Struggling AlongsideSubmitted by Katherine Ellenthal
I struggle with bipolar disorder and when I’m depressed, I have suicidal thoughts. When things get really bad, my malfunctioning brain tells me that I’m not the wife or mother my family needs and I don’t feel safe being alone. This feeling can weasel itself into my thoughts over the course of a few days, but it is usually a matter of minutes. Something inside me breaks and I know I need help. But, I’m lucky, because I have people who understand and support me however they can. Mindy is one of those people, as are my husband, my parents, and my sister. The difference is that Mindy doesn’t need me the way they do and she’s not frightened by my mental and emotional collapse. When I call she will rearrange her schedule, talk to her own family, and pack a bag. She’ll get in her car and drive four hours to be with me. She will stay as long as I need her. Mindy also visits when I’m well. My family loves it when she comes and I’m always better before she leaves. I don’t feel the guilt or inadequacy with her that I do when I think of my nuclear family. She doesn’t depend on me so I don’t feel like a burden to her. When I’m well I KNOW that I’m exactly the wife and mother my family needs, but my brain lies to me when I’m sick. I lie to myself and I lie to others. I say I’m okay when I’m not. I wear a mask and I play the game. Mindy sees right through the charade. She lost a child to suicide. As much as my struggle is a reminder of her own indescribable loss, she is strong and kind and exactly what I need. She’s been with me at my lowest and at my best and she loves me, no matter which version of me shows up. I have so many people who love and support me. I’m unbelievably fortunate and I know that even in my most depressed state. Even in that state, I am comfortable sharing my distress and my loved ones help carry the burden of mental illness. But no other friend understands as intimately as she does. Mindy is my ONE.
(She’s the blond in the photo. I’m the lucky brunette.)