Bipolar Disorder doesn’t just affect the individual diagnosed with it, it affects loved ones, family and friends. I decided this month to do a series of blogs, asking my support system to answer some questions about my Bipolar Disorder from their point of view.
This week is my husband’s turn: we have been married for 4 years and together for 6. When we met my Bipolar Disorder wasn’t diagnosed, but I was open with him about my years of struggle with mental illness. He was completely accepting and wonderful about it, as he always has been throughout the years. After moving to Scotland to live with him, I finally got the health care I had always needed and received my diagnosis and treatment. He has been by my side the whole way and I feel very blessed to be able to say that. I asked him to answer some questions and share his point of view.
How would you describe bipolar disorder?
“It can be terrifying but at times, amazing. It can sometimes be predictable and at other times catch you completely by surprise.”
I think this is a wonderful description of the disorder, very apt.
How did you feel when your wife was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?
“I felt disappointed for her. Disappointed that it was something that couldn’t be cured and there was a lot of hard work ahead for her.”
Finding out you have a life long disorder is certainly overwhelming, not just for yourself but for those around you. It is something that effects daily life, and there is no magic cure, but there are treatments and therapies that can help you to manage your symptoms.
Did you look at her differently because of her diagnosis?
“I hope the fact that she wasn’t my wife when diagnosed shows it didn’t change anything. I’ve only ever known her with bipolar disorder and that’s part of who I fell in love with.”
The answer is so important: having a diagnosis at the end of the day is just a label, it doesn’t change the person you have always been, it doesn’t change your personality.
What do you feel your role is in supporting your wife with her illness?
“I feel my role has changed over the years. There were times when I felt my role was as a protector. Before finding the right combination of meds I felt like I had to fight to prevent the harm bipolar disorder seemed intent on causing.
It later moved to be more to listen, to help us both talk and work through the best ways to manage and live with bipolar disorder.
As time’s gone on my wife has gotten increasingly better at managing it and I feel I do a lot less to help with it. Now I feel I’m mostly just helping to reassure and calm when anxiety runs away a little. There to cuddle or listen when it’s needed in times of low or high mood.”
I am so lucky that my husband is always there for me, he listens to what I need and is supportive at all times.
What is the hardest part for you about your wife having Bipolar Disorder?
“Seeing that sadness that severe depression brings and not being able to make it better. Having to leave for work knowing it’ll be another day of struggle for her.”
How do you make sure you take care of your own mental health while being the partner of someone with a mental illness?
“I’m very lucky to have a job that I love with great people around me. I can escape through work if I need to or talk to a colleague, or just chill and play pool at lunchtime. My time for me is my commute home. That’s when I switch off from everything and watch TV programmes or YouTube, read the news, listen to comedy or music.”
Having time for your own mental health to ensure that you are looking after yourself is so important; I think it can be so easy to get carried away with the other person’s needs especially if they are struggling. Through communication, we have managed to strike the right balance with this.
What do you think is important for others who have partner’s with Bipolar disorder to know from your experience?
“You’re part of a team. You’re fighting and learning together. Yes, ask if they’re ok but don’t pressure them to answer. They’ll tell you when they are ready.”
Thanks to my husband for participating, let’s show him some love for speaking out.
The next blog in this series will be from my best friend’s point of view.