Taking care of my sister was not easy. She was developmentally challenged. She would say things that were inappropriate and offend people. My job was to keep her out of trouble. I think that my experience as my sister's keeper made me very protective over my family and I developed a little bit of a hero complex by taking care of her.
In my teenage years I went through some dark times. I was more than my mother could handle. We fought constantly and made the mutual decision that I would no longer live at home. I spent lots of time bouncing from one place to another. I was essentially homeless.
My freshman year in high school I dropped out of school. I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. I was forced into a chemical dependency program. I was non-compliant and I left.
After my sixteenth birthday I moved in with my father. While staying at a friend's house for the weekend my dad came by to drop off some of my things. He told me that he was going on vacation. When the visit at my friend's house was over, I went home. The house was empty. He had moved without telling me. I never saw him again.
A couple months later, I moved across the state to move back in with my mother and stepfather. They had recently moved near Seattle. Living with them gave me a chance for a new start. I entered into a substance abuse recovery program and started going back to church. I went back to school. I found good support in my community.
After high school, I served a mission. I spent the next two years volunteering to help other people. I taught people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I also helped them to find employment and human services support in their community. The opportunity to serve others was a great experience for me. My past taught me how to be compassionate to people in need and have the desire to help them.
I believe that all my life's experiences, good or bad, have lessons for me. Even though I had rough parts in my life they prepared for being in a relationship with someone like my wife, You have to be both loving and understanding if you are a caretaker for someone with bipolar disorder. Not everyone is cut out to deal with being married or in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness. It's hard work, I love my wife, and she is worth it.