To My Beloved Husband,
We have known each other for over 30 years, ever since you asked me out to lunch and showed me the photos of the house foundation you were building with your own hands. I was impressed. We spent several years dating and enjoying time with your wonderful daughters. But after four years, you moved to build your dream house while I stayed in the Bay Area to pursue my career.
Through great luck, we reconnected in 1997. At that time, I had been recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was having major challenges of severe, recurring depressions as well as less frequent hypomanias. I wondered how anyone could want to be with me because I felt as if I was “damaged goods.” For almost a year, I kept you at arm’s length. I didn’t want to tell you about my depressions and hypomanic moods. I felt ashamed.
But you persisted. After a year, and with the help of my therapist, I realized I had nothing to lose by telling you the truth. The worst that could happen was that you would reject me at the news. To my wonderment, you did not.
Early in our second round of dating, I had a particularly bad episode of depression and confided to you that I felt terrible. You did not flinch and asked what you could do for me. I told you just to hold me and I gave you my doctor’s number in case you had to call and I couldn’t. Seeing your total compassion and acceptance broke through the high wall of my self-criticism and avoidance.
One year later, almost 16 years ago, we were married on a beautiful day on the shoreline in Point Reyes with our families and closest friends. And since that time, while we have had the ups and downs of even the best of marriages, we have been extraordinarily happy together. I had dated many men in my life and had never married, but at 48, married to you, I found my soul mate.
A few months ago, we faced a new challenge. As a result of one of the meds I was taking for bipolar disorder, I developed tardive dyskinesia (TD), a somewhat uncommon reaction to anti-psychotic drugs that can cause involuntary movements, in my case of the mouth, face and tongue. There is no documented cure and it is usually not reversible, especially for women of my age. Again, you didn’t waver in your support. We saw many doctors together. You would always take detailed notes while I asked lots of questions — and you would add the questions I forgot to ask.
Several months later, I developed a new set of symptoms, non-psychotic musical hallucinations. This is a rare but documented condition. It was, for me, like hearing a cacophonous clash of many marching bands playing constantly in my head. It was intrusive and scary. Once again we saw the specialists. And once again we were told there was no known cure and limited evidence of reversibility.
Luckily for me, you had been trained as a masseur. You gave me the great gift of massaging my mouth, face and neck for 10 minutes twice a day every day. Within two weeks, the hallucinations had stopped and the TD was less bothersome. The hallucinations have not returned.
I am so grateful that together we have faced down scary times, educated ourselves about difficult conditions, found help where we could and learned to live with what can’t be changed. And together we have been able to create a vibrant and loving life filled with family, friends, our shared and separate passions, our careers and travel. My – and our – life is so much more authentic and rich because the challenges we have faced have taught us to communicate with authenticity and love. Having a life partner like you who adores me and whom I adore has made all the difference. I feel extraordinarily lucky.
The Mighty is for the following: Write a thank you note to someone who helped you through your mental illness. What about that person makes him or her a good ally? What do you want them to know? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.