"Seriously, I can't do anything about it unless you tell me what's wrong."
With a deliberate and tired sigh, he turned to face me.
"Honestly? I don't like being around you because you are a downer."
I don't know what I had expected, but it certainly wasn't that.
"Oh." I felt tears well up in my eyes, and as one of the kids came barreling into the living room, I felt relieved that they were demanding his attention now. They soon left the area, and I was left alone, with the afternoon sun shining brightly into the living room.
A downer? I grit my teeth and attempted to steel myself against the string of self-deprecating inner dialogue that was about to commence. The man whom I loved, even when things were bad was telling me that the reason we weren't connecting lately was because I was so depressed, negative, and not at all fun to be around. It was a simple statement, really.
A statement I didn't know how to handle.
I thought of the past month. The lethargy; I was going to bad within an hour of him coming home at seven at night. The thoughts of suicide, or rather the hopes of escaping from the inner turmoil I was often feeling. I thought of the lack of commitment I had to anything in my life right now. How anxious I was at night, begging him to check the door two or three times, something I knew was likely an annoyance for him. I thought of the state of the house. I looked down at my pyjamas and knew that my hair was still in a overdone bedhead sort state, and not on purpose.
Tears began flowing down my cheeks as I realized that he was right. I was a complete downer. I didn't like to go anywhere. I didn't want to do anything fun, let alone be the fun person in the room. Most days, I was lucky to find my way out of bed, and that was only to make sure that our kids were taken care of. I wasn't worried about taking care of myself, because, well, that was more work than I could manage.
He was right, but I still felt hurt.
Hours later, as we sat silently on the couch, I said, "What do you know about Bipolar?"
"I know that there is no in between".
I shook my head, "There is, it's just hard to maintain, and depending on what kind of Bipolar you have, the cycles between the two extremes can happen rapidly, and leave no room for the middle ground- if you get there."
"It really hurt my feelings when you said I'm a downer." My voice cracked, "I know I am. But I wish you could also see how hard I try to be here. When I'm bad, and I know I've been "bad" lately, I struggle to even get out of bed. I worry about everything. I feel like there is nothing worth doing, and really, that's why I don't do it. I can't physically do more than the minimum. I can't be bothered with anything fun, or extra because it takes so much energy to be this sad."
The Hubby looked at me, "I know. I'm sorry, it's just that you don't really seem to want to be around me either. And when you are, all you do is complain or seem so miserable. I feel like you are upset at me, or with me, and it's just easier to be alone, I guess."
My gut clenched, and I closed my eyes for a second. I remembered a friend who had been married to a man who had bipolar, and they wound up getting divorced. I wondered if the diagnosis, the one that helped me finally understand who I was, was the one that would ruin my marriage. Was he getting tired of all these cyclical mood swings, the ones that I had no control over? Did he realize how much guilt I felt about not being able to be more?
"I know. A lot of the time, when I'm in the depressive cycle, I steer myself away from people because I feel like I need to protect everyone from my thoughts. I get angry so easily too, and irritated, as you know. It's not you. It's completely, and entirely me."
It is me. It's not some cliche statement I'm uttering because I want him to feel better; I want him to know, and really understand that when I'm disconnecting from him, it's all me. I'm doing it because I can't help it, even when I want to help it. I'm doing it because I tell myself that I don't deserve to be around other happy people, or that he doesn't want me around. I do it. It is completely me.
Well, it's Bipolar.
"Do you know that I don't want to be like this?" I asked.
He shook his head.
"I don't. I take those meds," I gestured to the ones I had just filled the day before, the ones sitting on the table waiting for me to sort them for each day, "so that I can find that middle ground. The meds make me feel flat. It took me a year to get to this place, and I still don't feel like I'm on the right combination. But, it's better than what it was a year ago, and I know you can agree with that."
I continued as he nodded in agreement, "I fight hard to be present every single day. Think about when you are sick. You know when you have to get out of bed to go to work, even though everything in your body is screaming at you to rest, to stay in bed?"
"That's bipolar in the depressive cycle. I never know if it's going to last for a day, a week, or even months, and it's exhausting. It's awful to feel that, well, awful, every single day, and never know when you are going to bounce out of bed and feel better. It's not like a cold that you can tell is ending, it just gets better one day."
The Hubby smiled this heartbreaking smile at me, that told me he still didn't completely get it, but that he was doing his best to understand me. That's all I could ever ask for. When you live with someone who doesn't deal with the extreme in mental health, or even any mental health issue, it can feel as though you are speaking a foreign language when you are attempting to explain what it's like in the deep concave of your mind when it's "that bad".
"I'm doing my best. Soon, I'll be in the manic stage making you crazy with my obsessive cleaning, list making, over-talking and insomnia. But for now, I'm not a downer to be a downer. I'm a downer because this is just what I deal with."
Bipolar is not who I am, but it does create a barrier that I have to overcome. Yet, I can never truly overcome it. I can just learn to cope with it, to handle it, to keep it under control, and to have people in my life, like my husband who can give me feedback as to what I look like under the rubble of depression. Even when the reflection I'm given is shockingly ugly.
As we lay together in bed that night, The Hubby stroked my hair, and whispered, "Go to sleep. Rest. Tomorrow will be better, okay?"
That's always the hope.