My wife is bipolar. For her, that means a life full of mediocre, less-than-positive contentment. And that’s all when she is at her absolute best. When she is having an episode of either mania or depression life is awful and she doesn’t want to live.
But we are working on understanding it. We are working together with individual therapists, a psychiatrist, a couple’s counselor, a bipolar support group, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Family-to-Family classes. We are working, individually and collectively, on understanding her abilities and limitations.
I use the word “limitation” in a neutral, guilt-free, shame-free way. Limits are defined as “the final, utmost, or furthest boundary or point as to extent, amount, continuance, procedure, etc.” So let’s stop putting stigma and negativity on that word when it is empowering to remove the shame and acknowledge that we all have limits.
My wife recognizes her exact limitations — learning what she can and cannot do, and in the process learning what she can and cannot handle.
For example, she currently has a very prominent job at an institution of higher learning. And she is consciously leaving it. In leaving her prestigious, well-paying, highly-praised, highly-important position on campus, for a less-prestigious, less-well paying, less-praised-but-still-equally-important position on another campus, she is making a supremely mature decision.
As I mentioned before, I am in a NAMI class for family members of people with severe mental illness. In a recent class, we went over this worksheet:
We discussed where we were on the chart as family members/caregivers. I’m bouncing between 2.5 and 3 in regards to the emotions section.
Then we talked about where we thought our family members with mental illness were. According to me, she is all over the charts depending on whether or not she’s in an episode or stable. But when she’s stable she’s right there with me around 2.5
It was a great conversation once I got home, to have with her. We agreed on where we were but it was empowering to have the resource and the conversation.
Thanks to NAMI, she has words, and a diagram, and a physical piece of paper to hold, that helped her recognize where she was, where I am, where we are together, and where we are individually. And it was wonderful.
This conversation that we had, (and these conversations that NAMI provides us with the tools for having) along with this “positive demotion,” create excellent opportunities for us to be in a place, physically, mentally, individually, and as a couple, that we will be healthier and happier.
Self realization, self actualization and empowerment FTW!