The Cognitive Dissonance Of Love

When bipolar illness would’t let the woman he loved find her voice, Jack Varnell wrote the voice he heard anyway.

AUTHORS NOTE: I am a semi educated and informed supporter of mental health issues, addiction treatment and prevention, and suicide prevention. This post is, with the exception of some slight artistic paint and polish, completely true,and comes directly from text messages, emails, and conversations held between the two involved parties. In most cases it is verbatim minus some suicidal related comments, and extremely “colorful” language. In the world of medicine, and with the exception of some misleading recent advertising, mental health issues tend to be stigmatized, and callously discarded. There are always several sides to a story and this is an attempt to shed a little light on the importance of the fact that the illness itself affects everyone involved, and that all must be active, and willing participants in recovery, and constantly aware and learning how to love and support each other in that healing process. 

I hope it accomplishes that goal, and if you need additional information or referrals to MH care providers or services in your area, please direct message me @jackvarnell and I will help if I can.

Excerpt from ::A Journal Of Bipolar Love::


She says all the time that I couldn’t possibly understand what it means to be, well…her.

I always respond by re-informing her that, at least I am trying, and that seems to be more than anyone else ever did. In my own self righteous way, of course.I remind her that if nothing else we have love. We have common ground, we have survival instinct and, have earned that right – to survive. It comes automatically with a highly developed need to thrive.

The love lives in shared unfinished sentences. In mutual feelings and visions. Love lives in the big picture and in the lies that aren’t real because we know defenseless moments in time, and unguarded smiles of recognition and acceptance.

What’s important, the thing she forgets most often, is that we have shared so much of life and all it has had to offer us. Before we even met. I know a little about what it all means, as does she. Mania, depression, hopelessness and addictions of all sorts have crossed my path. They have tempted me with the ease of giving up and sinking down for the last time. She has had the same along with trauma I can only imagine.

None of it is hers versus mine, I know these things. I know because I have seen and felt their defeatist and well worn claws around my throat. I know their pain, and futility. They are ancient, and though they once had the power to kill me, today they are an annoyance, old, and feeble – weakened by truth. I know they can be defeated. I know because I want to live and thrive. She doesn’t always want to believe that is true. I have to know it is, not only from experience but because I have earned that gift. I must know. Or die.

She has given me too much reason to live for that. She forgets that, and yet, here I am.

If I could convince her I know what it means, here is what I would say….in her own voice. Her interpretation, spoken as if I am her. I offer my answer. My understanding. Whispered into her ear as if her own idea. Projected self-revelation.


::Two Way Promises from Two Poets Or More::

SHE: I hate you, don’t leave me. Let me drive you away so you will stay.

You ask about the worst of me, what I’ve told nobody and hidden just out of sight. I’d say it’s hidden below the surface, but I wear it on my sleeve or just under it — so you will hate me too.

ME: Yes, I ask. But I do not ask about anything specific. No best or worst, good or bad, right or wrong, secret, or worn on a sleeve. I ask about you, I know you better than most, but never enough. I want to know. I’m a seeker and you have been found. I only know the glimpses. I am together selfish and selfless. I love the feeling of loving you, and I want to know how to love you more, and better. I ask because I must– you’ve hidden away too long. I ask because to quench the longing to be part of the sum total of you and I. It is the Holy Grail I have always sought.

SHE: Explain it? How do I explain myself when I am not even sure myself? How do I put into words what I have run from, what has kept me running for so long? I’m capable and willing to tell you all my secrets, I want to tell you everything. Though I really can’t or won’t. I trust you enough to let it slip out a sliver at a time.

ME: I do not require explanations. It’s the explanations and reasoning that is flawed. Nothing is “just the way it is”, and needs scrutiny, investigation without prior contempt, not blind acceptance. What I need is a more clear understanding of what the lies you believe are. The possibility exists I can offer hope. Because you choose to finally question the rest of the story.

SHE: Maybe it will help me, this full disclosure. Maybe you will hate me. Please do. It would be easier. Maybe you will understand. I don’t know, I don’t care, yet I am sorry, but I am sick. Sick of running. Running on sickness. Running with scissors, hoping to fall. So here and now, you beautiful fucker, I give you what you think you want.

I hate you. Not really. It’s just what I do, but sometimes I think it is true. I let the phone ring when you call, or pretend I am napping even though I want to talk to you more than anything in the world. I will not call you, even though it is all I want to do. It’s just a matter of principle. I’m a creature of habit. It’s the way I am.

ME: It must be so hard to live on that roller coaster. But I must warn you. I love you and it will be hard to convince me otherwise. All the things about me that you fell in love with are still here, and I suspect stronger than ever. It’s part of why you resist so hard. Given all the tools and peace of mind you need, if you would see that, then the love I have for you would warm and console you, not overwhelm and frighten. The fact that I might sleep with music, or watch TV while I do other things is not really the important fact. I would gladly give all that up to live in the splendor of you. You believe I don’t know the things you do to hide but like so many of the tactics you so automatically employ, they only serve to fool you. I don’t feel like a target. Or that I’m ignored. It is you who gets lost in the shuffle. I’ve said that all along. I win if you are happy and in love, and aware of it enough to enjoy it.

SHE: To reach out to you is not an option, even though every part of me wants to. I’m prone to reach out to tell you to fuck off and be mad you don’t see it as a cry for help. Obviously you’re an asshole, don’t know me and never will. I’ll make sure of it if you will read my writing. I will need to remind you that you weren’t there for me later.

Prince Charming has a price on his head. If I had a gun, his horse would be dead. You…maimed. I wonder why you think you need the armor. I thought you loved me.

I will be angry, rabid even, and it will be you who caused it. Usually because you love me, you fucking jerk. I will hurt your feelings because I know how you feel. I will want to hurt you physically, because you’re so far away. I know if you were here you might try to hold me. But you aren’t here so HA !!! Be here in Spirit, or try to come closer like we planned and I will drive you away or build a wall. I do that very well. I told you from the start, I am afraid to let you closer.

I crave constant attention, and reassurances, and all it costs me is cold indifference. I can curse you, laugh at you and call you weak because you let me. Cleverly twist the knife in a covert way in conversation. My family members think it’s funny. The one I love today and hate tomorrow. What a pussy. You must be insane.

ME: Again in my rhetorical, and rote fashion, I repeat, I love you. It is an uncontrollable emotion and no matter what you or the world may throw at me, I fight to not be swayed. love happens on a different plane. I could deny, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but that goes counter to everything in my life I have come to believe. Everything I believe you want and need as well. Ask yourself if those that would discourage you have earned the right to do so.

Are they perhaps jealous of the fortitude and promise of a life filled with love forever? Have they ever sabotaged your happiness at any time in your life? Would the delicate balancing act come crashing down around them if you changed the rules? Ask even if who you must ask is yourself.


SHE: I will be jealous of the attention you give others. Roommates, friends, or the unknown people of the internet. It doesn’t matter who if it isn’t me. You will either waste my life a minute at a time on the phone, or you will be an asshole because you want to get off the phone to eat dinner.

I expect and demand to have as many others in my life as I want. I will lie about them, spend time with them, sleep with them or make them abuse me, and any of it will be your fault or your cross to bear. I’ll have them whether or not you want me to, and even – especially, if it’s just because you don’t want me to. I’ll compare you to them one day and you’ll shine, the next you will stoop lower than any of them, or hurt me exactly like they did. Or did they? I forget. Can you please remind me?

I will get mad at you for ignoring me. I will feel close to you and care for you one day, even be in love with you. Only to be mad and want you out of my life the next. Smother me with that same shit, different day rhetoric, with all that garbage about love (which doesn’t exist, by the way) and you are a self righteous prick if you think you could love me or that I would ever love you. Though you are a saint for trying and I can’t understand why you would. Except that you must be insane. I can’t understand why you love me so you must not. Not really. There is too much risk in that.

Euphoric recall and emotional amnesia are the most blatant symptoms, and I use them like a reverse blanket to keep me cold. Maybe I’ve always had them, I don’t know, care, or really even remember. The thing is, I have the memory of an elephant. An elephant in the middle of the room I ignore or feed depending on which serves me better at the time. And like an elephant, when it is time, I will go off alone and die. I’ll show you.

I tend to see every event, each day, each conversation as a separate event, always looking for signs that you might hurt me. They are all disjointed and you can bet I’m keeping track. When I feel neglected, I will get mad and forget that the day before you told me how much you cared. I am an inconsistent mess. There is a part of me who is happy and confident and another part that is insecure, afraid and that needs a defense whether it works or not. These days, I never know which one it will be. Every time I think I am in control, that I know you care and I feel comfortable with our relationship, the fear and doubt will come back. I remember all the others who started out the same way. The attached anger and inevitable doom and gloom, no matter the evidence you are not like them. Maybe with time it will go away. If I get my way, you will. Then I’ll remember how much I love you, how much you let me down, and how I knew it was inevitable. Even how I prepared for, foretold of, and manifested it. I will remember completely, but doubt it. I will blame you and remind myself of all your faults. All it will take is another close relationship, another new friend, another day and it will be back. Just as your love has me tied to all the others who lied, cheated, abused or neglected me. I always knew you were Superman, a Prince. How else could you juggle all of that ? It’s why you scare me. Or is it?

You ask what you can do. You study, learn, try new ways to love me. I do not know what to say. All I know is the fight or flight I feel when you do. The needy part of me wants your constant attention, it needs your words and thoughts, your presence. Even that four letter word love. I pray to love you as well. I pretend to know that is not the answer. I must accept, and intensify the limitations on our relationship. The scared part of me wants you out of my life because it would be easier. The more you know and understand and love, the more of a threat you are because you approach the things I can’t understand, the answers I can’t know, the me that I haven’t seen in forever and believe never exists. You see, I have a birth defect. I’m a kind of Jerry’s kid, and that allows me to…or not. Then the hateful part of my defenses wants to hurt you because it thinks you have hurt me. All I can ask you to do is to understand, to not give up. But I can’t as you beg me to do the same. Mother Fucker. Go away.

I will ignore you at times, and shut you out regularly. I may be rude to you, I may try to hurt you. I may hide from you and wait for you to reach out to me, so I know you will care. It is not fair to do these things, but I will. It doesn’t matter though, you’ll abandon me anyway eventually. But you ask repeatedly to be here, to keep trying and try to focus on hope, LOVE, and the big picture. Guess what asshole, this is all I have to tell you.

ME: When it all comes full circle and the anger is gone, why is it you can’t see that if you don’t want to hurt me, and you want to protect me from the poison, that being away from you – not being with is what causes the pain? That unconditional love makes no allowances for me to abandon you, or us. It would be an act against my nature to do anything but to love without question, or without fail. I do reserve the right to be human though, and to have feelings both good and bad about how this love is received, or about whether is seems to make a difference or not.

SHE: I do not like this, or the cyclical nature of it. I do not like being needy, clingy, or fearful. I do not like that I hurt, or that I hurt people. Especially the ones like you who give a shit. I need you to be there for me, so fuck off and go away so I can blame you and not have to make things different. I don’t like this but it’s comfortable like a well worn pair of shoes, a little too worn but too comfortable to invest in a new pair. I do not like that I am rude and sarcastic to those around me. But it’s none of your fucking business anyway how I feel. Go away and it won’t bother you. I do not like this part of myself, so why should you? I don’t know the other parts anymore. Stop telling me you see or know them. You cannot possibly know me, because you can’t know what it is like to be me. If you did you wouldn’t act like you did while you beg to know more. Weak fucker.

Forever, I have ignored this me and I’ve pretended it was me, but when I realize the possibility exists that this is not me, I revolt. When you say it’s not me, and that it is a false identity created to protect me from the world, I want to kill you…or me. It is not an easy realization, and perhaps I haven’t fully accepted it’s a possibility yet. Or that it’s a distorted form of hope. I want to know I have found my path, realize change is possible even though I hate it might be necessary. Can I accept this picture of me and use it on the path to becoming who I am? It will not be easy and it will not be quick. God knows it will hurt, probably more than what I know now. Can I have faith that I can do it? Will you offer me that and a guarantee? If not, fuck you. And don’t make it about me or my “birth defects”. Those are my defenses, damn it. Perhaps one day I will see myself as the person you see behind my defenses, and perhaps one day I will let others see that person as well. Once I get to know her. But I doubt it.

ME: You know in your heart the truth. I claim no perfection or exemplary amount of patience or knowledge. I am human just like you. I have flaws, and fears and I am a victim of them like anyone else on some days. I blame no one but me, or what the world throws at me. Though I don’t often understand what I could have done differently, I just DO. I have to keep walking, eyes forward and moving. I see you and our happiness in the close distance. Within reach and I try to grab it as often as it comes close, and race towards it as it slips further away. That is something neither of us can control. We both know the truth but neither of us on some days can use it as propulsion. We have to keep walking. Further and further away from the chains that have bound us for so long. I have come to a point in my life where to not do so means death. It seems you are at a point I was once upon a time where to do so means death. It’s not that hard, I just want you to take my hand and share the journey. You can, and should, and God knows you deserve it. Surviving is not thriving. Thriving is not an impossibility it just takes effort, and when I can’t I need others to pull me along. That’s all I’ve tried to do for you. The rest is crap, and all lies. Going through the motions whether at my prompting or your own will offer incredible results and form much healthier habits than what we are used to. We do not have to accept what we are used to.

You KNOW all this, and whether you believe it or not, I know what it means to have that knowledge and lose it from time to time. I also know what it means to have it and do nothing with it. The knowledge is not the answer, it is the impetus, and what makes it so hard on us when we don’t DO something. Now we know better and we know it is not where we need to be. Let’s give that up and move forward, not stay stuck or sliding backwards. We have to ask ourselves whether we are truly doing all we can to better our life, and if not why. Then take appropriate action. Together is so much easier.

SHE: You represent many. You are the people close to me. The ones I trusted enough, exposed myself to you, hid from you in fear, or loved you. I want to be close to you even though I have kept you away. I want to keep you away, though I want to love and be loved. I am afraid you will do as you say and love me no matter what. You seem to have all along while you let me down.

You are friends, family, lovers I have pushed away in the past, those I never forgave and never let back in. Friends and family I never had the chance to tell. You are the people I will meet in the future, the people I will care about until once again I push them out of my life, or until I die. Unless…

You are the part of me that is still hanging on, trying to understand who I am. You are all of these people and many more. You are nobody.

ME: You are right. I am part of you, and you of me. We are love. Hanging on. Trying to understand, We are human, and we are a gift to each other. There is only one wrong answer, and one wrong course of action. Giving up, or believing it will always be this way is a lie. There may be factors that will not go away, but there will always be opportunity for the outcome to be different. We just have to try. To do our part. Our part. Not you and yours, or me and mine. Ours.

Please do not be confused. This is nothing more than a love letter. I can never KNOW what it is like to be in your shoes, but I CAN understand and care more than you give me credit for. I can continue to learn and grow. There is nothing broken here. There is no irreparable damage that has been done. The only thing is that the wreckage of our individual and collective pasts have gotten in the way. The big picture, and an honest appraisal, along with effort to see and foster the truth will certainly supersede anything that feels imbalanced now.

Love does conquer all. Acting as if, whether it is believable or not this minute will give the view necessary, and develop the habit of nourishing it. That only comes from belief and action towards the end goal. The world and the enemies of love cannot hurt us if we choose to be steadfast and diligent. We will be rewarded beyond our wildest imagination. Please don’t give up, and know you are not alone.

—Photo emotional orphan

About Jack Varnell

Jack Varnell is a writer, poet, photographer
and social media addict living in the suburbs
of Atlanta, GA.

He is a regular contributor at
various online publications.

He can be found:
Twitter, @jackvarnell
Google Plus +Jack Varnell"
and About Me


  1. Thank you, Jack. I have a twin sister with BPD, and some days are really rough. I can hear her voice in what you write, and I hope someday I can get throuh to her.

  2. Thank You DC. I decided to push this post back out there since I know folks miss things along the way. I am glad it had some positive impact. That is exactly why it was written. I appreciate you, not only reading , but for taking the time to let me know it was of some value to you. Best of luck to you in all you do, and be well…J

  3. thank you Jack for this. I’m also a sufferer of bipolar disorder and have been abused in all sorts of ways as a child. I could relate to everything the girl has said, as i think I’ve said the same things in my relationship with my significant other. i hope to show this to him to explain my side more eloquently. thank you.

  4. W.R.R. Thanks for reading and your heartfelt response. It sounds as if you are facing and dealing with the realities that are in this case. It isn’t always that way though I wish for my situation it had been. I hope you will stay the course and that all in your life will participate in the healing and understanding. I am not crass enough to say I understand what it may be like, but I hope those around you will try as hard as I feel I did in order to. At the core, love and support one for all is the answer. I hope all can remember and focus on that when the times get rough. Peace, and Be well.

  5. Thank you for writing this. As a rapid cycle bipolar and survivor of child sex abuse, I understand her through your words in ways I wish I couldn’t. Still, thank you. I can never explain to others how my mental illness and problems really feel to me. I think if the people in my life read this, they could understand better. Your words describe in many instances how I feel in different cycles, the jagged dichotomy of both feelings felt and words that get spoken. I do these things, the pushing away and the pulling closer, often at once. Reading your sections here, I can see some of the things my loved ones try to say to me. The defensive hysterical deafness of the abused at times can let us hear you. Don’t give up; because at the root, the worst fear is that you could decide someday it’s not worth it. All the promises under heaven can’t make me believe without fear, while at the same time, a fractured and bleeding belief allows me to draw each labored next breath. – W.R.R.

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