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"Drifting Without an Anchor", Mental Illness From the Other Side

Living with Bipolar Disorder

My husband is lost inside an empty shell of himself. He suffers from mental illness which is still taboo. People look down upon people like him. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a child and since he has gone for so long not being medicated, it has only gotten worse. He is now in a mental facility because I asked him to go there. He had gotten so much worse and I didn't know what else to do. The nearest appointment for when he could see a doctor was two months out and I couldn't take the screaming anymore nor the crying for hours that followed. I was scared for him. So I did what I thought I needed to do and I signed him in there.

When I visit him I see the way other visitors treat others with mental illness around them. Like they are crazy and they are scared of them. Or even a look of pity as they avoid eye contact. They are there to visit their loved one who is obviously not as bad as the people they are stuck in there with, right?

I make eye contact with everyone and smile. I don't judge them. I mostly cry for them. They look so scared and empty. A look I am far too familiar with.

The first time I went to visit my husband they only took his first name and ended up calling back the wrong one. As I walked into the visiting area I noticed everyone is sitting with someone except this one gentlemen and my husband is nowhere to be seen. My heart just sunk. There is this guy, sitting there, waiting to see someone who loves him, but no one comes. I went and told the nurse and then sat down with the gentleman, still looking around for anyone looking back.

"I'm so sorry," I said, "they called you by mistake... my husband has the same name."

He just looked down and was about to get up. I could feel the pain radiating off of him.

"Where are you from?" I asked. He looked up at me and sat back down.

We talked for about 10 minutes before my husband finally arrived. The gentleman at least left with a smile. He knew no one was coming to visit him. He was in his mid to late 30's and society, probably along with his family, had already brushed him aside. He felt like he didn't matter to anyone. But he mattered to me. I could see that same lost look in his eyes, but he wasn't all alone in this world. For those brief 10 minutes, I was there.

My husband started exhibiting symptoms early on in our relationship but I didn't take it for more than maybe he just drank too much and too often. That is why he was always yelling. His moods cycled slowly, a few days he would be up and then a few days to a week later he would be down. But the last couple of months he was down way more often and started to lose touch with reality. He told me he saw nothing but grey.

The sky is gray
The sand is gray
And the ocean is gray

And I feel right at home
In this stunning monochrome
Alone in my way
Ani DiFranco, Grey

I wish his bipolar disorder was as romanticized as the Silver Linings Playbook but it was not. While I definitely saw similiarities, his world was much more dark. He started asking me if I really loved him and if I would stay with him. He went from rapid cycling to raging and screaming at me and then crying a few minutes later to just crying all of the time. When I looked into his eyes, I couldn't see him anymore. He wasn't there. His eyes were filled with fear, confusion, and grasping at any straws left to feel something... anything. I told him I loved him every time he asked me and even when he didn't, but I knew he couldn't hear me. I likened it mostly to our favorite movie, What Dreams May Come. This was our movie.

Chris: I forgive you.
Annie: For killing my children and my sweet husband?
Chris: For being so wonderful a guy would choose hell over heaven just to be with you.

This is a beautiful movie I also suggest you see (grab the tissue box). But when Annie is in hell, Chris tries to find her and talk to her and tell her how much he loves her but she can't hear him. She is stuck inside the dark, delapated version of their old house and she cries all the time. All she sees is darkness.


This is what I imagine, my love, my soul mate, my poor baby to be going through. I can't reach him. And while I keep fearing he will never come back, I have to wonder, what is he feeling? I can't imagine to be so far in darkness that you feel no one loves you, no one knows you, and you are all alone. While I can't see him in his eyes anymore, I can feel the pain in his soul. When I visit him he cries in my arms as I smooth his hair because all he wants to do is come home.

This is a man who is a great father, a great husband, an amazing person that would give anyone the shirt off his back... but he was born with something in his brain that just isn't firing right, chemicals that are just a bit off balance. It's not his fault, but I know when people see him there, they look at him that way.

I hate you, I love you
Don't go away
Can't decide if
I like your face
Or if I wish
It would stray
Jewel, Grey Matter

Mental illness is still looked at as taboo in our society. They are still treated poorly and misunderstood. Most end up homeless because their families give up on them and the system has failed them.

I won't give up on my husband but I am terribly afraid. I don't know if he will really ever come back. My children cry to me because they miss their Daddy. He was only supposed to be in there a few days and the facility won't let him leave. He has been there a week now and calls me every night crying because he has never felt so alone. All I can do is reassure him that I love him and he will be home soon, while I don't know the latter and I don't think he can hear the former.

And what can I say
But I'm wired this way
And you're wired to me

And what can I do
But wallow in you
Ani DiFranco, Grey

bipolar2Amber Galore

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