Recently my beautiful man and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. It certainly was not an easy day, but it was however a fabulously triumphant day. I’d been having a pretty reasonable month until the week before our special day when I relapsed and my health declined quite badly. Our anniversary was far from all rainbows, all I wanted to do was go for a walk along the beach. We settled for a short gentle stroll and a few tears of frustration as once again my frail body was not measuring up to my vigorous spirit. I found myself radiating an ugly amount of jealousy as I glared at the joggers frolicking along with all their abundant joyous energy. It took everything within me to not slip a foot sideways and ‘accidentally’ trip one of them – until my hubby/life coach reminded me, “How many people are watching you and wishing they could just walk.” Good gracious husband, could you not please indulge me in my pity party even for a moment? Please?
Wojtek and I are often referred to as the lucky couple. Let me tell you right now “luck” has had nothing to do with the success of our relationship. We are also often asked, what’s your secret? I hate to break it to you but there’s no secret as such, it’s perceived that when you say ‘I Do’ on your wedding day that there is some magical force that bonds you together forever. If this is the truth then why are so many marriages failing? Let me tell you what the magical force is, it’s YOU! It’s you waking up every morning and saying I Do. Marriage is an everyday choice, it’s saying I choose you today regardless. Some days it’s regardless of the fact I really don’t like you but I choose you anyway. Despite the challenges, despite your flaws, I choose you. It’s that simple, well the theory is simple, living it can be wildly challenging.
Not much puts more stress on a marriage like long-term chronic illness can, especially mental illness. Having experienced both mental illness and a crippling physical illness I’ve got to say after having regained my mind after many years of little to no control over my thinking, I feel abundantly blessed to have my mind back. My heart breaks for those who never find this peace because building loving relationships without the ability to think rationally is near impossible. Mental Illness cuts deep lacerations into marriages, few survive. I am so grateful to say we did.
Marriage is hard, all marriages required attention if they want to survive. The added pressure on couples living with chronic illness is exacerbated because where there’s illness it usually means there’s increased stress in every other area too. Socially, sexually, spiritually, not to mention the added financial burden with never-ending medical expenses all to be done on one income.
There is nothing simple about being the spouse of a sick person. Whilst spouses might not be the ones with the diagnosis they certainly share the suffering. Unless you’ve walked the shoes as a carer of a chronically ill person, then you can never truly understand the exhaustion, the frustration and the heartache experienced by a spouse/carer. Unfortunately, nor do many people want to know. The road walked by a carer is a lonely one. Seldom, if ever, do loved ones ask with true genuine intent, how are you? Do you need a break? Do you want to talk about it? How can I help you? Let alone just being told, you’re doing a great job or thank you. Thank you for looking after and loving my sister/brother/son/ friend/Mum.
Wojtek will never tell you, nor would he ever complain, but it has been hard and lonely for him. To wake up and choose to be married to the wife that not only in no way resembles the girl he married but she is psychotic and he’s carrying her into a psych ward. That kind of commitment takes a special kind of man. A stubborn man, who never in his life has wanted to fit the norm. Just as well, because it’s due to that very stubborn arrogance that my hero of a husband is not only still by my side but every day makes me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.
Early on when I had first been diagnosed (misdiagnosed), we heard a daunting statistic that the percentage of bipolar marriages that fail was 94%. A not so surprising percentage to be honest. However, there was no way my hubby was going to be part of the majority. Never had he and he wasn’t about to start now. Wojtek’s entire life he has rejected social norms. He’s a boundary pusher and a risk taker. Little did I ever dream how much this would be a fundamental asset in our marriage. When life got to breaking point, when I was screaming abuse at him he would look at me in the arrogant way only he could and he’d yell back at me SIX PERCENT!!!!! That was his way of saying screw Bipolar, I’m not quitting! He refused to be the majority. He refused to be the 94%.
When things were good he’d also kiss me and say, “six percent baby.” Nothing more needed to be said, it summed up everything. At times it was our fierce battle War-Cry at the enemy saying, I won’t let you destroy us and at other times it was our jubilant Victory-Cry, a celebration of our survival. A reminder to keep our eye on the prize to remain focused on our mission to refuse to succumb to being chalked up as yet another statistically forecasted failure.
There’s no easy way to sugar coat it, this kind of journey is tough on a marriage, for me it was a life I never knew of, I didn’t know this world existed. It’s nothing that I could ever have imagined. To all the spouses out there with sick partners, please don’t give up. You’ve come this far, you deserve to be around to enjoy the victory because it will come. I know holding onto hope is near impossible most days, especially when you’re sitting in the doctors room and the doctor throws his arms in the air saying, I don’t know what else we can do? In moments like this hope seems lost. Please let our story be your hope. Recovery from a lifeless marriage is possible and it doesnt require waiting until you have physically recovered. Spoiler alert! Having a perfect life is not the answer to attaining a wonderful marriage.
Not only is survival of your marriage possible but if you persist you will come out with a marriage stronger than when it started. No one wants a marriage that just survives. Don’t except this! No way! You can have the kind of marriage that because of your freaking hard journey, because you endured the suffering, it’s possible to achieve a new profound level of intimacy, trust and a devoted bond that does not come from a life spent skipping along problem free. As with everything else though, it takes making conscious choices. A choice to be either the 94% or the 6%. Choices about appreciation, patience, respect and a whole lot more. Fairytales don’t happen, you make them happen. You want a happy ever after story? Then everyday make that goal your intention. Intentionally seek after it, with your words, your actions, your thoughts. Change your intention for your marriage and watch your relationship change.
Now one more thing. A very important thing. Carers, please please, whilst you’re busy being absolute superheroes caring for us. Don’t forget to also care for yourself. You must take time out and find a means of escape. For Wojtek it was jumping on a motorbike and tearing through the forest. Remember, your oxygen mask first before helping others. It’s crucial.
Today I honour my husband, that boy I fell hard for so quickly at the tender age of 21 ~ giving my parents heart failure when after only knowing each other 3 months we wanted to be married. I had no idea at the time the depth of character this man possessed. I just loved him and thats all my very naive heart knew. It was no accident I met him. God knew exactly what I needed. For this blessing whom I call my husband, on this our 24th anniversary I am eternally grateful. We are the freaking 6% and proud!
Happy Anniversary Baby!
Love Meli x
If you would like to hear my unbelievable crazy story of misdiagnoses and recovery you can read it here: Turning impossible into possible