People like to tell me that I am a saint for staying married to my husband, but I am rather inclined to disagree. Is it easy to be married to someone with a mental illness? Heck no! The divorce rate for people with bipolar disorder is two to three times higher than the national rate (which last I checked was about 50%). So, am I a saint to stick with him through the psychosis, the depressions, the manias, the general nuttiness he experiences? No.
What I have, in my mother’s words, is a strong ability to “compartmentalize” my feelings. This doesn’t mean I never deal with my feelings and emotions. It means that in most cases, I can put them in a mental box, deal with the situation at hand with a calm and (hopefully) clear head. Then, when I am alone and have a few minutes to myself, I let my emotions out. This may amount to sobbing in the car. It may amount to writing angry words in a journal. It may be going to my husband when he is stronger and letting him know exactly how hurt, angry, sad, disappointed, etc… I feel.
Is this sainthood? No. It is coping. It is simply what I have always done. Sometimes I have taken this too far and packed my feelings away too deeply and ignored them for too long. That has landed me on a counselor’s couch several times. (That has been very helpful by the way. Don’t be too timid and afraid to try it if you can’t figure out stuff for yourself.)
Other people who have been through similar experiences have also been helpful when I needed to know that I am not alone in my experiences with my husband. NAMI has discussion boards for all manner of mental illnesses. They serve both patients and their families. I also know people personally who have loved ones, or who have split with loved ones, with bipolar disorder and other illnesses that are much like it. Sharing our stories is an amazing experience. Just knowing that I am not alone makes it much easier to deal with issues as they come up.
My family is way more understanding than I could have ever expected. They also put up with my husband’s irrationality. They offer love and support when I need it. My in-laws have watched our son many times when I call at the last-minute because I have to work and my husband is just not able to do it. Friends let me complain about my husband when I am overwhelmed.
Support has been key.
Will my marriage last? I hope so. To paraphrase the pastor that married us, “No one gets married expecting to be part of the 50% that gets divorced.” In our case, the number might be closer to 90%. Is each day we spend together a miracle worthy of sainthood? No. It is me and my husband each choosing to stay with an imperfect person because the rewards are greater than the trials.
Will I have “Saint Meghan” inscribed on my tombstone? Probably not.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Feel free to comment below, or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/meghantellsit for a quicker response.