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IRL: Mental Illness and The Monster’s Lover

My husband is bipolar.

I haven’t written about this before. Partially because I don’t enjoy writing nonfiction (occasional articles for the local newspaper notwithstanding), and partially because it’s been so well-managed that it hasn’t impacted our life in almost a decade.

Mostly, I haven’t written about mental illness because I don’t want my husband to be defined by that label. He’s many things – a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, a talented and beloved teacher, a helpful beta reader, one hell of a good cook – and I don’t want his accomplishments or his role in my life to be reduced to a person with a serious mental difference.

But last Monday, after nine years of stability, he had a manic episode.

I drove him to the ER and waited with him for six hours. On Wednesday, I drove him to his first day of treatment at an exceptionally good outpatient center (McGeachy Hall at Maine Medical Center, if you’re interested). And, on Thursday, my children broke my laptop. The laptop that holds everything I’ve written in the past five years, from The Trickster’s Lover to my current fantasy romance WIP.

Oh, yeah… and we got a puppy two days before my husband had to go to the ER.

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Her name is Luna. She enjoys peeing inside and destroying things.

So.

It’s been emotional.

On top of all that, The Monster Freed came out last week. The Fenris Series, my epic 200,000-word fantasy romance inspired by Norse mythology, is now complete.

But, between the dog, my husband’s treatment, and the broken computer, I just didn’t have it in me to promote the damn thing.

I have been thinking about it though, and here’s why: With Fenris, I wanted to create a romantic lead who wasn’t neuro-typical. Fenris isn’t bipolar; still, his physical tics, difficulty understanding social cues, and overall desire to run away into the woods were all my attempt to reflect a level of mental difference.

The Fenris Series isn’t my only piece influenced by mental illness, of course. My own social anxiety came through in The Trickster’s Lover, and my struggles with post-partum depression were reflected in The Wolf’s Lover. But The Fenris Series is closely influenced not only by what it’s like to struggle with mental differences but also what it’s like to love someone who does. It’s run through the filter of a fantasy world and epic mythology-level struggles, but parts of the Fenris series – especially Loki’s conversations with Sol in The Monster Freed – come directly from my own life.

Don’t worry; we’re all doing okay over here in the MacLeod household – the puppy is slowly learning not to sink her dagger-like little puppy fangs into us, my computer was actually repaired by the angels at Portland’s Necessary Technology, and my husband was discharged from the treatment center after four days with a new perspective on his diagnosis and what he calls “about six months worth of therapy.”

And guess what?

The Fenris Series has a happy ending.

Because I don’t just imagine that it’s possible to live a happy, fulfilling life after being diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Reader, I know it’s possible.

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And we got married in a castle. For real.

Like what you’ve read? Click here to join my newsletter and I’ll send you a free copy of Tam Lin, my sexy modern take on the Scottish folktale.

9 thoughts on “IRL: Mental Illness and The Monster’s Lover Leave a comment

  1. Dear Samantha, You are courageous, brilliant, and so very loving. May your personal sharing benefit ALL your readers. As a culture we’ve come a long way in opening our eyes to challenges that may not be evident, but we’ve a long distance to go. Thank you for your heartfelt contribution to our personal and societal challenge.
    In admiration,
    A grateful reader

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  2. Thank you for sharing. Mental ill health affects many of us in differing ways, and talking about it, in my view helps to reduce the stigma placed on it.

    Your post also served to remind me that I need to get caught up on the Fenris series! Especially now it’s finished. 😁

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  3. Well now, this series needs to go to the top of my tbr mountain. Any little bit of encouragement I can find sure helps me. Thank you for sharing some of your inspiration. Yes, I look for encouragement and inspiration everywhere. It helps keep me sane and on an even keel with my own anxiety disorders. Yes, that was plural. We are not alone. Thank you.

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  4. Your strength and positive attitude are an inspiration. And knowing how much your own experience has influenced your work gives it a new and very deep meaning. Thanks for sharing this with us 😀

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  5. Thank you for sharing about your spouse’s mental illness. My sister is bipolar and also well-managed now but it hasn’t always been so throughout our lives, so I know what it’s like when a loved one is mentally ill. I am glad your husband us home & your family got through what sounds like a very bad week. The more people talk openly about mental illness the more it’s stigma will be lost.

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  6. Only you could write about such a difficult time with equal parts gritty honesty and biophilic enthusiasm–in a velvety smooth narrative! You are a champion of compassion and tenacity, Samantha, and I am all the more a fan of yours for it! Keep up the stellar work 🙂

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  7. I was diagnosed bipolar 30 years ago. I showed no symptoms, to my knowledge, just a diagnosis. A few years later i had a manic episode. I picked up the waitress at a diner near my apartment building and took her home. Right in the middle of her shift on her first day of work! I don’t do this normally. I take Depakote. I am educated beyond my means and published twice. My bipolar disorder is controlled. I am also schizophrenic, and alcoholic. Those illness are treated, too. I get along. Tell your husband he’s not the Lone Ranger.

    Liked by 1 person

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