Birdwatchers: DeeDee and I wouldn’t ordinarily let you read our correspondence, but we agreed that this letter offers insight into loving someone with mental health issues. In summary, it isn’t easy, but love isn’t about what’s easy.
Sometimes you make me crazy. Not just crazy about you–which I am, have been, and always will be–but “what on Earth is she thinking”, “that’s just nuts”, pulling my hair out to keep my head from exploding crazy.
I understand your brain doesn’t work like mine and you can’t always control how you feel or what you think, but knowing that doesn’t make living with some of these things any easier. So I want to let you know how it makes me feel–I want you to understand that sometimes, your problems are problems for me, too. Even more, though, I want you to understand that I love you–love you in spite of (maybe even a little because of) what makes you different.
The biggest problem for me is making plans. Bipolar means I can never be sure which DeeDee to expect today, so any plan is subject to change without notice because it won’t fit your mood. That eventually makes it seem, well, pointless to plan anything. And it effects both short and long-term planning, since I can’t know how you’ll be in the future, either. Lucky for us, then, I’m not so big on making plans, and I know better than to expect that you’ll be on time.
This is different from, but related to, your need for structure. I understand; ADD means that laying out step-by-step details for accomplishing goals is necessary for completing projects, but it doesn’t leave much room for spontaneity–that isn’t really a problem. It’s more a problem when those plans go awry, leading to panic as they spiral off-course, instead of improvising solutions.
The mood swings themselves are less problematic for me. I can’t keep up with your hypomania, of course–I need to sleep sometimes, even if you don’t, and I hate the social butterfly who emerges with the mania. I don’t like social settings to begin with, but they trigger mania for you–so we go to a party, you get excited, and I just get disgusted. When you’re like this, you refuse to listen to me–that’s both insulting and stupid, since I know what’s happening better than you do at that point. Ignoring my advice, and/or my needs, in these situations really is a problem, but I know you’re aware of it and that you do try to overcome what the mania wants. Plus, the manic sex is fantastic!
Depression, on the other hand, well, that’s just depressing. I get blue sometimes, too; I know it feels awful, even though I can’t appreciate the depths you experience. But damn, is it hard to accept. I love you, and I want you to be happy. I feel like I should be able to help when you’re down, but I can’t really, and that just compounds my own unhappiness from being around someone who is depressed. Which of course makes you feel worse. I’m sorry about that. But these mood swings, I know they’re bound to happen and we’ve taken steps to address their impact on everyday living. I can work around them, because I understand what’s happening.
And I can’t express how lucky I am to have such a beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, ambitious, and caring companion. You take good care of me, even when you don’t feel well–I appreciate it very much and try to reciprocate. Everything I’ve described above is a challenge, yes, but the challenge of fully knowing and loving you is part of what keeps the relationship fresh and interesting, even after years together.
Most of all, you push me to grow and improve as a husband and a human. You have made me become more compassionate, more conscious of my world, and more passionate about what matters to me; you see things others don’t, and share them with me. I’ve also become more careful of how I express myself, both in weighing the effect of what I say and do before it can cause unintentional pain, and in making the effort to express my love for you often, enthusiastically, and in a variety of ways, because I know hearing it often helps you remember that it’s true.
Thing is, it’s kind of impossible to separate the idea of DeeDee from the illness–the illness is part of who you are, part of what makes you the woman I love, and I’m willing to accept what the illness brings because it comes with you. I love you, as you are, even when you make me crazy.