We were partners when we started out – Jack and I – almost 16 years ago. In fact, to be quite honest, I thought my Jack had won the prize. I was smart and virtuous and hard-working. I was willing to go the distance, work the night job so he could work the research job, skip class to grocery shop. I cooked the dinners and kept the bathroom clean so he could scratch his head over biochemistry and swear under his breath at his lab partners. I was willing to put my teaching certificate on hold so he could go straight to medical school. I was willing to live anywhere, do anything for his dream to come true.
You see, I didn’t just marry a love. I married the love of ten lifetimes, the love Shakespeare breathed and Wordsworth penned. I married my twin soul, the one made for me in a different place. From the moment I saw him, I’ve known he was my family, my heart’s home.
I married him because there was nothing else to do. He was where I belonged, the only place I’ve ever felt settled. Whether we’d been 19 or 85, different colors or species, it wouldn’t have mattered.
He was it for me, and I knew it down to my toes.
But then, I got sick.
I left him, ran around for months, broke his heart. He drove five hours to retrieve me from an emergency room. Then, he checked me into a mental health unit because even his love couldn’t save me.
When I finally stabilized, when we could finally start to put our marriage back together, the bride he married was gone. Lithium confused my mind, left me unable to read. Working part-time at a coffee shop was all I could manage. I slept 18 hours a day.
Supporting his dream to become a doctor?
I couldn’t get out of bed.
He never went to medical school. He took a transfer to move home and love me. He took on the debt that nearly bankrupted us, from manic spending sprees and ambulance bills to my endless psychiatry bills. He cleaned the toilets and folded the laundry. To make more money, he drove two hours each way to his stepping stone job while I sat on my parents’ front porch smoking cigarettes on doctor-mandated 24-hour suicide watch.
All the way through those dark years, he looked at me with the same love as the day we got married. Because of him, because of the man he was and the way he loved his has-been bride, I found a way to love myself again.
Slowly, I’ve grown into a partner again. I started by emptying the dishwasher. I kept going to therapy, and I took my meds every day.
We didn’t think I’d ever be able to be stable enough to be a mama. We’ve had three boys. We’ve endured the loss of a child, preeclampsia, bed rest. We delivered our heart warrior who docs said wouldn’t be born alive. We walked through weeks in the hospital, open heart surgery and endless appointments with him.
We’ve held hands through funerals and baptisms, surgeries and ultrasounds.
If I could pick a bride for Jack, I would have picked a bride who wasn’t sick. But then, she wouldn’t have been me. And there’s nothing I’d rather be than his, for better or for worse.
We’re learning to ride the waves together on this crazy ocean of heart-pounding swells and breathtaking dawns.
I’m learning to be loved, for better or worse… or bipolar.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
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