Families for Depression Awareness (FFDA): How much did you know about mental health before your marriage to Danielle?
Miguel: I had no knowledge on that topic.
FFDA: What have been some of the toughest challenges in supporting someone with bipolar?
Miguel: The toughest thing was watching someone you love suffer and feeling helpless. I also struggled with taking everything personally. If Danielle was upset or going through a depression, I felt like it was my fault and that I was the cause. It can make you feel like you’re a failure as a husband and parent.
Trying to support your wife and also take care of the kids was a very difficult thing to do. Initially it was easy to get caught up in helping your wife. However, it is important to remember that your kids are also going through a difficult time as well. Trying to manage my support for my wife and family was a difficult balance.
Lastly, my lack of knowledge of this illness. Initially, I treated it like any other issue I dealt with and quickly realized that was not going to work. I began to read, research, and learn what I could. I am still doing that and realize I haven’t even scratched the tip of the iceberg.
FFDA: What are you most proud of when it comes to supporting Danielle and being a partner in treatment?
Miguel: For me, it’s seeing her improve. I know it’s a struggle for her everyday but watching her continue with treatment, never give up, and be there for our family makes me proud.
FFDA: What do you think families should know about mental health?
Miguel: First and foremost, understand that we all go through changes and this is a part of life. It is very important to have a support system in place for the entire family as you never know what your day can entail. It’s important for a caregiver to learn as much as they can. Understand that there is no quick solution, it’s not important that you know every answer right away but rather you know where to find the answer and get help. It is also very important for the caregiver to ensure that they are taking care of themselves because you will be going through challenges all the time and it can take its toll on you. Communication is key, it’s easy to get frustrated and angry but I can guarantee that if you allow your emotions to get the best of you, the situation will only get worse. It is definitely a tough road but you may find that you are even closer than before this illness. Being a partner can be a very lonely feeling; it will seem like no one will ever understand you and what you are going through but you will learn that a lot of people go through this. I actually find it helpful to go online and read testimonials from others like myself in my situation. For me, what helped is going to church. It lifts my spirit and made me realize I am never alone.