Support Network – Family, Friends and Fiancé

It takes a lot to open up, especially to loved ones. The shame, the guilt and constant self-loathing over things I have done in my past, fuelled by my bipolar. It’s not just the depression that leaves your life in pieces; the hypomania creates a big dent too. I’ve never really spoken about it to anyone in my family, as I always felt like I’d let them down. I’d already put them through enough and there was already lots going on for them as well, without adding my problems to the mix.

I’ve said the odd thing when they’ve asked and that’s about it. It’s still often clear that they don’t quite grasp what I’ve been though; or how my illness affects my life on a daily basis. It’s partly my fault as I’ve always tried to hide my feelings behind smiles and jokes. To meet me, you would think I am perfectly “normal” with no worries in the world (which people have remarked), but then that’s the problem with mental health; it’s not always visible. Unless you live with it 24/7 no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.

This is the most l’ve opened up about myself, other than to an old on/off friend with a similar illness. In the past friends seem to come for the good times (the hypomanic girl who’s fun to be with, a laugh, up for anything) and disappear when the bad sets in. The missed events you really want to go to and have every intention of going to; but the thought of social interaction, sensory overload and busy places is so overwhelming, that you end up cancelling. This followed by the isolation you feel, as you soon discover there are only so many times you can cancel events, before the invitations stop coming. I’ve found it easier, not to make any new friends, as it hurts too much to lose them. As a result, I’ve kept this part of myself from family and friends to help save myself from any more upset.

But when I met my loving partner and soon to be husband Malcolm, 10 years ago, I decided to be upfront and tell him everything about my bipolar; the good, the bad and the ugly. I knew it might put him off, but I didn’t want it to be a surprise later on, possibly ending in heartbreak for the both of us. But he didn’t run a mile and Malcolm has been my main support throughout the last ten years; not my rock, but a seed in my recovery. With his encouragement and support I was able to complete my floristry training and went on to do part-time work from home. I also had the chance to get involved with a school project where he worked, to help transform the school gardens.

For all the support he has given me, I would like to think that I have had a positive impact on him too. He openly admits that other than being a groundsman for a short while (his main interest being having the perfect lawn; and ironically still is), his interest for plants and gardening was limited. He now has an interest and love of plants that he suggests is on par with my own; but his constant budget monitoring over buying every plant he sees and falls in loves with, would suggest otherwise. He says I was the inspiration behind creating an Outdoor Learning Area at his place of work, to encourage school children to take part in gardening. I was on hand to lend my support and advice for developing the project and was pleased to see the excitement of the children he was supporting; when they took part in a garden design competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Back home, we both now enjoy developing our own garden and looking for ways to improve our little tropical paradise. I’ll be talking about how we created our garden in our new build property when we first moved in, five years ago, in my next blog. Right now I just wanted to introduce you to my life and gardening partner, so that he doesn’t feel left out and that I am taking all the credit! On a serious note, I don’t think I’d be here today without him. It’s not always been easy; it’s been a learning curve for both of us. Most of our time together I’ve been stable, so when I had an episode a couple of years ago (from which I’m still recovering) it was a shock for us both. That said, he’s still here and we now take each day as it comes and enjoy each other’s company. I feel so lucky to have found him and love him with all of my heart. To my future husband; thanks for being there and I can’t wait to be your wife.