When Zachary and first met he told me that as a kid he had been misdiagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar Disorder. In his words, his mom’s quack doctor was just pushing meds on him for being a kid. This was not the most unreasonable thing I had ever heard. Lots of kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD and I’d never seen him display what I would consider to be typical Bipolar behaviors. Yes, I’d seen him get mildly depressed for a few days here and there, but lots of people experience bouts of depression. He also suffers from Chronic Kidney Disease which can cause depression. As far as manic behaviors, Zachary is kind of just a wild man in general. He’s lively, spontaneous, has no filter, and is full of ideas that probably aren’t good ones, but he makes them seem like they might be, and that is who he is 365 days a year. (Give or take a few to account for depression.) I could see how he could very easily be misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or ADHD, but fully believed that he just was who he was.
After Zachary and I had been married for a few months he fell into a cycle of depression. In the past when he’d have a few days like this, I’d push him to go to the gym and work out. We’d go to the beach or take a little day trip and he’d be back to his usual self. His depression never lasted for more than a few days and it was always relatively easy to convince him to do what he needed to do to re-balance. This time around was different though. At the time, Zachary was just working one scheduled shift a week and would pick up extra shifts if they were available. He didn’t pick up any shifts and was home for many days straight. Every day when I would leave for work I’d suggest going down to the gym or ask him to run an errand to get him out of the house. I’d come home from work to find that he hadn’t left all day, or changed his clothes, or even left the spot he’d been sitting at when I left for work 9+ hours prior. After a week plus of this, I finally asked why he was refusing to go to the gym when he knew it would make him feel better, or why he hadn’t at least walked down to the nearby library to return books. He told me that he had tried to go outside and walk to the library that day, but that he couldn’t because he was afraid. I asked what he was afraid of and he said he wasn’t sure, but mostly the people. Under any other circumstances I would have thought that he was messing with me. Zachary isn’t afraid of anything, especially not the two elderly ladies who worked in the library or the possible neighbor family that might have passed him in the parking lot. I knew that something was wrong beyond just a little bit of depression. He wasn’t himself at all and the more I thought about it, the more I could put together a pattern of extremes in his behavior between depression, his usual self, and hypo mania. He didn’t believe that he had Bipolar Disorder, but I fully did and I had no idea what to do.
I kept thinking about our wedding vows and how serious the “in sickness and in health” part had been to me as I said it a few months before when I considered his kidney disease and what I knew we had to face in the years to come as a result of that. I had no idea that I’d be hiding in the shower, 5 months into marriage and 5 months pregnant, realizing my husband was having mental health issues with no idea what to do to help him.
I don’t remember how that particular cycle of depression ended, but it did. I eventually told him that I thought he really did have Bipolar Disorder which started a couple years of him going back and forth between denying it and accepting it. In that time we’ve come up with a few strategies to help minimize the effects of the depression, identified triggers that cause him to go up and down more frequently, a support system for when nothing else is working, a failed attempt at medication, an ER trip for heart attack that turned out to be anxiety, and moments of walking away from each other because he wasn’t where we could talk things out and I wasn’t where I could be patient enough to help him.
This probably just sounds discouraging and honestly, there are seasons where things are discouraging and it seems like we’re just stuck in a rapid cycle of negativity. There are also long spans of time where everything seems easy and Zachary is just Zachary.
In sickness and in health has taken on a whole new meaning to me than it had when I first promised it. It is harder than I thought it would be, in a different way than what I expected, but if I had known before hand what I was getting into, it wouldn’t have changed anything. Bipolar Disorder wouldn’t have scared me away from Zachary. It’s there and we face it. Sometimes better than other times, but always together.
*Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert on mental health or Bipolar Disorder. I have only a BA in psychology and my personal experience from living with someone who has Bipolar Disorder and my career in human services. I am not qualified to asses or diagnose, but simply share my experience from my personal perspective in the hopes to encourage those in similar situations and bring awareness and understanding.