She is 18 years old. She sprawls out on her bed, reads his letter for about the 9th time that day. His words make her shiver with excitement, and her heart feel heavy with loneliness and longing. She gazes at the calendar. Only ten more days until she will see him again, thank goodness. This long distance relationship is killing her.
Her brow furrows as she rereads a concerning part of the letter.
….as long as you are with me, I will always be the luckiest guy in the world. I don’t know if you know how much you have shown me and taught me. You made me realize how great life can be and you showed me how life should be lived. I am so much more full of joy. Remember that time I got all quiet and wouldn’t talk? That was the only time it happened while we’ve been going out, and it only lasted a couple of days. It used to be so bad before. It would happen constantly, a lot worse and last for days, even weeks. The feeling is so awful, and I’ve always hated it. The more I’d hate it, the worse it would get and usually I wouldn’t feel like living, or feel I deserved to live. But it will never happen again. If there is one thing I can promise you it’s that it will never happen again in my life. I have no reason at all to feel that way, and in fact I have every reason in the world to feel the exact opposite, because I have you. …..
She breathes deeply to relieve the tightness in her chest. Why did those feelings happen to him? Is she really going to be enough to keep it from happening to him again?
She subconsciously clenches her fist and decides that she is enough. She will love him with all of her might, and it will never happen to him again. She will save him.
If only they had known.
In their innocence, these young lovers believed the torturous thoughts and feelings that plagued the young man could be cured by love. They believed it was in their control. They believed life circumstances determined if his days were good or bad.
They had no idea what the terms “mental illness” and “bipolar disorder” even meant.
He was okay for a while. His visit at Christmas was romantic and passionate as ever. They decorated his family Christmas tree together and he whispered in her ear that she belonged atop the tree, for she was the true angel. He drank a bit too much, but she shrugged it off as typical college student behaviour. Sometimes she felt embarrassed by his often inappropriate intensity in social situations, but she shrugged that off too, accepted it as part of who he was.
She did start worrying though, when he suddenly stopped returning her calls. As if a switch went off in his heart, he went from Adoring, Dedicated Boyfriend to Arrogant, Cruel Jerk.
He seemed to have a headache all the time.
He made rude jokes.
He got angry at her if she said the wrong thing.
He hung up on her when she was in the middle of a sentence.
He went days without sleeping.
One day she came over and found him standing in his underwear on the steep roof in the pouring rain, hands stretched out to the sky, screaming.
He missed her prom and her high school graduation because he was lying in bed, unwilling and unable to get up.
She thought it was because he didn’t love her any more. She thought she had failed him, and it broke her heart.
If only she had known.
They had no idea what the terms “mental illness” and ” bipolar disorder” even meant.
If only they had known.
All the love in the world would never have been able to help this tortured young man.
Awareness and Education could have though.
Mental illness is not a feeling.
Mental illness is not a choice.
Mental illness is real. It rips lives apart. It breaks hearts. But it doesn’t have to.
Awareness, Education and Acceptence. Let’s keep striving for these things in the field of mental health. It very well could stop a heart or two from breaking.
Thank you for reading.
Be Brave, and Talk