Your wedding day comes and the “I Do’s” are said. All you can think of is “and they lived happily ever after,” just like all the fairy tales you read as a little girl. Time passes, and everything is wonderful, then just like a true fairy tale, an evil villain appears.
Your husband becomes ill and as a couple, you take that dreaded trip to the doctor’s office for testing to find out what is wrong. After a few tests, the doctor comes back with the answers, but your husband immediately begins to deny it and states, “That’s not possible.”
You leave the doctor’s office with prescriptions and instructions in hand on how to deal with his illness. However, your husband ignores the doctor’s advice and does not follow his instructions or fill the prescriptions. In the meantime, you are left helpless because you cannot force him to follow doctor’s orders, but the situation is worsening.
You try talking to him, but he refuses to discuss the issue. In his eyes, he is fine and does not need the medication and believes things will get better soon.
Well, you know that is not true since your husband has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder–a mental illness that affects a person’s brain functions. Your happily ever after is slowly becoming a living hell. Not only are you married to the man you love; you are now also married to the disease.
In my terms, Bipolar Disorder is an unpredictable evil monster!
Medically, bipolar disorder is a genetic mental illness disease that strikes both men and women equally, but it affects men in a much different fashion than women. A majority of men do not handle being diagnosis with any type of mental illness well, especially bipolar. Perhaps it is the stigma that comes with a disease labeled mental illness, no one knows for sure. But, history has shown that too many men ignore bipolar disorder the first 10-15 years when it begins to present itself.
Ignoring this disease is dangerous, especially since the illness usually starts to show symptoms in their early twenties. The most important and productive time of a young man’s life and with so many stages of bipolar, it makes it much more difficult for a man to be successful during those early years. Left untreated it can be a man’s silent killer. Bipolar disorder has been known to destroy careers, relationships and data has shown 90% of marriages end because neither partner knew the disease was ever present.
Needless to say, living life with a bipolar spouse, not on the proper medication, is beyond unpredictable, painful and a constant roller coaster ride. Yes, there are periods of normalcy; however, when you least expect it, the ugly evil monster pops his little head out and starts creating chaos.
The chaos can be range from impulsive overspending of money that creates large debts. The abuse of drugs and/or alcohol, gambling, cheating, grandiose behavior, the starting of projects and never finishing them, self-pity, depression and a possible suicide.
Sadly, this little monster does not care who it attacks or when it attacks. It does not stop until it has done enough damage, and it sees others are suffering from its actions. Fighting back during a bipolar episode is not a wise option. It just antagonizes the illness more causing a snowball effect of more evil actions.
Therefore, during this chaotic time you are left with the choices to either sit back and let the chaos happen and do clean up along the way. Try and convince your spouse to take the medication when he returns to his normal self or walk out and divorce the man you love. The latter is the most chosen one because dealing with someone diagnosed with bipolar is very difficult.
However, if a man is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and it is treated timely, there is hope for him to live a normal life. Accept your diagnosis and do not be ashamed of it, embrace it and beat it. A mental illness diagnosis is no difference than a diagnosis of asthma. The only differences are they are listed under different medical categories and different treatments.
My husband was diagnosed late in life with bipolar because people turned a blind eye to his symptoms. Ignorance and denial were easier for other to deal with, and then to accept reality and get him the proper help he needed. So when I first heard his diagnosis, I was not surprised, but rather scared because he had spent half of his life not treated for this condition, so I knew it would be rough.
Once I learned the diagnosis, I needed to learn what my husband would need from me and made the commitment to stand by him. I also learned everything I could about this disease and how I could support him. In addition to I had needed to know, what to expect since we have a son and he could also at risk for this disease one day.
Ways to Manage and Beat Bipolar Disorder
- Know your families medical history; both physical and mental illnesses, because most diseases are genetic.
- If diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, share the information with other family members, because there could be other family members affected by the disease.
- Know the signs and symptoms. At first sight, get medical treatment and follow the doctor’s prescribed plan and proper medications.
- DO NOT BE ASHAMED! The stigma of a mental illness has to stop and being ashamed of your diagnosis gives the illness and the stigma power of you.
- Make your partner aware of your illness and work as a team to manage it.
- Have a support team. People you can talk to and who will listen.
- Keep up to date on any new treatments or medications
- Most importantly, if you see someone else in your family showing signs and symptoms of the disease–speak up. Ignorance or denial does not help a person, it only allows this silence killer to destroy them.
Photo: Flickr/ Ed Yourdon