I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t understand the need for a break now and then. Whether a physical or a mental break, today’s world is loud and elaborate, and always shifting. It’s a whirlwind that cares very little about your need to stay sane.
During the last month, I’ve given considerable thought to when I last had a real break, and honestly couldn’t remember. I’m not writing this to gain sympathy, nor am I writing it to excuse the month-long (or perhaps more) lapse in time that I’ve gone without diligently creating something within this space. Rather I’d like for it to serve as a reminder to (mostly) everyone to take the time to reflect, listen to your body, and take care of yourself.
When facing difficult situations, I try (sometimes with all my might) to see opportunities for their growth and learning potential, as even the most tenuous of circumstances can result in a higher sense of consciousness. For several years now one of the most important relationships in my life has also been one of the most challenging. Throughout the majority of that time, my life (with regards to this person) has been a roller coaster of extreme unpredictability. At times, this seemingly never-ending ride has impacted (or in some cases debilitated) most other facets of my typical day-to-day. From work to friendships, most things have become distressed at some point. To coincide, I’d been so affected that I was unable to function “normally” or with consistency.
This relationship, like any other, has it’s ups and downs, its disagreements, annoyances, as well as those significant discussions about life’s “big” topics. The main difference and the part that’s required me to regularly buckle-up, is that my significant other suffers from rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.
Before personally dealing with this, I had little knowledge of the realities surrounding bipolar disorder. Living with someone who suffers from such an intense mental illness unquestionably adds another element to life’s already consuming hiccups. At times, it’s required that my role becomes one that more closely resembles that of a parent. So much time is spent providing as a caretaker; so much energy is used to monitor daily occurrences that can result in triggers, reactions to medication, loss of sleep, etc. When combining this with life’s other routine responsibilities, exhaustion becomes your new norm.
No movie or TV show had ever prepared me for the realities of this condition, or even provided an accurate glimpse into it. Most episodes have brought on something new, sometimes scarier and more stressful than the last. And while a well-thought-out regimen of medication is extremely helpful, it doesn’t mean that the continual monitoring can stop. Bipolar is both callous and compassionless and will rear its ugly head if you stop paying attention.
It’s a bizarre experience to have someone (or something) emotionally break you down to the point that you lose hope and begin to question everything negatively. While at the same time, wanting nothing more than to protect this person from their mania, their hurt, and suffering, and at times from the judgment that’s being hurled in their direction by others who are less aware of its severity. It’s painful to watch a loved one feel completely overwhelmed simply from existing within their own skin. Life, for them, goes from content to crisis within the blink of an eye and can make you feel like you’ve just gotten the wind knocked out of you.
I was recently on a call with a family friend whose son suffers from bipolar disorder, during our discussion I remember her saying “I just hope that he’ll be able to find love one day.” This statement has stayed with me, as I can only imagine how many of those who suffer are forced to deal with it alone. It’s those moments that make me feel lucky. Mental disorders are hardest on the people who have them. It was not my fiances choice to have this disease; he does not choose to let it run his life at various times. He did, however; decide to let me in, to be there in both times of need and happiness. My ability to be there, to provide support, to help create stability, and contribute to creating a happier life for him (and us), is why I’m lucky.
My goal in writing this consists of two things. First, if you know someone who is suffering from mental illness or is directly affected, I’d like to ask that you be as compassionate and empathetic as possible, even if you’re not sure how to relate. Perhaps try to educate yourself a bit. By doing so, your understanding will increase which could create more support for those in need. Second, if you’re the caretaker in this situation (or something similar), try to find time to heal. I know that’s almost impossible, but the likelihood of success within your relationship will be much higher if you (also) take the necessary steps to care for yourself.
Thank you for reading, and thank you for your thoughts and support.