I don’t know how she does it. There are so many times when I am irritable, moody, and just plain all over the place. I swing up, and I come crashing down. I go left, and I sway right. Often times I find myself pacing in circles talking to myself aloud. I have bipolar disorder, type one with psychotic features. Including extreme paranoia, delusional manic highs, hallucinations both auditory and visual, panic attacks, abandonment issues, and drastically deep depressions. She and I live every day with this brain disease of mine. When I am experiencing an episode, symptom, or sign of struggle, she is the first to back me up. Despite this brain pain being a constant, on October 22, 2006, she said yes to my marriage proposal. She said yes knowing full well what she was getting herself into.
Twelve years ago, her mother, who has since passed away due to lung and brain cancer, to the woman’s credit, warned my then soon-to-be bride. She said, “You’re going to have a very difficult life if you marry him.” Even though I’m a staunch brain health advocate, storyteller and activist, I cannot deny that absolute truth. She was going to have a very difficult life if she married me. We both were. We both do.
Her mother warned her and she did so understandably. Her mom was deathly afraid for her daughter's well being. And why wouldn't she be? How could I blame her, with all of the mass media myths and miss information? There are a lot of poorly educated people who have been trained to believe a great many lies about those of us who have a brain disease (mental illness). Not to mention the social and personal discrimination people like me face daily. The kind that runs rampant in the local, national, and global 24-hour media cycle. It is not only placed, it is stamped on the foreheads of every diagnosed mentally ill individual on the planet.
My wife is an angel—no scratch that—a saint. The sheer imbalance of my psyche could throw off a Mac truck barreling down the road at one hundred and seventy five miles an hour. Or would that be total mania talking? I work diligently day and night to stay as mentally stable as I can. I take my meds within a two hour period twice a day, as prescribed with 100% accuracy every day. I exercise for 26 minutes a day sometimes twice a day with routines of high intensity. Just 26 minutes leads to 12 hours of better somatic wellness, better mood. If I do it twice a day, that’s potentially 24 hours of better mood, and who doesn’t want that. I even eat healthily...most days, although I do love a tasty taco bell nacho platter once in a blue moon. Sadly, I have not had one of those in months.
Every day I regularly practice a very calm, serene, deep breathing drill when I have panic attacks which works well for me. I inhale through my nose for 4 seconds, I hold my breath for 7 seconds, and then I exhale through pursed lips for 8-10 seconds. More commonly known as 4-7-8, it has the ability to reduce heart rates, and lower blood pressure over time. Thus relieving panic, anxiety, and stress. I wake up and go to bed at the same time within a two hour period nearly every day and night that I possibly can. I adjust for my travel days accordingly.
I do these types of things and so much more every day, to regulate, and to remain as my father used to put it, on an even keel. To remain within the realm of sanity. It doesn’t always work. Often my plan is just a buffer between stabilization and hospitalization. Regardless, this routine helps keep me on my toes, ready to hustle hard, and be as sane as my brain allows me to be.
Today I cope well, so I can continue moving forward. Even though I do all of this work, it does not stop my symptoms from occurring or downright taking over for some unrelenting and even unsuspecting moments. Like the title says, I don’t know how she does it. But boy am I glad that she does. I am happy and blessed that she is willing and able to put up with such a rigorous battle. I sincerely appreciate every second of our time together. She’s been with me through four inpatient lock down psychiatric hospital stays. That’s four out of seven in the last 11 years. Of course it hurts her terribly to see me suffer as I have, and as I do. It destroys her to see me taken away and locked down in a facility for weeks or months on end.
No matter the stress she is under, my wife recognizes that sometimes she (and those like her) must do whatever is necessary to keep me well, and alive with chronic suicidal thoughts. When powerful, physical and of course mental pain is evoked, it is her duty to keep me within a box of self awareness, and safety. Her love for me and mine for her is unmatched and obviously unconditional. There is nothing I could do through the destruction that my illness causes that could push her away to the point of no return. She simply soldiers on and fights my battle with me. In every sense of the word we are a team. Whether it is within our marriage, or running our Mental Health Media Company, 17th & Montgomery Productions. An entity that allows us to put out documentaries like Suicide The Ripple Effect, a short-form video like the 400 + found on my Kevin Hines YouTube channel, books, like Cracked Not Broken, Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt, or brain and behavioral health betterment programs like The Art of Wellness.
I know there are millions of women and men just like Margaret. The caregivers of the world. They are taking care of those men and women in serious need. Loving them…loving you. Some of you are sitting next to these amazing individual's right now. I go as far as to call them humanitarians of the most personal and intimate kind. Let them know you appreciate all they do to help you maintain mental wellness. I urge you to please share this article with them if you feel the same way that I do. The sad part is that they often go under-appreciated and tormented by our pain without a hint of gratitude from us. It is time to end that cycle.
I say now to all of those, including my wife, who became romantically involved and soon fell in love with a person who suffers greatly from a mental health disorder, disease or issue…Thank You.
It is important to remember that everything we do in the throes of your brain disease (mental illness) affects all of those around us. Especially our significant others and family members who love and care for us so much. This article is not about you (the suffering); this blog is dedicated to the ones who catch us when we fall, pick us up when we inevitably crumble and come to our rescue after we break down. It is about our greatest loves, friends, family members, and support networks—the ones who gave us a fighting chance when everyone around them told them to run in the opposite direction. To those with such courage and compassion, Forever Grateful.
—To Mi Amore, I thank God for You!
I met my wife in a psych ward: Our Story