Being Bipolar has, in general, caused difficulty in my relationships. Not just romantic relationships, but also my relationships with family members, friends, co-workers, classmates and even the general relationship you have with others as you go about your day. This week I added a new element to my relationship with my partner – we got engaged!
Getting engaged has me thinking about all the relationships in my life. I am thankful for the people that have stood by me through the roller coaster of moods and diagnoses that have brought me to where I am today
My family has always been there for me. They have weathered the storms of my ups and downs. They have sat in the hospital with me as I’ve waited for the doctors to release me. My parents have sat through tearful meetings with the psychiatrist as we discussed why I kept trying to kill myself and why nothing seemed to help. I have said hurtful things to my family as I tried to express the pain inside, but they have remained steadfast. I wish I could take some things back, but thankfully my family seems to have forgiven and moved on. I’m still working on forgiving myself.
Relationships with friends have been rocky over the years. In a depressed state, I withdraw. In an anxious state I withdraw even more. It is hard to stay in touch with people when you don’t even get out of bed. Completing my university degree also complicated friendships. Everyone scattered to the four corners of the world to be successful and I settled in to my bed to hide. I didn’t want to admit that I was struggling, so I withdrew from contact from almost every one.
When I graduated university, I had a boyfriend. We ended up moving in together when I found a permanent job shortly after school ended. For a while I was doing well. I went to work, I came home, I went to the gym, I went on trips, I was doing all the “normal” day-to-day things. Things looked like they were on track.
During my fourth year of school my mental health broke down and I spent several weeks in inpatient care. My boyfriend was in a different city for a work placement, but he was aware of what happened. I had been open with him from the beginning of our relationship about my mental health. At the time I was only diagnosed with major depression (recurrent). I got on some medication, resumed my studies and ultimately graduated. I had a major relapse a little over a year after graduation, falling off the track in a spectacular way.
He proposed at Christmas the year we graduated. We were happy to be engaged. I had doubted that anyone would be able to accept me mental health issues and all, but the ring was proof enough to me. I made some progress in trying to plan a wedding, but anxiety would shake me in it’s grip and I would stop making plans. Eventually my difficulties in managing my mental health resurfaced. I was suicidal and anxious. Regularly I would miss work and I began to withdraw inside myself. I ended up being hospitalized several times.
During this time, my now fiance stayed with me. He watched as I experienced horrible side effects from my medications, he saw the scars on my hands and wrists from an in hospital attempt to kill myself, and he saw my relief every time he still showed up at the hospital to visit. He maintained he always would and that he knew what he got himself into.
We ended up moving a buying a home in my hometown. It was much closer to his job and my family would be much closer to help me out. Unfortunately moving cities did not help me lose my demons. I ended up in the hospital again and again. I quit my job and became entrenched in bed.
Things improved slightly and I found a new contract position in my field. I enjoyed the work, but the workplace caused me incredible anxiety. Every time an alarm went off (even the scheduled weekly tests!) I would panic. I was reviewing safety systems and was paranoid that I would make a mistake, and that the alarm meant I caused the plant to blow up. (Spoiler alert, the plant is still standing)
I eventually spiraled down and ended up back in the hospital. I was released after three weeks and managed to keep things together for a week before a serious suicide attempt. My fiance hauled me to the emergency room one final time.
I knew that this continuous hospitalization process was taxing on him. However, he said he still loved me and wanted us to be together. We signed the paperwork to book our wedding ceremony and reception while sitting in the dining area in the mental health wing of the hospital. I was relieved that he didn’t want out. I was surprised he still wanted to deal with me, especially since it was clear I didn’t even want to deal with myself.
However, this was the beginning of the end. He was drinking heavily to cope, and suffering from his own anxiety. Living with me was like living with Schrödinger’s cat. Would I be alive when he came in the door, or would he find me dead?
I was at the end my rope too. I was sick of the endless cycle of hospital-new pills-ok for a while- get depressed-get suicidal-repeat. My psychiatrist agreed that we needed to try something new. He referred me to an eight week inpatient mood and anxiety program.
Unfortunately there was a waiting list for the program, so I had to return home. My fiance and I kept on trying to appear normal, but he’d drink and stay up late gaming and I’d just stay in bed sleeping. He’d eventually come to bed and I’d leave to go cry on the couch. It wasn’t a great arrangement, but we were both stubborn and thought we needed to make the relationship work.
I eventually got admitted to the inpatient program. It was in a facility several hours away, but he drove me there and would pick me up on the weekends for passes. We lasted several weeks with this arrangement until he finally sat me down at home before our trip back to the facility and broke up with me. He gave me several reasons why it wasn’t working, denied there being anyone else (I had been upset that a female friend had stayed the night a couple times during various hospitalizations), and told me we would sell the house.
It was hard going back to the hospital with so much turmoil, but it was the best place for me. I got to actually focus on myself and not worry about the relationship. I was upset that it ended, and angry that he couldn’t ultimately handle my illness. It was an asshole move to dump me and begin the listing process for our house when I was several hours away in a hospital, but I was surrounded by people and professionals who could help me. The relationship was over and I’m pretty sure we were both ultimately relieved.
A New Hope
I figured this was the final nail in my relationship coffin. With so many hospitalizations and diagnoses and the drama, who would ever want to be with me? Well, girls have needs, so I got back on the dating horse again. I challenged myself as part of my counselling work to write an honest dating profile that didn’t put me down.
After several people just wanting to hook up, who I ignored. I was finally messaged by a guy who used full sentences and did not even mention hooking up! We chatted back and forth for a couple months before agreeing to meet. I was sure he was a catfishing axe-murderer because there was no way someone awesome would be interested in me (Ok, so I hadn’t made it all the way through the self-esteem work I was doing in counselling!). There was no way a guy would be interested in someone with a huge mental health issue, unemployed and living in their parents basement.
I was wrong. Sentence number 2 out of his mouth when I sat down at the coffee shop was, “I have something to tell you, I still live with my parents in their basement…”. Well, there went one fear out the window. He also seemed non-plussed about my employment status. I didn’t get into my health details (oversharing is not healthy either!).
We had a great first date and never wanted it to end. We had coffee, went bowling, hit another coffee shop, and when that closed went to the Canadian institution of 24hr coffee – Tim Hortons. When he finally admitted he needed to work the next day, we parted after a brief but electrifying kiss.
We have been almost inseparable since. He’s watched me go through the death of the family dog, anxiety group counselling, personal counselling and even a major depressive episode. I have been open and honest with him about my past and about issues as they pop up (Date 2 featured a panic attack, so he got introduced to things early!).
We have visited family, and friends and traveled to multiple comic-cons to have fun dressing up and being nerdy. We’ve spent time with each others family and we still come out loving each other. He embraces my flaws and loves me exactly the way I am. He is comfortable in telling me when he thinks my mood is slipping or that my anxiety is getting the better of me. I find he is a natural counselor and he is able to remind me of all the tools I have in my tool box to deal with mood and anxiety.
This past week, on First Contact Day, he drove me to where we shared our first kiss. He turned to me and asked – Will you marry me? He presented me with an IDIC as a token of his love and affection. Of course I said yes. He had listened to everything I wanted and needed. I can’t wear rings at work, but I can wear a neckace. I wanted something that reflected us (we are an amazing set of nerds), and not the standard diamond ring stereotype. The IDIC still sparkles but it also screams I love you enough to be confident that this unique token will always show how much I love you. He picked a spot that was meaningful to us, and he had even talked to my Dad beforehand. And so, we are engaged.
I have found someone that loves me with me illness, not in spite of it. He engages my mind and spirit and supports me in being the healthiest I can be. We could have gotten engaged months ago, but he wanted to wait for a special day, a day of new beginnings, a day that ushers in a dawn of new possibility. I am thankful for such a thoughtful and meaningful approach to the this stage in our relationship. We will only strengthen our bond.
I look forward to a future with a man that understands the different sides of me and loves me. I am proud to be engaged and wear my IDIC as a symbol of love. We will now “live long, and proper”…together.