My partner has bipolar disorder, and there’s no shame in that.
I get the call late in the afternoon, and it’s him, saying he does not feel well and needs me. Right now. Please babe.
My mind goes back to two years ago: he would be inexplicably sad and anxious one week, then be hyper and chatty and super active the next week, running on two to none hours of sleep on most days. When an incident occurred and a good friend (an angel!) took him to a mental institution as he was irrational when spoken to, it opened the flood gates for me into understanding what bipolar disorder was all about.
Finally, there was a name for what I just thought was his moodiness, or drunkenness, or his ‘real’ personality.
Since then, we’ve practiced on letting him feel his feelings and what is regular or not; and him helping me to know what to look out for when he’s on either end of the mood spectrum.
And when I got that call, I knew that his anxiety was acting up, and soon enough, it would lead him to mania.
Driving to where he was, I received a call from my sister asking if I was still at the mall.
No, I said over the phone connected to my car’s Bluetooth. I’m on my way to *Bub, he’s having a bad episode. I think I should take him to the hospital.
My sister gives a ‘tut’ in response. I don’t know why you put up with that. It’s not like you’re married. He probably drank his way into that state. Then, she hung up the call, feeling quite satisfied with herself I’m sure.
While we are close, my family can never relate to why I’m sticking with this man with the mental illness; and their knowledge of bipolar disorder in particular only culled from melodramatic telenovelas and convenient trope portrayals in some shallow films.
I used to be like that too, I admit, before I started dating my partner. But getting educated does wonders for improving as a human being, and actually seeing this man rise and fall, and rise again from the effects of his disorder is nothing short of heroic. After his first mania-caused stay at the institution two years ago, he’s since found a job, and worked so hard to improve himself while taking medication and following doctors’ orders.
I wish my family could see that part of the disorder: how it still allows the one afflicted to live a normal life.
But anyway, after I arrived at his location he calmly told me he needed to stay at the hospital for a few days, and calmly got in the passenger seat.
I was of course fearful, yet so proud of him: he knows his triggers, he’s in tune with his feelings and when they deviate, and he understands his disorder and how it affects him.
We walked into that clinic hand-in-hand, and his doctor got to work immediately.
I’ve gotten used to the looks we get sometimes from other patients and their family: here is this yuppie couple, well-dressed, looking like they have decent jobs, in a facility like this. Whatever could they need it for?
And as I’m filling out paperwork, I know they realize it’s my partner that needs to be here. But I’m not ashamed to be here either. I would be more ashamed to tell him that I love him when he’s feeling ‘balanced’ and ‘normal’ and everything seems to be okay, yet not be there for him when he needs me the most.
I hope this reaches out to you. You, the one who might not understand what’s going on lately with a loved one.
You, who wants to learn more about mental illnesses.
And most especially to you, who needs a wakeup call to never dismiss or belittle people with mental illnesses. Get educated, get empathic, and watch yourself blossom into a better human being.