There aren’t many people that know I married someone who is bipolar. It’s not a characteristic you rattle off along with occupation, age, and height when someone asks about your spouse. There are a few people who know the extent of his disease. They are the few I can count on to lend me an ear or a shoulder when things get rough.
Without fail, every single one of these people has asked me how I could allow myself to fall in love with a bipolar man. I can hear the accusation in their tone at times. Almost as if they are saying you deserve this, you brought this on yourself, this is your fault. Maybe it is. What these friends don’t see are the ways in which his disease affects him for the better.
My husband has this ability to express and feel things most men (hell most women) don’t. He has this ability to read a person’s emotions just by the expression on their face. He can read whether you need a good laugh or a good cry. He will sit with his arm falling asleep and leg bent at an awkward angle while you sob in his lap, not moving so as to not break the moment.
We met when we were in high school and were acquaintances. It wasn’t until 10 years after we had graduated and both married that we reconnected. At the time, he had been divorced for a little over a year and I was going through a really rough divorce that left me at my lowest point in life. I felt defeated and worthless. He became my rock and cheerleader through my rebuilding post divorce. He was always cheering me on with an email or a text telling me I was worth it and deserved happiness.
My self esteem took a major hit with my divorce and he slowly chipped away at that too. He would constantly point out all the things I had to be proud of. Slowly, he began throwing in compliments with the emails too. New haircut? It looks great on you. You should smile more, your blue eyes sparkle when you do. His texts soon became the highlight of my day. What had been a year long friendship was slowly turning into something more.
I still didn’t know he was bipolar at this time. I also started to recognize that on my end of the friendship deeper feelings were starting to take root. When he admitted to me that he had feelings that were more than friends, I felt relieved. I wasn’t reading things wrong. The texts and phone calls took on a new meaning. They weren’t just to make me feel better. He actually felt those wonderful things he had said to me.
We went on our first date and I knew I was in trouble. He was the kindest person I had ever met (why didn’t I like him in high school??). He acknowledged all the good things he saw in me. He was amazed I was able to hold my shit together and raise two boys on my own. He looked me in the eyes and told me I was beautiful and any man was a fool to treat me the way my ex-husband had.
Our relationship only grew from there. I could always count on him when things started crashing down around me. He had a way of pulling me out of my rabbit hole and making me see all the good in me. He truly made me feel like I was worth happiness. And he was bringing me great happiness.
It wasn’t until a few months into our relationship that he sat me down to tell me that he was bipolar. I pride myself on never being too quick to judge. I had seen what kind of man he had been and the way he made me feel and knew that we would be able to figure things out. He was medicated and had his disease under control at the time. He hadn’t relapsed in several years, even through a nasty divorce. My ex-husband had taken me to hell and back, a little mental illness I could handle. I got this, I thought. We’ve got this. We can do this. And I allowed myself to fall in love with him.
A lot has happened in that 7 years, both good and bad. The good has outweighed the bad and those are the times I cling to when things are bad. That is until one manic phase that lasted several months. The texts and emails were frequent and always endearing. He always pointed out the good. You’re such a caring and loving person. You deserve happiness. There is no one like you. Your eyes light up the room when you smile. You make my heart flutter. Except this time the texts weren’t sent to me and now I question if he ever meant any of them that were sent to me.