(This article originally appeared in BP Magazine.)
I’m no psychiatrist, but maybe I should be. A little more than 10 years ago, I got married, a big step for anyone. But marriage was a bigger leap of faith for me than most of my friends because I have bipolar disorder.
My husband Steve turned out to be a great partner, and I’m fairly certain he’d say the same about me. Everyone knows marriage teaches you a lot. But being married and bipolar means learning about yourself and your spouse in ways others can’t always understand.
Sharing the challenges of living with bipolar can bring you closer together. It can be an avenue toward real intimacy that comes when a married couple shares their deepest feelings.
Consider this heartfelt advice from a veteran wife who has worked through many of those special challenges. For now, forget the professionals. Listen to words of wisdom that have worked for us.
Life as a comedy
Know any jokes? OK, even if you don’t, remember humor can often defuse difficult situations. It’s better than bitterness, defensiveness, paranoia, anger or sadness. Be aware of the comedy in your problematic scenarios. Too depressed to take a shower? Try joking with your spouse about how terrible you look; you might feel better and get in there.
And remember, living with someone gives you a front row seat to what he or she thinks is funny. One time, I thought my husband was stealing my money.
“No, I wouldn’t do that,” he said when I asked him about it. “I’m stealing your credit cards.”
Taking it easy
When I begin to feel ill, I take a day or two off from life. I go to work if I must (I teach at a local college), but I try to stay inside and slow down. This usually helps me reclaim my equilibrium. For me, being mentally ill is like being physically ill. In both cases, I limit my activities until I’m better. Your spouse might appreciate the intermission as well.
The ‘new’ and ‘old’ you
Spend time with friends you knew before you got sick. It’s nice being with people familiar with “the old” as well as “the new” you. This way, your spouse sees you had a life before you became ill.