My partner is bipolar. She’ll be the first person to tell you that it is an evil disease. I can’t tell you what it is like to have a mental illness that can cause you to do and say things you wouldn’t if you weren’t ill. But I can tell you what it is like to be in a relationship with someone who is ill. I can tell you what it is like to be in a relationship with a mental illness. Let’s face it. If you love someone who is bipolar or depressed, your relationship doesn’t exist without the illness.
I’ve spent the last several years trying to get a handle on an illness that never rests. It may go into brief hibernations, but it is always there, waiting to come out and take the nearest bystander. I have watched my partner be so depressed that she couldn’t get up off the couch. I have watched her be so manic that she couldn’t sit down or sleep. I have watched her explode over something trivial that anyone without the illness wouldn’t even blink over. I have listened to her complain that nobody cares about her or her illness. I have been told I don’t really care. I have been told that things I have no control over are my fault. I have been insulted and criticized when she has lost control over herself. I have cried more times than I can count.
Why do I stay? Simple. Because I love her. But at times, I hate her too. This is one of those times. In reality, it isn’t her that I really hate. It is who she becomes when her illness takes over her brain. She isn’t completely herself then. But it is difficult to make that distinction when you’re in the middle of a crisis. It is difficult to look at someone you love, who is standing in front of you spewing the most hurtful and hateful things they can think of, and think “That really isn’t her. She doesn’t really mean what she’s saying.” No, at the time all you can think about is how much you want to escape from it all.
If you’ve never been in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness, it can be difficult to understand those of us who are. I can explain this all to my friends and family, but all they see is how hurt I am at times. They can’t see past that. That is why I often don’t tell them about things that are going on. I don’t want them to think less of my partner because of her illness. If anything, I want them to give her a little more lenience. It isn’t her. They can’t understand how her brain becomes its own entity when the chemicals take over. She doesn’t even always remember everything that happens. She doesn’t always apologize. She is often ashamed and overwhelmed by guilt.
And there’s nothing I can do to help her most of the time.
I’d love to take this illness away from her. She won’t take medication because of the side effects. I’ve fought this particular battle too long to believe she will ever see that it’s our only hope. She won’t ask for help. She wants everyone around her to always be offering their help. She wants us to anticipate her needs. Her expectations of us are too high. I can’t do it all. I can’t always be on guard. I need my rest too. I need my support. If I don’t offer the right things to her at the right time, I’m suddenly an uncaring, selfish asshole. Yes, that’s one of the things I was called last night.
I wish there was a simple and quick way to rid her of this illness. I wish there was a way to erase all the bad things that have been said. I wish I could make everything better for both of us.
Mostly, I wish the person I fell in love with would come back.