In Sickness and In Health
And now, a few words about bipolar partners. Or more accurately, partners of people with bipolar.
You’ve already read the story of my young BP friend, Jesse. Well, after a marathon texting session the other night during which I did my level best to talk him out of cutting, he texted me around 1:30 AM and confessed that he’d done it after all. He “wasn’t strong enough”, as he put it. Afterward, his wife was understandably upset and wouldn’t really talk to him for a while; but then last night she glimpsed the incisions for the first time and wept over them, thus beginning the healing process for them both.
Which got my husband and me to talking on the way home from our daughter’s place tonight about how strong and brave one must be to love—and live with—a partner who’s mentally ill. Seriously, these folks must be candidates for sainthood…..I know my dearly beloved is one. So is Jesse’s wife. And so are the millions of men and women who live every day with the uncertainty involved in loving someone who may very well not be there the next.
What’s more, they often battle the stranger within us for years before ever learning the bastard’s identity. My husband says it’s been a lot easier for him since we discovered that there was a name for my problem, and he’s been instrumental in my treatment, even though there have been many bumps and obstacles along the road to recovery. But until Jesse told me how sad his wife was at the sight of his self-inflicted wounds, I’d never really considered the damage I’ve done to my man’s psyche over the years.
I tried to imagine what life would have been like had the situation been reversed and HE was the one with the illness. I wondered if I could have handled going to work in the morning and never knowing whom I’d come home to that night: the warm, loving person I fell in love with…..the weepy hot mess who wants to die…..or the irrational, raging demon seed who delights in making my world a living hell?
I also tried to picture how I would respond to his threats of self-harm, and how frightening it must be to know that I could lose him to suicide at any moment in time. To see him spiral out of control and head for a place where I cannot reach to pull him back. To stand by helplessly and watch him soar with the eagles before crashing to the earth in flames.
And I couldn’t. I don’t have that kind of resilience, let alone that kind of intestinal fortitude, and I know it.
To everyone who has ever vowed to care for a bipolar spouse “in sickness and in health, till death do us part”, I salute you for your patience, your endurance, your support. We literally couldn’t make it without you, no matter how hard we sometimes try to push you away…..or deny our desperate need for your loving presence in our lives.