Sunday, September 30, 2007


Did you ever play that game in an arcade, where you have a hammer, and these little moles pop up, and you're supposed to hit them back into their hole, and then another one pops up, and you hit that one too, and then a different one pops up?

Well, the hospital staff also felt like my DH (dear husband) had severe depression and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder from something that had happened in his childhood, so he left the hospital on antidepressants. After a week or two, his depression started to lift and he started doing more than just sleeping all day, which was great, right?

Except that my non-drinking husband suddenly started drinking in bars every night, and lying to me about it. He also, unbeknownst to me, was buying rounds for "the house" and writing checks to cover the tab. He would tell me he was going to work, and instead he would go to a bar. In our entire marriage up to this point, he had been a virtual non-drinker. On New Years Eve, for example, we went to a local bar with the intent of having a "couple of drinks" and after 1/2 glass of champagne, he was done. So this was just another thing that was totally out of character for him.

Along with the drinking, there were the tattoos. My "normal" husband had always had just two tattoos, one on each shoulder. Both of his tattoos were deeply meaningful, and he had put huge amounts of thought into each of them--they each signified aspects of him, one was a bear. He had had his artistically talented brother draw the bear, then they worked together to revise it until it was just right, then he did research to see which tattoo artist could best duplicate it. The other one was a symbol of his heritage, interspersed with a symbol of his profession. This type of thoroughness was very typical before the illness reared its ugly head. After he started drinking, though, he came home with a tattoo that said "In God We Trust, all others pay cash". It was pretty lame, but he thought it was hilarious and was offended that I didn't see it. About a week later, he got a tattoo of scars on his forearm, to signify "scars that don't heal". Then about a week after that, he got a hatchet on one of his forearms "because it was cool". But during our entire marriage he had always said that he would never get a tattoo on his forearm, because it could affect what employers and others think of you, and a person might often have to keep it hidden. But that didn't seem to matter now.

So as he was drinking and getting tattoos, he was spending so much money that he wasn't paying any of his bills, even though he was still working full time. The bill collectors started calling. At first they were pretty polite, like "I'm not sure you realize it, but your payment is late". After a couple of months, though, they graduated to "if you don't send us money today, we are going to hand this over to our attorney". I researched bankruptcy and learned that in our state he could file separately, without affecting my credit. It was May of 2007 when he decided to file bankruptcy. As of today, September 30, he still hasn't done it.

He started to have these WILD mood swings, where he would be normal one minute, sad the next, and then a few minutes later, he would want to go to a bar and get in a fight. His mood was just all over the place. We could be having a normal conversation about our daughter having homework, and suddenly he would stop and venomously say "you know, I really hate her". Way, way out of character for him--we both love her very much. I guess I am lucky, though, that he did see fit to express his mood swings to me only, and that our daughter saw very little of them. He lost his temper a few times when it was out of proportion to what had happened, but I have to say, he never has said hurtful things to her just because he was having a mood swing, he has always had enough control to keep those thoughts to himself. To this day I don't think our daughter actually realizes how bad things are, she just thinks Daddy "sleeps a lot".

One day he told me that his ex-girlfriend had called him and told him that she still loved him, and did he have a happy marriage? He told me that he told her yes, he did have a happy marriage. He told her some lies to make her think he was doing better than he really was, then let her go. I didn't feel threatened about that at all, because I'm not a jealous person, and I have always known that our marriage was strong, very strong.....but when I got our cell phone bill, I discovered that he had been calling her, and she had called him numerous times. I told him flat-out that I was not comfortable with this and that I thought he should put a stop to it. He said he would.

Then one night, I was supposed to stay in the city where my job is, I called DH at about the time when he usually went to bed, and our daughter told me that he wasn't home. I called his cell phone, no answer. I called for three hours steady, could not get a hold of him, and I was really worried about our daughter being alone, so I drove home two hours. When I was 10 minutes away from home, he called my cell phone from his EX-GIRLFRIEND's cell phone to tell me he'd be home in an hour or two. When he got home, I really lit into him. I have never been so angry in my life, and this also was so out of character for him, that I was just beside myself. I don't THINK anything happened, but I'm not 100% sure. He says nothing happened, but there have also been countless times where he said that he wasn't drinking, and he was....

I didn't think I would ever be as close to calling it quits as I was that night. There's just so much a person can take! But I kept on telling myself "in sickness and in health" and that helped a little. Shortly after all this happened, he stopped going to work completely. So now he had no money (supposedly) and all the time in the world. We went to see his therapist together,and his therapist finally thought that maybe there was "some bipolar going on". So it took about a month, but he was put on Seroquel for the bipolar symptoms.

For the first time since it all started, I had a little hope. The Seroquel seemed to really tone down the mood swings, where, instead of having 5-6 mood swings every day, he might have 2-3 a week. Unfortunately, those 2-3 mood swings were always doozies--usually where he would get extremely angry over things that would make a normal person say "oh, bummer".... so I know the Seroquel was working, but it became clearer and clearer that it wasn't enough by any means.

So, to recap, we got rid of the depression, and he started lying and drinking. Then he started getting tattoos. Then the thing with his ex-girlfriend. And all the mood swings. It was just that "whack-a-mole" thing.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The roller coaster ride begins

My husband has always been very charismatic and good with people. He could practically walk down the street and have people offering him jobs. Normally, anyhow. He did find a job as a handyman, making about half of what he was making before, but it was different now, because every cent of his income had to go to pay his exorbitant amount of debt. So if you look back at our income from before he started spending to when he got his new job, we actually had less than half as much as before to pay our bills.

It was a lucky thing that I had been practicing all of those frugal habits, because now it wasn't a "because I need to learn them" any more, we really needed to pinch the pennies. I got a second job, too. We did have some savings, so that helped for the first few months of this situation, it's pretty much gone now.

It was about this time when the "back problems" started. He started to have such severe back pain that he was in the E.R. every single weekend for a shot of morphine or dilaudid or whatever, until we both started to know the E.R. doctors on a first-name basis, and I could tell they thought he was full of it. I don't remember how I found it, but I found some information on a Dr. Sarno, who believed that back pain wasn't a symptom of a physical problem, but was a symptom of "emotional problems". This got me to thinking that all of what was going on probably had to do with "emotional problems".

Anyhow, we spent a big (to us anyhow) amount of money to hire an attorney to appeal the unemployment decision, because a lot of the reasons he had quit were actually borderline illegal for his employers to do, and a number of those things were documented. In the meantime, my husband would just sleep and work and eat. If he was at home, he was sleeping. I didn't really understand how he was still managing to go out to eat, but I was still in the mode of "it's his business, so I'll stay out of it". He was getting more and more depressed and one day we had a big fight about why I should (according to him) be ok with him wanting to die. That was when I started looking things up on the internet and learning about bipolar. I convinced him to start seeing a therapist who determined that the overspending and depression were simply symptoms of severe depression, and started working on that angle. He was on Prozac. The thing is, that half the time my husband cancelled the appointments, so he really wasn't getting anything out of them. I tried to find a way for him to get evaluated for different meds, everyone kept saying "get him to the hospital". I thought he'd fight it, but he didn't at all. He went in voluntarily, and they immediately put a 72 hour hold on him, and he was ultimately hospitalized for three weeks. We both feel that he was not ready to leave the hospital when he did, and the psychiatrist at the hospital thought the same, but the insurance company refused to pay any more, so home we went. We did find out that his boss has some "emotional problems" too, and was very understanding of the whole situation.

I also did find out that when a person has a 72 hour hold put on them, that the county is notified automatically. We have been on a first-name basis with the county due to our daughter's special needs (she does receive some services). So when her caseworker called me before my husband was out of the hospital and asked me how he was doing, I lied, saying he was in the hospital for back pain again, because he didn't want anyone to know what he was really in the hospital for. And she said "Um...they notify us automatically, I guess you didn't know that?" And I felt really stupid, but she was very sympathetic. I really still tried to play it down, though, because I thought "well, he's in the hospital, but as soon as they find the right pill, he'll be fine". So I didn't want to have people thinking less of him for any reason, since I KNEW he was going to be fine! I had no idea what we were really in for, and I don't know if I do yet. This all took place in March of 2006.

Just an FYI, since that hospitalization, we have noticed that he has not needed the E.R. once for the "back pain".

Friday, September 28, 2007

Embarrassed is not the word.

My perfect husband had morphed into someone I didn’t know.
I told my friends about him “losing” his job, and that he got denied for unemployment benefits, but I didn’t know how to tell them what was going on financially. I stopped talking to some of my friends, especially the ones who were at a point in their lives where things were “really really good”, I just didn’t want to hear it, and I didn’t want them to ask me “what’s new with you?” or “how’s your husband doing, anyhow?” Or anything like that.

After years of the “perfect American dream”, I couldn’t bring myself to admit that my husband wasn’t apparently as perfect as I had thought. I thought that I had had my "rose colored glasses" on for about 8 years (counting the time we dated) and hadn't seen him for who he apparently was. At this time, though, the thought of it being a mental illness wasn’t even on the horizon. I just thought that my husband was turning into a horrible, disrespectful, selfish cad.

The beginning of a mental health epic

It was only a week and a half later that he stopped by on his way home from work and “picked up” a $7000 four-wheeler (ATV) (on credit, of course).

I got really scared and decided to use his SS# to look up his credit report. What I learned wasn’t pretty.

In addition to the Best Buy credit card with the laptop and the camera on it, and the four-wheeler, he had a credit card I didn’t know about, maxed out. He also had maxed out his overdraft protection on his checking account, and used his paid off truck for collateral for another loan. All in all, in the span of about a month’s time, his debt had gone from $0 to $35,000!! I did some math based on what I knew and what I got from the credit report, and figured out that if he made the minimum payments on everything, he would have to come up with $800/month. NO WAY could he do that and still help pay the mortgage, etc….I wasn’t sure how to bring this up to him, because I still felt like I was being sneaky by running his credit report like that. (Never mind that he was being sneaky with all that debt, that never occurred to me until later!) So I gave myself time to cool off, figuring I’d bring it up on the weekend or something.

Two days later, with $35,000 in debt, he quit his job.

I didn't see it coming

I guess, since this is the beginning of me telling my story to you, that I should start at where I think the beginning is--

We were an average middle class family. We have a house, a little land, a bunch of animals...we both had "pretty good" jobs. He made a little more than me, and our goal was to pay off our loan for our new well, and pay off my car and his truck, and then I would be able to stay home with our daughter--that's been a dream of mine. I was learning how to cut expenses, shopping second-hand stores, and learning how to cook, so that I could feed us all for very little money. We really didn't have to do that, but because I knew that once we were living on my husband's income only, I knew I'd have to know how to do that.

We paid off the well (this loan is important to make a note of, it plays a part in something that happens in the future), we paid off his truck, and we were well on our way to paying off our car, when my husband started being (for lack of a better way to put it) picked on at work. He started to be more stressed out, but he seemed just like a somewhat more stressed version of himself.

One day he came home and told me that "Best Buy has a laptop on sale for $800". I really didn't get it, I said "So?" He told me that he needed a laptop for work, so that he could document the things people were saying to him. I thought the documenting was a good idea, but most people can do that without spending $800 on a laptop. I asked him how he was going to pay for it, and he said "charge it", and my eyes just about popped out of my head. I begged him to give himself time to think about it, maybe a couple of weeks at least, to see if he really did need one. I suggested that if he really needed one, he should try to find a used one. WE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE INTERNET SERVICE! I told him that if we put our minds to it, we could save up the $800 in no time. He told me he was just "going to go and look".

Since we had perfect credit, he had no trouble charging a $2500 laptop and a $3000 camera, too, along with accessories. I was hurt and angry, and I didn't understand how he could all of a sudden throw our goals out the window. In hindsight, I recognize that this was the first concrete sign I had that something was terribly wrong, but at the time, I just thought my husband was being extremely selfish and disrespectful. This was somewhere around August of 2006.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Hi everyone, I'm new to the blogging thing, so hopefully I'm not doing anything wrong etiquette-wise, I think this will be a lot of fun and therapeutic, too.

I live in MN, in a small town, and I married a very stable, hardworking, honest (read very wonderful) man. We've been married for 7 years now, and over the last year and a half his behaviors and thoughts have changed so much, and if I wasn't so sure of who I had married, I would have left by now, just for the fact that a lot of the things he has done have been beyond frustrating, and a lot of those things are what most of my friends call "deal breakers". We (both he and I) knew that something was very wrong, but it wasn't until the last month or so, that he has been tentatively diagnosed as bipolar. But that certainly doesn't end our story, if anything, it is just beginning.

I decided to start a blog because I have been just desperate to hear from people who are in my situation, and in all of my searching, both on the web and at the library, I'm finding very few personal stories, and even less hope. I realized that what our family is going through is not uncommon, and that there are probably a lot of us who are hungry for information and ideas. So I decided I would start a blog. Hopefully I will be updating this two or three times a week.

So anyhow, thanks for reading this, and I can get kind of wordy, so hopefully I won't talk your eyes off!