Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I've been married to my husband for almost 10 years. He has bipolar disorder, is OCD and has ADD. At times, I feel like I can't handle his moods or the fact that he can't be counted on because of his mental illness. He is on medication and goes to behavioral therapy once a week. We both go to marriage counseling once a week as well. I love him, but sometimes I feel like I'm wasting my life away with him because he checks out so often. I don't know if I'm selling myself short by staying with him. He wasn't faithful in the beginning of our marriage, so we also have trust issues. I know I can't ask you to tell me if I should stay or go, but do you have any advice?
I'm constantly listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, you and other spiritual teachers, but I feel overwhelmed and sad about my partner because most of the time he isn't capable of being a partner. It's not his fault, and he tries really hard to change his behavior. I feel so torn all the time. He has a good heart, but unfortunately he has a severe chemical imbalance that runs in his family. I also want to adopt a child, and I know he would be a good father, but I'm concerned about whether our relationship turmoil would affect a child too much. What do I do? Thank you, and namaste.
— Keri C., Sacramento, California
I share with every reader a strong sense of sympathy for your terribly difficult situation. I'd like to give you an answer you may not expect. Your indecision isn't rooted in your husband's mental illness. It's rooted in yourself. Consider the things you tell me:
You read books and cast about for authorities to solve your dilemma.
You knew that your husband's family had a history of mental imbalance but chose to ignore this fact when you married him.
You think that adopting a child might be a good option when everything screams that it would be a terrible mistake.
Add these things up, and it's not hard to tell that you are lost when it comes to knowing what your best interests are. I wonder if you have ever discovered your true needs, which begin with stability, safety, security and a healthy environment. Somehow, you have settled for exactly the opposite. That's why you are a rudderless ship and your only hope seems to lie in counselors, therapists, medical diagnoses, drugs for your husband and a swirl of spiritual advice from talking heads on television.
Your real hope is to begin to reconnect with the real person who is hiding inside you. If you walk away from your husband, your indecision and lack of inner direction will simply follow you. If you stick it out, the problems at home will only grow worse. So staying and leaving aren't the real choice. The real choice is deciding to look at yourself in the mirror and find out who is looking back at you. Your best path is one that leads to character, strength, independent will and self-knowledge.
I strongly feel that you need a mentor in these departments. Begin with one mature adult whose advice and guidance you will take seriously, not a bunch of once-a-week hand holders whose advice evaporates into thin air the minute you leave their offices. With the proper guidance, you can begin to swim back to the surface; without it, you will keep drowning. This is a serious situation, and it's time for you to mature as quickly as possible.