Content Warnings: Emotional Abuse, Panic/Panic attacks, Therapy, Relational Stress, Medication
We didn’t know he was sick.
I have been married to a man suffering from bipolar disorder. I used to describe his moods like a clock. He would be overly obsessed with one thing for a certain amount of time, and then it would inevitably fade, only to have something else take its place. It would be random things – an idea to form a club involving a hobby, then an obsession to obtain every version of a certain type of toy for the kids, then an obsession with fitness and weight loss. Now and then, his focus was on me. Everything I was saying or doing, or had said or done, and how wrong it was.
I am not perfect.
I have made mistakes in my life and marriage, but this felt extreme. The fights would be long and drawn out, keeping me awake until 2 or 3 in the morning, sometimes when I had small children to care for alone the next day. Often, he would threaten to leave me or flat-out tell me he was leaving me. He did extensive research into divorce laws online. He would move his things into the guest bedroom. One time, he put a deposit down on an apartment. Once, he stayed up all night, and I woke up to over 100 rage text messages he had sent me. They were still coming in as I woke.
And then, as quickly as it came on, it was over. He would obsess over something else.
This went on for about 20 years.
We tried counseling. He had done extensive research about counseling as well, having wanted to be a therapist himself at one point. He knew all the right things to say and how to play the victim. He blamed me for everything.
Convinced I was suffering from a major personality disorder, he demanded I go to therapy. He was sure that if I were better, I would stop causing all of his problems. The things you believe in situations like that are shocking. I truly believed if I could be better, I could fix it all.
Therapy has immensely been helpful for me. Among other things, I have realized that no one else’s happiness is my responsibility. My strides in caring for myself mentally were threatening to him.
Finally, I traveled out of state with our children for several days. We fought before I left, so my contact with him was limited while I was gone. When I returned, he told me he’d had a mental breakdown.
Apparently, he spent most of the time we were away pacing and talking to himself, suffering various levels of panic attacks, and just generally being disassociated with reality. To his credit, he knew this was very bad and sought treatment.
His therapist at the time told him his issues were too big for him and needed to see a psychiatrist. Once he was seen by the proper professional, he was diagnosed with bipolar 1 with psychotic features.
Neither of us knew he was suffering so severely and was so sick. Once on the proper medication, his life has been vastly different. As has mine. He is devoted to taking his medication, and I am very proud of him for this. Life isn’t perfect, but a lot of healing and growing can be done once major issues like this are brought to light.
Don’t give up on yourself or your partner. And never stop advocating. If something feels wrong, it is. Help is out there.