What Manic Depression and an Elliott Smith Song Taught me About Love

It’s a strange thing to grow up with manic depression. It seems pretty obvious, but for the longest portion of my younger life these mood swings did nothing but confuse my actions and the way I thought about them. Having bipolar causes your moods to generally be very euphoric and full of awe, or void of happiness, filled self hatred, guilt, and pain when there wasn’t a reason to feel that way. I struggled to understand that I could have these feelings as a consequence of birth, because I was always told that I feel these things for a reason. Unfortunately, holding on to this notion that I wasn’t connected to my emotions and was incapable of determining their cause made things much worse. When I have thoughts racing through my head, (suicidal, thoughts about my parent’s dying, how awesome it would be if my car lost traction on the highway…) and I can’t pinpoint why I feel that way, I start to only blame myself more. Having a romantic relationship deferred some of that manufactured blame with my partner, and when I became depressed, they started to blame themself. In the end, we couldn’t take it. We broke up.

Breaking up didn’t deter any of the blame or depression though; I was still depressed for another month after we split, and I ended up failing my only two college classes. I was worried that I was falling apart, losing my one chance to live an okay life with the time my parents gave me. I began to rebuild myself once I eventually got out of that depression through philosophy and music.


Reexamining My Now Very Broken Mind

I decided that the best course of action for trying to learn about myself was to try and learn about different philosophies of life, love, religion and sex. These are vast topical issues, with no universal truth about anything. I wanted to believe that the extra perspectives would allow me to reexamine and rebuild myself in a new light.

I should be allowed to live a fulfilling life, and be manically depressed. If I can’t, then how can I integrate myself into the world without using medication to alter who I am?

I found an incredible free e-book, The Book of Life, which is a collection of perspectives and ideas on life to help us shape ourselves into being better. The third chapter in particular had this to say on love:

…[T]he history of humanity shows us so many varied approaches to love, so many different assumptions about how couples are supposed to get together and so many distinctive ways of interpreting feelings, we should perhaps accept with a degree of grace that the way we go about our relationships must in practice owe rather a lot to the prevailing environment beyond our bedrooms. Our loves unfold against a cultural backdrop that creates a powerful sense of what is ‘normal’ in love; it subtly guides us as to where we should place our emotional emphases, it teaches us what to value, how to approach conflicts, what to get excited about, when to tolerate, and what we can be legitimately incensed by. Love has a history and we ride — sometimes rather helplessly — on its currents.

They argued that, the generalized love that I have perceived while growing up maybe wasn’t the love for me, and I bit the idea hard enough to shatter my teeth.


The Song

There is a single line, of a single song that taught me what love means. The 1997 song Say Yes from Either/Or begins with the line “I’m in love with the world, through the eyes of a girl.” The rest of the song talks about a relationship that failed. However, the song suggests some form of love still exists. Elliott seems to be very happy with how things turned out despite this breakup. The song is hopeful towards much more while continually acknowledging his euphoria and love with the world as a consequence of something else.

It’s always been wait and see
A happy day and then you pay
And feel like shit the morning after
But now I feel changed around and instead falling down
I’m standing up the morning after

From experience, I can assure anyone who hasn’t been through an awkward hookup with an ex that the shit you feel the morning after can be quite uncomfortable. Elliott saw something different, and like him, I feel changed around as well.

It’s all because of the perspective gained through the eyes of another. Elliott was in love with the world through his ex’s eyes. The love here, is fully directed towards the world (that is, the physical world and every entity living within), through the lens of another human being. If love is devoted into life and the world, then there isn’t much room for jealousy, romance games, and arguably marriage. How can this love be broken down in terms of romantic partners, family, and friends?


How does one Love?

To change the way we love requires a fair amount of conscious effort to perceive the way we care about ourselves and others. In this effort, focus on loving the world through a person, rather than a person. They should be a person that fills you with love, awe, acceptance and tolerance for the world. When love is focused on ourselves and others we can easily be destroyed by jealousy, esteem, and boredom.

We cling to romantic love, which can dissolve over time and leave us broken and hurt that we aren’t loved the same.

Romanticism kills us by telling us we need to find a soulmate, someone to stay with for the rest of our lives. On the other hand, when love is perceived through sharing ideas and experiences, it’s a love that is shared between more than just our partner. We perceive love through our family, our friends, and through others because we care about these people. In this regard, our partner is only a friend whose perception of the world matters most to us.

Moreover, the perceptions we share tend to revolve around politics, religion, science, art, and other discussion topics, but by including the way we perceive experiences we define the way we love so that it reaches all corners. Physical experiences like camping, cooking, attending social functions and sex shape our perceptions and the way we love through one another just as much as shared interests.

Being a Better Lover to All

We naturally tend to make friendships and relationships with people that enjoy our company, and when our company is also enjoyed. It is this enjoyment, this friendship, that is the love we need to adapt more to. Understand that we become friends with people because of how they act and respond to the world, what they say and how they think. A true and lasting friendship rarely depends on cunning looks and clear skin to gain approval.

We love the world through our friends, and adapt our perspectives to be inclusive of theirs.

We love our friends despite not sharing a similar taste in foods and drinks. Why? Because we admire this difference, it proves to us that we are unique and capable of being vastly different, though being so physically similar. True love in this sense is the same. The love you have for someone significant is the same admiration for their perspective of the world.

Our love is maximized by meeting new people with varying perspectives. Communicating and listening to their perceptions will shape us, them, and help us love the world we live in. We spend our time with the people whose perspectives we value most. What we value is certain to change as time progresses, and as we learn more about the world, ourselves and others, we should be more acceptant of letting people go to self actualize. With constant kindness and acceptance we are free to seek the perceptions we want. You may find just as I do that life is filled with less conflict, and more time to discover new people, passions, and love.


I plan on writing about toxic relationships, dealing with breakups, humility and tolerance in the future. Follow me to make sure you don’t miss any!

Like what you read? Give Conrad Mearns a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.