Photo by the author

Here is the state of depression in the Upper Midwest: I play Beatles’ songs on the piano and go ice skating and some nights my wife Leah is in bed 12, 14 hours. Hell, if I took the meds she’s on I would sleep until August. Yesterday she woke up and ate cereal and then mid-morning went back to our bedroom and a couple hours later took a shower. She might have gone back to bed after that. I don’t keep track.

At one point I asked her if she’d been sleeping.

No, she said. I was resting.

In the…

Photo taken by the author on October 23, 2020, while wondering why he ever moved to Minnesota.

I do my best brooding in the shower, especially on a cold October day like today, gray as cinder, an all-day rain-snow-sleet sludge pelting the doomed snapdragons in my wife’s garden, and there’s Minnesota in 2020 for you in one snapshot.

I sound like a sourpuss, because who isn’t one these days. But I’ve got hope. My wife’s late-onset bipolar disorder has stabilized, thanks to good fortune, great docs, and the right meds. …

Original photo courtesy Kate Hliznitsova at Unsplash.

Mental Health Awareness Week includes the health of those who care for someone with a mental illness.

For the past five years, in family support groups and online discussion boards, I have heard the following words from those with depressed partners and spouses.

I get it. I do understand.

Each day is a struggle for you to get out of bed, let alone wash the dishes or do the laundry. It’s been two years since you cooked a meal or drove the kids to school or danced with me or held me during the night.

You are consumed by depression.

Photo courtesy Ankush Minda on Unsplash

The best reminder I ever heard with regard to loving my wife who’s living with bipolar disorder came from a pal of mine I call Jack Lemmon.

“In Al-Anon,” Jack Lemmon said, “they talk about the Three C’s: I didn’t cause my wife’s drinking, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.”

The real Jack Lemmon was an actor you might have seen in a few thousand old movies. In Some Like It Hot, he was the bass player dressed in drag swooning over Marilyn Monroe. …

Photo courtesy Creative Commons.

“Leah is safe now. We need you to come down here to the county hospital.”

We had been married for 30 years. After months of her mania-fueled downpour of “creative energy” and rage, Leah disappeared one Tuesday morning in September 2015. She had been emailing me and texting me sometimes dozens of times a day, and haranguing me ceaselessly for months.

She left her Yahoo account wide open on her laptop that day for a bit of well-intentioned marital snooping. And I was plenty scared when I saw that her outgoing messages had come to a dead stop.

Around dinner…

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

Honey? I love you.

I’ve noticed that without your meds you’ve been a lot more irritable toward the kids and me and you’re not sleeping well. You say you won’t take your medications because of the side effects. You’ve also said it’s none of my business if you take your meds and that I should be more supportive of you.

What can I do or say to be more supportive when you’re not doing what your doctor says?

Last month you promised me you’d visit with your therapist, and I asked you how I could be supportive. You said it…

Photo courtesy of Gabibb2 on Wikimedia Commons.

Actually, I didn’t say it.

The issue came up on an online forum for partners and spouses of those with moderate to severe depression.

“Has anyone had a former partner reach out and apologize?” a participant whose marriage was ending queried the forum.

“Apologize?I said. “Apologize for what?”

Sheesh. Had this guy never seen “Love Story”? Had he never sobbed along with Ali McGraw as she told Ryan O’Neal through tearful eyes and violin strings that love means never having to say you’re sorry?

I said that my wife, who lives with late-onset bipolar disorder, is a very good person…

Photo of torched convenience store courtesy of Jay Benanav, St. Paul, Minn.

Thirty-five years ago my wife and I lived three blocks from Cup Foods in South Minneapolis, where we bought milk and where George Floyd was murdered last week. Later on we bought a house a few blocks east of there, past the Dairy Queen, and then another house near Cedar Lake on the western edge of Minneapolis. Our two kids graduated from Minneapolis South High School, a ten-minute walk from where you saw the Third Precinct police station burn down.

Our daughter and her family now live in Uptown Minneapolis. The supermarket two blocks from their apartment was ransacked last…

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Never mind having to always mow the lawn or shovel the snow or walk the dog.

The most common complaint I hear from those living with those living with major depression is that their partners can’t put their stupid dirty dishes in the stupid dishwasher.

“I’m not asking him to load the whole dishwasher,” my support group friend Henry has moaned a dozen times. “Not even load his whole place setting. All I’m asking is that he start with one fork, for God’s sake.”

I’ve heard it so many times that it could be the international symbol of chronic exasperation…

Photo of woman’s face “secret superhero powers” by Robert Couse-Baker is licensed under CC BY 2. Photo of spaghetti-stained T-shirt courtesy of the author.

I’ve been attending a pair of NAMI support groups for five years now, ever since my marriage was walloped by my wife’s late-onset bipolar disorder. After four hospitalizations she’s doing well these days, and so am I, and our story gives hope to the other spouses and partners in my two groups.

Long ago, in the pre-Covid-19 days, we met in church classrooms, where ten or so of us attendees would spill our latest stories. Whose partner stayed in bed all month. Whose husband attempted suicide. Who found reason for hope. …

Jeff Zuckerman

Jeff Zuckerman leads a NAMI-MN support group for spouses of those with a mental illness. His memoir, “Unglued: A Bipolar Love Story,” was published this summer.

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