The story starts with a terrible break up.
About nine months ago, before I found out that he was cheating on me with his 20-something coworker, my boyfriend and I were in couples therapy. We were there to figure out the future. You see, we’d already picked out an engagement ring. But he hadn’t proposed and it had been seven months. Yup, I know: red flag.
During our fourth or fifth session hashing it out, he crossed one leg over the other and said this:
“I’m having a problem with the bipolar disorder.”
What?” I said, shocked. Bipolar disorder hadn’t been a problem in our relationship. It never even came up. I didn’t understand. But there we were, and as this therapist who barely knew us looked from him to me, I could see her judging the situation–painting a picture in her mind of a mentally ill woman and her stable boyfriend who had to pick up the pieces every time things fell apart in the relationship.
“I just hadn’t really thought about it all that much until now,” he added. “About what it all means.”
Here’s the irony: my boyfriend was the person in our relationship who was a psychological mess. He drank excessively. He couldn’t sleep. He had panic attacks. None of these conditions were treated.
But there I was, “disordered.” And there he was, not.
It was a terrible moment, feeling stigmatized by the person you love most in the world. But it was also a revelation. Because I realized that we never talked about bipolar disorder except for the one time I told him I had it. Because he wasn’t interested in what I’d been through, in how I managed the disease, in what it all meant; and I should have realized that this was a much bigger red flag than a delayed proposal.
Because to love someone, fully, means to love all of them.
Bipolar disorder and all.