Living with a mental illness in a marriage is a challenge – it’s not impossible but there are certainly times when the illness can break a marriage apart. That’s true for Lori.
Lori and her husband separated for the first time in 2004, when their three children were about ten, eight and five. This is where Lori begins her story.
During that period we started marriage counseling together and through that my husband was initially diagnosed with depression, then ADD and then finally as bipolar. From there we went to different types of counseling, which included bipolar counseling, to try to get a better understanding of what was going on and how to deal with it both in our marriage and as a family.
Getting the medications right was challenging. When he was being treated for depression, he was getting medication for just one of the poles and it was horrendous. He was constantly on highs and lows that he couldn’t control. Finally he was on the right medication for bipolar but even then, there’s really no cure for it. You still have episodes of highs and lows. Sometimes the lows were a lot easier to deal with than the highs but you just never know what to expect and what’s going to happen next.
During counseling, we were shown this great 30-minute presentation on bipolar. It was very animated. It showed a family and what situations happen and how somebody goes from their highs to their lows. We sat down with our children, as a family and shared that movie with them. After watching the movie, all of them, including the youngest said, “Wow, that happens here in this family.” Then we shared with the kids that daddy was diagnosed with bipolar and so they’ve known about his illness since then. I think it made it easier for them to understand what was going on and why we separated.
When he was first diagnosed, I shared it with a close friend of mine and when my husband found out, he was very angry. I told him I needed someone to talk with. The therapy we were in at the time just seemed to be revolving around him, it had nothing to do with me and I was a little angry about that. The marriage part involved both of us. Then I felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about it and I felt stifled. If somebody asked,
“What’s going on with your husband?”
I couldn’t say anything. People just didn’t understand,
“Well, he seems like a great guy!”
“He is a great guy and I married a great guy but the ups and downs, you’re not seeing the other side of this.”
We did end up getting back together and for the next three years, it was extremely difficult. He would go through my things: get on my computer and go through my emails, not that I was hiding anything. He would go through my wallet and papers and was just very suspicious. He didn’t throw things around but he wouldn’t put things back how they were. That’s how I knew he’d gone through them. There was a lot of fighting and we ended up separating again in July 2008.
The Divorce Coach Says
My mother-in-law was bipolar and her medications were a constant struggle. Admittedly, she had trouble handling them and taking them – I would often find pills on the floor. It would seem the only way she was stable was when she was depressed. If her doctors tried to change her medications so she wasn’t depressed, she would end up maniac and paranoid. I had never experienced that before and it was eye-opening and scary. Without that experience it would be difficult for me to imagine what living with someone who has bipolar is like.
I like that Lori and her husband did go to couples counselling – it’s something I recommend for everyone because when you do make the decision to divorce, you want to be certain you’re making the right decision. If you haven’t considered counselling or you’re not sure where to get started, then you might want to look into Regain.us which is an online relationship counselling platform that offers convenient, discreet and affordable access to a licensed therapist.
In addition to struggling with bipolar, Lori was caught in that trap of not being able to talk about what was going on. Should she have talked to her friend anyway or should she have respected her husband’s wishes? If you socialize as a couple with the friend you share your troubles with, you risk damaging that social relationship. Seems like every woman needs a girlfriend – just to herself – one that she doesn’t see with her husband. Would you agree?
Read the next post to hear how Lori felt about breaking her wedding vows, something I think many of us have struggled with.
Photo Credit: Flickr – benchilada