Tuesday, May 25, 2010

After All, You're My Wonderwall: Marriage and Bipolar Disorder


With my husband's permission I am going to write out the story of his breakdown and diagnosis of Bipolar 2 in the first year of our marriage and it's effects on our life since. This story will be told in segments. The stigma of Bipolar is enormous and has not begun to decrease in power as it has with other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. This story intends only two things: to be entirely honest in it's telling, and for that honesty to help break down some of the
stigmata of it's truth. In writing this I am assuming a level of respect toward my husband and his story in the comments, as well as an understanding that this is a man I love deeply and have committed myself to.


The words accrue- breakdown, psychosis, unstable- until the person in the chair, hands sweaty and folded in his lap, feet pressed together, head lowered- progression, irrational, medication-feels sure he is entirely made of this hardened skin now, just these words- chronic, genetic- forming layer over layer in a reverse scleroderma, thickening from the outside in, hidden inside of a disease both corrupt and stigmatized.



IN THE BEGINNING

One year into a marriage, he wakes in the morning, puts on his workman's shoes, pulls up the half cut green shorts and collared tee, grabs his lunch, looks at his sleeping wife and feels nothing. Oh, he thinks, I don't love my wife anymore. He looks around his house, all the objects unforgiving, cold, pointless, and realizes I don't want this. In the back of his mind a small voice is turning, turning, whispering something he leans inward to hear but cannot dredge the concern to wait for. Turning from his wife, his children, his house, he steps out of the door and is overwhelmed with the engulfing certainty that he is stepping into a vortex, an entirely different emotional life and reality that before had been hidden, but now in his dry, clear assessment is as true and pointless to avoid as the leg he must move in front of him to get to the truck which he will move to get him to his job.

The day moves quickly and he is thinking quickly and jokes fly out of his mouth in loudspeaker, his points are sharp and his comebacks sharper, his laughter at one point rising so high that he stops, wondering for one moment- but no, he moves on, working, laughing, talking, sure that when he gets home he will sit his wife down and explain to her that he cannot and does not love her or this life they have made, and that it is right. Then there is lunch-break, where he pulls out the turkey, spinach and mayonaise sandwich his wife has made for him and takes a bite before gagging on the thing rising from his abdomen, a grief as great and senseless and shapeless as the certainty of the day had been hard and clear and purposeful. His hands are shaking and his eyes are filling with humiliating tears; he grabs a napkin- she has scribbled I love you on it, like he is a goddamn grade schooler- and presses it to his face, feeling the working of his cheeks and the grinding of his teeth against this thing. He is gripped with the desire to bang his head into the cement pavement, until his skull is cracked and the thin white fluid of his brain leaks out it's yolk.

The sun moves over his short cut hair and the trembling stops. He takes a deep breath, another,
holds his hands out in front of him. They are still. He lifts the sandwich to his mouth and begins again.

At home, his wife is holding the baby, the two boys rolling on the couch. Dad! Dad! They shout, and he is happy to see them, happy to high five them and rough their salty hair. His wife's face makes him feel sad. He remembers how he used to love her and reassures himself it couldn't have been just yesterday- this must have been coming for a while, he was denying it, he is now stronger and can face the truth that he does not love her or want a family life. He looks back at her with this reminder on his tongue and feels a great anger. She makes this so much harder than it has to be, he thinks. She is exhausting. No sooner does the thought enter his mind than he feels exhausted, leaden, his arms and legs pulse with deep fatigue and a hard ache, his eyes droop and he yawns.

I have to talk to you, he tells her. She brings the baby to the kitchen table. He sits across from her and begins to tell her he does not love her, cannot do this anymore, and wants a divorce- only after cannot do this anymore the look on her face sends him swimming in that vertigo and the vomit rises again and he cannot say the words. He watches her fingers turn indigo in her grip on herself and travels from the fingers to her face and shakes his head yes in answer to her questions. She is sobbing and the boys are silent in the next room. The baby begins to cry.

She pulls out a heavy breast and nurses the baby as tears curl round the baby's blue eyes and fingers on the breast from her mother's face. He looks at his own hands. He looks at his wife's hands. What is wrong? She is asking, and he shakes his head. I can't, he says, I can't. She is saying words about love and commitment and when she sees those words are bouncing from his shape like pebbles from the side of a dam, she moves toward him, cupping the baby's head in one hand and taking his with the other, demands him to look at her, look at me, she says, sweetheart, my sweetheart, please... And he stands and leaves the room knowing in this thing he is a bastard but not knowing why and not able to feel it, feel guilt or shame or care, not able to feel anything but the great rough and suffocating confusion and vortex of the yellow yolk and thin white fluid of the thick of the center of his brain.
Ellen said...

I feel such sadness, such a need to hug you, to be a friend though I know you not...because pain is not a feeling I like and thus others in pain make me feel more helpless.

Thank you for your honesty, your trust in those of us who follow your blog, for your openess from your husband to let this rise forth.

Take care...

Maggie May said...

Thank you Ellen for that kindness, and I want to reassure you and everyone that right now, things are very good at my home and with my husband. I love him deeply and am proud of the man that he is. He is very brave because this is not only my story to tell but he understands my desire to tell it.

Lola Sharp said...

I love that Mr. Curry is willing to be as honest as you are. It's brave and beautiful. It's possible you could save someone else by sharing your story.

Love,
Lola

Elizabeth said...

writing the healing story -- yes, you do that.

keep going, Maggie May -- I am listening --

love to you

Annje said...

Oh Maggie, that must have been so painful for you both. I am glad that he and you are willing to tell the story.

svasti said...

When we tear open our hearts to the world, we do great service for others who've experienced or are experiencing the same things. We are heroes, and we are strong - no matter how vulnerable or fragile we feel.

This is intimate and beautiful in it's utter devastation and sadness. It is riveting because we know you and Mr Curry are still together, still hanging in there.

And it is magnanimous just because it is.

Ally said...

Just beautiful. Its wonderful what you do; promoting understanding of a more often than not misunderstood condition.
I wish you and your family all the best and pray for better days.

Ally x

Annie said...

Hi Maggie,

I have a friend who's beautiful daughter has bipolar disorder. It was in a dormant state until she was about sixteen years old, when she went from straight A student to struggling, not only with school, but with whether she wanted to live. She is now 23 and doing well, staying on her medications, working and going to college; but the difficulties exist, and there are times when the medicine lapses or the dosage is not enough. I feel for you, and I am proud of both you and your husband for seeking the answers and finding them, however many times it takes.

Maggie May said...

Annje thank you for sharing that with me. One of my great interests is in the prevention of the expression of bipolar esp. in the teen years when it tends to present. The research in that area is fascinating. I have Bipolar in my family on both sides as well, so desire to do anythign I can to help my children's brains mature without this...they all take fish oil and B vitamins, both of which have interesting research behind them.

Maggie May said...

I wrote Annje and meant ANNIE!

Maggie May said...

thank you Anje Aly Svasti and Lola for your thoughtful replies. I appreciate each one.

Mary said...

As you know I am married to a man diagnosed with bi polar two years ago.

Your words, your writing, express so much better than I can what commitment to someone with this illness entails.

I will read every word you write about this with deep attention and complete and total empathy.

Therese said...

PS: Props to Mr. Curry for being fearless in sharing the story also.

Therese said...

As always your honesty is compelling and inspirational. This is a form of fearless advocacy that your gift can serve in a powerful way. I admire you and will read as long as you'll write.

The Storialist said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing this powerful moment.

I admire you both for being open like this, for opening yourself.

Allegra Smith said...

You and I have spoken at some length and you know I believe there is a way to work with this disorder and how the work is hard and at times it feels almost self-defeating. But, most importantly how it requires work to get out of that well of darkness. And people do get out and it takes time, and sacrifices and infinite patience and an even greater amount of love.

I am sure you will make it to the other side. Constancy is the only rule: the taking of the meds, the being aware of what is a real feeling and what is not, refraining from the scenarios that bring the crisis forth. You already know all of this and the one thing that continues to intrigue me and I am sure I will go to my grave with the question never answer: why are we ready to accept the diagnosis of any other disease without shame or prejudice and yet anything even related to mental health is not. Even AIDS finds compassion yet mental illness find at best indifference, at worst ostracism from society.

Off the soap box. I trust that everything is going to be just fine. It is not only hope from me, it is the certainty that you both have what it takes to make it happen. So be it.

yolanda said...

i know all of wht you tell, i am borderline,,,it´s so hard to live with me, to live with myself.

hope everything is better now!!!!

continue....

i love you!!!!

AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

....They float upon the surface of the darkness in which I'm drowning...- A.Rice

Ms. Moon said...

This may end up being the most important writing you've ever done.
There is nothing to say but that you are doing holy work here. And that you are doing it with all of your heart and soul and all of the talent in your fingertips and blood.
Write it out.

Courtney said...

anything I can think to write to you in this comment box seems 'less than' in the shadow of how amazing it is that you are writing about this

thank you for sharing

Lovely World said...

I believe that telling stories is the only way this culture will get past the stigma of mental illness, substance abuse, addiction. My heart goes out to you.

Elisabeth said...

I'm with you on this journey, despite my wish that it were all a fiction and I could somehow distance myself from the pain.

Your exquisite writing and the picture above say so much.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

The willingness of you and your husband to share this story will help others. I am sure of it.

Brigindo said...

I'm so glad Mr Curry is comfortable with you writing this story. Not only is it important for you to be able to tell it but it is a story (and all stories like it) that needs to be told.

It is a precious love you have to withstand all the two of you have been through.

Beth said...

How devastating for both of you – and a testament to the strength of your love for one another that you are still together.

Evangeline said...

I am glad that Mr. Curry is willing to share, and awed by the bravery of his doing so. This is honesty. This is real life.

My love to you and him and those wonderful kids.

Discountmugs.com said...

Very tough to read.

I feel u, my brother suffers as well from this.

I feel u.

Overthinking Mama said...

wow...
you are a wonderful women.. and your husband is great..
i love that you worked thru things and can express what you have been thru!

God Bless

<3
OTM

Margaret said...

I just had my daughter, and I can't even imagine going through something like this when she was little. You must be such a strong person! How painful for both you and your husband.

T. Clear said...

Oh, Maggie, such sharp-edged honesty here. I applaud you! In the first year of my second marriage ( I was a widow), during the course of a single week, both my new husband and my son were diagnosed bi-polar. It's been a part of my life forever it seems (a sister is bi-polar) and I've made it my life's mission to educate everyone I know about the truth of it, the fact that it is an illness and not an "attitude" that someone can change, much like a change in attitude won't cure, say, breast cancer. (Except, of course, to agree to take meds.) My husband's doctor recently told us that there is increasing evidence that it is an auto-immune disease.

Again, I applaud you, thank you. Bless you.

Steph(anie) said...

This feels all too familiar. Thank you for being so honest, and thank your husband as well.

Ruth said...

Yes, we're all listening. I love that you're both so brave as to share this. Know that you're sharing it into open arms, always.

Amanda said...

Thank you so much for this. My husband is bipolar. I have been there from the depths of full fledged mania (visiting him in the hospital twice a day only days after discovering I was pregnant with our son was a very heart and gut wrenching time) to more promising days. I didn't know he was bipolar for a good year after we started dating. And he's an amazing man, father, husband. I hate that the person I love so much has to deal with so much stigma, sometimes the worst of it coming from family members. We save each other (he pulls me out of my bouts of depression when I can't do it myself). I'm glad to see somebody speaking so honestly about it. It is extremely inspiring.

michelle said...

Where to begin?
You know I know...
I wrestle daily with what this means for our daughter. The boys are OK I think... but I see it in her.

It scares the hell out of me

Thank you

Jessica said...

Wow. I wish I had something more profound to say.

Lemon said...

your words suck me under, as always. (i thought i would skim...but that is impossible to do with your writing, maggie). i feel swallowed by the emotions.

deb said...

I am speechless.
But listening.
Your husband is incredible to allow healing for others this way.

I am familiar with the damage that mental illness can cause.

Jason, as himself said...

I am glad you're writing about this. This subject has gotten so much more exposure than before, but there is so much to be done to blog apart the stigma and the misunderstanding. I will be following with great interest!

Kudos to both of you for being willing to put it out there.

mosey said...

I am heaving a big shaky sigh of ... I don't know what... some kind of release. Thanks for sharing this most personal of stories.

Mwa said...

What a heartbreaking start to the story...

just making my way said...

As always, your honesty and willingness to share astound me. You (and please extend this to Mr. Curry) are so very generous with your experiences, which I think can truly help people not only who experience this first hand but also help open the eyes of others'.

Thank you.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

This is so well-written, Maggie. How awful to have such a thing happen.

Love you,

SB

Phoenix said...

Jesus Christ.

I had no idea. I had no idea that's what it must be like. That is... I have long considered my burden to be a terrible one. But it is nothing compared to others'. My god, what strength the two of you must have.

I see your marriage and your children in a completely different light - everything that looked so simple I can now see was fought for with blood and tears, and the roots are deep and strong.

You both have my love and support.

redsneakz said...

Thank you for climbing inside Mr. Curry's head too. I usually can't describe the color of the walls of my own mind-room, much less what the furniture looks like. I know that even though things are good now, my heart is going to break as you continue to tell this.

Menina said...

You have written this with such devastating honestly, and yet it still remains beautiful and calls for understanding. Even those who do not sympathize with a mental disorder will be forced to open their hearts and empathize with your story, as it is a harsh reminder that things are not always easy. The mind is a beautiful thing, but rarely allows complete control of it to be maintained.

Amy said...

Thanks to both of you for writing about this. Bipolar affects my family too and I think as more people talk about it, the stigma will decrease.

anymommy said...

Maggie I just think you are stunning. I am so respectful of this thing you both endured. The story is captivating and your honesty is painful and gripping and sad, and also your writing...gasp. I don't have the words. I could read on forever, learning and understanding.

Traci said...

Wow, Maggie. Reading your blog makes me realize that I'm not the only one in the world with so many issues to try to deal with. I'm inspired by you to start my own blog about the things that I have been through, but I'm the type of person who doesn't like others to know too much about me and my problems. Would anyone even care, I ask myself. You and your family have so much courage. I hope someday that I can have that much courage as well. Take care.

krista said...

it's always heartbreaking when our own minds become our worst enemies.
i'm so grateful mr. curry is willing to open up about this.
i have a family friend recently diagnosed (although she is still in a bit of denial and thinks the doctors are poisoning her) but i'm working on listening and learning and helping the right way for her, not for me.
thank you so much for sharing this.

Allison the Meep said...

This is so huge that you are both willing to share this story and I know it's going to help so many people feel less alone by reading it.

I struggled through crippling depression and I'm so grateful that more people are talking about it openly now, and there's not such a stigma surrounding mental illness anymore.

xoxo.

Light and Writing said...

this story, your words have a hold on me!! Thank you Thank you!

sherri said...

I have a close relative who may or may not be bipolar. Her dr. is having trouble figuring out what exactly her diagnosis should be, but I think as she does that she is bipolar - the rapid cycling is so real for her. this is beautifully written. mental illness is still so misunderstood by people who's lives it has yet to touch.

Chaos and love said...

It's a trick of the mind. This tricky some called seritonin. I only wish as a child surrounded by it, someone sat me down and explained why...........

starrlife said...

I don't know how I missed this post but here I am late. This battle is a courageous one and I agree that honest telling is the only way. I suppose that you don't remember but I am a psychiatric social worker x30 years. This post moved me so much- it was so en pointe and perfect description of such a personal yet common experience. Thank you and your husband for this. I need a real story to share with my folks, with hope. Perhaps a book someday.

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