“I’m so glad you’re back,” my husband Andy whispered. He gave me a tight hug and kissed my hair.
“Back?” I asked. I was confused. “I didn’t go anywhere.”
He looked sheepish, almost like he didn’t want to tell me.
“You know…just…back. You’re yourself again, and it seems like you’re back for good. I missed you so much.”
I immediately knew what he was talking about. He’d mentioned something similar this past fall, when I first started on my meds for bipolar disorder. I knew I hadn’t been myself for the past few years, but I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. “Was I really that bad?” I asked him. “I don’t remember.” I honestly didn’t. “How long was I out of it?”
“Well, we were okay for a couple years when we first got together,” he explained. “Then you sort of entered this…I don’t know…fog. Every day you were either extremely sad or just…um…’out there.'”
I asked him what I meant by “out there,” even though I already knew.
“Like when you said you had to sleep in the back yard to ‘keep us safe,’ or when you locked yourself in the bathroom and thought I was going to kill you, or…you know…just…’out there.'”
“So when I was crazy,” I said flatly.
“I know you don’t like that word, so I don’t use it,” he responded. He looked past me, as if he was unable to meet my eyes while talking about this.
“But it’s true,” I said back. My voice wasn’t angry or sad. I knew it was simply the truth. “I know I was crazy. I was. I am. I don’t know.”
“I think you’re back, though,” he said. He met my eyes again. “When you were first feeling better this fall I was too worried to get my hopes up, but it seems like you’re really, really back. There are good days and bad days, but overall you’re YOU again, and I could not be happier.” He hugged me again.
“You waited an awfully long time,” I commented. This year we will have been together ten years, and my brain tumor was diagnosed eight years ago. We (and my doctors) think this could have been part of what caused the chemistry upset now diagnosed as bipolar disorder, so it’s logical to think I’ve been struggling with this disorder for almost eight years. It went undiagnosed until this past fall, even though I’ve clearly had symptoms that entire time. That means that out of a ten year relationship, Andy has had two years (well, now two and a half) with a woman whose brain actually works. Eight years have been spent waiting.
“I know it was a long time,” he told me. “But every single day has been worth it. I knew that somewhere in there the real you still existed. I would have waited decades to see her again, and it still would have been worth it. I missed you so much.”
Which, obviously, makes Andy the best husband in the world, because I’m quite sure that he meant it. He took eight years of hell on the outside chance that I might one day get better – on the chance that we would maybe one day solve the mystery. He took totally delusional panic attacks, nights of me locking myself in the closet and crying/hyperventilating until I threw up, nights of my manically staying up all night writing because I-just-had-the-most-brilliant-idea, nights of me crying because I knew I was going to kill myself, the night that I actually tried… He took all of that, and he still loved me. He still loves me now.
I am genuinely, legitimately confused. If I could break up with myself, I would have. So, so, so long ago.
I am blown away by this kind of love, but I’m also angry and scared. I’m angry that he had to go through this. I’m angry that I had to go through this. I’m angry that FOUR psychiatrists got this diagnosis wrong, when now I look at the symptoms of bipolar disorder and it’s basically a checklist of every symptom I told them. I didn’t know to look for bipolar disorder. They should have known. They should have known those symptoms. At least one of those doctors should have gotten it right. Why did I have to waste eight years in a fog of depression, mania, and paranoia? Eight years of my life, people. It took away eight years of Andy’s too, because he had the misfortune of falling in love with the wrong girl. Praise God that he stayed, but only God knows why he did. This wasn’t fair to him either. I don’t take much time to feel angry about all this, but to see how much Andy loves me and to see (from a standpoint of relative sanity) how much he’s been through, how long he’s waited, because of a condition that could have been detected years ago? That makes me angry.
No, scratch that. Angry is when a student forgets their homework for the third time this week. This situation makes me livid. I try not to think about it too much. Anger will only take up more of my life, and I think I’ve been robbed of enough.
I’m also scared. Andy’s right when he says I’ve been “back” for the past few months. My personality is back. I’m not paranoid anymore. I don’t want to die. It seems like maybe we’ve found a solution; like maybe I’m better. Everyone I know who has bipolar disorder, though, says that this stable period only lasts for so long when inevitably the symptoms come back. I don’t want to waste my life by worrying about the future, but I also want to be prepared. I don’t know how, though. How can one prepare to have their sanity taken away again? I don’t think I’ll every be ready for that.
Eight years was too long. I don’t want to lose any more.