Memoir: my true love Spencer Stories: #2 Bipolar Artist

Sheshan R, unsplash.com

Spencer was bipolar but I didn’t understand the disease. It was like he was blind, but I kept asking him, “Why can’t you see?!” I loved him like I’ve never loved anyone else in the world.

When you’re with someone who’s bipolar, get ready for an adventure. The adventure will be: exhilarating and frightening, brutal and healing, pure adrenaline pumping madness. I wouldn’t wish this experience on my enemies, it’s that psychologically damaging. But no matter how insane his actions were, I could at least partially see how much he was already suffering. It echoed how I felt about certain members of my family. That dynamic is what melded us together. We fit perfectly like a puzzle.

He reminded me of all of them: my worrying mother, my competitive sister, my aggressive father and my gentle brother. That’s quite a combination all in one person. Psychologists have suggested that we tend to seek and recreate relationships that are a composite of our original key relationships. I agree with this theory, it makes sense that we’d seek people that remind us of who we first loved and trigger us with recreations of original trauma. I think we try to resolve our unfinished business, we think we can heal our unresolved pain with this composite version, all in one person. No wonder the divorce rate is as high as it is, the challenge can be insurmountable, a heartbreaking failure. It took about a decade for me to process and accept the loss. He was the love of my life and I feel fortunate to have had that connection, despite its tumultuous, fatalistic ending.

Eduardo Dutra, unsplash.com

We explored the crazy underbelly of San Francisco, not the tourist view. He was homeless when I first met him. He had an Indian goddess T-shirt on, gray pants, a beaded crystal necklace, two spiral earrings made out of bones and purple sunglasses on. His hair was dirty blonde like a surfer, he carried a huge camping backpack, I could tell he was either returning from camping in the mountains or he was a young, homeless, traveler. He didn’t seem disheveled or drugged out; he just seemed like an idealist.

Even though I dressed in boring suburbanite clothes, I could relate to alternative subculture much more than my raised-in-the-suburbs life. I was a secret hippie who studied chakra meditation, reincarnation, I Ching mysticism and the properties of new age crystals. I was always attracted to astrology and spiritual healing and so was he.

We both came from a background of intense Christianity. We bonded over forced indoctrination and the consequential rebellion. We were twin wonder dorks, a perfect nerdy match of opposites. He was an over the top madman, a Burner, (he went to Burning Man every year), an art/rave festival in the Nevada desert. He frequently dressed in costumes. Strangers would yell out, “Star Trek!” because he often wore a Star Trek uniform that he created, he hand sewed a Star Tek patch on to the purple velour shirt and added golden wavy embellishments at the sleeves. He loved Star Wars with an insane dedication too. He had a velvet, renaissance-like costume made for him, with a hooded, Jedi cape. I loved his outrageousness and originality.

The phrase, “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all,” represents our story very well. He took me to the edge, a place of mutual madness, but he also gave me some of the happiest moments of my life. The brighter the flame, the quicker it burns out. In retrospect the experience of dating an un-medicated bipolar artist feels like both a dream come true and a frightening nightmare.