Living with a bipolar partner! Guest blogger Jennifer o Sullivan ✒️

The very month my son started at University was the same month our lives would change for ever, three years ago last September.  My husband had been diagnosed with depression many years before, it wasn’t a severe form, but enough that he needed to be on anti-depressants. He was, and still is a drinker.   He managed most days quite well, never missing a days’ work, and he was never hospitalised. 

I don’t remember everything that has happened to us in the last three years, I think that’s natures’ way of protecting us from some rather painful and devastating memories, and I don’t want this post to be all doom and gloom either. Life is a journey, full of ups and downs, and its’ how we cope and deal with those situations that will either make us or break us.

September 2013 something changed in him, and it was virtually overnight.  The next two years of our lives were like nothing I had ever known.  His moods deepened, he wouldn’t get out of his bed for days and just lay there sobbing, he lost all interest in everything, his family, his friends, his work, his sport, his TV …… his life. He would often become very agitated, and just needed to get in his van and ‘drive’, somewhere, anywhere, at any time of the day or night.   He could no longer concentrate or make decisions. 

His behaviour changed dramatically over the next few months, he would spend many nights during the week sleeping in the back of his van, just outside the pub where he had spent hours the previous evening drinking.  He became physically violent towards myself and my son, and has destroyed most of our belongings.  He also assaulted my best friends husband who ended up with a steel plate in his shoulder.

He was never ever good with money, and his spending was now out of control.  So were his lies and his deceit.  He lost all eye contact when he spoke, looking away as if we weren’t there and he had lost all his emotions.  There was no ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘angry’ or ‘joy’, he had no feelings of any kind, he was ice cold and emotionless.  He also couldn’t see any of his own symptoms, often accusing me of being mentally ill.  As far as he was concerned he was normal and I was nuts.  He would often be enraged, yelling abuse, threatening to leave, to kill himself, to kill me, telling me how much he hated me and marrying me was his biggest mistake.

During these two years, I kept our GP informed of his behaviour, his moods and his symptoms; we finely convinced him he needed some help, and our doctor arrange an appointment for him to see a Psychiatrist.  It’s very difficult to try and convince someone they need help when they themselves just can’t see it.  Initially he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, but it wasn’t until he was arrested by the Garda under the mental health care act just before Christmas 2015, that he was finally diagnosed with Bipolar type 2 at the age of 51. 

My only experience with Bipolar to date was from a television programme; Dr Abby Lockhart’s’ mother Maggie in the TV drama ER, played by Sally Field way back in 2000.  I was a huge Sally Field fan, just loved her in The Flying Nun when I was a child.  Funny how we can recall memories like these, for one reason or another. 

During these two years, we all suffered a great deal, financially, emotionally and physically, some more than others, but we all suffered.  My son struggled at University, failing exam after exam, he had lost his father and was worried sick about me.  I had lost my husband, my partner and my life.  My job suffered to a point where I could no longer carry on and we were now living on savings.   My two sisters live abroad and they could only do so much for us, I kept in touch 3 or 4 times a week, they were as supportive as they could be by email and skype.  As for his family …….. I am yet to hear from any them.  He has 7 brothers and sister, half of them are living locally and the rest are in the UK, they are all well aware of his condition.

I had high hope for 2016, now that he was diagnosed and was on medication.   I had hoped things would slowly improve and we could once again start living and enjoying our lives.  But I was wrong.    The medication has helped, he certainly isn’t the man he was the previous 2 years; he is less erratic and seems more stable and content with his own life, but I’ve lost the man I married who has now turned his back on both my son and I.   I still haven’t found work and we are still having to dip into our savings just to get by, but I have now reached a point in my own life where I have accepted all that has happened, and it’s time to rebuild and get on with living my life again.

As for my husband, he is still working, still drinking and still to this day he has never asked for help for his depression, bipolar or his drinking, and I don’t think he ever will.   But he is keeping his appointments with his doctors and he does take his medication, which is a step in the right direction. I only wish he would give up the drinking; its interfering with his medication and is now causing him some long-term side effects.  I have done everything I can for my him, to help, care and support him, but he no longer wants to be part of our lives.  That, I have now accepted.

Mental illness not only affects the individual who has been diagnosed but it affects their loved ones, be it in a slightly different way.  My husband is under the care of two doctors, he could also seek out some counselling and other services if he so chooses, but he doesn’t. Likewise, he could also choose to eat better and exercise a little more, and reduce the amount of alcohol he consumes, but again he doesn’t.  By taking his meds and seeing his doctors he is doing the bare minimum that is required to manage his condition, but at least he is doing that.  With my family abroad and his family choosing to ignore the situation, my son and I could have either coped or sunk and we chose to cope and it has been tough, very tough. But we are over the worst of it I hope, and for the first time in a long time, the future is starting to look a little brighter.  

Roll on 2017.

Helpline numbers.

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