I wish I could promise you a happy ending in your marriage to a spouse with bipolar disorder. I wish I could give you a checklist of things to do to guarantee whatever success you're seeking. But bipolar disorder manic depression doesn't work that way (as if I need to remind you of that).
Each bipolar case is different. Everyone comes with a unique brain, so each manifestation of the illness is different. The most important information I can give you for handling your spouse's bipolar disorder may sound counterintuitive:
Identify who YOU are. Figure out what in your life you hold closest to your heart (other than your spouse). Remember to nurture these ideals so you stretch and grow--regardless of your spouse's daily mood.
There is no blueprint for success when you read information about how to support a husband or wife with bipolar disorder. Every "well" person is unique, too. Making a marriage work with two "normal" people is hard enough. Witness how today's divorce rate tops 50%. Throw in a wild card of bipolar disorder, and you're penalized with a handicap right from the start.
But you can learn concrete strategies for handling unexpected mood swings, uncontrollable outbursts of anger, inevitable guilt and remorse (yours and his!) You can learn to talk to a husband or wife with bipolar disorder and even handle the emotions that accompany the realization that the life partner you have may not be the one you married.
If you're "Married To Mania", you must make critical decisions everyday that take into account your spouse's best interests but don't eradicate your morale
and self-esteem in the process. But you can learn how to still be you, and know that you are a good person who doesn't deserve any of this.
You can learn tips for dealing with the bipolar medical and insurance establishments without second-guessing yourself. You can learn to accept that the mental illness professionals are decidedly not on your side.
Counseling is helpful. I recommend it, in fact. But your therapist will not be with you when your bipolar spouse screams at you uncontrollably for no reason, goes on a manic spending spree that squanders your future or becomes obsessed with having affairs or gets addicted to internet pornography or drugs. You are the only one there to handle these manic depressive meltdowns.
Your therapist cannot help you decide whether you should call the police or the mental hospital admissions desk. Your therapist cannot be there everyday to help you figure out what to say to your bipolar husband or wife. The therapist isn't there at the exact moment you must explain to your children what's wrong with mom or dad, and how it's not their fault.
You can learn life-tested and proven strategies to become a stronger person and a better husband or wife, despite the odds stacked against you. You can find out how to take a mental-health break every now and to appreciate the unexpected good days. And then jump back into your flak jacket, switch off the memory bank and turn up the force field when the reality of having a bipolar husband or wife hits again.
Lastly, you can find the strength to merge two seemingly impossible objectives: staying married to your bipolar spouse and taking charge of your own life (instead of waiting to see what your partner's mood is before deciding what yours will be that day). Or you can develop the insight and strength to leave a life filled with bipolar disorder once and for all.
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