Juliet: Family and Bipolar Disorder
Juliet's husband, Greg, frankly discusses the emotional pain, exhaustion and helplessness that comes with being a spouse of someone with bipolar disorder.
Personal Stories on Living with Bipolar Disorder
People with Bipolar Disorder affect family dynamics in all sorts of ways. There are times when things can get really intense. Patience is crucial when a loved one has Bipolar Disorder. Support is critical to someone who has the illness however, this may be extremely demanding and exhausting at times depending on the severity of the episode. Some people may not be able to adapt to a person's Bipolar Illness. There are many consequences of this illness and it can take it's toll on family members and friends. Bipolars may lose a loved one. My husband Greg feels this illness is not the person's fault, nor the family member or friend's fault. You must love and care for he or she as if they had any other illness' such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. I am one of the lucky people to have such a supportive back bone in my court! I have asked Greg to tell you how my illness affects him.
Greg on Juliet's Bipolar Disorder
It ain't easy! I have known my wife for nearly 24 years and still cannot predict her behavior from day-to-day. Her rapid cycling can have her changing moods from hour to hour on some days. I can leave the house with her in a somewhat "balanced" mood and return only to find her crying and laying in bed or so energized she can't stay off the computer while talking in rapid succession mixing words and sentences. Sometimes I can't follow what she's talking about because she's not making any sense. It seems impossible for her to slow down. We've suffered financial set backs due to her overspending on different occasions. When these mood changes occur, she may get very angry and sometimes violent. These anger outbursts are cutting and brutal. It's difficult to deal with the person you love most in the world being so angry at you with the ability to cut you to the bone in a matter of seconds. Her fury is often over things that are small, however she seems to magnify the issue in her mind. I have learned over time that her illness is often the cause of this type of behavior. Her cycles have changed over the years and she has drifted from straight manic episodes and depression to rapid cycling and mixed states with severe depressions in the interim.
Her severe depressions are the worst. I can see how bad she feels yet I am helpless to pull her out of it. When she gets seriously depressed, she doesn't cook, clean, groom, answer the phone, pay bills, go outside, or do any of her usual things. She's in bed most of the time. I'm afraid to leave her alone and am on edge constantly. I fear she will suicide as she has attempted before. I take her medications with me when I have to leave the house, and I hide or lock them up when I'm home. I study my home carefully looking at things she might try to kill herself with. I take all the knives and anything else I can think of out of our house. When she reaches this point, it's time for the hospital and I have to get her admitted. It's a very painful thing to see. The stress can sometimes be unbearable.
I used to blame myself in the early days that something I did was causing her outbursts. When she was "high" she was the life of the party and I didn't realize something was wrong. We were so young. After we were married her patterns began to change and her outbursts began as "happy" but quickly turned spiteful and outrageous. I was always in the line of fire. I have now learned and have come to the conclusion that it's not my fault and it's something she can't control. There is no magic pill to make it all go away. Yes, her illness is "controlled" by medication and it is treatable, however it does not just go away. I firmly believe that a spouse and other family members should participate as much as possible in the treatment process. I have learned so much by being my wife's supporter in all of this. We are a team. I understand her medications and the importance of compliance. I go to each and every meeting with her psychiatrist so that we can both "take notes" as sometimes she can't recall what was said in the meeting. When she asks me to go to her therapist's appointment, I do. I want to understand everything I can about Bipolar Illness so I can help my wife with the battle.
My best advice to those of you who have a Bipolar family member or friend is to be kind, supportive, loving (even if you are gritting your teeth) and participate in the treatment. I know it is exhausting at times! I have been there believe me! If you are not comfortable with the doctor or therapist, get a second opinion. We have been down that road too! Speak up, ask questions, and get answers. Learn coping skills as that is a major key for any family member or friend to be able to deal with someone who has Bipolar Disorder! Educate yourself about this disorder, read, read, read! I sometimes ask her doc or therapist for things I might do to help myself when she's having difficulties. Sometimes when she's feeling okay, Juliet and I chat about situations and what we should do when they occur.
Remember, when things look there absolute worst, try to remember that this is a treatable illness with proper care and medication. It can be controlled. You are not to blame nor is your family member. We have seen light at the end of the tunnel and are able to enjoy things at times. The illness is a part of who my wife is and I married the whole person!
Staff, H. (2008, December 10). Juliet: Family and Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, May 13 from https://www.healthyplace.com/bipolar-disorder/articles/juliet-family-and-bipolar-disorder