When you first met Laura, what was she like?
When I first met Laura, I saw a blonde bomb-shell. Some of the guys at her workplace said to check her out.
The first time I worked with her, I was volunteering, showing a bunch of Brownies, that Laura was doing a presentation with, how a Fire Fighter puts on his/her gear.
Laura was extremely happy, extremely energetic (I'm not exaggerating with the extremely), big blue eyes, bright smile, and raring to go.
Laura's Bipolar Disorder didn't manifest itself until after you were living together. Why did you still marry her?
Even though she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and her behaviours were different, Laura knew she needed therapy, and we assumed things would get better.
We sat down, and we said we would be committed to do everything possible to regain her mental health. I told her not to allow the Bipolar Disorder to consume her but to turn it into a success.
**Note: I find this question offensive as would you ask the same question if I had cancer or was in a vehicle collision and was paralyzed?
How has Bipolar Disorder affected your friendships, personal lives, and professional lives?
In the beginning, I had to take off a significant number of days due to Laura's deep depressive cycle and to attend the numerous specialist appointments. My previous employer wasn't understanding nor tolerant with my absences. I have since changed employers who is very understanding and accommodating.
Our friends, that were close to us (therefore the important ones), all were completely understanding of Laura's Bipolar Disorder and it did not affect those relationships. We have two close friends that when they come over, they will just look at Laura and say, "you're not having a good day", make every effort to engage in conversations with her, and try to brighten her day.
How do you feel society treats people that have Bipolar Disorder or other Mental Illnesses?
I hate to say it, but society/Joe Public, even people working in the mental health care system, treat those with Mental Illnesses as 2nd rate citizens and have no regard for their true feelings (which is why so few come forth or hide behind the mask). When Joe Public is around someone with a Mental Illness, they literally turn the other cheek, talk behind their back, and spread vicious rumours.
What do you think are Laura's greatest strengths?
When the dark cloud covers her, and there is nothing we can do to help her, she keeps saying, "It is what it is, tomorrow is a new day".
Also, no matter how low, sad, and numb she may be feeling, she wears her happy mask, as not to create any extra stress or worry for her family, especially her 2 girls. When she takes it off however, you can visually see the amount of effort it takes her to stay strong for her family.
In your opinion, what have been the major contributing factors to Laura's constant improvement?
#1 Consistent access to a good psychiatrist who cares. In fact it's paramount.
#2 A wonderful family support team.
#3 Constant commitment to continuing education on the disorder that she has. It's safe to say that through self-study, in my opinion, Laura is resident expert on Bipolar Disorder. Under Laura's psychiatrist recommendations, she has tried just about every available therapy and she is completely honest and open about the results, and she continues to use every coping strategy, that she researches and learns, and moves progressively forward.
What advice can you give to someone who's significant other has Bipolar Disorder?
#1 piece of advice for someone who's significant other has been diagnosed with a Mental Illness is to understand that this diagnosis was not caused by them, it is not their fault, and no matter how much you think that you understand what they are going through, you don't have a fucking clue. There will be times when they aren't "there" or not themselves. You just have to be there to ride it out. There's really nothing you can say or do that will help them get through the episode .
I could elaborate greatly on this question alone and think that this should be discussed in another post of its own.
Listen, if the person, who is diagnosed with a Mental Illness, doesn't take their treatment seriously when they aren't in an episode, it's not fair as a partner to have to try to support them when they are in an episode. It won't end well.
At one point in my life, before my Bipolar Disorder kicked in, I use to be a fairly eloquent writer. Most people found me to be very intelligent and I was well educated. Now, I was in no means a "Shakespearean-style" writer, with pretty prose, nor a "Steven King-type" writer, using words that could captivate his "faithful readers", but at least I could write.
Graduating with 4 diplomas, with one being an A+ with distinction, would somewhat indicate that I could write intelligent and well formulated essays, independent studies, and assignments. I could prepare and deliver lengthy presentations to audiences, from 10-300, AND be in control and confident!
When my Bipolar Disorder surfaced, I was in tears, mortified, so very deflated, as public speaking was my passion and reading was my love (being a lifelong learner). In the beginning, I couldn't even pick up a book. When I looked at a page, it was like I was reading a new language. Crosswords? HA! Are you kidding me! I had lost my thought processing capabilities for simple things like reading and writing.
Demoralized, I resorted to word search puzzles. Now, they may seem easy for you, but for me, I had a game plan. I would study the page as a whole, just opening my mind, and miraculously words would appear before my eyes. Over time, when I fulfilled and mastered my personal obligation with this brain exercise, I tried another whack at reading, but now I COULD read, one paragraph at a time, AND it made sense!
Soon, I was reading "mind candy" books, just to relish the fact that I could once again read. Then I got hungry for knowledge about Bipolar Disorder; what causes it, treatments, biographies, memoirs, self-help books, you name it I read it and LEARN! If I am to have this disorder, I want to learn EVERYTHING!
Writing was still a major obstacle. Even while I am writing the material for my blog, it is on paper, double-spaced, using a pencil and eraser! I still have a real difficult time with "word processing" and "word finding". I find I'm grasping for the right words when I speak or write. So, I write down, in plain text, of what I want to say, leave it alone (as it will frustrate me to no end), and when I'm doing something mindless (like folding laundry), a better phrase or word will come to me. I drop everything, and head to my journal, and either erase or insert in one of blank spaces.
Since I have challenges now with my frontal lobe (the front portion of your brain for executive functioning), I lose my train of thought easy, requiring total silence, and found that I've turned into a "kinesthetic" learner (hands on) rather that my old visual/auditory learning styles. So typing a rough draft in a word document has "0" benefit for me; I just see a screen with words. Hey, my methods work for me! I've made progress!
I'm hoping, over time, you will also see an improvement in my writing skills and style. That's my hope :)
See you soon!
For many years, I chose not to be open about myself having Bipolar Disorder. At the beginning, I was in denial; maybe it was just a brief nervous breakdown (that was the "excuse" we were giving to family and friends).
Later, I was very embarrassed, as previous to my late onset, I was an extremely lively, resilient, and independent woman (even a thriving, working, single mom!), who then became emotionally unpredictable, lacked any form of "true joy", and became somewhat dependent on others (mainly during the first year).
Finally, the ANGER set in! Why me! Why now! I worked so darn hard to get where I was in life, to get my life stripped away from me, and THIS was not suppose to HAPPEN!
Suddenly, the acceptance settled upon me. Yes, I had Bipolar Disorder. Yes, my brain's chemical makeup wasn't functioning like it was originally. Yes, it was manageable. Yes, I was going to fight this tooth and nail and do whatever was possible to become the best Laura I could be.
I explained to my family, that in order for me to work on my healing, I needed to start explaining to the rest of the world; the reason for my absence from daily living, my changes in behaviour, and my changes in physical appearance.
Let me tell you, the first 100 times were absolutely nerve wracking! (still is internally for me). Since then, if we go to an event and someone is REALLY trying their hardest not to notice my tremors (due to anxiety and side effects from medications), or if we have to make a quick departure because I'm overwhelmed, or if I mentally start to "crash" from over-stimulation, we put everyone at ease by saying it like it is! I have Bipolar Disorder! Do you know what? 99.9% of the time they are very interested and want to learn more or they have a close family member or coworker that has Bipolar Disorder or another Mental Illness...so we aren't alone!
I realize now that I have a new purpose in life, a new passion, a new mission; that being to provide a forum, based on mutual respect and support, to share knowledge and resources, and to provide encouragement that there are better days ahead.
Laura Marchildon will blog honest and true posts about her real life experiences.