Love, Mental Illness, and Vulnerability

November 8, 2010

As a teenager, I told myself that I didn’t want marriage, I didn’t want kids, I didn’t want a family. In reality, I was afraid I’d never get them, so I tried to deny the desire, cut it off at the root before it blossomed into something I couldn’t control.

Fat, bulimic, and depressed, I didn’t think I was attractive enough to find a man. I didn’t think I was good enough to have a family. If people really knew me, I reasoned, they wouldn’t like me. Why should they? I sure as hell didn’t.

When I met John, I’d been in recovery for four years. I’d stopped doing things that made me hate myself, and I’d gone back and cleared up the wreckage from my past. I knew that I deserved good things, and I wasn’t afraid to admit I wanted them.

It sounds cheesy, but I was ready to fall in love.

When John and I married three years later, I spent the day in a blaze of happiness. I felt blessed, and I prayed only that, whether John and I experienced times of joy or heartache, our love and commitment to each other would remain strong and be used as a foundation to help others.

I never imagined that bipolar disorder would be God’s answer to my prayer.

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Healthy Self-Sacrifice in a Marriage Marked by Mental Illness

October 20, 2010

If a woman leaves her husband because he gets cancer, pretty much everyone will decide that she’s a cold, heartless rhymes-with-witch. If a woman leaves her husband because he gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, a lot of people will decide that she’s smart, she’s dodged a bullet, she’s spared herself a lifetime of pain.

I hate the disparity between these two reactions. On one level, I get it. Cancer doesn’t mess with your personality the way severe mental illness does. On the other hand, the second woman is just as heartless and just as cold as the first.

In the words of Edward Sri, a Catholic writer who penned MEN, WOMEN AND THE MYSTERY OF LOVE, both women are committed to their husbands “only insofar as—and as long as—[they] receive pleasure or advantage from the relationship[s].”

They’re both selfish, and they both throw aside their husbands when they decide these men can no longer give them what they want.

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