Married to Mental Illness: An Interview with my Husband

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be married to someone who has a mental illness? I have. So I asked my husband some questions about life with me and my Bipolar Disorder II. Listen in:

What were your thoughts when you first learned that I suffered from depression (while we were still dating)?

At the time I didn’t really understand what depression was. My thoughts were that it was probably due to nurture factors more than nature. That it would lessen or go away with time.

What was your reaction when my official diagnosis was later changed to Bipolar Disorder II?

On the one hand, I was relieved because it seemed like a more accurate diagnosis and it was less severe than Bipolar I. On the other hand, it felt more serious because of the potential for mania episodes.

How do my changing moods make you feel?

I think when you are with someone who has Bipolar you go on an emotional rollercoaster when their moods swings occur. I tend to feel sad when you are sad and happy when you are happy. At times I feel frustration mixed with sadness. It really varies. I think it is dependent on my mood as well.

What seems to be the most effective way of making me feel better when I’m down?

By staying close to you and being positive and supportive. I think it is important to reaffirm my commitment to you and tell you how much I love you. I try to be the stabilizing voice.

What do you notice when my mood is very “up”?

Strong focus on a particular hobby or idea. The usual sign is not being able to sleep. Instead of sleeping you tend to work on your hobby or idea.

What is it like to be married to someone with Bipolar Disorder II?

There are more ups and downs. You have to be flexible and understanding, be able and willing to change plans and adjust to your spouse’s current mood.

What do you do to take care of yourself as a caregiver for someone with a mental illness?

I think it’s important to have some time to yourself – and that goes for any relationship. You also need to have hobbies and interests or friends to occupy your time.

How do you think our life would be different if I didn’t have a mental illness?

We would probably both be working and we would probably want to do more activities during our time together.

How well do you think you understand my disorder/ what have you done to understand it better?

I think I have a good understanding of it now. I’ve educated myself on depression and Bipolar Disorder. I’ve found that the most important thing to understand is that it is a disease and nothing personal against me.

How has your perspective on depression, Bipolar Disorder, or mental illness in general, changed since before you met me?

I really didn’t know what depression or Bipolar Disorder was before we met. I had, of course, heard of them but didn’t really understand them. I don’t think I realized that it was a disease. I was more of the school of thought that it was related to one’s upbringing, personal choices, or personal experiences.

 

So there you have it. His answers made me feel a little sad because of the frustration and sadness that my mental illness causes him, but happy because of how much he loves and supports me. I was very interested in how his perception of mental illness changed throughout our relationship. And I think it is important to take note of the flexible and supportive nature that is required to be with someone who has a mental illness.

 

Are you married to someone who suffers from a mental illness? Or do you have a mental illness that affects your spouse? What has your experience been like?

 

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