Managing Bipolar Swings During a Romantic Getaway Sucks

Managing Bipolar Swings During a Romantic Getaway Sucks

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This post was originally published on January 14, 2016.

Since I don’t live with my boyfriend Horacio, I wasn’t too sure if spending a week with him in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico would go over so well. Sure Mexico is beautiful, but I am also well aware of my mood fluctuations due to bipolar disorder, and, despite being together for five years, he’d never seen me at my worst.

Managing my emotions and moods are easy enough when I’m alone. I see the warning signs, and I have ways to deal when I veer towards a low mood or a high mood. And in a low mood, I can just curl up in bed for a couple of hours and watch Curb Your Enthusiasm until I snap out of it.

This all changes when you’re stuck with someone 24/7 for seven whole days. Even if it is in a veritable paradise, like Puerto Vallarta.

For starters, I couldn’t sleep. The sheets in our darling little boutique Mexican hotel, which cost us something ridiculous like $40 a night, were one step up from burlap. Now I don’t mean to be a privileged princess, but I just can’t sleep on scratchy sheets. I’m sensitive to everything—fabrics, sound, climate and light. Horacio, on the other hand, can sleep peacefully on sandpaper and rocks with a jackhammer in the background, and he credits this to his meditation practice, which he never shuts up about.

Maybe those burlap sheets made him sleep deeper than normal, because that first night he snored very loud, so loud I feared he’d choke.

As anyone with any knowledge of bipolar disorder will tell you, sleep is an absolute must to retain your sanity. Without sleep, we bipolar folks go bonkers. Over the years and in various relationships, I’ve been called a “shrew,” a “wench,” and I believe even a “demon” when boyfriends have woken me up in the middle of a deep sleep.

I’m not proud of it.

So the first night on those scratchy sheets with Horacio snoring, I began to go crazy. I fantasized about going to the Four Seasons or the Hyatt, slapping down my debit card and begging the hotel staff to sell me some of their 1,000 thread-count, 100% cotton linens. But the obscenely loud and squeaking air conditioner snapped me out of that fantasy.

So I turned it off. As it grew hotter, Horacio woke.

“Why did you turn off the air?”

“Because it’s loud.”

He rolled over and fell back asleep. I finally nodded off at like six in the morning, and just one hour later Horacio woke up, ready for the day. Though he tried to be quiet, the sound of his laptop booting ripped me out of my desperately needed shut-eye. And, with an imbalanced brain, I snapped.

“FUCK!” I yelled.

“What is it?” he asked.

“You fucking woke me up with your stupid fucking computer!” I yelled in major demon voice. He’d never heard me yell like that.

“Jesus Christ!” he snapped, which was very out of character for him. Then he added, “You’re such a pain in the ass.”

I’d never heard him talk like that to me.

I rolled over and began to cry, overwhelmed at how unhinged I was, overwhelmed that I couldn’t sleep, well aware that I didn’t want to be a bitch, that I knew I was out of control. But just one night without sleep seemed to suck every ounce of self-control out of me.

I couldn’t sleep after that. I tossed and turned and decided that lest I get that unstrung in the evening, I had to find some decent sheets. He agreed. Unfortunately, there were no stores nearby that sold them. According to the locals, the closest place to get a decent set was at the Costco seven miles away.

So I schlepped there in a cab and bought some for 1,000 pesos, which adds up to $60 that I was not happy to spend. (I am pleased to say, however, that I now have a Mexican Costco membership.)

Being all cracked out and psycho, I tried to nap during the day on the nice soft sheets. But the housekeepers kept dragging their little carts over the Spanish tile through the courtyard, and the cacophony woke me after I’d fallen asleep for something like 15 minutes. Once again, I turned into a shrew.

“The whole world doesn’t revolve around your sleep cycle,” Horacio said as I huffed and puffed. I got up from the bed, went into the bathroom and slammed the door so hard it sounded like a detonated bomb. The humidity was starting to seep through the window, and that, too, was setting me over the edge.

“You don’t understand,” I said, opening the door after a few minutes. “Not sleeping makes me insane!”

Then I started crying again, balling my eyes out on the bed. He came over to me, stroked my head and kissed me on the cheek.

“I’m sorry you feel bad, baby,” he said quietly. “I don’t like to see you this way.”

The truth was, he’d never seen me that way. The fact that he for one second realized that maybe I wasn’t a demon but just someone who was severely off balance not only moved me, but it also made me hate myself less.

By day two, despite the silky sheets, I still couldn’t sleep. I tried so hard to be kind and loving and patient and understanding with Horacio, but I failed. Everything he did seemed to piss me off.

He sat in front of the TV amusing himself with all the Spanish shows—which he can understand since he’s from Argentina—and it irked me that he didn’t want to change it to something in English.

I wanted to go zip-lining in the jungle; he wanted to lay on the beach.

I wanted to go browse through all the shops with stunning Mexican ceramics, silver, and beaded Aztec sculptures; he told me to shop on my own because “I’m a guy, and I don’t like shopping.”

When I raided the panaderia across the street, buying two conchas, one sweet empanada and a corn muffin, stuffing my face with all of them to either help me sleep or help me wake up, he pointed out that if I didn’t change my eating habits, I’d be a fatass by 50.

When he threw on this fluorescent green Quicksilver T-shirt he’d had since the 90’s, I told him to yank it off if he wanted to get laid because it was that hideous.

We argued and argued and argued.

By day three, I still hadn’t slept. Horacio kept snoring, plus the hotel had these exotic birds hanging up in cages in the courtyard, and they chirped and cackled in the middle of the night. I fantasized about opening the cages and strangling those birds with my hands, or better yet, setting them on fire.

We continued to argue.

Finally, by day four, I was so exhausted, I conked out and slept straight through the night, a solid seven hours. When I woke, I was an entirely different person, rolling over and gazing into Horacio’s eyes with warmth and serenity.

“Morning, baby!” he said to me.

How sweet that he didn’t hold my former bitchiness against me.

After that, I started sleeping better, and our vacation did a 180. It wasn’t perfect, but we were able to manage our differences and enjoy each other and our beautiful surroundings.

Neither of us plan to move in together, since we both cherish our independence and personal space. The entire ordeal reminded me that I’m better off living alone and spending one night a week at his place, since I do love him so much and don’t want to be a hurtful bitch.

And if we do go on vacation again, I’m bringing my own sheets, ear plugs, and some melatonin.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.