It’s not easy being married to someone with a silent disorder, especially when you have one yourself. I’ve had depression for years and my husband is bipolar. This sometimes can make my depression escalate even worse and can be a real struggle. One of the hardest parts is finding people you can talk to about what you’re going through that will actually understand and not judge my husband. Some people just could honestly care less, some people believe that bipolar isn’t real or that it can never actually be helped. Then there are those who if you confide in them, they will be horrified at what you go through and want to help you out…as in OUT of your marriage. Therefore, a lot of times, the spouse of a bipolar person leads a secretive life, wanting to hide their spouse’s episodes from others fearing that their spouse and them will be judged harshly by others.
I know because for the past two years I have tried to quiet my husband’s manic stages in fear of what others will think…the general public not so much as my friends and family. And I shouldn’t have to either….I’m coming to realize that more and more. My close friends and family that do not get it should educate themselves so that they can understand.
My husband was diagnosed with Bipolar II as an adult. I found out about him being Bipolar shortly after I started talking to him and I admit, at first, the idea scared me. It scared me because of the image that you see on TV of this disorder. When I told my mom, she was kind of taken aback and worried and then considered the idea of it being passed on to our kids if we were to get married. To be honest, the idea of him being bipolar would have completely scared me off if it hadn’t been for working at a preschool the summer before where a kid WAS Bipolar. This kid had other problems too, but it really made me see that there was more to it than what television shows you. So I gave him a chance and I found him so accepting of my sometimes “extreme” depression because of his being bipolar. It really made me happy to see someone in my life that could completely get me and understand when I would get really down and depressed. He didn’t expect me to just “put on a happy face” or “grow up and get over it” because he too had down times occasionally.
When he’s in between phases, he is the man I first met and fell in love with and to me, that’s the true Chad. It’s the one that he would be at all times if things had turned out differently for him.
The “ups” or high times in his moods are the hardest for me. He can be either extremely happy and giddy which is good but has its disadvantages or he can be really irritable at the point of lashing out at the ones he loves the most. When he is really happy, he can tend to come up with these great ideas in his head that are usually not so great at all. He can suddenly want to try some get rich quick scheme or want to go to the store and buy a bunch of stuff. For these reasons, I am the one in charge of the money……which is strange for me because I hate math and I’m not so good at it but I’m forced into that role so we can afford the things we need every month. I despise the “up” times for these reasons because you can’t talk a bipolar person out of anything during this time….you just have to try to make them want to wait until later and hope they return to normal by then. If not, you have to say no and then irritability shows…..when he shows this side just to me, it hurts and I can’t lie. It can be really hard to stop at that time and tell myself, “It’s not him talking, it’s the bipolar. Remember the real man…the one when he’s normal.” I don’t win this battle often, I usually lose and I know it tears him apart when he calms down to see how much he has hurt me. Even more so because it’s beyond his control. If I tell someone of this, they usually don’t get it…..most people would react with saying, “He is a grown-up, he CAN control it. Don’t put up with it!” So how do you tell them that they are so wrong…he really can’t control it. Well…you really can’t. You can refer them to sites and books to get information but they are going to either come to the realization on their own or they will always believe just the way they choose to.
I remember the first time my husband showed his manic side around my family. I was embarrassed……embarrassed for him because I was afraid of what they were thinking. Afraid they wouldn’t understand. I have had looks from people that tell me they don’t completely understand. My whole family knows he is bipolar but I don’t think they ALL really get it. When he gets into a mood and wants to go NOW or do something right NOW, I see the stares that tell me they probably think he is acting childish and he could control it if he wants to. What they don’t realize is I leave those situations and I cry….I cry because I feel like my own friends and family don’t understand my husband. I cry because they aren’t able to look past it all and see the man I love underneath it all. I want so badly for him to show his real side 100% of the time to them and it’s just not possible.
He takes his medicine all the time but what people don’t realize is that it can takes months or years to get the medications and dosage right where the stages are further apart. And even then, there are triggers such as moving, stress, and other BIG changes that can bring them on early.
When he gets into his “lows”, he will sleep A LOT and tell me he is depressed. He will not want to do anything that he usually loves. Although during those times, I don’t have to worry so much about hurtful things said to me…..it’s still hard because I love him so much and I hate to see him so sad. When I’m feeling depressed during the same time, it can be particularly hard because I have to fight my own depression in order to be there for him. To be the one who tells him “It’s going to be OK and I love you.” I have to be a sort of caregiver to my husband and sometimes it’s draining. I can feel so mentally exhausted that I just don’t feel like doing anything.
This is a hard post to write because I’m not sure how people will respond to this. I’m hoping writing this will be therapeutic for me, though. I feel like I am unburdening myself from something I have kept secret so long. I just want to take this weight off of my shoulders and drop it. I hope that people will learn to educate themselves about mental disorders more. People with mental disorders aren’t stupid and they are not psycho. It’s not their fault they were born with this. When a depressed or Bipolar person says I don’t feel well today…they may look perfectly fine to you physically, but inside they could be hurting worse than any physical ailment. Please remember this and try not to judge so harshly.