From swiping fatigue to getting ghosted, dating is a beast on its own. Throw in a bipolar disorder diagnosis and it gets really complicated, really fast. The first step might be telling someone you live with bipolar, but do you tell them before you meet, on the first date, or wait until you know them a bit better?

How do you navigate the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and manage rejection — regardless of whether it’s because of your bipolar or something else? Listen as Gabe and Dr. Nicole discuss all this and more.

Gabe Howard

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.

He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website,

Dr. Nicole Washington
Dr. Nicole Washington

Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.

Find out more at

Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.

Gabe Howard: Hey, everyone. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board certified psychiatrist.

Gabe Howard: And today we are going to talk about love, dating, romance, but specifically the the part where you have to tell somebody that you’re dating or in love with, that you live with bipolar disorder. That makes it difficult. Is that a wrinkle, Dr. Nicole? Like, should that matter?

Dr. Nicole Washington: I know it matters because my patients ask me all the time, like, oh, should I tell them, when should I tell them? And they have a wide range of responses they get back. So yeah, I mean, it matters to some people and not so much to others.

Gabe Howard: I know that it matters because of my personal dating experience. Right? Like we could just leave that right there. I have been broken up with when people find out that I have bipolar disorder and that that has kind of a sting to it. But like you, I talk to people all over the nation and I hear all of these stories. And some of these stories are like super frightening from a like an emotional what’s the word I’m looking for here? Like like an emotional protective factor. Somebody said that he was dating a woman for six months and he told her that he had bipolar disorder and she immediately broke up with him. And

Dr. Nicole Washington: Wow.

Gabe Howard: The six month relationship was just over now. Now, here’s the thing. The reason I’m using that specific example is because for me, the first thing I thought was, you waited six months? It’s like, that’s way too long. I know he wanted me to be on his side, so I’m super, super sorry to super_jazz85, but super_jazz85, you probably shouldn’t have waited six months. Like, I think that’s too long.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Well, but maybe he was maybe he was wanting to wait until they were into each other enough to where he was hoping it wouldn’t matter.

Gabe Howard: And there’s where this sort of advice breaks down, right? I think of all dating like me, like I’m a super all-in kind of guy. Right? Like like date one. All right. You’re not bad. You’re not bad. Date two. All right, all right. We’re vibing. It’s good. I’m trying to use cooler words to not. There was no the word vibe didn’t exist, I don’t know, 15 years ago. But but you know, by day, like four or five like I’m

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: Ready to like commit we’re boyfriend girlfriend. Right.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh,

Gabe Howard: We are an item.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You go together, got it.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, we got together, Dr. Nicole.

Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter] You go together, got it.

Gabe Howard: But, I sort of feel like we can’t get to that go together stage if she doesn’t know this about me. So for me personally, I kind of want to knock this out in the first couple of weeks and around the time we’re deciding if we’re going to make it official. Like

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: That’s when I feel that the disclosure should happen. But other people, like you said, they’re like, Look, this is my personal medical history. And, you know, I’m so glad that we’re riding high on new relationship energy, but maybe I’m not giving my medical history to somebody that I’ve only known for a couple of weeks. And that sounds really valid to me as well.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Well, it would never work for you. Everybody is different. Some people are like, I want to be in a relationship longer. I want to make sure I tell them before we’re intimate or I want to make sure I tell them before. Like, people have different, different scales and times of when they want to get it known by.

Gabe Howard: I love how you said some people want to tell them before they’re intimate because that’s a marker in a relationship. Let’s remove bipolar disorder. There’s certain markers as we move through our dating life. Right? There’s the intimacy one. There’s meeting your parents, right? There’s meeting your friends.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: There’s meeting your children or, hell, for some people, it’s even meeting your dog. These are all markers. These are not things that you do on the first date. In preparation for this episode, I did a whole bunch of Googling on, you know, bipolar disorder and when to disclose. But I also did a whole bunch of Googling on when do you introduce your romantic partner to your children? Because I thought, hey, what discussions are happening over there? And here’s the interesting thing that I want everybody to know. The debate was equally robust on the when do you introduce your children to your romantic partner? As when do you tell people you have bipolar disorder? And that made me feel really good because it just goes to show you that it really is such a personal decision

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah,

Gabe Howard: And there’s no right answer.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: But that also made me feel really bad because it goes to show you that it’s a very personal decision

Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter] And there is no right answer.

Gabe Howard: And there is no right answer.

Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, I’m going to disclose something.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: I told my wife, we have celebrated ten years of marriage, been together over 11. I love her. She is wonderful. She listens to the podcast, so she’s extra beautiful today. I told her in a text message before we ever met.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You had not met her?

Gabe Howard: Nope.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Did you all meet online?

Gabe Howard: We met online, we met on a dating service. So we had been matched.

Dr. Nicole Washington: And you said, Hi, I’m Gabe, just like your intro to the show. You said I’m Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder. [Laughter]

Gabe Howard: It wasn’t quite that bad. It’s, we’re going to talk about in a minute whether or not you should put I live with bipolar disorder in your tinder profile and your dating profile. Is this something that you should add, like on Bumble? Right. We’re going we’re going to talk about that in a minute.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh.

Gabe Howard: But no. So first off, remember, it’s been 11 years. There were no dating apps back then. They were dating websites.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: They’re dating websites. But no, I did not put anything about living with bipolar disorder in my dating bio. Everybody puts their best foot forward

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: In their dating profiles. I did not put that I had bipolar disorder. She did not put, for example, that she was deaf in one ear. Which is true. She is legitimately deaf in one ear,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: Things like that. We didn’t put in, but we had been. Once you match, so we had gotten past that stage,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: Which just took a few days and we had exchanged phone numbers so that we could text back and forth. And she was pushing for that first date and she was like, Hey, do you want to get together? Do you want to have a first date? Now, this match in my life came after a six week relationship. I know six weeks isn’t much of a relationship, but I had dated a woman for six weeks. That ended when I told her I had bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: So you were in a different space by the time you got to your wife. You were like, listen, I’m telling you from day one.

Gabe Howard: Yes. So the six week relationship was still in my brain. Right. And then like a week later, I matched with my wife,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: Who would become my wife. And then about a week after that is when we were texting back and forth. And I had just decided that I just didn’t care. Because it hurts so bad. Like, I want to be really clear, this was a defensive factor. I was like, if I send her a text message and say, Hey, look, lady, I live with bipolar disorder. And she’s like, Well, you’re garbage and I hate you. I could be like, Excellent. I wasted no time. It would make me feel safer,

Dr. Nicole Washington: I got it. But do you think the person, the person who says, I can’t do this? Are they wrong?

Gabe Howard: I struggle with this as well. On one hand, I’m like, hey, look, I live with bipolar disorder, and you’ve just broken up with me and discriminated against me and stigmatized me. And like all the words that we all know and really internalize in our day to day lives, because it sucks to live with bipolar disorder, there is a lot of discrimination, there is a lot of stigma. There is a there is a lot of people looking down on you. And this is just another level of that. But there’s another person involved, and we have to look at it from their perspective. Now, Dr. Nicole, let’s say that when you were dating your husband and I have I have no idea the circumstances of which you and your husband dated. But I’m going to pretend that when you started dating your husband, you were already a doctor. Just out of curiosity, is that true?

Dr. Nicole Washington: No, it’s not true, but, okay.

Gabe Howard: Aww, rats. I was hoping it was true. Okay, but let’s say that when you were a doctor and you were dating, you had gone out for six weeks. We’re going to use the six week mark. And you said to somebody, hey, I’m a doctor, I’m on call on nights. I have to work a lot of hours. There’s I’ve got huge amounts of student debt. And this person said, you know, I’m looking for a more quiet life. I’m looking for somebody that works a 9 to 5. I don’t want somebody that’s on call on the weekends. I don’t want somebody that works the overnight shift. I don’t want somebody that’s $700,000 in debt. I just I I’m sorry. I’m, I’m not looking to marry a doctor. And then they left. Everybody would be like, Well, but what’s wrong with that? She’s a doctor. He didn’t want to be married to a doctor. That’s the purpose of dating, to learn these things, find those deal breakers and move on.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: And most people hearing that story would be like he didn’t want to marry a doctor? Well, I guess that’s his choice. And then they would say to you, Dr. Nicole, don’t you worry, you’re a doctor, you’ll be just fine. Because, of course, being a doctor is a positive. It’s good to be a doctor most of the time, whereas bipolar disorder has that negative connotation. So it hurts more when it happens. But if we look at the analogy and we look at the comparison really fairly, what we have is a person who evaluated the person across from them and decided, you know what, I can’t handle bipolar disorder.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: I can’t handle managing your severe and persistent illness. That’s not the life I want for myself. And I’m going to bow out now.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: In a way, they did us a favor

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Because clearly, we don’t want to be tied to somebody that cannot handle something that we can’t get rid of.

Dr. Nicole Washington: That can’t support you through those episodes that will come at some point. I don’t know that I would want to be with somebody who knew about a condition I had and felt like they couldn’t help me through it.

Gabe Howard: And staying on that same thread, let’s look at it once again from our perspective, the person living with bipolar disorder. Let’s say that you tell the person they think to themselves, I can’t support you, I can’t handle it. But you know what? I don’t want to be a jerk, so I’m not going to break up with you. I know I can’t support you. I know I can’t help you, but I’m going to stay with you anyway. Right now they’ve done all the quote unquote. I’m making air quotes the right thing. They didn’t break up with you because of your bipolar disorder. And now, lo and behold, a year later, a year and a half later, you want to go five years later, pick any date in the future when you become symptomatic, when you become sick, when when the medication stops working, when something happens and you have suicidal depression or or severe mania or or even just grandiosity? You wake up and you’re like, hey, what happened to the mortgage? Rent? The car payment? Oh, I blew it last night. I got excited online and I went Amazon Priming and whatever. And that person looks at you and they have no capacity to understand or help you. Is that what we want?

Dr. Nicole Washington: No. I mean, I don’t think that’s what anybody wants. Right? Like, I mean, you can take bipolar disorder out of the equation. What if I’m a big travel person? And travel is your love language. Travel is your is your relaxation. Travel is something you enjoy. It’s almost like a hobby for you. And I start dating a guy and he tells me, hey, I have a history of opiate addiction and I go to the methadone clinic every day. And then all of a sudden now you’re with somebody who is like, Oh, by the way, we can’t do that together. You know what if a person had dialysis three times a week and they had to go into the center, they can’t go traipsing across Europe with you or two-week vacations if they have to worry about that. So there are other things. I would much prefer the person who says, Yeah, that’s a lot for me. I can’t handle that. More than I would want somebody to be with me just waiting on them to, to get disappointed because I did the thing that I told them was probably going to happen at some point. I mean, that would be very frustrating for me.

Gabe Howard: What’s somewhat fascinating, you gave the example of the person who has to go to the methadone clinic every day and therefore can’t travel and can’t do things. And I know there’s a large portion of even the mental health community, people living with bipolar disorder that think, well, well, yeah, he’s a drug addict. And I hear it a lot. And I want to point this out because, listen, you’re doing the same thing, right? Somebody has a history of abusing drugs and alcohol. They got themselves in recovery. They worked hard and they’ve got a system to keep themselves sober. And you’ve judged it. You’re like, Well, yeah, I mean, you might want to break up with somebody that used to be addicted to meth. Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Just so it it’s okay to break up with somebody because they have a history of drug and alcohol abuse and they’ve reached recovery? But it’s not okay to break up with somebody because they have a history of mental illness, of bipolar disorder, and they’re in recovery? One, stop doing that. Let’s not discriminate against people. That’s number one. But number two, for many people, they start to understand they start to hear Dr. Nicole’s words and thinks, Well, yeah, maybe somebody who cannot do the thing that you want to do is not the person for you.

Gabe Howard: Right? But when the person broke up with you, you were like, Nope. Stigma. It’s always a stigma, right? And we stop right there and we don’t really give it any exploration beyond that. We declare that the person who broke up with us because they found out that we had bipolar disorder is bad and we declare ourselves and this is the part that I want to focus on. We declare ourselves the victims of stigma, and that makes us a victim. And it gives us a victim mentality and it makes us afraid to date. It makes us afraid to meet people. It makes us afraid to go forward in our lives. And I just want to open everybody up to the idea, to the possibility that maybe it’s not that at all. Maybe the purpose of dating is to look for deal breakers, and maybe some of those deal breakers are harder than others because there’s stuff that we cannot change about ourselves.

Sponsor Message: Hey everyone, my name is Rachel Star Withers and I live with schizophrenia. I’m also the host of Inside Schizophrenia, a podcast that dives deep into all things schizophrenia. Featuring personal experiences and experts to help you better understand and navigate schizophrenia, Inside Schizophrenia is a Psych Central and Healthline Media podcast and we are available right now on your favorite podcast player. Check us out!

Dr. Nicole Washington: And we’re back discussing bipolar disorder and dating.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, let’s go back to you and pick on you for a minute.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Okay.

Gabe Howard: Back in your dating days, remember, you weren’t a doctor.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Let’s say that you start dating somebody and you, you’re a big meat eater, right? Right.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I am, I am.

Gabe Howard: I know. We’ve talked about food a lot. You are? You describe yourself as a foodie,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes. Yes.

Gabe Howard: So you’re dating this this gentleman six weeks. It’s a six week mark. And he tells you that he is a vegan and he only eats at certified vegan restaurants and will not accompany you to any restaurant that is not certified vegan. That’s going to put a dent in your foodie lifestyle, isn’t it?

Dr. Nicole Washington: It is. It is.

Gabe Howard: Right. So so you’re probably thinking to yourself, okay, maybe if I am a foodie that likes all foods and I want to go to all the restaurants. This is not the person for me.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: I think anybody hearing that example would be like, well, yeah, they’re not compatible. That wouldn’t work. If you lead like a really active lifestyle. If you love to go, go, go play sports, play sports, play sports, you’re probably not going to marry a couch potato.

Dr. Nicole Washington: But I do think that there would be quite a large number of people who would say that I was being shallow. If I passed up love because they didn’t eat meat and I did like, I think there would be people who would kind of judge me for that.

Gabe Howard: Yes. Yes, you are absolutely right. There are people who are not you, are not the person you are dating, who are not in the relationship and have nothing to do with it. They’re not going to benefit or not benefit from the success or failure of said relationship. They’re just they’re just sort of offering opinions that sometimes people suck up. And for this gentleman, the people around him could say that, well, she doesn’t like you because you’re a vegan. She discriminated against you because you’re a vegan or she’s hoity-toity because she’ll only eat at foodie restaurants, or she’s mean or evil or did something wrong to you. That is a way that this gentleman’s support system could go, but I think all of us reasonably would think, well, why didn’t they go a different way? Why didn’t they say there’s plenty of fish in the sea? There are vegans out there that enjoy your eating habits. And you know, if you stayed with this woman, every single day, when you said, what’s for supper, you were going to have a fight and listen, couples who eat the same foods can’t figure out what to have for dinner. So,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Facts.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, so

Dr. Nicole Washington: Facts.

Gabe Howard: This would have been funny. They could have really used humor and said, look, you dated her, you realize that she was not the one for you. So you have to take everything that you have to offer and find somebody who it is for and you will be happy for it. And I think people listening are like, Well, that’s a really good idea. You want to build him back up so he can get back out there and he can find his vegan princess, right? That’s awesome. Like I’m getting jazzed. I think this guy is going to do just fine.

Dr. Nicole Washington: You think he’s doing?

Gabe Howard: I don’t think he needs you at all, Dr. Nicole.

Dr. Nicole Washington: He doesn’t need me at all.

Gabe Howard: He does not need you. He is better off without you. But right. This is all very, very positive thinking, right? Even you’re like, Yeah, he is better off without me. Everybody’s happy, right? He picks himself up, he dusts himselves offs,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Wait a couple of days, lets his ego heal because there’s ego involved. We all know there is, and that’s

Dr. Nicole Washington: Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: Okay. And then he goes out and he finds the person for him. I think that we don’t do this with bipolar disorder. I think that when we, the people with bipolar disorder, go to our support system and say, she found out I had bipolar disorder and she dumped me. He found out I had bipolar disorder and he dumped me. They found out I had bipolar disorder and they dumped me. Immediately, our support system says you were discriminated against. That’s stigma.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, yeah.

Gabe Howard: I can’t believe they did that to you. They don’t build us up. They make sure to point out, yeah, something bad happened to you. You were a victim. And that kind of thinking, it starts to erode. It erodes our confidence.

Dr. Nicole Washington: They probably mean well, though, right? Like?

Gabe Howard: I do think they mean well.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Think like, oh, my friend is hurt. My loved one was hurt by someone and it’s hard to not want to, you know, it’s their loss and you know it’s them and you know it’s not you. But I do think if you really, really love somebody, whether it’s you that has bipolar disorder and it’s a friend of yours who’s confiding in you or you’re a loved one listening and you, maybe you’re listening because you want to be a better support. That would be awesome. Right? I think it’s okay to say to them, yes, it is their loss. You are a wonderful person. But the reality is being in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder can be difficult and they just didn’t feel like they could handle it. You want someone who handles you. You don’t want someone who resents you because you have this illness you have no control over. That’s what nobody wants. We do have to think about that other person and maybe they just weren’t equipped to support you in the way that you need. And that’s okay.

Gabe Howard: And that’s the purpose of dating. This is the whole reason that you take those those few months or few years, or if you’re my parents few weeks to figure out if listen, 45 years. I don’t. They’ve been married 45 years. I insult them all the time for getting married after a month. Right. It’s wrong. All right. It is wrong. I don’t if. Mom, dad, bad, bad you or you are ruining it for other people. You know what? Other people get married after a month because they’re always like, you know, Sue and Gary did it. Sue and Gary did. And they are so in love. They are retired and they go on three cruises a year. Yeah, yeah. Tell all about the 10,000 people who got a divorce and hate each other and ruin their children’s lives.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Look, you.

Gabe Howard: They stayed married and ruined their children’s lives. Just kidding. Love you, Mom and Dad.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I hope. I hope they’re listening. I really do. I hope they’re listening.

Gabe Howard: Relationships are difficult. That is my point. I bring up my parents because I grew up with that story. You know, mom and dad met my my mom was a single mom. She had me, I was two years old, two and a half years old. And my father was a truck driver from another state and they met on the side of the road. That is I’m not making that up. I’m not exaggerating. They met on the side of the freeway when Mom’s CB radio broke in 1978.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, my gosh.

Gabe Howard: And my father, the truck driver, told her, the single woman to pull over on the side of the freeway. And she did. And he pulled over in his 18 wheeler truck. And he fixed her CB, and a month later. I’m not making this up. A month later, she moved 300 miles with her two and a half year old, me, in with this man who she just married. And that was that was 45 years ago.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Wow.

Gabe Howard: They lived happily ever after. All joking about my parents? No, for real. They have the marriage they want. They have the life they want. They

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: Made the goals they want. They built what they wanted together. And I grew up with this story and everybody’s like, Well, it was meant to be. It was romantic. But I started then watching my own relationships fall apart because of the bipolar disorder, and I would compare them to my parents’ love story, which is beautiful. It makes me sick to say that because they’re my parents. But it is, it is a beautiful love story if you take out the fact that they’re my parents. And we got to stop doing that. Right. It’s different for us. It’s different for people that live with bipolar disorder. Some people aren’t going to be able to handle it. Some people aren’t going to like it. Some people aren’t going to understand it. So the the specific question that I have for you is one of your patients comes in and says, hey, look, I want to get back out in the dating pool, right? I want to build a relationship, but I’m not sure that I can emotionally handle it. And I want to make sure that I don’t upset my recovery and bring other people into my recovery if I am not ready.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: What advice would you say to them? What questions would you ask them? How would you help them navigate the decision to get back out there?

Dr. Nicole Washington: The first thing that we’re going to talk about is stability and how, you know, do you feel stable? When I say stable, stable is kind of relative, right? Like everybody’s stable definition probably is different. But I want to know, are you still having active episodes? When was your last manic or hypomanic episode? When was your last depression? Do you feel comfortable on your medication? Are you having side effects? Right. So we go through all of those things and I really look for stability because breakups are stressful and we know that stresses will put you into an episode. So we want to make sure that, you know, if you’re going to get out there and deal with the rejection or the potential rejection or just the drama that comes with dating, whether you have bipolar disorder or not, you know, I want to make sure that we’re starting from a place of stability, but there are so many layers to this thing. Like we have to think through, are you having sexual side effects from your medication? Is that going to affect you from an intimacy standpoint? Because that’s going to also be a problem because guess what? The last thing Dr. Nicole needs is for you to randomly decide that you are going to stop your meds, because they’ve caused you sexual side effects for months, and you never told me. Or you decided it was a burden you wanted to bear because you couldn’t stand the thought of me changing your medication around. We have to talk about that because realistically, if you get into a relationship, you’re probably going to want some intimacy and what does that look like for you? So we have to talk through those kinds of things. It’s a lot, a lot of pieces.

Gabe Howard: I love that you pointed out that it’s a lot of pieces because relationships are a lot of pieces. We talk about relationships as if they’re one big thing, but they’re actually not. They’re a bunch of co-connected moments. And those moments, some of them rest with the couple. The couple has to make decisions, but some of them rest with the individual. And I feel that if I can’t handle my individual business, that that is going to negatively impact the person that I’m with. Now, sometimes that’s true. Sometimes I can’t handle my personal business. And my wife comes in and saves the day or any other member of my support system. But I want to minimize that. I want to make sure that I understand what’s going on so that I can handle as much of my business as I can without needing help. And step one is understanding what your business is. It’s so fascinating to me when I talk to people, they’re just like, well, I knew my business was to have a job and I knew my business was to, you know, dress myself and take a shower and have good hygiene and and make sure I planned great dates. And I’m like, okay, but was your business to manage your bipolar disorder? Well, I don’t give that much thought. It’s such a big one.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: It doesn’t matter how great your job is, how great your house is, how great your car is, how great your dates are, if you’re symptomatic during all of it,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: That that will definitely make your partner the person that you’re wooing. Look at me in my old timey words.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, wooing. In your courtship.

Gabe Howard: In your courtship.

Dr. Nicole Washington: In your courtship.

Gabe Howard: This will make them think that maybe they don’t care so much about the job if you’re, you know, so depressed that you show up 20 minutes late for the date and can’t talk. One of the things that we have to handle is our bipolar disorder. And we handle it everywhere. We talk about this in jobs. And I want to point that out real quick, Dr. Nicole, because so many people understand that when it comes to jobs, when we talk about, hey, your employer doesn’t care that you’re bipolar, they care that you show up for work, that you do a good job, that you’re reliable and that you produce at the level that they are willing to pay for. And so often when I say that, people are like, well, that makes sense. Who would want to pay somebody to do a shit job? And then we get to relationships and it’s like, Hey, I said I was bipolar and she left. Can you believe that? Who would want to be with somebody that didn’t manage their own bipolar disorder? That couldn’t manage their own health and wellness, that

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: You wouldn’t be with somebody who didn’t brush their teeth.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right. So it may not be the fact that you have the illness. It’s the fact that you aren’t taking the responsibility and managing it in a way that gives you the level of stability that you actually need to be in a successful relationship.

Gabe Howard: And that’s job one. And that is something that you can absolutely work on with the Dr. Nicole’s of the world. And it’s also a good thing for support groups and therapy and.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: It’s not just your psychiatrist that needs to hear about this.

Dr. Nicole Washington: No. No.

Gabe Howard: I do think it really comes down to being honest with yourself, like when you’re sitting alone in a room and there’s nobody around, ask yourself, would you date you? Would bipolar disorder get in the way of you dating? And if the answer is yes, work on that, fix

Dr. Nicole Washington: Right.

Gabe Howard: That, figure that out. Because I believe really strongly that the reason that I am twice divorced is because bipolar disorder was in the way. I couldn’t manage both a relationship and bipolar disorder. And so I put all of my focus on the relationship because I thought that’s where it needed to be, which just let bipolar disorder run around unchecked.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah.

Gabe Howard: It was the evil, evil monkey in the room that was just just wreaking havoc on everything. And I didn’t pay attention to it. My third relationship was different. I was able to work on bipolar disorder not in a relationship. I was single. And by the time by the time my wife came along, I, I understood my and that’s the important word there, my bipolar disorder, my needs, what I wanted. So I was able to communicate that to her and I was able to help educate her. And we also signed her up for classes. You know, she took a 12 week class.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Oh, really?

Gabe Howard: Yep. On on having a friend or family member with a severe and persistent mental illness. It was

Dr. Nicole Washington: Wow.

Gabe Howard: A 12 week class, two and a half hours a week for 12 weeks. Yeah. I had to marry her then.

Dr. Nicole Washington: I was about to say this was before you were married.

Gabe Howard: Oh, yeah. Yeah. This was before we were married.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Wow. She was all in.

Gabe Howard: She was all in. And it meant a lot to me for two reasons I’m going to tell you. One of the reasons is not flattering, but I’m going to share it anyways. The first reason that I was glad is because obviously two and a half hours for 12 weeks of education about mental illness is important for somebody who lives and manages mental illness. But that’s not why I sent her. Just I’m going to be completely honest with you. That’s not why I sent her. I sent her because I’ve seen the people who take that class. They’re stressed, they’re scared. A lot of parents who have been trying to help their children for years. And they’re desperate and they’re doing everything they can to support somebody with mental illness. And I wanted my wife to see that’s how bad it can get.

Gabe Howard: That’s how bad I was. My mom and dad had that look on their face at one point in their lives.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Mm hmm.

Gabe Howard: By the time my wife came along, you know, I was in recovery. I was well, she she never saw that version of Gabe. And listen, I really hope that she never, ever sees that version of Gabe,

Dr. Nicole Washington: Mm hmm.

Gabe Howard: But I needed her to be in a room with a mom who broke down crying because she couldn’t handle it. I wanted my wife to see that that that is a potential that could happen. And I wanted to make sure that she could handle it.

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes.

Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, there’s love out there for people with bipolar disorder, right?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Gabe Howard: You’ve seen it in your practice, right?

Dr. Nicole Washington: Yes, I have lots of patients who have very successful relationships and marriages. And they’ve they’ve done well, but it did not come without a lot of work on the front end. So, you know, I think if that if anything from this episode, it can be done, but it may not be easy and that’s okay because the end result is so worth it to be in a relationship with someone that gets you and loves you completely and wholly. I think it’s worth it.

Gabe Howard: I can’t say anything better than that. You have been listening to Inside Bipolar. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please subscribe or follow. It is absolutely free. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” You can grab a copy on Amazon or you can learn more about me or get a signed copy by heading over to my website,

Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms @DrNicolePsych to see all the things I have my hand in at any given moment.

Gabe Howard: Can you do us a favor? Share the show, tell a friend, a colleague, put it on social media, send an email, send a text message. Sharing the show is how we grow. We will see everybody next Monday on Inside Bipolar.

Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Bipolar from Healthline Media and Have feedback for the show? E-mail us at Previous episodes can be found at or on your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening.