I figured that today would be an awesome day to re-share a post from my personal blog that was an interview with my husband about enduring the struggles with my mental illness. Since we have been together for 13 years, I will always consider him my eternal boyfriend. So! Without further ado, here is the interview.
I have known my husband for over a decade, so naturally, he has seen my frequent cycles over the period. Because of this, I wanted to have him write a guest blog post. Clearly, this is not a guest blog post. He expressed uncertainty and discomfort about writing about me and my bipolar disorder in that way. I did, however, get an interview from him!
I started off by telling him that I wanted him to be completely honest, that I didn’t care if my feelings were hurt. The point of the interview was to get his perspective, no matter how frustrating or hurtful it was. I saw he was still uncertain with this, but he nodded.
So I jumped in, asking, “What were the greatest challenges for you before I was diagnosed?”
Without a beat, he said, “Getting you to get treatment.” While he’s talking about this, his voice graveled, pondered. He talked about how for a period of time I refused to get help from healthcare professionals, and now that I am regularly seeing my primary care doctor, my therapist, and my psychiatrist, things are much easier for us. My fluctuations in my emotions are not as dramatic. He paused for a second because it is clear he second-guessed sharing this. I showed no change in my expression. He continued, returning to my original question.
“Just you not doing anything to better yourself or get in control of your symptoms.”
At that point, I muttered affirmation that I heard him, which was silly because I was recording everything. Another pause followed. I was hearing him though.
“I have a follow-up question,” I said. “So you knew that something was wrong, but did you know the extent of it?”
Eric began to repeat information that the both of us already knew. That we had already suspected in high school that I was bipolar and that I knew that I had a family history with depression and bipolar disorder. But then, he added something new to the conversation.
He laughed nervously first. “I mean, you remember prom night?”
I smiled as he spoke. I remembered.
“When you threw that fit and had an emotional breakdown and I had to calm you down and that ended up being an okay night for you. But you just lost it. That’s not what a normal person does. Especially since just being in a place was what was bothering you. There were no triggers.” He rambled. He talked about how I grew anxious with all the people present. How I felt out of place. How I started lashing out at him. We chuckled as he thought back. We were both looking back at it fondly even though I remembered it as a pretty shitty night where my mom told me that if I were going to be a downer that I should just drink it all away with alcohol. I didn’t interrupt Eric to mention that. I did remember to mention how there was an overwhelming depression that followed and how I had to go on a band trip the next morning at 4.
He pointed out that there had to be something wrong mental health-wise for the situation to get so out of control.
“So we talked about the past. What about now?” I said.
Noncompliance was his answer. A lecture on me needing to regularly take my medicine followed, but I wanted to know more. I asked him for his own perspective. How did it affect him on a more personal level?
He started speaking slowly. “Sometimes I get sick of it [noncompliance]. Just that we’re going through the same cycles over and over again. You’ve done this multiple times. And it’s very fatiguing to me. Because I don’t expect you to get better. I don’t expect that. But I expect you to get at a point of equilibrium. Where you’re consistently working toward…It hurts my ability to trust you and trust is very important to me.”
He mentioned how we are now counting and tracking my pills together. He told me how it helped him, but he still worried that I could still be noncompliant. That I could lie about taking my medicine, throw it away, or spit it out when I had the chance. I heard a strain in his voice. He didn’t like this development in our relationship. Of me not wanting to take my medicine and lying to him about it sometimes. He didn’t like how he had to take control of this part of my life—just like he had to take control of our finances. It was more than that though. It was the anxiety. The lashing out. The passive-aggressiveness. The deep depression. All of this added to his overall feeling of frustration. At this point, his words were pouring out. I was listening intently. I needed to hear this. I needed to hear how much it tired him while I was feeling as close to normal as possible.
The truth is that Eric has told me this multiple times, but depressed Sam doesn’t absorb it properly. And manic Sam just doesn’t hear. For depressed Sam, it becomes fuel for fears and angst about how she’s not good enough for her loving, self-sacrificing husband. During the interview though, it was Eric venting to his listening wife, who took his hand, squeezing it occasionally for comfort.
With so much honesty about his frustrations, I had to ask. “Did you ever want to leave?”
He told me no.
“Even before my diagnosis.”
Again, he said no.
I felt grateful for this and we started talking about finances again. I had forgotten that we were being recorded and started venting with him.
He didn’t want to feel like he had to approve my purchases.
He didn’t want to be that type of “man,” who had that much control.
I told him that I didn’t wish that upon him and that I hoped that it would change soon.
I had to remind ourselves again that it had still been less than a year since my diagnosis and that I was still trying to manage medications and appointments and moods. We both agreed that it wasn’t the time for me to throw in budgeting. It would be too much.
Despite the agreement, an awkward silence grew between us. I was still hearing this conversation, but it was hard to swallow. I am my own woman, perfectly capable, and yet I had to filter my purchases through my husband. We both feel that there is something wrong with this. Neither of us like this. I quickly changed the subject and asked him if there were any coping strategies that he had.
“Communication. Being honest with each other and knowing…forcing you to tell what’s going on with you and how you feel. And sometimes realizing we need a break from each other.” He mentioned how recently he had to ask me to leave the grocery store to diffuse in the car because I was becoming agitated and angry at everyone and everything there.
“Being real, not hiding things and being able to talk about things that bother you and not let it fester…That’s important.”
With a smile, he told me that thinking about the positives always helps.
I wanted to close with something uplifting. I asked if he had any tips for people with spouses who had bipolar disorder.
“Remember that they are still the person that you love…The ‘normal’ spouse isn’t always going to be there. But she’s still there. It’s like someone with chronic back pain.” He said, “They’re still the person that you love. They’re just dealing with an illness on top of it.”
He quickly added, “Don’t let them get away with shit. Just be aware that…That they’re sick and they need your support and help. And that it’ll be a lot more difficult for them to get better without your support and help.”
There is a weighted pause. It was almost uncomfortable. I heard every word. I knew that he was there for me.
So I asked him how much he loved me.
“Super much.” We shared a laugh together, but then he remembered something. He had one final piece of advice.
“I think it’s important to go out and have fun.” He described how even when I’m depressed we still manage to have fun together. Again, he smiled at me, and I knew he meant every word he was saying.
“It’s easy to keep loving a person if you keep having fun.”
I am a lucky woman.