The other day I was challenged to write about “a bipolar experience that was good/great and worth remembering.” I’ll give it a try.
First, of course, there are good/great moments during spells of hypomania – a trip to DisneyWorld with friends (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-2K) stands out in my mind. Despite my aversion to crowds and children, I found that I could have a good time at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” We swam, we dined, we rode, we visited, we watched fireworks, we laughed, we took pictures, we bought souvenirs. We avoided “It’s a Small World.” I won’t say I felt like a kid again, especially since my childhood was so eaten up by depression, but I enjoyed, romped, and was delighted on an adult level. With proper attention to self-care (food, rest), no anxiety attacks. We plan to go again, someday, maybe to the flower and garden exhibition.
Another time I had a significant insight was when my husband and I were cleaning out the garage. I found an old box of photos and other reminders of my college days. I started crying. I was thinking of all the bad experiences I had back then, from a rotten relationship, to time and opportunities wasted because of my disorder, to the year I took off when it all became too much.
My husband acknowledged that what I was saying was true, but added, “If you hadn’t been through that, you couldn’t have been as good a friend to Hal and Robbin and your other Prozac Pals.” It was the exactly right thing to say, and definitely worth remembering. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging – to use my sometimes calamitous experiences to understand and communicate with and maybe even help people in similar situations.
And blogging is a pleasure and an experience directly tied to my bipolar disorder. Writing every week about my illness and reading others’ comments have been a source of satisfaction, insight, and pride. I have another blog, but it provides nothing like the personal rewards of this one.
But most of all, bipolar disorder has caused me to realize that I married the right man. I’d say we have even grown closer in many ways because of my illness.
When we got married, I was undiagnosed, and my husband had some problems of his own. I was depressed, massively insure, with low self-esteem, and plenty of anxiety, just as you’d expect. There were plenty of times that we clashed and fought, just like any married couple. But we stayed together.
I had hideous depressions and devastating anxiety attacks. My husband held me, hugged me, asked if there was anything I needed, and if there was, made sure I got it.
Then came the big crash – a major depressive episode that flattened me, took away everything that was good in my life. Except Dan. He stayed with me.
When I couldn’t work, he paid the bills. When I couldn’t do housework, he cleaned and shopped and cooked. When I couldn’t bear to read, he didn’t complain about the mindless TV shows I watched. When I felt no sexual desire, he did without. He drove me to my psychiatrist appointments and picked up my meds at the pharmacy.
He still does a lot of that, even though I’m improving. Every day he proves he knows what it means to love someone “in sickness and in health.”
He’s not a saint. Sometimes he sits around in his underwear. He won’t use the GPS I got him for Christmas, even though he really needs it. He tells jokes that only an 11-year-old would find funny. He gets cranky when I won’t go somewhere with him.
But he cares for me, in both senses of the word. He demonstrates and teaches me patience, and tenderness, and understanding, which I try to give back to him. And I can’t think of anything better than that to have come from my bipolar disorder.