I merely exist, I do not live:
I feel so empty with nothing to give:
There are times when I can no longer pretend:
I just look away, I can’t hide it my friend:
The mask I wear to merely survive:
Allows me to pretend I am alive:
I got on my knees and began to pray:
God, why did you make me this way:
I gave you this thorn so you would know:
How much some suffer so:
I gave you this burden to make you humble:
For without it you would surely stumble:
Judge no man for it’s not your place:
Like Apostle Paul, just finish your race:
I gave you this thorn so you could see:
In every man there is a part of me:
Tears streamed down as I began to cry:
But for the grace of God, there go I:
I feel that the toughest aspect of my bipolar depression is its effect on my marriage. My wife and I have been married for thirty two years; and it has been anything but a cake-walk. My depression causes me to become an angry person. And this aspect of my struggle saturates enormous guilt onto my marriage, as well as other relationships. As I get frustrated and/or exhausted with some aspect of life, my feelings toward my wife become a mixture of anger and resentment, a combination which frequently leads to many marriages ending in divorce.
“Never let the sun set on your anger allowing it to grow into resentment and creating a distance.” Nearly 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older, are affected with depression in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression is a symptom of unresolved mental conflict. Communication is key to resolving conflicts and sustaining marriages and relationships, even when depression rears its ugly head.
Before I understood the importance of communicating with my wife about various aspects of my illness, I allowed depression to lead me down a very self-centered path. I was often angry and unable to speak about it because I didn’t understand what I was feeling and why. Thankfully, my anger never resulted in physical abuse however, I psychologically abused my wife by blaming her and my illness–refusing to take responsibility for my own mental health.
As a social worker, I worked with clients daily on the importance of effective communication. So why is it such a struggle for me to implement the strategies and tools in my own marriage? I had to practice how to express my emotions so my wife and I could effectively communicate and get through the rough times. During one of our talks, she stated that it can be lonely at times being married to someone with bipolar depression. She said she often felt like the “other woman” rather than the wife.
I love and appreciate my wife more today than ever. I have to give her the credit and respect for her ability to overcome the difficulties of my mental illness. She refused to let bipolar depression take her place as my wife. She loved me when I hated myself. She not only saved our marriage, but my very life. I am constantly amazed at her selfless, caring and understanding of my illness.
I asked my wife if there were any comments she would like to add to this post and she said, “Yes”. She stated, despite my years as a social worker, helping others to communicate better, “You are difficult to talk to because you are constantly interrupting me as I speak, which makes me feel that you don’t respect my opinion”! I was taken aback to hear that she felt that way; but thankful to God that she fearlessly was able to tell me. Communication is key, but cannot stand alone without love and trust.
It is comforting for me to know that my wife loves me enough to be honest about her feelings and trust that I will receive her honesty with love. And I do. Well, after all these years of practice, I guess I have learned at least one valuable lesson. Apostle Paul said, “Perfect love overcomes fear.” My prayer is that anyone who reads this and is battling bipolar depression or knows someone who is, can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone and you can win.
Despite suffering in silence from chronic depression and bipolar disorder, I have managed to live a productive life. I graduated from Marshall U. with a B.A. and became a Social Worker. My fight as a social worker is to bring the effects of depression on our society into the social discussion. My experiences with persons in need of help to develop a safe home environment for their children as ordered by the court gave me a clear insight to how mental illness affected these families.