One thing I have learned about bipolar is that while the symptoms are similar for each person they come out in a different way. For example, one person's impulsiveness may involve gambling or illegal behavior while another person may start building a back yard deck. I think people have a complete misconception about mental illness and believe that it is completely obvious when someone is sick. I am here to say that is completely untrue.
Living with Daniel for the past 13 years has definitely had ups and downs. At first I thought they were normal peaks and valleys of a relationship. Then we hit some REALLY hard times. At that time I begged others for help (I'm not quite ready to get into that story here) but was denied. Daniel and I wound up separating. Fortunately we got back together after about four months, but it took some serious work to repair our relationship. After that we have had periods where we just weren't "right," but neither one of us was willing to walk away.
Looking back I realize that at first Daniel was showing the typical bipolar cycling of hypomania (not quite full blown mania but with many of the same symptoms) and depression with some time in between the two. Right before his diagnosis, though, Daniel was rapidly cycling from one side to the next with little to balance the two. In fact, he was having what is called mixed symptoms. In the same day, at the same time, he could show signs of mania and depression all at once. Talk about confusing! That was probably the hardest part for all of us.
The situation that has had the most impact was how Daniel could be so incredibly loving and supportive one day, then turn around the next and act like nothing I did was right. During those times he could say some really cruel and hurtful things. Everything that was going wrong in our lives was my fault, even though I always did my best to keep our family stable.
Daniel describes his side of the situation well in a blog post he wrote called My Big Vent. It is true that I have spent the last several years covering up some of Daniel's moods and behaviors. I would take the fall many, many times for circumstances that I was reacting to. I looked like the bad guy more times than I can count, and Daniel will readily admit that. I got good at making excuses for why we couldn't hang out with friends or why we were leaving family parties early. Many times this was in periods of depression for Daniel and life was simply overwhelming.
The problem with life being overwhelming for one partner means that the other one usually has to pick up the pieces. Daniel would sometimes blow off work or do just the minimum to get by. As business owners together that led to me explaining to customers that we would pick up the slack the next week. Of course, when I was dealing with this I would try to explain to Daniel that we just couldn't run our business this way. Frankly, it got to a point that every time the phone rang I was afraid another unhappy customer was on the other end ready to drop service. Living with stress became the rule rather than the exception.
Mental illness is tough. It affects entire families. In Daniel's post he implies that he was able to "hide" his depression. The truth is I saw it; I just didn't know what it was. I thought at times he was lazy or just didn't care. I thought he wasn't putting effort into our relationship and our responsibilities. Had I known, I would have handled life differently, but the truth is I did what needed to be done just to get by.