My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Family Then (part two)

As an additional exception to the “normal life” rule, my stepmother and my father died respectively in 1988 and 1989 of cancer.  I did not have the opportunity to work through the bipolar illness with them as their deaths were within a few years of my diagnosis.  I remember feeling secure in the fact that I was able to survive my father’s illness and death without a major hospitalization or illness breakthrough. 

On the other hand, my mother and step-dad were quite present in my life from 1985 forward.  Over the next 30 years until my stepfather’s death in the spring of 2013, I would continue to develop relationships with each of them as individuals and with both of them together as parents.  Granted, they did not always know what to do to help me through my bipolar episodes.  Quite frankly, no one did.  But they never stopped trying both as a couple and as individuals.  In any case, I always felt loved if not understood. 

My sister Jane in particular was a huge help during the early years of my illness and always provided an open door for me when I was ill.  This was when I was in my mini-break period from about 1988 to 1995 and stayed with her and her family for 3 to 7 days at a time about twice a year.  This time with care in a family environment gave me the confidence to begin to seize control of my illness outside of a hospital environment but still taking meds.  

Later throughout the difficulties of the postpartum period and forward, my Mom and Step-Dad played an integral role in supporting me through my illness.  After two years into my daughter’s birth, my parents moved back to Augusta to be present in her life.  Weekly dinners together helped form bonds that were stronger than the bipolar illness itself.  My relationship with my Mom grew and grew as she became more involved as a grandmother and I had the opportunity to witness the development of that relationship.  Since the death of my step-father seven years ago, we continue to get together with my Mom on a weekly basis, sometimes more often.  Covid-19 has changed this frequency some – so we talk by phone at least once a day.

Celebrating 18 years of marriage!

Today is my wedding anniversary and my husband and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage!

I have posted in a prior post on what I think are some of the essentials to a successful marriage. I am posting again on those criteria with a few additions. These are just my perceptions about my marriage and they do not necessarily translate for all parties. But I thought I’d share in case they are helpful.

  1. Argue well. Don’t go over the same territory over and over. Have an argument. Learn from it and go on – no dredging up issues from two hours ago, two days ago, two weeks ago, two months ago, two years ago.
  2. Share a common faith. This one is hard to do if you have already fallen for someone who does not share your faith. But still, where possible allow faith to help guide you and nurture you as something bigger than the demands of husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife). It is helpful to have a unifier that is bigger than each person in the relationship.
  3. Keep a sense of humor going at all times. Be able to laugh at yourself and with your mate.
  4. Be willing to say I’m sorry readily when you may have made a mistake. There is no monopoly on admitting mistakes even when you did not think you were completely in the wrong.
  5. Be willing to forgive your partner’s weaknesses at the same time as potentially calling out his/her problematic behavior. This forgiveness assumes the behavior in question is not abusive or destructive to you.

What do you think are essential characteristics of a good marriage or a good relationship?