“We don’t have to talk
We don’t even have to touch
I can feel your presence
In the silence that we share
Got to keep moving
At the speed of love
Nothing changes faster than the speed of love
Got to keep on shining
At the speed of love
”Neil Peart – Rush (1993)
It’s Valentine’s Day 2022. A day that many people here in the States express their love for that special someone in their lives, often with cards, flowers, or chocolate treats. As for me, I presented my wife Suzy with a card and a dozen red roses which are beautifully displayed on the window sill in our living room.
Suzy and I have known each other for nearly 30 years and have been married for over 27. Our first encounter was by what some describe as by chance, however I think otherwise. We were each invited to a gathering for our mutual friend, Mark, who was back in town visiting his family with his wife Terri and their one-year old son. Mark and I have a friend from our college days, Dan, who invited me and Suzy. Ironically, he wasn’t at the party. So, when Mark’s mother, Mary Ellen, introduced me to Suzy, I soon thereafter found myself off to the side.
In typical fashion, Suzy asked me, “So, what do you do for a living?” I was two days away from my first counseling job, so I responded, “I’m an alcoholism counselor.” To which she responded, “Oh, how did you get into that line of work?” and I replied, “I’m in recovery.” Suzy then said, “Oh, my dad is a psychiatrist,” At the time, I had four years clean. I had never answered that question that way, and certainly never to a woman I didn’t know. But I was very comfortable and coming to a state of complete acceptance with my life in the 12 Step world.
And that’s where it all began. The thing I recall was Suzy’s eyes. They are a lighter shade of green and they drew me in. We ended up hanging out together almost the whole time we were there, even though I had originally planned on making it a quick visit. She even offered me her phone number as I was leaving!
Suzy and I became very close relatively quickly. It was the first really serious relationship for each of us. Later that summer I disclosed to her that I lived with bipolar disorder. As you can imagine, this was very difficult for her to hear. She was familiar with the illness and it was almost a deal breaker. Fortunately, a friend of hers convinced her to stick with me.
As time went on, we moved in together and got married in 1994. She became pregnant shortly thereafter and we were expecting our first child when, in March 1995, the bottom dropped out. I was seeing a psychiatrist who was prescribing me a combination of psychotropic medications. Over the course of time I had become hypomanic (a state characterized by symptoms of mania, and in my case, psychosis, that are not full blown or debilitating). But when I had my session with my psychiatrist she didn’t pick on this. I asked to be taken off of my antipsychotic medication and that was all it took. In less than a week I was in a full-blown manic episode. Suzy’s dad, Peter, was furious at my doctor. He contacted one of his former students from the University at Buffalo, where he had served as department chair years before who, in turn, referred me to a new psychiatrist,
I ended up being out of work for three months on FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). After my two weeks of mania, I took a precipitous dive into depression. It was brutal. Not to mention that our daughter, Sarah, was due to arrive in August. I convinced Suzy to have us even move back to my childhood home with my parents temporarily. Fortunately, I recovered and have not had a manic episode since.
In the world of behavioral health we speak of the importance of family support. And I cannot think of anyone who has been more supportive than Suzy. And even though I typically don’t exhibit the severe symptoms of bipolar, I certainly have my moments. She has been a steadfast partner throughout the course of our relationship. When we took our wedding vows on that beautiful day in July 1994, little did we know how much “in sickness and health’ would mean.
Suzy and have formed a relationship built on love, mutual respect, open communication, and trust. We also have allowed each other to pursue our own interests which has given us the ability to become more fulfilled.
At our wedding I carefully curated every song that was played by the DJ (of course!). The final song played was “The Speed of Love” by Rush. And the speed of love is faster than the speed of light.