Liz Furl’s husband rides the waves of bipolar disorder with her, and they both maintain their balance through love.
It’s not about the falling in love—for everyone, this happens without thought, a sudden realization, pop! I’m in love. It’s about the maintaining of love, the staying in love that matters.
The longer you remain with your person, the ease of loving is replaced with snags, like an aging sweater—this is normal as you become monogamous, move in together, marry, have children. But it is another matter when you love someone with bipolar disorder.
I have bipolar II and I am loved deeply, by a wonderful man who knows my every symptom, who helps me weather each storm in my brain. But, like me, he is far from perfect. Sometimes he needs my guidance to help guide me back to myself.
And I explain that falling asleep at 8PM and waking up at 4AM is part of the process, that my brain can turn on and off at the strangest moments. That sometimes I have to drink coffee instead of wine at the end of the workday. That if I crawl back into bed at 5AM, to just hold me close without an I told you so.
I explain that sometimes mania is wonderful for checking things off my to-do list, but other times it means I’ll be writing, watching a movie, and chain smoking my e-cigarette while my hands shake, and my breath comes shallowly from my upper chest. That it will pass in an hour or so because my body can’t keep up that kind of hectic pace, and that, if it happens at work, to remind of this with calm words to soothe my frantic body.
I explain that when I become monstrous, as I seldom but sometimes do, that I’m hiding deep inside myself, horrified at the words coming out of my mouth. That I understand I’ve caused him pain, but never would intentionally. That sometimes the disease controls me, and sometimes I control it, but I’m ever trying to tip the scales in my favor.
I explain the moments when I can’t stop chewing at my fingernails, or the skin around them, the moments when suddenly I fall through a trap door into bed and silence, the moments when a switch flicks and who I was is not longer who I am. I explain to expect the unexpected, to be ever vigilant, and to have empathy.
I explain that the normal times are gifts, and he understands, just as he understood my panic attack in the middle of our anniversary dinner and my sudden need to walk myself home. Just as he understands my flashes of misery, either energetic or torpid. Just as sometimes he cannot understand, but accepts that the guidebook to living with bipolar is incomplete.
It will always be incomplete, and he knows that, as does everyone who loves someone with bipolar disorder. At times we the afflicted will be normal. At times we will be bedridden. At times we will harm ourselves, or stay up all night, or completely lose control and be truly crazy.
The coping mechanisms for all of us, sick-and-in-love and well-and-in-love, are as varied as a day with bipolar. What we all share, though, is patience, acceptance, and optimism for a better tomorrow, whenever it comes. Whatever else may be necessary for your singular love, these things remain the same.
Whatever else there may be, there is love.