Mental illness threatens all relationships it effects. Anyone telling you otherwise is selling something.
I’ve talked before about the dynamic in my own marriage that resulted from my repeated, severe depressive episodes. That is an ongoing battle that requires me to find my voice and motivation for daily life.
But more insidious even than that is this idea that sometimes goes hand in hand with depression, that a change of scenery in whatever form will change your mind.
As a kid, every summer I thought each new school year brought a new chance to reinvent myself and have a happier year. And then, when I finally gave up on that, I thought junior high (which was a new school), and then high school, and then college would afford me a new outlook on life. Before each of those new experiences, I thought, here now is a chance to be happy. It will be different. I will be different. But as the cliche goes, wherever you go, there you are.
I eventually resorted to moving away, first across the country and then across the world. But I couldn’t outrun myself no matter how hard I tried to reinvent myself with every new beginning. Eventually I realized that it didn’t matter where I was or who I was with, I had to face the truth of my Self.
No matter what self-help books and other people said, I had to claim my mental illness as a part of me. I had to stand up and say, This is something I have and it may never go away. By pretending it doesn’t exist and that it can be vanquished with mind over matter, I am letting it define me. I will claim it and diminish its power over me. The day I accepted that my bipolar disorder was a fixture in my life was the day I started really managing it.
But a pattern that you have repeated your entire life is hard to break completely. And so, even though I had accepted that my life might always be a series of ups and deep downs, I still find myself thinking from time to time, I am unhappy and unsatisfied. Perhaps I am unhappy and unsatisfied because I have been doing the same thing for too long. And this is exactly how I found myself contemplating leaving the only consistent and stable thing in my life, my marriage.
Not because there is anything wrong with my marriage. Not because my husband had stopped being the most amazing, supportive, and loving person I have ever had in my life. But because part of my illness is believing that circumstance is somehow responsible for my unhappiness.
You’ll notice that I didn’t say I contemplated leaving my husband, because it wasn’t logical. I thought about where I might live if left to my own devices, about what I would do with my time. I didn’t think about not having E in my life. But as soon as I did, I panicked and rewound, realizing that I was suggesting leaving one of the people who loves me most in the world. Blowing up my marriage wouldn’t fix my depression.
My point is this, don’t blow up your life because you’re depressed. Never make decisions from inside the darkness. Get help, get treatment and when you are feeling balanced again, reassess what you thought from inside the darkness to see if it still applies. My guess is that nine times out of ten, it won’t.
I am loved and so are you.