Warning: The following deals with self-harm and domestic violence.
There were three people in my first marriage. Me, my husband, and bipolar.
My husband and I were complete opposites, but we were best friends initially. I imagine with our differences, marriage wouldn’t have been easy for us even without mental illness. But with it, a happy marriage was impossible.
His bipolar disorder was only diagnosed in the final year of our marriage. The doctors treated him for depression for years but nothing worked for long. Every year or so, he’d be suicidal, self-harming, or in a deep numb low for months. The doctors regularly increased his medication strength and by our 11th anniversary, he was on a mixture of serious anti-psychotics. That’s when life went from difficult to dangerous.
The anti-psychotics set off a manic episode like nothing he’d ever experienced. He stopped sleeping. His speech and actions became illogical and aggressive. He screamed and yelled and wouldn’t sit still. He felt like ripping off his own skin. Then, one day, he held me by the throat. I saw the blind rage in his eyes and I thought, "Is he going to kill me and my kids?"
Watch: Violence and women, the hidden numbers.
I am a huge advocate for mental health awareness. I’ve had a number of family members suffer from anxiety and depression, including myself, and I love that we’re talking about these issues more in society now. But with all of our awareness, we are glossing over a huge issue.
I believe that our politically correct acceptance of mental health issues, our mantra of understanding and "it’s okay", puts families at risk.
Knowing my husband was unwell stopped me from leaving. Even when he acted abusively, I felt guilty. I didn’t want to speak out and tell anyone what was going on because I didn’t want them to judge him. Even with society's increased awareness, there is still plenty of judgment for mental illness. I didn’t want to give up on him either — shouldn’t you stick by people when they’re sick?