Recently, my husband did a very courageous thing. He stated on his facebook page that he suffers from bi-polar II disorder. I followed his lead and shared with my friends our current struggle. Because we are blessed with an amazing group of friends spanning every decade of our life, we received more support, love and prayers than anyone could ever imagine.
I am not going to lie and say this has been easy in any way. I believe my husband has suffered from manic and depressive episodes his whole life. However the last year has been pure hell for us both. His symptoms became so severe that professional help and medicine is a must now.
In a way a dark veil was lifted in our marriage. I always knew things were not quite right between us. For years, I worked and worked to resolve our issues. Nothing ever seemed to work. We met when we were 18 and in our first month of college. We never dated anyone else those four years. We married two years after college and started our life. But life seemed odd to me, his behaviors were strange at times. We had brutal fights. I can’t count the number of times we discussed ending our marriage. But at the end of the day, we always said we would not give up. We loved each other.
When our children arrived, I was even more committed to having a “normal” family. We have actually done well. Our children are well adjusted. Yet, my husband continued to have difficulties in functioning in day to day life. I spent so much time being angry at him. I simply couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just act “normal”
Finally, it all became too much for him. But not before he told me he wanted a new wife. I was furious. How dare he claim right before our 20th wedding annivesary he wanted to leave me. After all we had been through? After all I had done for him? I was a good wife and mother under very difficult conditions. I was really angry. Then the journey of his diagnosis started. Figuring out what he suffered from, dealing with bouts of suicidial thoughts, dealing with a break down at work, and finally starting meds, I started all my own therapy and learned my anger was real. I was normal. I learned what it means to love someone with a mental disorder. I stopped being angry at him. I started to accept my husband has an illness.
It has not been easy for me. The illness, although present our entire relationship, slowly worsened over time without treatment. I began to recall how he had changed over time. How he was once a loving friend and partner to me and ended up not even being able to be my friend. I grieved and mourn the lost of my husband. The disease has taken parts of him away from me. I mourn that I never had or will have a “normal” marriage. Mostly, I miss my husband in the days before the disease control him so much.
It also came to me as a shock how serious the situation was. There are some tasks he simply finds overwhelming, especially under stressful conditions. Our youngest child, wise beyond her years, told me during my angiest times, “You can’t leave dad. He can’t take care of himself. He needs us.” At first, I thought that was the view of a child and surely, he could manage on his own. He has a successful career. He is a sucessful soccer coach in his spare time. He could manage without me. The truth is he does very well. He is very intelligent. But his success is supported by me. We have never lived apart in 25 years and without knowing, I always picked up the pieces when things fell apart. I have come to realize he needs me more today than ever.
I am adjusting to how our marriage will never look like others. The limitations of he disease are real. I need to learn many aspects of the disease, like when his meds are not working anymore. I learned how to see the look in his eyes when he is cycling. I have to learn not to react to an episode that will cause conflict. I have to find support for myself and my girls. I have mostly committed to that this nasty disease will not rob my family of what we do have. I want my children to have the best relationship they can with their father. I must teach them how to cope with this challenge. I need to provide a safe haven for our family in the face of chaos.
I have learned much about myself the last year. In therapy, I learned my ability to adapt to my surroundings is extraordinary. Most people do not press on, much less, thrive under harsh conditions. As I told a friend today, I am the tree that remains standing in a tornado. I am the flower that blooms in the dessert. I bend, but I do not break. I suppose I am just stubborn, that’s all. People say I am strong. I am just unwilling to give up. I spent one day, off and on for hours, trying to convince my husband to start taking his meds again after he decided he didn’t need them. People said I was crazy. They said just leave him, kick him out. Not me, he was once my best friend. I don’t throw people away like trash when they get sick. I harden up. I stand tall. I drop my shoulder and dig deep. He is back on his meds. : ) Sometimes, it is easier to just give in to me, because I will drive you crazy until I get my way. Call it love, call it crazy, call it what you want, but I will not give up on him.
As for me, I have my safety network that catches me when I fall. When I think I can’t go on, I have an angel that flies under me and lifts me back up. My angel arrived in my darkest days, in perfect timing. I always read that God sends His help in perfect timing, never sooner or later. Angels are very unassuming humans in disguise. They do exist. It is with faith I will endure this. This thing I call my life, I will endure.