blurred lights

I’m there right now, in mania. It isn’t so severe that I’m parachuting out of my office building or directing traffic stark naked, but it is there. I have the intense racing thoughts. I’m not sleeping, and I have great, I mean great, ideas.

Currently, I want to build a fenced-in cat house/cage outside my bedroom window. This way my cats can enjoy being outside without becoming prey to a larger animal. Is it a terrible idea? Not entirely. But, it isn’t the idea that is dangerous, in this moment. What is dangerous is the urgency and the fact that it isn’t the only idea I’ve had in the last hour.

I also want to go back to school and finish the degree I never could finish because of my bipolar disorder. I want to finish my memoir and even host another writing group. I want to start a zillion Pinterest craft projects. In fact, that’s where the idea came for the cat cage, from Pinterest (which I have been browsing relentlessly for the past two day and nights when I can’t sleep.) I have decided to eventually open a food truck or a hole in the wall restaurant to have a place to serve all of the delicious meals I’m about to start perfecting.

The funny thing is, I’m immobile currently. I just had knee surgery. It’s all I can do to get myself some toast or slice up an avocado and bring it back to the couch on crutches so I can continue to ice my knee down.

That is actually when the mania started, with the pain pills. Narcotics and mood stabilizer meds are never a good combination however necessary they may be. My psychiatrist and I debated the importance of even having the surgery for fear that the pain killers may push me into a manic state. My mind held off the mania for the first four weeks, as I tapered slowly off the heavy pain killers and onto a less potent one. Yet, my mind could only take so much. Now, I’m in mania, and it’s taking hold of me.

There is good news though! I caught it. This is the hardest part of mania, not realizing you are in it. If you don’t see it and you don’t address it, then how in the heck are you supposed to beat it?

This time, I caught it, and I caught it early. It started with the good ideas (and oh, how they seem so good!) The cat cage, especially! Looking at all my racing ideas now, I try not to get discouraged that I have so many ideas because they all seem so good. Yet, after having gone through many manic episodes, hitting bumps along the way and learning to cope, I have realized this one glorious thing: Just because the ideas are too many, too fast and too bright, doesn’t mean they will not be valid for another time.

Stop. Think about this. Many of your ideas may be good ideas at another time, a time when the world doesn’t hold so much urgency and mental demand, a time when your mind isn’t fast-tracking toward disaster and a time when the world has calmed once more. These ideas might be useful, helpful or even great once you’re out of mania.

What do I do to make sure I don’t lose them while I come down from my manic high? I write them down or sketch them out. I do not act on them. Now, I know this takes an incredible amount of self-control, self-control you don’t think you have while manic. It takes practice.

When your ideas start flowing, double check yourself and ask: “Am I manic?” If you think there might be even a 10 percent chance that the answer is yes, then stop. Write the ideas down, sketch them out, record them. Heck, you can plan them to the last detail on paper and even do a small craft project here or there. However, don’t act on your grand ideas until you are certain your mind has stabilized.

You’ll know when that is, as long as you’ve admitted to yourself you were manic in the first place. Believe me, I know this is half the battle. It is so discouraging to admit to yourself that you are struggling, especially when the mania feels so good. But remember, what goes up must come down. If you let yourself get too far into that manic high, then you will come crashing down in a flurry of depression and disaster.

Try to catch the mania early, as hard as it is. Get help, talk to your doctor, monitor your meds closely and do everything that helps to pull you from your manic state, even if it is just practicing sitting still and breathing.

I will admit that I’m manic now. My ideas flow now, my thoughts race and oh boy do I feel so good. Yet, as I sketch out the designs and I jot my plans down, I am also dialing my psychiatrist’s phone number right after I finish writing this article. Because my brilliant idea of building this glorious cat cage outside of my window must wait.

Image via Thinkstock.


Growing up, my mother was larger than life and seemed forever intent to make me suffer. Her words were harsh and unloving, her approval unattainable. I’ve spent much of my life struggling to come to terms with what I, as a child, must have done wrong to incur so much wrath.

What I didn’t know then was that my mother had bipolar disorder and struggled with abuse and trauma of her own. While that does not excuse her treatment of me, it shines a light on why it happened. Mental illness had such a stigma back then. At most, people would talk in the shadows about someone who was unbalanced or crazy. Families hid such problems and pretended the world was just as it should be. And things festered and grew.

I’ve begun looking at my past through different eyes, trying to take into account her disorder. Again, I am not looking to rationalize or excuse her actions. For too long, I’ve looked back at my past through the eyes of the young girl, battered and broken, who lived through it. In her eyes, everything was plain and simple, good and bad, black and white. There were no shades of gray and no compassion. Today, I aim to fairly take into account her mental illness and understand that, while she is responsible for her actions, her life was so tainted by her own mental illness and trauma that she was not fully herself.  Very few things in this world are plain and simple, good and bad, black and white. My relationship with my mother was painted in a multitude of grays.


My mother was often unreasonably critical of my achievements. An A grade was acceptable; an A minus was not. Anything less than first place in any aspect of my life was tantamount to failure. If a test or paper came home with less than a 100, she would pour through it with me until I understood how glaringly wrong my mistakes were. I was once beaten because a semester grade dropped from a 94 to a 92.

As a child, I internalized her criticism. No matter how hard I strived, I always felt I would never measure up to her standards. Despite high grades and participation in sports and academic groups, I felt like a failure. Teachers and coaches showered me with praise, but it felt hollow and empty. I wanted more than anything to please her, to finally win her approval. I never did.

As an adult, I try to weigh her actions from differing viewpoints. She saw potential in me and never wanted me to settle for less than the best I could do. She had gotten married young and began having children early. She wanted me to build a better future for myself.  Perhaps, within a life she had little control over, I was one thing she could control, one person she could mold and sculpt to ascend higher than she had landed in life.

None of this erases the harshness of her criticism, nor does it ease the inadequacy I carry with me to this day. While her intentions may have been good, her approach made me feel like a failure. Each time I fell short of a goal, I would attack myself with worse criticism than she would dole out. Where her voice ended, my own began.


My brother was four and a half years my senior. Often growing up, we were both held accountable for transgressions until the guilty party confessed. Many times, punishments were harsh and lasted whole days. More than once, I confessed to wrongdoings I had not done in hopes of ending the torture. On many of these occasions, she would refuse to accept my confessions, declaring she knew I hadn’t committed the offense and the punishment would not cease until the guilty party confessed.

As a child, I could not fathom how a parent could repeatedly punish a child for transgressions they knew their sibling had done. As an adult, I wonder if she had hoped to teach my brother empathy and compassion. Once again, it doesn’t excuse her actions, but it helps to see the situations in a different light.


I was 7 the first time I remember my mother telling me she hated me and wished I was never born. Over the course of my childhood, she told me many times I had ruined her life, that I was inherently unlovable and that I should never let anyone in because, once they got to know me, they would leave. Words like these have haunted me since childhood. Each time I was rejected or abandoned, I took it as a prophecy fulfilled.

Considering those words now, I am faced with the ugly truth of mental illness. Mental illness can not only cause those suffering to internalize the actions of others, but it can also cause people to project their own illness onto those around them. I was, in many ways, an extension of her. If she saw herself as unlovable, it makes sense that she saw those who came from her as unlovable, as well.


Perhaps the hardest for me to overcome were her responses to the two times I turned to her for support after being raped. The first time, I was 11 years old. The second time, I was 13 and one of my brother’s friends had not only taken advantage, but had gotten me pregnant. She had told me not to talk about it and made me feel like I was at fault both times. She had secretly arranged for an abortion and told me to never tell my father.

I’ve tried to rationalize her behavior over the years, taking into consideration that rape cases were treated differently back then. Often, the victim was put on trial in the court of public opinion. Her history, behavior and clothes were strewn about as possible causes for the rape.

I also know now that she suffered through sexual abuse and rape herself as a child and young adult. I know, as a victim myself, that the events play over and over in your head, a spinning wheel of torture, as you search for what you did wrong and what you should have done differently.

Of all I’ve endured from my mother, these two instances have been the hardest to understand and move past. As a mother myself, I cannot imagine being so callous. I can try to reason that it was a different time or that it was her mental illness oozing out, but I can find no words of solace to ease that pain. Some things, I just have to accept as a horrible piece of my past that there’s no justification for and do my best to move past them.


My relationship with my mother has always been dysfunctional. When speaking of her, I often feel like that little girl again, walking that thin line between trying so desperately to please and being terrified of failure. I feel more vulnerable when discussing her than any other aspect of my life because that little girl inside me will never understand why she didn’t love me. Why she couldn’t love me.

So many choices in my life have been made for no other reason than I did not want to become her. Where she was critical and unyielding, I made every effort to be flexible and praise those around me; while she was closed-minded and bigoted, I prided myself in being unbiased and accepting. She had many health issues and was a hypochondriac; it takes severe pain or illness for me to see a doctor. There were no rational thoughts beyond my life choices. I simply was terrified of becoming her. I’ve slowly started to question the motives behind my various choices. In retrospect, I’ve made far too many poor choices in life based solely on that one irrational fear.


My adult relationship with my mother had been sporadic and strained at best. When she was in my life, I always kept a watchful eye for bouts of anger or tears or other signs that her treatment was not working. I was afraid for her to be around my children. Many people scoffed at me for those fears because they could not understand. When I was around her, I was instantly that little girl again, backed into a corner as a windmill of blows hit me on all sides. I was that little girl who was told she was horrible and unloved so often she eventually believed it. I was that little girl who was made to feel like I deserved to be raped. This was also the woman that shot my father. I had many reasons to be scared.

Regardless of everything I had been through, I longed in so many ways to have family in my life. Over the years, I tried many times to repair fences and rebuild bridges. Every time, however, my fear ate at me. I would see her moods shift and panic that her medication was no longer working. Once fear set in, it wasn’t long until I’d run. We would go blocks of time with no contact, months, sometimes years. I had been estranged from her for over two years when I got the call she had died.

I’ve since talked to the people she had stayed with in her last year, months, days. They shared stories about how she had finally received the help she needed and was in a better place mentally and emotionally. I learned she had developed a fondness for Harry Potter, something my children and I all share. She had become, in many ways, quirky, silly and sweet; she was kind and generous almost to a fault, always reaching out trying to help others. As I heard one candid story after another, I realized  I never knew my mother, though I knew her mental illness well. It was a dark sludge that oozed over her, blotting out her true self behind a darkness and cruelty. The knowledge that she found herself at the very end is honestly bittersweet. I wish I could have met that woman. For years, I longed for a mother to be there, my mother to be there. Instead, I am left clinging to the memories of others and running from the monsters that oozed from her own mental illness into my depression.

This blog originally appeared on Unlovable.

In a month, I will get on an airplane and head to Orlando, Florida, and the “happiest place on Earth,” Disney World. My family of five will be going along with my wife’s family, making a grand total of 18 of us. This fact should make anyone who has gone to Disney tremble a bit, as getting 18 people in for dining reservations and on rides and working together is very, very difficult. But, to exacerbate this situation, I’m going to Disney World with my bipolar disorder and anxiety issues. So, this should be fun.

A quick caveat. I both loathe and love Disney World. I have been to “the world” a large number of times, both as a kid and now as an adult. It is often not my decision to go, but I go and put on my best face. It can be difficult. And the crowds and the fantasy and all the stuff that goes into Disney make it very difficult for me personally. But I love the way my wife and kids love this place. And so, I go. And I try to love it for them, and I put my loathing aside for them. Maybe then I don’t love Disney as much as I love my family?

Anyway, as someone with bipolar and anxiety, traveling in general and being at Disney in particular can cause me some serious problems. Disney is a large trigger for me. So, let me detail some of that and then how I deal with the triggers.

1. The first trigger I have is the airport. Trying to get through an airport sucks because there’s a large crowd, usually pushing in and around me, and, when I travel with my family, I have three boys (ages 10, 6, and 4) to navigate through security and a busy airport. It is stressful and can really start my vacation out on a very, very bad note.

2. Another trigger I have is the creation of the false reality that Disney tries to get you to play by while you are there. This is the “magic” of Disney World. They’ve actually created an alternative reality of fantasy and whimsy. However, this alternative reality is just one big reminder that I am mentally ill and that I have pain and live in pain. It actually reminds me of the fact that my life is not a fantasy and that I have to work hard to live a lot of the time.

3. The crowds are another trigger. I have a problem when I get pushed into a large crowd and can’t get out. Honestly, I feel trapped, and feeling trapped is a huge trigger for me and my anxiety. I can feel my heart start beating faster, my chest tighten, my breathing get shallower, etc. I don’t usually go into a full blown panic attack, but I start, and everything becomes magnified. And, due to the nature of Disney World, even when it is “not crowded” you still find yourself in the midst of large crowds. It creates chaos in me.

4. One thing I have a really hard time with, and that sends me over the edge, are people who are what I consider rude. My counselor and I have talked at length at my need to get over people I consider to fall into this category. And I’ve gotten better. However, Disney World can bring out the rude in people. I’ve had people push my stroller carrying my kids, knock me over trying to get into a line, cut in front of me for food, stand in front of my kids at a parade, etc. For all its emphasis on being a sort of “Prince Charming,” Disney brings out the “Wicked Witch” in a lot of people. And this just makes me irritable and angry and is a strong trigger.

5. The fifth trigger I have is the fact that you spend all of this money and time to get there, and so there is a real felt need to have a good time. The problem is, I don’t always have a good time. But I feel like I have to have a good time and that I have to show my family a good time and that I have to show my in-laws and everyone else a good time. And to do that I have to have a good time, even though I’m usually stressed out and on the verge of breaking down. This need to have a good time, thus, brings to the fore more and more of the cognitive dissonance that is a trip to Disney for me.

6. Last, or at least the last I’ll talk about, is that my suicidal ideation runs wild. All of the above create a lot of tension in me while I am on a Disney “vacation.” This stress leads me to “natural” thoughts, which are suicidal thoughts. And, so, everything becomes a way to die by suicide. I won’t go into the details, but I think of jumping off rides, of diving into a bus, of swimming in a lake, and other means. Suicidal thoughts become prominent, and it’s hard to deal with them.

So, now the question becomes how do I combat these triggers? Well, I have learned to do the following things.

1. I have a ritual for the airport. My wife and I talk about it beforehand, and we have a plan. This reduces the stress of having to get through the airport and through security with our three boys.

2. I rent a car. Having a car gives me an escape. I can go to the grocery store or get out of a park or just go take a drive. The car gives me an out, if I need it. And, with the car, if I had to go to the hospital or emergency room, we have the ability to do that quickly.

3. I take advantage of a great Disney program. It’s not really advertised and I’m not sure of the name*, but every time I walk into a park, I go to “Guest Services.” There, I tell the people that I have a disability, and they don’t question me (which would be illegal) and they give me a little card. This card allows me and my immediate family to go up to any ride and hand it to the workers there (Disney calls them “Cast Members”), and they give me a time to come back to get on the ride. No standing in line and feeling stuck. It’s a real win for me, as I am not standing in lines and feeling that anxiety and pressure that comes from feeling trapped. And, because I am not “skipping” the line, I’m not really making anyone upset.

4. I go back to the hotel every afternoon and either watch TV or, usually, take a nap. Disney exhausts me, and I need all the energy I can muster. Going back in the afternoon allows me to recharge my batteries while also avoiding the busiest times of day in the parks. And, sometimes in the afternoon, my oldest son and I will go explore something outside the parks, like the ESPN Zone or Downtown Disney or something else. It allows us to get out of the “bubble” for a bit. In all, though, getting out of the parks for a few hours every afternoon and resting up allows me to keep my sanity.

5. I avoid certain places. Due to my suicidal ideation, I try to avoid the places I know could bring that out even more or that could offer real temptation. So, I don’t do high balconies, for example. It is just too much for me.

6. Last, I really try and talk to my kids and wife. If they are having a good time, then it is easier on me. Their joy brings me joy. While I might be struggling, knowing they are having fun and enjoying themselves and that we get to spend time together can make the struggle worth it, at least in my eyes. And that is only if I do the other things necessary, like what I listed above.

In all, traveling to Disney World with my bipolar and anxiety is not easy and, really, it’s not fun. But, if I keep up with my recovery and do the things listed above, as well as take my meds and meditate and keep with my day-to-day, then it is a good trip where I am able to build memories with my family. It’s not easy, but we make it work.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

*Editor’s note: The blogger is most likely referring to Fast Pass. For more information on Disney’s services for guests with disabilities, head here.

Image via WikiCommons

Side effects definition: “Problems that occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect. Or problems that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect.”

Um, sure. That’s the pretty way to put it.

I’m not making fun, but I have to chuckle when those commercials for medications come on TV and the list of side effects they read out at the end is longer than the commercial itself. The reason I laugh is because I know firsthand that it’s often true. Medication side effects are real, like really real! Anyone taking medication for any condition knows the battle of side effects vs. the desired effects all too well. When all you want is to be well, it’s amazing how long and how far you will push yourself to tolerate the side effects from any given treatment. It can be heartbreaking when the side effects become too much and you must give up any of the desired effect you may have been receiving. It’s so cruel that they can get in the way of your ultimate goal of simply being well.

I have resigned myself to the fact that medications along with their side effects will always be a part of my life as I continue to strive for a better one. However, I still sometimes feel the need to, well, bitch about what seems to be the side effects of the side effects.

Most of my meds are for bipolar disorder. These are some of the common side effects I have experienced:

1. Increased appetite

Yes! This would be great if I was 90 pounds to start out with, but I am not. And what can an increased appetite lead to? Weight gain! Trust me, being overweight does not help your state of mind when you’re trying your best to crawl out of a depressive episode. I battle with this one to this day. Not a helper at all on your quest for wellness.

2. Drowsiness

If this side effect hits you at the right time, more power to you. But for me, it was pretty unpredictable. I had one med that kicked in mid-morning despite trying to take it at different times. I once fell asleep, sitting up while I was waiting for an appointment. I woke myself up with a gasping snore as I fell off my chair and had drool running from my mouth. And no, I wasn’t the only one waiting for an appointment. Real classy.

3. Acne

I don’t care who you are, how old you are or what your story is, no one feels good about themselves with a face full of blemishes. I was well into my 30s when I developed severe acne. I have to admit that despite trying my best, it really upset me, especially because at the time my med cocktail was working so well in treating my symptoms. I can remember my dermatologist not understanding why I wouldn’t just quit my psych meds. It took a year and a half to get control of it. I feel for anyone who has ever dealt with acne at any point in their lives, especially if digging out of the hole of depression.

4. Constipation/Diarrhea

I’m not really sure if I need to go into a great deal of detail for you on this one. I can just tell you that I have been on both ends of the spectrum. I had so many issues at one point that I was oh so fortunate to have to get a couple of colonoscopies done. Let’s face it, the whole colonoscopy experience is extremely inconvenient at the very least. Humbling indeed.

5. Excessive Sweating

This one may be the worst. I only experience it on my face and head, but it is so obvious. Heat obviously brings it on but so does anxiety. It is embarrassing, and people often ask if I’m OK. It makes me feel disgusting and dirty. I find myself worrying about it all the time before I go to do an activity. It adds to existing anxiety issues.

6. Restless Legs

OK, for this one I have tried just about every trick in the book. Rub lotion on your legs, put a bar of soap between the sheets, take two Advil before you go to bed. I have yet to find the perfect trick. I usually just end up kicking the s#!t out of my covers until it wears off and I can finally fall asleep. However, I am careful with my kicking after one night I accidentally inadvertently launched my cat off the bed. Oops. See, even others experience side effects from the side effects.

7. Dry mouth

So dry mouth is also known as cotton mouth. When I was working, this whole dry mouth thing was really an issue. I had a job where I spoke with people all day. One busy day I had no time to fill up my water bottle, get some gum, nothing, and as I was talking to a customer my mouth was so dry that my lips curled under on my teeth. I had to excuse myself. And I was asked so many times if I was OK because of the number of trips I took to the washroom due to all of the water I drank. It wasn’t long before the rumors spread that I was pregnant.

8. Nausea/Vomiting

And finally, another one that doesn’t really need too much explaining. When you get it, it stops you in your tracks. Heaven forbid you’re driving or doing something like speaking in a meeting. This is a side effect I have experienced often. I don’t exactly have a great amount of built-in warning time, and I’ve had a few too many close calls. And if you are constantly being sick, odds are you’re not keeping your meds down and that obviously just defeats the whole purpose of taking them in the first place. If you’re working it can be horrible, and it’s difficult when you don’t want to explain to the whole world why you’re not feeling well. Again, the rumors fly.

I really don’t like to complain. I am thankful for the meds that have provided me with desired effects that help me get through my days. I just sometimes find it a little unfair and sometimes cruel that the medications made to help us move closer to wellness can cause such horrible roadblocks on that very journey.

Editor’s note: Please see a medical professional before starting or stopping a medication.

Image via Thinkstock.

I’ve lived with bipolar disorder for more than half of my life. I often wonder how early the first signs of the illness appeared. Looking back, it brings tears to my eyes to admit that I believe it was probably quite early. Slowly but surely, the illness made more and more of an appearance in my life. Back then, before being “formally” introduced to it by receiving my diagnosis, I obviously didn’t know its name, but I certainly came to recognize its face. In 2005, when I finally did receive my diagnosis, my first reaction was relief. I finally had a name for the face. However, receiving the diagnosis and the never ending treatments to follow didn’t lessen its presence in my life like I had originally hoped. As much as I hate to admit it, after my diagnosis, I have often felt consumed by my illness. At times, it can feel as if it is in some way behind everything or in a way is everything, both good and bad.

So after some thinking, there are some separations I want to point out to others, and also to myself, to remind us all what the diagnosis of bipolar is not.

1. An excuse for my behavior.

I’ve been high, and OMG, I’ve been low. My manic episodes included little sleep, drinking like a fish, spending money like I had it to burn, sleeping around, dropping out of school in my last semester. My depressive episodes were the extreme opposite. In bed for days, unable to even take care of myself, often landing in the hospital in pieces. However, receiving my diagnosis did not provide an “excuse” for all of that behavior. I am still responsible for what I do or have done. I now simply have an explanation as to maybe what is behind that behavior. It has been suggested to me before that I could or should use my diagnosis as an excuse, and I believe that is wrong and simply feeds into the stigma of the illness.

2. A license to speak down to me.

I have run into this in a few places. I have sadly experienced this on mental health wards in hospitals by actual nursing staff. It’s difficult enough to be dealt with this way period, but when it’s by someone who is in charge of your care when you are in a particular vulnerable state, it is truly disappointing. Fortunately, I believe this is usually a case of a few bad apples in a bunch.

Another location I have personally found this is at my local pharmacy. They are obviously aware of my condition due to my many medications and information, yet some of the staff talk to me as if they’re eating their face. I find this especially when I’m advocating for myself or trying to correct an error on their part.

Bottom line, I’m a person deserving of respect. My diagnosis should in no way affect the way you speak to me.

3. Permission to judge me.

Although I haven’t chosen to share my diagnosis with everyone in my life, the truth is, I live in a small town, and I’ve been ill for a long time. Word gets around, and sometimes it gets back to you. Unfortunately, when word gets around, it’s often like a game of telephone and the story gets skewed. And yes, maybe I judge myself. I’m 37 and single. I’m on disability and have had to move back in with my parents in their basement. And I live with my two cats. I have been called “The Crazy Cat Lady,” and I have even half-jokingly referred to myself as that as well. But that’s a judgment, and it hurts. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder is not an umbrella to simply judge an acquaintance as “crazy.” Be careful, that word can hurt.

4. A reason to write me off.

I was diagnosed at a time when my friends were taking big steps in their lives and moving on. In a sense, I kind of got left behind. I feel as if I’m sometimes forgotten. In fact, I sometimes forget myself.

Right when I was diagnosed, many of my friends were buying homes, getting engaged. When I was hospitalized the first couple of times, they were getting married and having kids. Careers were moving forward, more babies were being born and I was relapsing. Despite where my road took me, I still have hopes, wishes and dreams. Your past doesn’t have to predict your future, right? I’m not done, I haven’t quit. I’m not going to give up.

5. All of who I am.

Although I admitted before that at times I have felt that my diagnosis has consumed me, I really am so much more than just that. We have heard it before, but I try to remember the saying — I have bipolar, I am not bipolar.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Although this is a letter to my husband, I wish all men and women with a spouse struggling with bipolar disorder could read this. I know it is hard. I’ve seen it in my husband’s eyes when the days get worse, when the fights erupt and my illness rages. I can see him wonder if it will ever end.

But, I want to promise you, it does get better. With medication, doctors and support you will get better, maybe not cured, but better. You can live again. You can be stable and happy. It is a process that can take a very long time, but it does get better if you stick with it and if you stick with your partner. The reward of being with the real person you love in the end, to me, is worth all the hard times. Please, don’t give up.

Dear Steven,

We started off young in our love, with giggles and flushed cheeks. I lived to be in your presence. My bipolar diagnosis from a few years back wasn’t under control yet, and I often stayed in a hypomanic high.

Being with you made the bad days seem good, and the good days seem euphoric. But, on the ugly days, I could hide the depression away by telling you I was busy. Back then, I didn’t realize how much I was actually struggling. I don’t think you did either.

It is strange now, as I become healthier, how I can look back on the years before and see how far gone I actually was. I can see how my mania and depression made me at my worst. And yet, you loved me just as I was.

Once we were married, things got rocky, as they always do when you mix two totally different lives (even more so with my illness). Yet, you loved me. Over the next three years, my bipolar disorder became more manageable, and I learned how to cope with a mixture of psychiatric help, cognitive therapy, family support and medications.

You loved me through it. You loved me on the good days, and you loved me relentlessly on the bad ones. You kept me in check when the mania overpowered me, and you lifted me up when the depression threatened to drown me. You helped me get closer to a place of mental healing.

But, with healing, there is never a constant upward slope. Sometimes, you fall back a few steps, and sometimes those steps are huge. I was doing so well, living a balanced life. Everything was in check, sleeping, eating, exercising, laughing, loving and managing the illness. Yet, I cracked. My world caved in.

The nightmares happened and the sleepless nights. You became the culprit, the enemy. I tried so hard to distance myself so I wouldn’t hurt you, but I hurt you anyways. Then, the next diagnosis came.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

My rape and abuse in college had finally come to the surface, as I healed in my bipolar disorder. I couldn’t run from it any more. My mind no longer suppressed it. I grew anxious to be touched and scared to be hugged. I cringed at being kissed, and I fled from the idea of sleeping in the same bed. It wasn’t you, it was him, and all he did to me. And yet, you loved me. You loved me endlessly.

On the days when I couldn’t take it, when I yelled, shouted and sobbed, you held me strong until the pain went away. On the days when I couldn’t be touched, you gave me space and let me talk. While my new medication kicked in, diminishing the nightmares, you didn’t budge an inch.

You loved me, every part of me, the raging, the desperate, the hopeless, and ultimately you saw me for who I really was. You saw the woman harbored deep inside of my illnesses. You waited patiently until the real me came back to you again, until I was myself. You continue to love me through it all.

I am your wife. I am your friend. I love you more than life itself. I’d give anything to be with you, and even when I try to push you away, just know this is when I need you the most.

You are my constant, my anchor. On some days, you are the only reason I continue fighting. So, to the man who has loved me through it, through everything I have unintentionally put you through, I owe you everything. You are my hero.

And I love you with all my heart.

Real People. Real Stories.

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We face disability, disease and mental illness together.