Love and Mental Illness

Reaching the Skies by ThisWolfWalksAlone on deviantART. (CC-BY-3.0)

I haven’t publicly dwelled on my personal life of the past year, but to say it’s been eventful is an understatement. After 14 1/2 years of marriage, last spring my husband and I decided, together, amicably, to separate. Our divorce is now pending. Fast forward to the autumn, and I found love again. I found a Rory.

And here’s where I’ll out myself. In an attempt to meet interesting, geeky people, and other kids for my kids to play with, I joined the SCA. To those not in the know, SCA stands for The Society for Creative Anachronism. Sort of like medieval re-creation, but it feels closer to a living museum type activity. I had known one, count it, one person from the SCA before, when I lived in Colorado. (Hi Karl!) But even with that one data point, I knew I’d find some interesting people that I’d enjoy spending time with. I was right. So right, that now I have a slew of people who would go to the mat for me if anything big ever came up. (And I do seem to be testing that…)

I met Rory on my first day with the SCA. We got along really well, but he was dating someone else at the time, and so I thought nothing more of it. But they eventually broke up, and we quickly got closer. At that point, he filled me in on some important things about him. He is bipolar. He had once tried to commit suicide. And he told me a lot of other details about his background. At that point I wasn’t sure where this relationship was going, or where either one of us wanted it to go. But his openness about everything said a lot.

Very quickly after that we became inseparable. He shared his ups and downs, what it was like for him to have these moods, and enough other glimpses into his mind for me to see his actions in context.

I’ve had enough experience of my own with mental illness to be able to see his condition for what it is, and to not take things personally. I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life, sometimes debilitatingly so, and have had panic attacks upon occasion. I’ve also had at least two bouts with depression. But most of the time I function fairly normally.

But for the past couple of weeks, Rory had been extra low. In retrospect, this might have been a sign of things to come. But starting last weekend, his usually transitory thoughts of suicide settled in for a good long while. Finally, Tuesday afternoon we decided to take him to the hospital. He needed help, and I was exhausted from lack of sleep.

It was pretty obvious to the people who evaluated him that he needed to be admitted to the mental health facility. I was relieved, because he really needed a complete evaluation, official diagnosis, and a better medication regimen. So after many hours at the emergency room, we went to the mental health facility, and there he resides until they decide he can leave. For the first two days, I had no idea how he was, what he’d been spending his time doing, how they were helping him. Before I left him there, he said he was both excited and terrified. He’d been in there once before, after he tried to commit suicide. But this time was slightly different, because he hadn’t taken any action.

Thursday afternoon I finally heard from him. He wanted to make sure I was coming to visit that night, because he wanted his book, which he was finally allowed to have. Thursday night our visit was a good one, and we caught each other up on the preceding two days. He’s on all new meds, so we’ll see how well those do. I’m still not sure when he will be back with me, but it will likely be next week because of the med changes.

So now the mental illness of the man I love is front and center in my life. This is a new experience for me. If you’d like to follow along on our journey together, visit Rory’s blog, Terminally Intelligent. It started out being only a blog of his words, thoughts, experiences, and poetry, but I’ve written several posts on there now, and it may be evolving into how together as a team we navigate the difficult and continual ebb and flow of mental illness. I am hoping that our struggles and successes are helpful to some of you.

Note: I got Rory’s permission before writing about this on Wired.com.

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Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.