Should I leave my bipolar friend
Bipolar Disorder and Relationship: A Story
Bipolar Disorder and Relationship: Together into the Dark
This is the story of Mark and Giulia, who loved each other, got married, were happy. Until all of a sudden Giulia had delusions, thoughts of suicide, depression: a severe bipolar disorder. And nothing was like before. Yes, one thing: love. Mark told us how and why he manages to remain loyal to his seriously ill wife.
When the glass door closed behind her, he knew that their life as they knew it was over. Mark was trembling and sobbing, knocking again and again on the window, because he really wanted to say goodbye to his wife. But nobody opened. Giulia had thought all morning that she was talking to the devil; then Mark took her to the hospital. Now she was in the psychiatric, closed ward. When he finally spotted her in the corridor with a doctor, tangled hair, confused look, she looked at him and shook her head.
The two had just turned 18 when they had a big crush at university. He, the blonde surfer guy, she the sweet Italian. At 24, they married and moved to San Francisco. When Giulia's psychosis first appeared they were 27 and married. For a long time, the doctors did not know where Giulia's delusions came from. It was only after the second stay in the clinic that it became clear: She suffers from a bipolar disorder. Mark Lukach has written a book about how you can cope with this as a partner. A story about despair, anger and hope and above all: the love for his wife.
Love and illness - how can a life together work?
The love between two different people: you, who gave everything in college, had a career plan, and he, who would rather stand on the surfboard than hang over books. Giulia had a clear goal: three children at 35 and a job as marketing director. Mark studied teaching and was more relaxed: "I wanted a relaxed life, adventure, being outside and looking after our future children." Now he was helpless in front of the psychiatric ward.
The first signs appeared when Giulia started a new job. "Suddenly they had self-doubt," says Mark. Atypical for his wife, but actually normal, he thought. But soon she began to call him constantly and send him drafts of irrelevant emails until his cell phone stopped idling. At home she was restless, the nights became torture. "I researched meditation apps, lit candles and massaged them to make it easier for her to fall asleep," says the 35-year-old. Often he fell asleep himself, and when he woke up Giulia lay there with wide eyes, her whole body under tension. For weeks Mark tried to encourage her, to remind her of what she had already achieved. At some point she stopped responding. He went on anyway: "I didn't want to leave you to the silence."
He saw his wife disappear more and more. How should her life go on?
He spoke to her parents, a psychologist, and they all agreed: the situation was difficult, but she will find her way around, it will take time.
In the fifth week she stopped eating. "I saw it disappear more and more," says Mark. In the sixth week he woke up to Giulia running madly through the bedroom. "I talked to the devil, he said I wasn't worth saving," she whispered. Against their will, they drove to the emergency room. On the way Giulia tried to throw herself out of the car. He's never been so scared.
Giulia stayed in the clinic for 23 days. Sometimes she wanted to see Mark, then she yelled at him, the next moment she was sweet as sugar. He visited her every day. "I never knew what I was getting," he recalls. The smallest of hopes were immediately dashed. But it wasn't just that: "I mourned our lost future." How should her life go on?
Depression, mania - an unbearable back and forth
When Giulia got home, he took a leave of absence from school to be there for her around the clock. Her delusions were followed by deep suicidal depression. Because the doctors still didn't know what Giulia had, they simply tested which drugs she responded well to. Mark felt like he was in an experiment. Some antidepressants put a heavy veil over his wife. "For a time I only asked her questions to which she could answer with a yes or no, but it wasn't enough for her attention," he says. Often he could hardly bear what the pills did to her, even less what Giulia suffered without her. Still, she hated the drugs, an ongoing argument.
At night she slept so deeply because of the pills that he once dared to grab his running shoes: if he wanted to hold out, he had to do something for himself. When he came back Giulia was awake. "I found the pills and took half," she said triumphantly. "But I spat them in the trash in the kitchen." In a panic, Mark tore open the trash can, saw the vomit. "Then I took the other half, it's in the sink." He ran into the bathroom. Every day she talked about wanting to die: "Can't we say that if I don't feel better in four weeks, can I kill myself?" Mark says, "I took that personally too." It took him a long time to understand: Every breath Giulia takes is her fight for her life.
Every time she got up in the morning she had defeated the night again.
At some point I saw the strength with which she struggles against her illness.Tweet
In Mark's voice you can hear the respect for his wife's achievement.
Respect and love keep the two together
This respect for one another is what both wear today. The book had a therapeutic effect. "Giulia was involved on every side," says Mark. The writing made her understand better how he felt and he understood how she felt. They both saw that his anger and frustration needed space too. It was never about who the disease is worse for. "It's tough for both of us, but on different levels," says Mark.
Bipolar disorder also has periods of rest
The depressive episode disappeared as suddenly as it came. Mark and Giulia went on a trip around the world to process everything. Giulia was looking for a job. Was it a one-time thing? A year and a half after the psychosis, they dared to have a child, and the doctors gave the go-ahead. Five months after Jonas was born, Giulia went back to work and Mark went on parental leave.
But the disease caught up with them. Six months later, the second episode. What had previously taken six weeks now only took four days: delusions, clinic, suicidal depression, but now finally a diagnosis.
Love means accepting the other and enduring even his darkest thoughts
Mark now had a seriously ill wife and a baby to look after. But she survived this episode as well, and another two years later when Giulia had to go to psychiatry again.
Endure and allow - that is the way of Mark and Giulia
Did he never think about leaving? "The time after the first episode was tough," says Mark. Because he still believed that love was an equation: you give something and get something in return. He was tired and exhausted and expected gratitude. But this equation doesn't work out because it blames Giulia for her illness. "Today I know that everyone can only give what they are able to give at the moment. I now accept it as it is," says Mark. With her darkest thoughts. That's why he stopped talking to her at some point. "Especially when she had suicidal thoughts, I would do it again and again," he recalls. But talking to Giulia also means depriving her of the opportunity to let out what she felt. “So I started to put up with her self-loathing with her,” he says. And no matter how far away she seemed through the disease, he always felt the connection between them.
Everything is a phase - the eternal uncertainty
How does he deal with the fact that he could plunge into the abyss every day? "We live in the moment and don't take anything for granted," says Mark. Giulia also strictly adheres to her medication and is constantly in consultation with her doctors. She avoids stress at work and takes care of her sleep. "As soon as a pillar starts to wobble, it reacts," says Mark. And she says frankly that she doesn't know if she would survive a fourth episode. The third was almost three years ago, and the cycles are getting longer. "I'm not naive," says Mark, "but I think we're on the right track."
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