Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why I don't leave my bipolar husband

Well, it's been a thought process to come up with this post, and I have a lot of thoughts on the matter.  My feelings tend to vacillate on a spectrum from "This is stupid, why the hell shouldn't I leave" to "I love him so much and can't imagine life without him".  Most of the time it's somewhere in between, for any of these reasons at any given time.

First and foremost, I did vow to stay married "in sickness and in health".  I take that seriously.  If my DH had brain cancer and it caused him to act like he does now, would people be telling me to leave?  Probably not.  It would be easier for a lot of people to understand--cancer--nobody does THAT on purpose, right?  At my full time job that I was laid off from in January, I worked with a woman who was 55 and whose husband had had a stroke.  Physically, he was able to recover nearly fully, but his personality was forever changed from a laid-back, easy going guy to an angry, easily frustrated, impulsive man.  There were many times she questioned what the "right" thing to do was, but it always came down to "he didn't ask for this to happen" and "If I was in those shoes, I would hope that he would stay with me, too."  And there is DH.  He didn't ask for this.  Which is why when he tries to do things right, even if he messes up, or if what he tries isn't effective, as long as he's trying, I'm seeing that he doesn't want to be like this either.

A lot of the things I'll be listing below do not apply to "That Guy", just DH.

Now, the specific things that he does that keep me in the marriage.....well....

He is very kind-hearted to the animals.  There are not a lot of people who would willingly live with this many animals.  Now those of you who've been reading my blog for a while know that "That Guy" can get angry with the animals.  If you're not familiar with my position on "That Guy", I'll give you a little here, but please read back in the blog to try to ascertain a better understanding--"That Guy" is NOT DH.  I know some of you will argue.  But as I've said before, they are two very distinct personalities.  DH is usually easy going and tolerant.  "That Guy" gets angry over things that DH has been ok with for years.  When "That Guy" goes away, DH might say something like "I know I said that, but what was the big deal?"  Or "I have no idea what I was so angry about".  Which makes it relatively easy for me to divvy him up into "two" personas. 

Anyhow, DH loves the animals as much as I do, and sometimes more.  A man like that is hard to find.

We share the same values.  That's important.  Once again, I can hear some of you saying "What do you mean?  You work all the time and DH is lazy."  I'm talking about the big things--like what's important in the big picture.  Family (including animals).  Spiritual matters.  Doing the right thing as much as you can.  Helping someone who needs help (including animals).

He (and I) have an unspoken agreement and have never needed to talk about it but....we fight fair.  When we disagree, we don't bring up the past.  We don't do name-calling.  We don't "hit below the belt" and take jabs at the other person's weak spots.  That's not to say we don't disagree, but when we do, we stay within the bounds of respect.

DH is very tolerant and accepting.  He never criticizes me.  The only time he questions my actions is when I do something that doesn't make sense to him.  That kind of acceptance is something that I have never seen/known before.  I wish I could be as good at this as him, but unfortunately, I get angry and critical a lot of the time.  I try to follow his example as much as my personality allows, though, and I have learned a lot from observing how nonjudgmental he is.

He's funny.  He knows how to make me laugh and has a sense of when I really need a smile.

This is kind of selfish, but another reason I stay....and by far not the most important one....I can't afford to leave.  A lot of times, when "That Guy" is around, I want a divorce RIGHT NOW.  But....it's hard to find a place to live when you've got a bazillion animals, a boatload of debt, and have been at your new job for less than two months.....

DH trusts me.  When we first married, he would NEVER let me even think that he could/would cry.  He would tell me all the time that "men don't cry" and no matter what I told him, he didn't vary from that.  Now, he is no longer afraid to have me see  him cry.  He doesn't cry too much, but when he does, he's ok with letting me in.  Now here's something I'm not sure I can explain properly.....but despite all the deception that bipolar has brought to our marriage, I trust DH to keep my secrets.  I trust him to tell me if my clothes don't look right.  I trust him to know how much I weigh and not make any comments like "boy, wasn't it just last week you were 10 pounds lighter?"  LOL

He brags about me ALL the time, to everyone he knows.  He is so proud of me.  And when he's DH, he's the most supportive person I could imagine.  He hates to see me cry (although I know that and probably could use that as a "weapon", please see the 'fighting fair" part) and would do anything to get me to stop crying.

He loves my mom.  I don't know a lot of men (maybe I just know the wrong ones but...) who would accept their mother in law's dementia and try to help care for her when he's needed, even to the tone of helping her in the bathroom (when she was really out of it in her apartment and had to have someone with her 24/7, when she couldn't remember the steps involved in bathroom stuff (she still can't) DH did not complain, he did not make snide comments, he just accepted and helped).  He always asks how my mom is doing, and tells her that he loves her.  My mom loves him, too.  Sometimes she remembers his name but not my brother's.  Sad, huh?

Also, if I were to leave DH, he's never said it or alluded to it, but I do believe that he would kill himself.  He has told me many times that I am the only reason he "takes care of himself" as good as he does (and I know it's not too good!).  He has told me, especially in the depths of his depression(s), that he doesn't care about himself at all.  I'm very afraid that if I left he would kill himself and I love him too much to chance that.

I don't want to start over.  I've spent a lot of time with this man, and things have been a LOT worse than they are now.  I complain a lot, I know I do.  A lot of it is due to my inability to (deep-down inside me) accept the fact that the bipolar is going to be there forever, and we are not going to wake up one day and have things go back to "normal".  I get very frustrated when he starts to be more like he used to be, and then he backslides.  I don't know how long it'll take me to somehow recognize that there are ups and downs with this illness (in more ways than one!) and I just have to hang around for a while and things'll change.  I probably won't stop complaining.  I would rather complain to you in a rather anonymous way than complain to my coworkers or other people who know him.  The last thing I want to do is damage his reputation.  "That Guy" has already done that to some extent but I don't want people to think less of him because of his mental illness.

I love my DH very much.  I honestly can't imagine life without him.  There are a lot of changes I can imagine, like moving to a place where it's easier for me to manage on my own (so I don't get so frustrated) and having less animals (you do know that nobody wakes up one morning and says "Yes!  I want to live with fifteen cats and four dogs!") and having one job only and still being able to pay the bills.....and easier to help DH do the things he needs to do to stay healthy.

I could probably write more on this, but right now I'm going to stop.  My marriage to DH is not a "dream" marriage, for sure.  But I honestly do not know many people with a "dream" marriage.  (Ms. Kizzle, you may be one of the few!) My marriage is a good one (for the most part, when "That Guy" is not around too much), and when I look at the marriages of other women I know, really, if I can put aside the bipolar, I've really got it pretty good.  And my brother.  He's got a "dream" job and a "dream" house.   He's got a beautiful wife and two kids.  But all he wants to do is go to bars and strip clubs.  And he told DH that he knows that his wife cheats on him, so why can't he cheat on her, too?  (DH was flabbergasted).  My brother's wife gets irritated when he spends too much time with my mom.  She gets irritated over a lot of things that I see as stupid (like "there's a rabbit in the yard!  What are we going to do????")  I don't want a marriage like that, where they pretend like things are so good, but they're not.....I want (and have) something that (to use a very over-used term) "is what it is".  Warts and all.  Things are better now than they were a year ago.  Hopefully things will be even better next year. 


Elizabeth A. said...

Very well written.

I do the angry part too. Why in the world was I so upset? And I have my husband to remind me. This sounds demeaning, but since we also fight fair, I trust him. And if he tells me I'm acting irrationally, I should take a clonzepam and take a bath, and go to bed, I believe him.

And your "complaining" is part of why I love your blog. It reminds me of what it is to be on my husband's side of the fence. And why I have an alarm for 7:00 pm to remind me to take my meds.

I'm seriously beginning to think "dream houses" ruin marriages.

perphila said...

I complain a lot too in my blog. I also don't want to drag my family and neighbors more than they already are by Sean's behaviors. Sometimes you have to say something when you are confronted with well meaning questions and it is hard to see the looks of disbelief and pity you get. The kids too are around me most of the time and that limits what I can say. Therapy is great but not often enough sometimes for me to be able to vent when I need to in order to put the smile on my face I need to have for the children and myself.

I also despite the venting and hurt and anger still love Sean. It's pretty deep and hard to let go. I took my vows seriously as well and would have stayed with him even after all he did. With him gone maybe I have come further faster in my own growth than if he was here but even when he was here I was determined to help myself and was already starting therapy in order to do that. Sean didn't ask for his bipolar and I stayed with him for years not even knowing that was what his problem was. It's because he isn't helping himself I get so resentful now. No meds, no pdoc just his determination that this is "his time". Most of the things I loved him for and stayed with him for are no longer a part of who he is anymore. I can't say if this is how he has changed as a person or if it is the untreated bipolar. If I were married to him now it would be extremely difficult despite my vows to stay. I completely understand your reasoning because mine was the same. The only thing you should maybe think about more it the idea that he might hurt himself if you left. Sean did that do me as well. "I don't know where I would be if you weren't here, probably dead.", "If it weren't for you and the kids I would have no reason to live.", "I'm worthless.", the list goes on. It is blackmail. I know you wouldn't want to take the chance but it really isn't your responsibility. It's the mind knowing it and the heart accepting it that is the hard part. Don't let that at least be a reason to stay if you are miserable.

Mel ~ said...

Yeah, what Perphila said!

In addition... Thank you for sharing your struggle, your rational, and your love. You are taking the hardest road ever and I commend you.
You did say, "....we fight fair. When we disagree, we don't bring up the past. We don't do name-calling. We don't "hit below the belt" and take jabs at the other person's weak spots...DH is very tolerant and accepting. He never criticizes me." I have to concur with your sentiments that you are fortunate in that regard as some of us take a lifetime to learn how to do that, if at all. :(

Miz Kizzle said...

I'm sorry you've had such a struggle with your DH. One of my BILs is bipolar and I know how wrenching it can be to have to deal with the irrationality, anger and paranoia. BIL is very envious of my DH and he refuses all invitations for us to get together because he makes comparisons between what we have accomplished and what he has. He keeps his two daughters away from us, and that makes DH and me sad. We send them gifts for their birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Halloween and so forth but we never get any indication that the girls receive any of it.
It's not a good situation.
I wouldn't say I have a "dream" marriage because that term fails to take into account how hard DH and I worked to achieve what we have, both financially and emotionally. Believe me, I know we are fortunate indeed and i am very grateful.
All I know about your situation is what I read in your posts. A blog is a good place to vent with anonymity but it is by no means the whole picture. Judging solely by what you've written about your relationship with your DH it sounds like things around your house are unusually difficult and stressful. I can't imagine living under those conditions but I am not you.
You're a very bright, compassionate, hard-working, loyal person. There are probably dozens of men who would be thrilled to be married to someone like you. If you're like most women you may be over critical of your physical appearance. If so, you shouldn't be. I've know several men who divorced very beautiful women who made their lives hell and settled down happily with women who were average looking.
Anyway, you've stated your position very well. I hope that your DH becomes motivated to take better care of himself and to pitch in more around the house. IMHO threatening to kill himself if you leave is cheap manipulation. As I've said before, you deserve better than what you have right now and I hope that someday you have the kind of life that you deserve..

Elizabeth A. said...

I don't think DH is threatening, blackmailing or manipulating.

I completely understand how he feels. When you're mostly dependent on one person for support, emotional or otherwise, then yeah, all he is saying, he doesn't know what he'd do without you. I find nothing manipulative in that. Especially in someone with a serious mental illness. It's how I feel about my husband. And heaven forbid he share these thoughts in the depths of depression. Geez, it's almost like feelings of worthlessness, self blame and death are symptoms!

Maybe Carol does "deserve" a better mate, but DH didn't deserve developing this disease. It sucks no matter which way you look at it.

Y'all act like he should just snap out of it and if he just took his drugs he'd be all better. Well, you're wrong.

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Bill Cameron said...

You’re such an inspiration, Carol. Others would’ve considered leaving their husband were they in a situation like yours. I must agree that his condition should not be the reason to leave him. What will happen to “for better or worse”, if you’d just leave him alone when the "worse" comes along? Anyway, I hope you are doing well. I wish you great health today and for each day ahead!

Bill Cameron