What my mental illness taught me about love

“You’re effing ugly, just look at you! I am embarrassed to be in public with you.” I remember that first attack on me. His words still resonate in my head as if he was saying it again.

All my life I’ve lived a rollercoaster of emotions; lack of sleep from an early age, anxiety levels through the roof. He never could understand why I wouldn’t just “snap out of it,” or “get over it”.

I tried to make him understand, but he was either unable or unwilling to accept that I had an actual problem; that it wasn’t all in my head.

Then I became frustrated. And that frustration — coupled with a lot of stress — sent me deeper and deeper into my depression. My thoughts became darker and darker, but I couldn’t force myself to seek help. Practically every week I would have thoughts of suicide that I kept to myself.

For years we went back and forth between my episodes of mania and depression; neither of which we both understood. To him, the two were distinguished by the times he liked me, and the times he didn’t. For me, it felt the same. There we were; neither of us liking me half the time.

Then, one day, the pressure from my job was too much. I was working endless hours running my own PR firm. I reached breaking point and I just stopped.

I googled the nearest hospital with a psychiatric department and called the doctor’s suite, praying there was a chance he could see me. I was lucky, there was a cancellation. I booked my appointment and drove to the hospital 30kms away. I cried all the way. I needed help, desperately.

I met with the psychiatrist and had a two-hour session, giving him as much information as possible. I told him I believed I was bipolar. After the assessment he reached the same diagnosis and I was prescribed an armada of medication.

I got to the pharmacy with a sense of relief that there was medication to help me. I didn’t know what to expect but was warned I would need about a month to adjust to the medication. In between, I was told, I would relapse. I just had to look for the signs and call the doctor as soon as I felt the relapse setting in.

To him the situation was “all in my head”

I got home around the time my partner also arrived. I sat him down and told him everything but I could see he wasn’t absorbing what I was trying to say.

I started my course of medication and I felt like death. My mental state was held hostage as the meds started to take effect. I slept 20 hours a day, waking up to drink water and return to bed after the next dose. I could see that my partner resented me more but I needed to fix myself, even if I had to do it myself. It was that or I took my own life.

To him, the situation was “all in my head” and at times he used my condition to control the relationship. In fact, I had let him drive the relationship from the start. When he met me I was depressed but I never knew it. I was happy to be with him but I never expected to become a doormat to constant abuse and conflict.

It took a month for me to adjust to the medication and six months later I was thriving. I felt reborn. I never knew a life other than being bipolar and not having it controlled. This was a new chapter for me. I took control of my life, making decisions that affected me and my needs as an individual. My partner saw this as rebellion. I started to want an equal say in our relationship and this frustrated both of us as he was used to his ‘god’ complex.

I relapsed a year later as I wasn’t being supported emotionally. I felt myself slip more and more. I got onto stronger meds but this didn’t help. Eventually I had to walk away from our relationship. I refused to go back to being his subservient other half. We attempted to get back together a few times but nothing changed. I was still seen as ‘the mental case’.

He still doesn’t understand my struggle; how much it takes for me to get out of bed most mornings; not knowing which days I’ll have the will or the energy to just ‘do’. I’m not sure that he’ll ever understand, but I’ve resolved to stop driving myself insane (pun unintended) trying to make him. It is what it is.

After everything, I kept my vow: to follow through my treatment plan in order to maintain my sanity. I may be alone in this fight — this fight against this very real condition — but at least I’m fighting. At least I’m committed.

I walked out with nothing but my mental illness, leaving behind my home, my beloved furry kids and someone who I loved. I rebuilt my life resolving that I needed to find exactly who I am before I share my laughter with someone again.

 

Article courtesy of Bonobology.com.

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