My Bipolar Spouse

July 2016

Grandiose is a newly vivid word in my world. In a past life, when the words ‘Bipolar disorder’ were just a whisper in a passing breeze, the word Grandiose was beautiful. Now it is a symptom, a warning and a heavy realization.

                When one spouse feels as though they are grandiose, the other spouse shrinks. We occupy the same space, but we do not share it equally. When one of us is grandiose, the other has less space, and the result is me, the hollow spouse, struggling for room to breathe. 

                When my husband set his sights on me he was relentless in his pursuit. He immediately honed in on my children, lavishing them with attention and gifts. My life as a single mom revolved around them, and he made it his mission to join in on our little family activities.

In 4 days he was convinced that we were meant to be married. He felt that God himself had ordained it to be so.  In 4 months we were married.

I saw things that scared me, I dismissed them. I saw his temper, his drinking, and his history of partying (logged nicely on Facebook for years)- I justified those too, telling myself that we all have a past. His promises were wildly enticing. His image of what the future would be like was easy to fall in love with.

As we began to plan our wedding he dove in head first into decorating the chapel, planning outfits in minute detail, and outlining the flow and structure. His every waking moment, went to frantic wedding projects. A few times the tension erupted from these obsessive projects and again I justified the outbursts.

When we met he told me he didn’t drink, he had given it up. On our honeymoon he started, and the drinking continued. It continued through our honeymoon despite my pleading, it continued past explosive fights that escalated to profanity fill shouting, past threats of divorce and separation. It continued after a wreck and subsequent DUI charge. The first year of our marriage was spent with him living inside a beer bottle, while I shouted at him from the outside. We lived our first year together at war with each other.

The second year of our marriage revolved around 2 words; Bipolar Disorder. Looking back, I see the first year through new eyes. His behavior remains unjustified, and our marriage no less charred, but now it looks symptomatic and obvious.

The second year gained a psychiatrist, a prescription for lithium, and a lot of waiting, hoping, failing, frustration and note taking. My husband is still grandiose. While he may admire a small handful of men in his life, I cannot think of a single person that he would not consider beneath him in some way. His ideas are better, his talents are better, his inventions are better, his time is more valuable, and he deserves adoration, affection and attention. I struggle for room to breathe.

I read about coping with a bipolar spouse often. Sometimes I come across others whose words perfectly echo my thoughts. Other times I cringe at the advice given. Blame is hard to avoid, in heart, mind and fight. Respect is difficult to feel after so many moments of disgust and anger boil over into resentment. Prevention is nearly impossible when the only one capable of spotting an upcoming episode is the one person the Bipolar spouse WILL NOT listen to.

So many days I feel like a target. On a good day, in a civil conversation, I may be asked to help by pointing out manic behaviors when I notice them. On the day that I notice them, I become the enemy. I’m asked to help with financial planning after the mania has helped to create a financial panic, until my plan involves the limitation of his spending, then I am the enemy. I’m asked to change my moods, my tones, my level of patience, and despite my best efforts, I’m stuck behind enemy lines.

I feel hopeless. It feels like being slowly drowned. I struggle with staying in this life, and this marriage. I am losing hope. I am not the one getting treatment, or taking medication. I am not the one diagnosed, thereby making me insignificant. I am not grandiose, I am struggling for room to breathe.

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Cyclone

Jan 2017

I am the hard shelled one in our marriage. I do not break often or easily, I don’t fall apart and I don’t sulk for long, no matter the situation. I’ve had to be strong my entire adult life and it has served me well.

My husband is soft. He is emotional, intense, needy and insecure. He needs to hear often those words that cover a multitude of sin. He needs to touch often even when it is mindless and his attention is on a screen, his hands need to feel me nearby. When this insatiable need for affection is not quenched, he begins the descent into depression, self-loathing, and despair.

He asks about my day, my location, my activities, my plans every time I am not in view. He needs my texts to show when I read his, my location to be available at all times and my reassurance that I am always on my way home. Lest I should vanish into thin air.

Then there are times when his ego inflates to God like stature and he cannot be held down by earthly limitations. No job is too big, no expense is too outrageous, and no one else compares to his mighty and anointed hands. In these times I am not enough for him. I do not bow down to his greatness with enough gratitude, enough awe, or enough fear.

When he is inflated to Godlike proportions I am never supportive enough to satisfy his need for admiration. When he is deflated to a weak and fragile skeleton I am not soft enough for him to fall into.

Both sides of my husband destroy me, poke cancerous holes in our marriage and chip away at the foundation of our life together. In both polarities, I am the wrong wife. Too strong, too able, too willful and too real. Not soft, not understanding, not supportive and not loving.

I live in the middle of this cyclone. If I move left or right I know I will be inhaled into the raging chaos that is greedily devouring everything it can. If I stay still, steady and strong I can stay in my place, I can keep my footing but I will always stand here alone. I will always feel the wind pulling at my clothes and hair, always changing direction and waiting for me to slip in either direction so that it can finally swallow me.

Man-Cold Mountain

Take a walk with me to a place every wife knows. A place that gets darker the higher you climb and where sunlight seems to wither and die away with each difficult step. A place that tests the limits of your strength and your sanity. Chances are, you’ve been here before.You’ll need to pack well, tread lightly, and pray hard. Walk with me to a place called Man-Cold Mountain.

Woe to the wife making this journey today. Our thoughts, prayers, and hopes go with you, bidding you safe passage.

   

Most journeys begin with a few easy steps, a strong commitment and at least a sprinkle of excitement. Man-Cold Mountain is not one of those journeys. The journey across Man-Cold Mountain begins with a sudden drop from the grace of solid ground, into a graying and murky swamp. I weep for the wife who is making her very first trek into, and hopefully through, Man-Cold Mountain. We all weep for you, from a distance.

The CLINGER:

  
The murky swamp sucks at your feet as you step forward. It begs you to stay in one place, immobile and attentive. Soon moss covered roots from beneath the surface begin inching up toward you. They don’t immediately appear threatening as they beg to wrap themselves around your torso. You hear a voice call to you, a needy desperate voice saying “hug me, hold me, just stay here with me”, and the panic sets in. RUN! RUN before it’s too late!  

THE COUGH SHARE: 

Climbing out of the clinging desperate waters, feeling triumphant and hopeful, you continue. The ground that had become mush, quickly hardens under your steps and before you have time to enjoy your victorious stride, the next leg of your journey erupts, knocking into your ears with impatient force. The sounds around you explode! Thunder joins wind and rain pelting your face and clothes. A moment later you realize with horror that the wetness slapping your senses into high alert resembles spears more than rain. Spears of acidic bacteria begin a vicious assault. Infected arrows fight to penetrate your armor. Your best defense is to escape. No weapon has yet been successful in defending against this spray of violence. Everything around you that is touched by the arrow quickly wilts, rots and dies.

  Some of you will make it out of the acid rain unscathed, others will fall to the arrows. I wish I could tell you that your demise was noble, that your efforts were not in vain, but alas, I cannot. Man-Cold Mountain feels no remorse. However, if you did survive, you’ll have mere minutes to compose yourself before the journey turns again.

THE SUDDEN CURE:

  
Run if you can find the strength, crawl if you have nothing left, but do not stop here under any circumstance. There is calm here, but it is a lie. In the peaceful quiet of this slightly brightening track lurks an enemy. He is a mirage. He plays a beautiful song, sweet and soft and your heart will yearn to follow the sound. If you do, you will find that the music leads you blindly back to the land of spears and thunder. But, if you hold onto your resolve, push past the enchanting song and walk on, the end of Man-Cold Mountain will soon be found.

Bloodied, exhausted and clinging to sanity, you will find the glorious end of Man-Cold Mountain’s dreadful path. You are a survivor. Take a moment to celebrate your victory, and get ready. The path through Man-Cold Mountain will soon be upon you again.