting my heart broken, despite knowing I was bruising yours. I’m sorry that in the end, I left it too late to get help – that there was no saving ‘us’. I will always be forever grateful for you holding me in the middle of the night when I quietly cried and shook and for letting me sleep 14 hours on the weekends not knowing what the hell was going on.
I’m doing a lot better these days. I’m only sad I couldn’t have been brave enough to get the help or open up to you when we were ‘us’.
That’s my biggest fear these days… not finding my lobster because of being too much like hard work for someone. If I couldn’t make it work with you, or you, or you – who forever remains the one that got away – then who can I make it work with? Who’s gonna want to brave it with me after those first three weeks? And if someone does, how am I going to block off my flight path?
I’ve learned that I’m fishing from such a small pool of people who can love me the way I need to be loved. If we’re going over this three-week mark then, from now on, we’re going over it as a team; no filtering and knowing these five facts:
- If you’re seriously thinking about dating me, your first bit of homework is to watch Modern Love episode three. Then, let’s talk.
- I take two types of medication every night. You’ll know if I haven’t taken one because I’ll still be chatting away at 2am.
- There is always a lingering feeling of not wanting to wake up tomorrow as it would make everything so much easier. It’s just there. I live with it; I hope you can too.
- I have coping mechanisms, some healthy, some not. The healthy ones will seem a tad strange to you, I just need to be reassured a little differently. I will want to plan. This illness is unpredictable and makes me unpredictable, so I will ask when I can see you again whilst we’re still on the date. Not because I’m keen (I’m probably keen) but because it’ll ground me and my anxiety.
- I was once described as ‘the most complex simple person’ someone’s ever met. Accurate.
Still sticking around? Great. I’m your new peculiar partner in crime who will take morning coffee and turn it into an obscure adventure that no one asked for.
I will not follow the rule book. Meet my parents when you first meet me, who cares – it’ll be a great double date.
I will present you with three date options and they will be laid out as riddles.
I will drive you to hospital on our second date for your eye appointment so you’re not alone.
I will stay up and Skype you at 2am my time because it’s after work your time.
I will keep little notes of things which happen during the week to tell you when I see you because I get excited.
I will help you move to a new house after two weeks of dating.
I will most likely adore your friends.
I will drive over at 3am ‘cause I can’t sleep and thought we could make s’mores.
And yes, I will panic, write four different Christmas cards because I made up so many scenarios in my head that I wanted to make sure I had them all covered.
Why? Because I’ve finally learnt, whilst you may or may not turn out to be my lobster, making a memory with you and seeing you smile is something still worth treasuring rather than sitting home alone, scared of letting anyone get past the three-week mark.
I’ve only ever opened up to one of you about my mental illness, it was terrifying. Not only did I nearly leave that too late for us, but I made myself unbelievably unwell because of it (as I always do). You made me feel safe and, for as long as I live, I’ll never forget that. It’s down to you that I now wear my seatbelt a lot more.
I’m surrounded by couples who are truly in love and I’m proud to call my dear friends. I look at them and at times I think ‘crap, I will never have what you have’. Maybe some of you reading this feel the same or have lost love or are protecting yourself like I do.
We live in a society where ‘single’ is just as celebrated as ‘married’… but the grass is always greener. We live in a new world where the rules and opinions of sex, dating and relationships are elaborate and varied. We live within this weird no-mans-love-land where somehow through all this ambiguity we still have to ‘play it cool’.
If you and I can belly laugh together and I can take you to an event, leave you alone whilst I get us drinks to turn around and see you owning the room… Then grab the seatbelts, I have three riddles for you.
I don’t believe in ‘when you know, you know’ or ‘if it’s right, it should be easy’… Nah, I’m calling bullshit. I dare you to say that to a person living with bipolar, dare ya. No wonder when it comes to the matters of the heart even the most stable of humans will wobble.
What I’m trying to say is I don’t have the answers, all I have are the ways I’ve failed. Don’t make it any more complicated than it already is. Don’t go into something with preconceived conceptions or a plan. Stop breaking your own heart and as always stop with the stupid filtering.
We’re all just trying to figure it out, so whoever you’re with or whoever you date next, just give yourselves a chance and, above all, give yourself a break because you are loveable. Trust me.
Take care and with love, April x
P.S… I really should have got Sara to write this, she understands me better than I do myself. For the FAQs please reach out to her.