How we met: ‘I thought people with bipolar couldn’t live together. But I could see myself being with Suzy’

After he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1997, Michel didn’t think it was possible to find lasting love. Throughout his 20s he had been the main carer for his father, who also had bipolar, and seen the challenges first-hand. “The treatment at the time was primitive and his illness destroyed my parents’ marriage. I grew up with the idea that people with bipolar couldn’t live with anyone else,” he says. So he channelled his energy into work, becoming a freelance writer and a founding trustee of the charity Bipolar UK.

In October 2005, he was helping out at one of its conferences when he spotted Suzy, a speaker he had invited. “I’d been diagnosed with bipolar when I was 20 and spent a decade in and out of psychiatric hospitals,” she says. “Unlike many other people I knew, I’d received very good care, so I’d decided to write a book about my experiences to show how much the care and kindness from nurses had helped me.”

Suzy had expected there to be an audience of 30 people at the conference. “When I saw 300, I nearly ran out,” she says. “From nowhere, Michel appeared and asked if I was OK. My hands were shaking so much he took the mic and offered to hold it for me while I spoke.”

Michel stayed with her and offered quiet encouragement. “He kept telling me how well I was doing. It was a friend from nowhere when I really needed someone,” says Suzy. Afterwards, they chatted before going their separate ways. Michel was living near London at the time, while Suzy lived in Helensburgh, Scotland.

A few months later, she saw an editorial Michel had written in Bipolar UK’s quarterly magazine about learning to live a comfortable single life. “Reading between the lines, I sensed he wasn’t in a good place,” she says. Remembering his act of kindness at the conference, she emailed him to check in. Michel, who was struggling with depression, wrote straight back.

Before long they were chatting constantly, sharing more than 20 emails a day. “It got to the point where we were having these 2am email picnics,” he says. They discovered they had shared values, as well as the same sense of humour and interests. “We enjoyed talking about philosophy as much as we liked silly jokes,” says Suzy.

In July 2006, they arranged to meet. “I knew I could see myself being with Suzy,” says Michel. “We just needed to see if there was chemistry.” They met at Glasgow Central station – sparks flew the second they saw each other. “He planted this huge snog on me,” says Suzy. “It blew my mind. We just stood there like idiots holding hands for a few minutes thinking, ‘This is it.’”

During dinner that night, Michel proposed and Suzy immediately said yes. “It was the best and easiest decision of both of our lives,” she says.

For a few months, they had a long-distance relationship. Then Michel took the plunge and moved to Helensburgh. “I was caring for my mother at the time and she came with me,” he says. Sadly, she was diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer soon after the move.

Despite their newfound love, 2008 was a “difficult year” for both of them. “I got Hepatitis A, which had a knock-on effect on my illness and I was back in psychiatric hospital for six months,” says Suzy. Meanwhile, Michel suffered depression. “I don’t think we would have made it through without each other,” says Suzy.

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They married in April 2009. “From that point on, my life just kept getting better because of Michel,” says Suzy. “Having this kind of love in my life is not something I ever anticipated. When I go away, I still get excited about seeing him when I come back. He’ll be in the street, in his pyjamas, with big open arms waiting for me. It’s silly and fun.”

The pandemic brought them closer, as they were able to spend every day together. “We don’t even go on holidays because we just enjoy each other’s company anywhere,” says Michel. “When we married, I was already at a point where I’d proven myself in my career. Now, the most important role in my life is to be a good husband.”

They both believe they’re stronger together. “We are each other’s scaffolding,” says Suzy. “I now work in mental health research and I know I could not have sustained that level of employment without him,” she says. “Michel loves the light and the dark in me, and wants to be there for all of it.”

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