The First Time: Maria Bamford: The First Time Someone Loved Me for Who I Really Am

I checked out of the hospital a few days later, hoping to feel better on the new medication. But as I flew to Chicago, I knew something was wrong. I somehow ended up bleeding, hysterical and lost downtown without any identification an hour before showtime. My manager heard me hyperventilating over the phone and canceled all four shows.

Thus began a breakdown. Every moment of my life felt unbearable for a year and a half of hospitalizations and outpatient treatment programs. I drooled, I dropped glassware, I passed out face-first into Caesar salads. I could not think, had difficulty speaking and could not — in any way — work.

I kept asking other patients the same questions: “Do you still have a job? Do you think you’ll ever be able to work again?” I kept asking my doctors when they thought I’d be well enough to go back to comedy. Of course, none of them could guarantee full recovery. But I did gather some surprising information that I wasn’t particularly interested in at the time: Many patients had partners and wives and husbands.

There was the wife and mother of grown children receiving ECT treatments that caused short term memory loss. A young woman who, after a psychotic episode involving the K.G.B. and aliens, spoke of her longtime boyfriend and all the support he provided when she was fired from her sales job. There was the man who came into the ward after a manic, knife-wielding episode in which he might have stabbed someone (I was very out of it and couldn’t get the whole story). He chatted amiably with his wife during visiting hours.

Over and over again, I encountered people with debilitating mental illness who were also part of a couple. They weren’t working, they needed care. They were a burden. And yet they were loved.

I started to think: That could be me. If I ever got better, maybe I would meet someone who could love me as I am. That maybe, work or no work, I’d no longer have to wait to be “lovable” (translation: “productive”) in order to be loved.

And I was right. A year and a half later, when my mood had stabilized (I still had a tremor and memory problems), I met a man named Scott through OkCupid. It was his second internet date; my 97th. It wasn’t particularly magical, just nice. We met for coffee, and he was easy to talk to. I love art, and that’s what he does; he thought I was funny and loves comedy. He really wanted to go out again, despite the fact that he had Googled me and knew about my perceived deal-breaker. On our second date — a hike with my dog in Griffith Park — he was eager to share his own perceived flaws ($52,000 in student loans! Arthritis! An overheating ’92 Saturn! Can’t travel by airplane! )

And then, on our fourth date, he said one of the most romantic things I’ve ever heard: “I know they don’t let you have sharp stuff in the psych ward. When my mom was in there, she grew a little beard. If that happens to you, I’ll come in and shave your beard!” His mother, Linda, has passed away, but I think she’d be proud that her son is ready with a Daisy razor. I’ve been stable for the past several years, but I am comforted by that promise of support.

Our mutual failure with long-term relationships (Scott had made it to three years) is weirdly what makes us both so committed and connected. As they say in 12-step recovery, it’s weakness, not strength, that binds us to each other. Scott and I have been moody in front of each other many times, most recently when we moved and he saw me scream for the first time. Over a television placement.

But we talked about what is now called The Regrettable Incident of the Television Placement with our couples therapist the next day and later laughed about it with friends. And Scott has had his own embarrassing emotional lows, too. It’s no secret who we are and what our flaws are. I think that’s what love is — not having to hide exactly who you are. We got married on April 13, 2015, and have been together for four years, breaking both of our previous records.

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