Melanie's husband, Daniel, wrote an accompanying blog post for our Couples Series. We recommend reading the two posts together.
My sister messaged me on Whatsapp the other day and said she liked my profile picture, and that I looked genuinely happy in it. Having the terrible memory that I do, I forgot what it it was, and had to check. It is a picture from my wedding album (above), of my husband, Daniel and I. My sister was right, I do look happy, and my smile was genuine. I told her that Daniel must have made me laugh right before the photo was taken. I don’t think I would have been able to get through my wedding day this past May without his silly/bad jokes!
I would not get through life and the hard times without him making me laugh, and always knowing how to cheer me up.
Next January, we will have known each other for 10 years. It is hard to believe that 10 years ago, I met this wonderful man, who accepted me for me from the get go. I should probably explain that at the time we met, I was in a hypomanic state (unbeknownst to either of us), and was very different from who I am today. I was not well, I didn’t know it, he didn’t know it, but I was fun so who cared? Well, I was reckless in some ways i.e. shopping addiction, not sleeping, not eating properly, and eventually this culminated into a panic attack on our first New Year’s Eve together and always being medicated since then. This meant chronic battles with weight and self-esteem. Oh, and of course, a debt consolidation loan, because I maxed out 4 credit cards and a line of credit, and yet he didn’t judge me or criticize me for this, because he is not like that.
Daniel, being supportive, has come with me to my psychiatrist’s appointments, without being afraid to voice his opinion or ask questions. I encourage him to read about bipolar disorder, to learn about mental illness, and to ask questions of me. I know he won’t be able to understand what I go through, but so long as he can recognize when my moods are shifting, it helps because he may sometimes catch it before I do, and he can try to keep me calm when I seem hyper, whether it’s at home or in public.
Daniel has been nothing but patient and kind to me throughout the years. He has stood by me when I wanted to give up and hide in bed. I will never forget having a panic attack in front of him the day after we met, and he couldn’t do enough to try and help me. I was just stunned that he wasn’t afraid of me and actually wanted to see me again.
I always say laughter is the best medicine, because it distracts you. In order for me to calm down from a panic attack (aside from taking one of my “emergency” pills), I will often just ask Daniel to tell me something funny. Distraction works.
I also knew Daniel was special when he connected with my Grandfather right away. I always wanted a marriage like my grandparents, because my Grandpa always referred to my Grandma as his princess and he tried to treat her like one. He adored her, he made her handmade cards, and it was true love and I am happy Daniel had a chance to meet both of them.
Grandpa’s motto was actually, “Laughter is the best medicine” and he adored Daniel (I should mention that everyone who meets him does because he is very charming and patient). My Grandpa made the best of every situation, and Daniel tries to do that too. He always tries to see the best in people and he always tries to keep positive energy in the room (even though sometimes I tell him “stop it!” when he says, “Positive energy Mel! Positive energy!” when I am in a bad mood).
It was difficult for Daniel to see me grapple with my diagnosis in July 2010. It took a long time for me to accept this was my “new reality.” Even though the bipolar disorder had been there my entire life, it wasn’t until that point in time that it really hit me in the face. The weekend before my doctor’s appointment where she confirmed the diagnosis, I was in an extremely hyper, terrified state and I know it was not easy for him to see me like that. It’s never easy to see a loved one go through a difficult time, especially when you don’t know how you can help. It took a while for me to know what made me feel better when I was in my different states, and to be able to actually communicate that. I have trouble asking for help and admitting that I want someone to listen to me and to verbalize what is going through my mind. I am a great actress and am very adept at hiding my feelings because I have to do that at work, so no one asks questions, but sometimes I forget to take the mask off at home. This is where it helps to have a partner who knows you well.
Let’s face it, a “normal” relationship is hard to maintain. A relationship with someone with longstanding anxiety, depression, bipolar II with rapid cycling, who has low self-esteem and doubts herself most days is not easy. I tell Daniel that I know how lucky I am to have him. But you know what, he’s lucky to have me too. Why, because I am unique and special. No matter what, I pull through every challenge life has given me (as has he), and that’s why we work. Because we are strong, passionate people who respect each other and have a deep caring for each other. He always tells me that he wouldn’t be where he is today in his life without me, or who he is without me. Our lives would be very different without each other.
What makes us work?
- Being honest about who we are from the beginning of the relationship- I told him on our first date that I had an anxiety disorder;
- Not being influenced by the opinions of others- Yes, there have been relatives/people who may have questioned his choice to be with “someone like me,” but he never let that bother him or change his mind;
- Listening to each other and valuing each other’s opinions;
- Him understanding my need for “space” a.k.a. breathing room when I feel overwhelmed;
- Being patient with things like how long it takes to put away laundry, dishes, or if I don’t feel like cooking, he will bring home dinner;
- Learning to work as a team;
- A willingness to compromise – If I don’t want to/can’t go to an event, but he still wants to and I am okay with it, he can go without me and I don’t mind;
- He is willing to stand up for me and vice versa.
When I was in dating mode before I met Daniel, what I thought I wanted was very different from who I ended up with. I have no regrets. I don’t need to be married to a millionaire, be a doctor or professor’s wife – I just need to be with someone who lets me be me, and who is authentic. From day one, Daniel has been authentic, original, and has never changed. Whenever I fill out a card for him, I always say something along the lines of “Thank you for always being you, never change”. I don’t think he will change, and I’m proud of that and proud he is my husband.
As Shakespeare said, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”
Read Daniel's perspective on how bipolar order affects their relationship in his accompanying post here.
Read the rest of Melanie's blogs here.