I first met my wife literally just weeks after a severe bipolar episode which culminated in getting legendarily drunk at a camp out and bawling my eyes out for hours while terrifying a couple of my friends with desperate talk about suicide.
I’ve told the story of the last concert I went to just a week before meeting her (Dave Matthews Band, which would become, possibly, our shared favorite band), and how things had just started to rebound and go well for me for practically no reason.
We talked for about a month, almost nightly, before I asked her on a date, September 29th 2007. We went to a haunted house and hayride where she revealed to me that she loved the smell of horse manure loud enough where the entire tractor full of people heard her, and I jumped on the opportunity to make fun of her for the very first time. Glorious.
Anyway, right around this time, eight years ago, we went to the movies and I shared something with her. I wish I could remember exactly when this happened, but we went to a lot of movies in the beginning so it gets hard. We went to see “The Heartbreak Kid” (I think it happened here), “Saw IV”, and “Bee Movie” (first children’s film we adulted in theaters together) on consecutive weekends. Don’t ask me how we saw those movies and somehow missed “Michael Clayton”, “The Darjeeling Limited”, “Dan in Real Life”, “American Gangster”, and “No Country for Old Men”, all of which were in theaters during those weeks and none of which we ever saw in theaters!
My reveal to her was that I had Bipolar Disorder. I wanted her to know right off the bat. I didn’t want to hide it and have her experience firsthand what I had just come out of. And that right there was the impetus of telling her. I had just come out of this thing, and I was completely unmedicated and I was not doing therapy, let alone seeing any kind of doctor, and especially not a shrink. I literally had no idea what was happening next and if it was over or if I was going to be dead by the time the sun came back up.
I asked her if she had an experience with it, if she knew anything about it, and she answered in the negative on both accounts. I told her to go home and do some serious research about it. Figure out if it is something you think you can deal with. Read about the real nasty parts and see if it scares you away.
Apparently she did go home and read about some stuff, which is good. She decided to ride it out (a decision I am not sure she would go back and change now), which is great. She left some article up on her computer monitor about bipolar and I don’t remember the exact details but someone at her house found it and asked her why she was reading about it.
The reason I don’t remember the details is because whoever that person was, never said a word to me about it. And that was awesome! I was not ready to talk about it, I wasn’t even ready to get help for it (and not for several more years), and I was already nervous enough around her family. I didn’t need this to become a thing. Had it, I probably would’ve moved on, and quickly.
And there it all lied for a long time. I was in complete remission from 2007 until 2011. I call these times my ‘healthy years’ where I was at my lowest weight since early college, and my most active, spending 10-12 hours a week in the gym and playing on a couple softball teams and practicing with those teams a couple times a week. I was also eating very well, the only period of my life I can say that, and just felt amazing both physically and mentally.
I’ve written before that the first panic attack I ever experienced happened in the store while we were registering for our wedding. However, I started to go back to my counselor I had as a teenager a few months before that due to general depression and anxiety. We were married on 11/10/12 and I started seeing a shrink just before Christmas. Things continued to regress until the last week of February, when I talked to my HR manager about taking a break from work for mental health reasons. We agreed upon a week without needing anything from a doctor.
The Sunday before that break, we had dinner at my in-laws and my wife and I decided it was necessary to tell her family what was going on. I don’t think I had ever been so nervous before. This was the first time telling anyone beyond my own family and a couple friends. I didn’t know how they would take it. I didn’t want them to be scared for their daughter/ sister. I just didn’t know how it would be received. So I just kind of blurted it out, told them I was bipolar and I was taking a medical leave from work and that hopefully everything would be fine with a little rest.
And, much like when my wife left her monitor full of bipolar information, they were fine with it. Everyone showed support and said if there was anything they could do and all that. There were some questions, mostly about if I was getting enough care for myself and things like that. I felt good after telling them, like it was the right thing.
Of course, I never took that week off of work. The very next day I went to dinner with my father-in-law at my newly married into uncle’s house. I drank too much Scotch, had a great conversation on the ride home, and within an hour of being home I was calling my father to come help me because I was the most suicidal I had ever been to that point. It was another nine months before I was cleared to go back to work, back to a job that was no longer there for me (although I should say that my company did everything they could to help me. They were very good to me).
And now here we are, a couple years removed from that situation, and I am again beginning to feel like I did at that Dave Matthews Show. Hopefully I can pull much more than five years of health out of this one.