Heather: Different Symptom Experiences

Heather did not realize that Scott lived with mental illness until he told her after they dated for over a year.

I had no idea. He had to tell me. I didn’t guess. I didn’t have any clues about it. He’s really high functioning. You wouldn’t know unless he told you. He said I was the first person he told outside his family. We haven’t told anybody since, not even my family. He was diagnosed in high school. . .He cycles through feeling low and then coming back up. But it’s mostly the low parts, the depression that was hard for him in high school. I don’t know what prompted the bipolar. I think it was his medication wasn’t working. Then to get a different medication, they looked into it more and they realized then he had the wrong diagnosis. He was diagnosed with bipolar just a year before we met. He was so nervous to tell me. I could hear his heart beating through his chest.

She contrasted the life experiences of her husband and brother in how they managed their illness.

My husband is so well adjusted—he has routines that help him. He eats the same lunch every day. He makes all his lunches the night before. Part of it is saving all this money in case he has a psychotic break, so he has something to fall back on. He has really been preparing and focused on that. My brother on the other hand has gone through so much, so extremely, and doesn’t have all of those tools or routines in place.

Heather sees her brother’s experience with mental illness as “overwhelmingly negative.” She described her brother as lonely, isolated, and deteriorating physically.

He used to be so physical and athletic. Now he’s super heavy and feels bad about it and he makes comments about his appearance. It’s also really impacted his career. He can’t get a job. His self-esteem—he feels really bad about himself.

Her brother Brad no longer has use of a car and hasn’t driven for years. When he did drive, Heather explained he used the car “to find drugs or hang out with people who were bad influences.” Her parents owned the car and eventually took it away. Her brother has not kept up with friendships and has difficulty making new friends. Heather sees differences between her husband and brother in health behaviors and financial management. While Scott adheres to a dental hygiene routine, Brad has dental problems from a dry mouth related to his medications and not brushing his teeth regularly. Brad has no money in reserve while Scott has meticulously saved money. Heather spoke affectionately about her husband’s management of his life.

He worked full time since he was 19. He saved a ton of money. He will always have more money than me because he saved so much. He has a side business. He plays guitar for weddings, corporate events. He’s really phenomenal. He’s an amazing person. Nobody would know unless you told them. He’s a little goofy but so is everybody.

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