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How Unconditional Love Helped Me Through a Bipolar Disorder Crisis

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It was March 1995. I had just gotten married the prior July to my wife Suzy. We had met three years prior and quickly fell in love. In the early days of dating, I disclosed that I lived with bipolar disorder. This was nearly a deal breaker; however, Suzy found it in her heart to stick with me.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

In that month of March, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist. I had been taking a common psychiatric medication and an old school psychotropic. Little did my doctor know but I was in a hypomanic state. But then again, how could she in the 15-minute session that we had? It was at that time that I asked to be taken off the psychotropic. In my mind, I was doing fine. I was working as an alcoholism counselor, and we were expecting our first child.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Doctor, do you think I can stop taking the psychotropic?”

Doctor: “I don’t see why not, it’s just a placebo dose.”

While it may have been what my doctor described, it was allowing me to remain, to some degree, stable. Within two weeks of being taken off of the antipsychotic, I spiraled into a full-blown manic episode. I will never forget the sensation of being totally out of control. I was full of paranoia and delusional thinking.

One fateful evening, I was at home with my wife in the flat in North Buffalo where we lived. I was inconsolable. Completely distraught, my wife was overwhelmed. She said, “What do you want me to do?”

“Call Mark!” I cried.

Mark was a good friend from my addiction recovery program. He lived in a town North of Buffalo called Lockport. It was at least 30 miles from our house. Suzy called Mark and he came right away. I had lost track of time but it seemed like he got there in a split second.

When he arrived, he did the only thing he knew to do, and that was to take me to a meeting. I was still in a psychotic state, however, I did calm down.

When I returned home that evening, my wife decided to take me to a Buffalo-area psychiatric hospital. I was voluntarily admitted, however, I could not bear to be there. The following morning, I signed myself out AMA (Against Medical Advice). I remember the reaction of the doctor. He was pretty pissed off.

At this point, I had the compulsion to go back to my childhood home, which was in the area. My parents were both there and fortunately, they allowed me and my wife to stay with them for several days.

While there, I received much support in the form of visits from friends and even my pastor. Looking back at the experience, I now realize how fortunate I was. But it was my wife Suzy who truly came to the rescue and nursed me back to health. Ironically, her father is a psychiatrist and he was able to link me with a new psychiatric doctor.

In the subsequent months, I endured the inevitable depressive crash that follows a manic high. There were times I could barely get out of bed. But Suzy was there every step of the way to provide support and encouragement. Her love was without bounds. She continued to work at her job in retail and at the same time made sure I was taken care of.

My friends and family rallied around me as well. Mark owned his own business and he would take me to work with him. Another buddy, Dave, was another person who was present and provided much-needed support. Even my workplace demonstrated incredible compassion to the point that, when I returned after my three-month disability leave, I was reassigned to a position that was considerably less stressful and I was eventually given financial support to return to school to obtain my master’s degree.

So, when it comes down to being loved at a critical moment in my life, this experience stands out. I was so fortunate to have people who loved me unconditionally and gave me the helping hand that I so needed to come back from this terrible experience.

Since then, I have not had another manic episode. I have learned how to manage my condition and continue to utilize my support system. The situation I went through taught me so much about the value of having people who loved me and helped me to recover. Heaven forbid, I would never want to go through something like that again, however, I know that there are those who love me enough to get me through whatever the experience may be.

Getty Images photo via shironosov

Originally published: February 14, 2018
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