When Carin Meyer’s bipolar symptoms take over, she questions her very value as a human being. Her husband’s support helps her find balance.
When the sun is warm and I am fly-fishing on an Alaskan river, I concentrate all my energy on catching fish. Each time I fish, my husband—who knows I love fishing more than almost anything—immediately goes into support mode.
“What do you need?” he asks. Then he brings me food. He gathers firewood. He carries me my box of flies when I forget it on the shore.
When I am ill, when the bipolar takes over and I lose all focus and concentration, he again goes into support mode.
“What do you need?” he asks. “How can I help?”
He asks the questions I often cannot ask myself. Instead, I ask him questions:
“Am I worth it? Am I worth the struggle, the frustration, the pain of bipolar episodes?”
He could say that I am worth it because of simple things, like the way I smile at him, the way I love the people in my life, the way I love to nurture him and my stepsons, the way I can spell words he has never heard before, or how I can laugh at my own clumsiness.
But he does not say I am worth it. That, he says, is the answer to a question that should not be asked. Being “worth it” implies that I am somehow defective, and, as he says–over and over again–I am not defective. I am a whole person, and even though I happen to have bipolar, he loves all of me.
Am I worth it? I ask myself, over and over again, especially when I am deep in a depression. Am I worthy of this man who cares for me equally, whether I am happily fishing or I am sick? Am I worthy of his patience and understanding, his love and sympathy?
Like so many people struggling through depression, I often scrutinize my very value as a human being, and particularly as a spouse and a partner. The question of whether I am worthy of life and love becomes my only reality. When my brain malfunctions, I become convinced something is deeply and indelibly wrong with me.
The belief that I am defective is often unshakeable, along with thoughts that the pain will go on forever and that I am a “burden.”
My husband could say that I am worthy because I am committed to improving my mental health. He could say it because I try my hardest to be well, and because when he needs me, I, too, go into support mode. I help him, and I care for him and my family. When I am well, I do not think I am defective. Instead, I do what I need to do to prevent recurrence—I take my medications, I set a routine for myself, I sleep every night, and I do the very best I can.
“You are a very lucky woman to have such a wonderful husband,” my former psychiatrist said. I know that I am extremely fortunate. But as I walked out of that doctor’s office, with his words making me feel defective again, I had to remind myself that I am not the only one who is lucky.
My husband also is lucky, because he has me. I am not just “worthy”—I am a whole person with qualities and strengths that go far beyond just being a woman with bipolar.
And so I try. I give it my all so he knows I take responsibility for my condition. It is often difficult, and I often fail, but although the chemical functioning of my brain may occasionally be defective, I am not. Unbroken by bipolar, I love and nurture my husband and my family. I give them absolutely everything I have—except for maybe when I am fishing.
Well or unwell, when I smile and laugh or when I am trapped in my brain’s civil war, I can answer a question so obvious that it should not even be asked: Yes, I am always worthy of both life and love.
Carin Meyer is a lifelong Alaskan who works in public relations. Her academic writing has won numerous awards and her science writing and other articles have been published in university magazines, newspapers, and other media outlets. She has a blog at www.carinrmeyer.com. She enjoys writing essays about bipolar disorder and mental illness. Carin has drafted a book about bipolar disorder, The Smartest Girl in the World, for which she is currently seeking publication.
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