I remember driving home from the hospital after seeing my partner Ivan in the psych ward. I was sobbing in fear and hopelessness. It was 1994 and Ivan had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I didn’t even know what it meant.
I had never heard of the illness. Was it curable? Was he faking?
The staff in the hospital were often wonderful, but I could tell they had ZERO idea of what I was going through. I had so many fears- I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know if he was going to die. I couldn’t work.
Does bipolar disorder last forever? How long would he be in the hospital?
What is psychosis? What is mania? Why is he saying such crazy things? Doesn’t he love me anymore? I went through this for months. There were only a few books on the market about the illness and there was nothing for a partner. I was alone and his only advocate.
Ivan was in the hosptial for two months. I met his doctor once in the elevator.
When it was finally time for Ivan to come home, I wasn’t given any advice. No one told me that I should watch out for suicidal behavior or what to do if he got sick again. It was all up to me.
I remember sitting in an office with his nurse practitioner a few weeks later. Ivan was a zombie from all of the medications. His hands shook so badly he couldn’t write. He was miserable and I was miserable and scared. I said to the nurse practitioner, “I’m not sure what to do. Ivan seems so sluggish. He can’t work and he is so unhappy. I don’t know what to do!” Here is the reply I received:
“Don’t you think you’re getting a bit too involved in all of this Julie?”
At that moment I said- enough of this terrible health care. I am taking over. Ivan and I had a tough, tough time, but we worked together and he got better. I remember thinking: If we make it through this, and we will, I am going to write a book so that a partner of someone with bipolar disorder will NEVER have to go through what I went through.
Seven years later, I wrote the book.
I wrote Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner for everyone who is in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder. I know it can help you create a loving and positive relationship with your partner.
You can 100% work together to manage this illness.
All of the steps you need are in the book.
Happiness is possible.
PS: I am very happy to say that bipolar disorder health care has improved since Ivan was so ill. There is more contact with health care professionals in the hospital and they definitely understand more about what partners go through. But if your partner is ill, you will have to advocate for what YOU need.
You matter too!