I am interested in hearing from non-BP's who have been married to BP spouses for many years and how you cope with the unpredictability of moods and the neverending struggles that they face without letting it affect your own mental health, how dealing with this disorder has affected you and also your children. My spouse does not like to discuss his behaviour, he is medicated and occasionally goes to therapy, but he still does not like to discuss his mood swings or how it affects us and continues to try to blame his behaviour on someone else. He still does not seem to understand how having a wonderful husband/father one minute and a raving angry/hurtful husband/father the next minute upsets the rest of the family. I would love to open up some communication on this because I think it could help all of us by sharing and because there is such limited information out there to help those of us who really love and try our best to support our BP spouses, but who worry about how their behaviour affects the family. I am really looking for ways to focus and embrace the joy and positives in our lives, not by pretending that the illness doesn't exist, but without allowing the BP ups and downs to have such power over clouding these things over.
Thank you for all of your insight,
I was married to a non-medicated BP for 10 years and I can only say that this condition will tear up and destroy a family. That's one reason I never had kids.....I didn't want to raise another generation of abusers. When kids are around that behavior, they learn it. They learn that it's ok to treat people bad, talk to them with no respect, treat them with no respect, and generally be abusive. They also learn that they don't deserve better. They end up with abusive spouses because that's what their non-BP parent did, or they end up as abusers because that's what they learned from their BP parent. I don't think it's a good environment to subject children to, and if you really want them to grow up emotionally healthy you will get them and yourself out of that situation.
I know that's not what you want to hear. You want a solution, I wish I could wave a magic wand, unfortunately I know first hand that you cant. Please protect your children.
I suggest you read some of the posts from people here.....start with insickness and in health by used and abused.
or search out some posts by distroyed. They will tell you first hand what this does to a family.
I'm sure others will have specific suggestions and thoughts for you. I would like to suggest that you look for the website of NAMI. If you aren't familiar with it, it is a national group that advocates for the mentally ill. They have local chapters all over the country and run support groups, training and education for people with a mental illnesses and their families and caregivers. It is an excellent resource for education , support and referrals. In particular, they offer a free program called "Family to Family." It is a peer-run group that lasts for 12 weeks and covers many topics pertaining to living with someone who is bipolar. You can check it out on their website. There are 39 local chapters in the state of Texas. You can find this on their website also.
I appreciate your straightforwardness and honesty based on your personal experience. I should clarify that my husband is for the most part stabilized, he is medicated, does see a therapist, and we openly communicate to our children when conflict happens. There has been no infidelity and he is not suicidal. However, he does still have mood swings/bad days and depression but says he is committed to working on his own issues to make things better. It seems to be classic that a BP person finds it easier to blame their own issues on someone close to them because of the inner pain and struggles that they experience. I make it a point when he says something hurtful or unkind to tell our children that he is wrong for doing that and that his behaviour is not normal or acceptable and that I do not expect them to act that way. At the advice of the therapist, hopefully being open with them so they are not confused, explaining to them so they do not think it is normal behaviour, will help while their father continues to work on stabilizing his own issues. I make great efforts in protecting my children and will continue to do so. I also have seen the impact breaking a family up has on children, to not have both parents who love them living with them, and many families have other problems (not mental-illness related). So right now, I am trying to save our family, although I realize that he will have to stay committed to being well, and it is a long road. I rely on my faith to keep me strong for my family while I try to work through this.
4support - it sounds like your family has a decent shot at working things out. Your husband is medicated, stable, and working on addressing the problem, not blaming it on you. He's in therapy, etc......My God, you sound like you've got half the battle won!
It seems like you are doing everything possible and I commend you and hope that everything works out in your favor. Unfortunately my marriage could not survive a non-medicated BP. If only he would have done 1/2 the things your husband is doing.....we may have had a chance....oh well, what's done is done. I wish you and your family all the best!
My husband was dx almost 3 yrs ago with BP/ADHD/Sleep Apnea. We have been together 11 yrs and I knew something was very wrong with his behaviour after our second child was born and sure enough there was. If he would not be medicated, the children and I would not be here with him today. I know that in my heart because it would have been intolerable to go on with someone in that state of mind. I always say that Lithium has been a lifesaver in our marriage (Thank God for lithium). I don't think he will ever fully see how bad his behaviour was, but at least he knows there are issues so he is on medication, etc... even with that admittance, he will still be quick to blame conflict on me when his 'moods' are 99% of the time the driver of an argument or escalation of an argument. He still distorts things at times and still struggles with depression and low feelings of self-worth. No matter how you look at it, it's not easy. He is a good father and loves his children. He tries to be a good husband and most of the time succeeds. I know he has a good heart and am just hoping for a successful outcome. I would love to keep our family together, but again he has to keep actively managing his illness.
4support I think if your husband is on meds it is going to be easier than my case with a person in denial and no meds BUT you still have to be careful that you do not lose who you are and what is important in life and especially your childrens needs. You sound like you have many things under control BUT you do point out that he is great one minute and an angry man the next. I do not think that is healthy for anyone to live with. I am separated from my husband at this time and don't know who I am anymore. I am empty and depleted. Bipolar is a really tough illness to live with meds or not and I thought I was a strong person but it took its toll on me even though we are not living together. No kids here though.
thank you so much for your words and especially for being so kind to reach out to me even though I know you are going thru your own struggles as well. I am sorry that you and your husband are separated, I wish you strength, direction and many better days ahead. I know this is why I am struggling so, trying to keep ahold of myself and protect my children. I agree with you that BP is very very difficult to live with, meds or not. I am starting to wonder how much meds will really help, without the person being accountable for their own behaviour and the affect it has on their family. Anytime I point out his unacceptable behaviour or words toward me or me in front of the children, he immediately becomes defensive and blames it on me. It is a vicous cycle of conflict that I intend to break because I am just worn down and can't stand for my children to be seeing this. He also can't ever seem to make true progress, even with therapy, he still keeps talking about past incidents where I have been upset with him, instead of moving forward. It's like talking to someone totally out of touch with the current situation. This is such a tragic thing as I really love my husband and so do our children. He just doesn't seem to be anything like what he was when I first met him 11 yrs ago, and it has been a roller coaster with his moods. His family has a history of mental illness and so they seem removed from reality. Most of my living family is overseas and so family support here is lacking, which makes it even harder when trying to deal with this and stay strong for your children. I also believe I am a strong person but it is wearing me down and I feel now as though I am losing strength as I'm trying to keep it all together. I just can't stand the thought with 2 little ones of breaking up own family as I know we would all suffer terribly, the children and me with still loving my husband. I have started going to therapy again for myself, to hopefully gain my strength back.
If you don't mind me asking, what meds is your husband on?
I think it would help you to get into a support group for families. Talking this over, sharing ideas with peers who have little children could be very helpful. It doesn't sound like your husband would be willing to go to one....
Thank you for writing again...my husband is on lithium, klonopin as needed for anxiety, and ritalin. I feel he also needs an anti-depressant however he is in another 'interim break' trying to find a new psychiatrist. That is another issue, after great efforts, it seems very hard to find good and affordable mental health care. He was also declined when we went to purchase new life insurance! Does anyone know anything about this and how to find life ins for someone diagnosed as BP? His 1st psychiatrist was very good and then went out of private practice, the next 2 were highly accredited but spent no time with him and didn't appear to listen to what he was trying to tell them about not feeling like he was receiving the help he needed. He now doubts psychiatrists in general (not good) and resists consistent therapy (because he thinks I need it more and he thinks he can 'manage' his illness on his own without therapy), even though he has been advised over and over by his own doc/psych/therapist that he needs therapy to work on his own issues. I did suggest that we look into taking the 'Families to Families' course that NAMI offers and he told me I could take it. One minute he tells me he will commit to making himself better and then the next minute, always depending on his mood, he'll give me a hard time like this. No wonder I'm so worn out!!
Hi again tsohl,
I see that you are a senior veteran and have some wonderful and supportive insight based on your own experiences. I appreciate all that you can share with me as I am trying to continue my education on BP and manage my own issues with living with a BP husband. My biggest concerns right now are over long term affects of his behaviour on us, myself and our children. At times, it just seems ridiculous to continue to try to live with someone like this. I'm all for a good challenge, but this has been the challenge of my life. Can you share with me how dealing with this illness has affected you?
I'm happy to share what I know. Let me just say that you get to be a Senior Veteran pretty fast around here!! I know what I know from a mom's perspective. The rest I have picked up from doing lots of reading and research. I'm not sure how much I can add to your situation as I've never been in a situation where I was in a relationship with someone who is BP.
Have you been reading through the various threads on this board? There are a number of people who are in the process of splitting with their spouses. It is interesting reading, but probably not what you need at this point.
It sounds like your husband would be willing to work with someone if he could find the right pdoc. He hasn't totally turned his back on his diagnosis, or of finding help.
I'll go back and read through your posts to refresh my memory. Did you say how old are your children? And has your husband always been bipolar since you've known him? Do you live in an area where you have some choices regarding psychiatric care?
I do agree that you have no business putting yourself and your children through a life of living with someone who is not on meds and who is not working hard to control his illness to the fullest extent possible.
Somehow he needs to realize that it is not productive to dwell on the past. How this happens, I don't know.
One more thing: Are you familiar with the book "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder" by Julia Fast and another author who's name escapes me at the moment? You might find some useful suggestions in there.
It sounds to me like your husband has only partially accepted his diagnosis and perhaps questions it a bit. It also sounds to me like his medications are not quite working. I would suggest that you or he keep a mood chart. Has this been suggested to you by a pdoc? It really is very helpful and you can use it to see triggers, how meds are working, any patterns that might be there, etc. He may very well need more than one mood stabilizer. My son takes 3, but it has eliminated the need for any anti-depressant.
This illness is very frustrating in that there is a full spectrum of symptoms that vary so much from patient to patient. Some pdocs are better at understanding it than others. My son was diagnosed when he was a junior in college, but I'm sure he was dealing with it from the age of about 9th grade. For the most part he was able to manage it, cover it. He was put on lithium which helped about 80% and he lived with it for several years. Then after he graduated and moved back to WI he had a new pdoc and he started on a long parade of different meds. His pdoc changed his meds every month when my son told him how he was feeling. Eventually he found a different pdoc who had a good understanding of how to combine neuropharmaceuticals and they began tinkering and eventually found that combination that allows my son to feel stable and well with few side effects. This took patience on my son's part but he perservered, as did the doctor. He has now been on the same meds for over a year with no changes. The pdoc has told him if he continues progressing as fast as he has, that in about another year's time he can wean him off two of the three drugs and he will be left taking one, which he'll need for the rest of his life. (he's 25 now)
I tell you this to provide some encouragement. This illness can be managed and the patient, when properly medicated can live life to his/her full potential. But it is something that requires the patient's full attention and compliance. You have to be committed to it, just like you would if you were diabetic.
The flip side is that if a patient refuses treatment, believeing s/he can handle it without meds, the episodes almost always get worse, more severe, start to come closer together and actually cause changes in part of the brain that doctors can see on a brain scan.
Well, enough for now. Feel free to ask questions, if there's anything I can help with. I think there is every chance that you can resolve your issues and keep your family together. But your husband is going to have to take the lead on this. You can't force him into managing his illness. He has to want to do it and has to realize that it is necessary for him to do it for his sake, as well as your's.