I believe in the power of love to carry you through dark places. Last spring I was in graduate school in Chicago and my fiancé was finishing a Ph.D. in Montana. At first, I dismissed his increasingly strange phone calls as the natural wanderings of his scientific mind. I only realized something was deeply wrong when he told me that Nazis were tracking his movements, and that I was living in his apartment and hiding from him. When I called him later that day the police answered his cell phone and told me he had been found ranting in the street and forcibly taken to the emergency room. I flew out of Chicago that night, and was holding his hand in the Bozeman, Montana Intensive Care Unit when the psychiatrist told him he had suffered a psychotic manic episode, and diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.
Despite the medications, his manic episode was followed by a crushing depression that lasted for six endless months. The man I feel in love with disappeared, and in his place was someone who cried when I asked him to wash the spinach, who was convinced that we would end up homeless, and who was consumed with dark suicidal thoughts. I took all the knives from our kitchen and hid them in my office. I cancelled the wedding we had spent a year planning because there was no way he could go through with the stress of the ceremony. And through it all, I struggled to hold onto him in any way I could, telling him how deeply he was loved, even if I no longer knew who he was.
It was not my love that saved his life. That would imply that those who die from this terrible disease are not loved, and I know that is not true. But I believe that love saved me. I was able to hold on to my fiancé because I was surrounded by family and friends who were holding on to me. Their love gave me strength and showed that, amazingly enough, my own reserves were not depleted. Love ran far deeper than I had ever imagined.
Eventually, the man I love began to resurface. His bipolar is now in full remission, and we were married a month ago. Bipolar disorder never disappears, but I didn’t pause when I said I would love him in sickness and in health. I now believe that every life is always filled with uncertainty. But I also believe in love, a love that flowers in adversity, a love that is far stronger than fear and madness.
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