I’ll be the first to admit that loving someone with bipolar disorder is not easy. My husband will be the second person to tell you this. We’ve certainly had our share of major ups and downs, but we’ve managed to make it through the past eight and a half years of my life so far with bipolar type 1, and I’m confident that if we’ve made it this far, we’ll be in it for the long haul.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of twenty-seven, after having experienced two separate severe manic episodes two weeks apart, both of which landed me in a psychiatric ward. Life was good before mental illness struck – really good. My husband and I had been married for two years, we had bought our first house, both of our careers were going exceptionally well. But then all of a sudden it was as if we were thrown out to sea without a lifeboat or a rescue ship in sight.
It was sink or swim.
Thank goodness my husband was a champion swimmer in high school and I played four years of club water polo in college.
Because with my husband’s strong love and support, together we made it to dry land.
“In sickness and health…”
Those words never rang more true for us than during the first year following my diagnosis. I fell into the most intensely painful depression which made me feel as though I lost myself. Once spunky, driven, happy and full of passion for life, the sparkle in my eyes was gone. I’d come home from my part-time job and would collapse on the couch in front of the TV each night, the tears flowing fast and hard. My husband was always there to listen. He would wrap his loving arms around me to tell me it was going to be okay, as if it were the first time. He never once complained about my illness. Not once.
I needed him and he was there for me. He kept his vow, and even when days would go by and it seemed like I might never get better, he stuck it out. He listened to my struggle, he comforted me when I wasn’t able to find joy in the things I used to love, and he didn’t give up.
In time, I found my path to recovery and my husband was right there with me, every step of the way. Without his unconditional love and encouragement, I’m not sure I would have made it. For us, the key is to stay focused on our promise to each other to be each other’s rock, no matter what. With a strong support system, whether it be a spouse, close friend, or family member, I believe anyone can overcome a mental illness diagnosis.