Tables Turned: How My Mental Illness Helped Me Take Care of My Partner


In the beginning of my relationship, my girlfriend was unlike anyone I had ever met. She was unrelentingly kind and empathetic. As we began our journey, I had a strong wall up to protect myself and more importantly protect her. To avoid any misunderstandings, I was quite adamant she know I have a mental illnesses, specifically rapid cycling bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

I knew she was special when I had my first panic attack in front of her. I was dizzy, disoriented and desperate to leave the shopping mall we were in. She immediately put back everything she was carrying, guided me by the arm to my car and drove me home, no questions asked. Her clear-headed approach, in combination with her empathy, made her my other half.

However, little did I know I would soon be in that very same role. After dating for some months, my girlfriend began to experience insomnia, crying uncontrollably and unable to concentrate at all. Recognizing something was amiss, her good friend suggested she see a medical professional. I came along for support and sat in the waiting room at her request. She was prescribed an antidepressant.

Devastated I had not seen the warning signs of her spiral, I was determined to be vigilant in reminding her to take her medicine, taking her to the gym with me and anything else I could think of or Google to help her. I had taken on the role of caregiver for a moment. She had cared for me in moments I did not think I was worthy enough to be alive, and I would be the rock she needed. While I was not the “perfect” partner she needed, she knew I had been in that place before. That dark place we all know too well, devoid of any stimulus, save for our racing thoughts and deepest fears lying to us. I had battled it since I was a teenager as part of my cycles. I helped her navigate the ins and outs of the doctors, medicines and the treatment plan her medical professionals outlined for her.

There are days we struggle with depression. Her “good” day might be my “bad” day, or vice versa. Showing your love can be as simple as showing up. Show up to that doctor appointment, show up with takeout when we are too tired or in pain to cook or show up with an open heart and mind. Her example of loving someone through the crying jags, mania, anxiety attacks and unpredictability allowed me to use her as inspiration so I could help her too. Love is sometimes simply being there.

Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from the author’s partner.

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Thinkstock photo by Dynamic Graphics

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