Heather: Deciding to Get Married

Heather had anxiety about her decision to marry Scott once she knew he lived with bipolar disorder.

I didn’t understand it completely. The most nervous I ever felt. I took a NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] Family to Family class. Someone in there was married to someone with bipolar disorder. I was there mostly to talk about my brother, but when she found out my husband also had it, she really warned me and said don’t get married because she had such a bad experience. I had to really recognize that was her experience and didn’t mean that’s what I would have. But I’m just so into Scott. I just really love him. It raised a lot of thoughts. At the time my career could have gone any direction. I moved back here to be with Scott and I could have moved somewhere else.

Note: NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers an 8-week Family to Family class specifically for family members who have a relative living with mental illness. Participants learn about: 1) major mental illness, medications, and side effects; 2) skills in coping, problem solving, and communication; and 3) community resources.

In the midst of thinking about what Scott’s diagnosis would mean for their lives, Heather struggled with reconciling her reactions to her brother’s illness.

I was trying to remember how I felt when my brother had his big thing and Scott told me [about the diagnosis of bipolar disorder] and I remember feeling scared and anxious and uncertain but I went back and read some of my journal entries from that time and it’s a little different. I’m more frustrated and angrier and conflicted [in the journal]. You can see this conflict where I’m trying to understand what’s going on, but I’m angry that my brother is acting mean towards my parents. But I still love him, but I can’t blame him because he doesn’t understand what he’s doing.

Heather remembers posing questions in her journal“What does this mean about me? Do I have mental illness? Is this genetic? Will I pass it down to my kids?”