(As told to Anand Nair)
I always had very idealized notions of marriage. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to one day find the man of my dreams and tie the knot. I believed that life only got rosier after marriage. Which is why I was thrilled when Dad told me about the ‘proposal’ that had come our way, for me. Samuel was a guy I had been seeing while I was studying Biology in University. He was a bit old school and asked my father for my hand before he actually approached me. I loved his style and was completely thrilled! Back then, I could have never imagined that I’d actually be living with a bipolar husband.
Living With A Bipolar Spouse
Samuel was a handsome doctor. There was nothing wrong with him on the surface. He was quite the perfect guy. Great looks, amazing build and a fabulous job — he had it all. I felt so lucky that he wanted me to become his wife. I thought I could live happily with someone who wanted me as wife. So I agreed. Before I turned 19, I gave up my studies at University and got married to him.
The first night in our life after the wedding was rather unpleasant. He seemed to have no concern for me and was only occupied with his own needs. This came to me as quite a shock, because when Samuel and I used to hang out in bookstores and coffee shops in the initial days when we were dating, he never seemed this selfish.
Then eventually came a day when we left for Ohio where he had bagged a new job. After the move, I felt like I could not communicate with him at all. If I disagreed with anything he said, he shouted at me and completely humiliated me. He was so loud, even the the neighbors could hear him. When angry, he threw things around and broke crockery. For months he would be aggressive, full of hubris. Then he would suddenly lapse into self-pity till the next mood swing. That time, it never occurred to me that I could be living with a bipolar spouse.
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As time passed, I learned my husband is bipolar
I did not tell my parents anything about his bizarre behavior. My worry was this would affect my father’s health and stress him out. I decided to deal with it by myself.
Years passed as I tolerated Samuel’s behavior. I gave birth to two beautiful daughters. Samuel was often hostile to the elder daughter, while doting on the younger. He would call the younger one over to his study, buy her things while constantly ignoring our elder child. This is one of the worst parenting mistakes a person can make, to discriminate between one’s children. My heart broke at my inability to intervene because if I did, he’d turn the house upside down in a fit of rage.
In the workplace he once threateningly chased a lady colleague over some disagreement. He was then referred to a psychiatrist. That’s when we learnt the cause behind all his confusing and erratic behavior. Samuel was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (BPD). He was given medication to deal with the same. He retained his job, because his bosses felt sympathy for his family.
But I suffered. I suffered for 15 years owing to being married to someone with bipolar. Then my dad passed away and my mom was left alone. This gave me the chance to move to her house to support and care for her. After 15 years into my marriage, I felt like I could breathe freely!
I moved away from my bipolar husband but he came back
My life had stopped at 19 when I decided to get married and become Samuel’s wife. But this was my chance to take it all back. So I decided that I wanted to be an independent woman. I learnt how to drive. I got a new job. The girls were happy and excelled at school.
After 20 years of work, Samuel’s boss gave him a choice to resign from work, or be ‘boarded out’ for psychiatric reasons. He chose the former and then joined us in my mother’s home. Irregular with taking his medication, my bipolar husband swung between ‘mania’ and ‘depression’. He once chased our daughter around the house waving a knife at her. She couldn’t sleep the whole night because she was so traumatized by the whole incident.
The next morning, she talked to her uncle about it and confided in him. That’s when the family finally knew that Samuel had a problem and everyone found out that my husband has bipolar. Once the family knew, they agreed that such behavior is dangerous, and told me to call for help, the next time Samuel misbehaved with any of us.
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A divorce was underway
A few days later, when I saw the early signs of mania in my bipolar husband, I called up two of my cousins and my husband’s sister seeking help. When they came, my husband was still in a manic mood and wouldn’t agree to psychiatric help. Furious that I called for help, Samuel said he would divorce me, and even called a lawyer the next day.
He offered to give me half his money. Pending divorce, Samuel moved out to his sister’s house. He couldn’t live alone in such a condition. But within days, he had a fight with his sister too and was told to move out.
Not surprisingly, Samuel rang up my cousin and said, “Tell Paige that I have forgiven her. I am moving back.” For the first time in my life, I took a strong stand. I told him that he wasn’t welcome. It wasn’t about me, I said this because I wanted to keep my daughter safe. I told him that we would proceed with his plans for a divorce by mutual consent. My husband then moved to a guest room facility provided by his employers.
But being the spouse of a bipolar husband was my destiny
The family court gave us 6 months to reconcile and figure out a way to be together. If we wished to part ways after this, the court would grant separation.
In the meantime, my husband constantly fought with his employers. He had no place to stay and was unemployed. I’m assuming he also completely ate through his savings. So his sister let him stay in her house, on condition that he would take the medicines as prescribed by the psychiatrist. Samuel reluctantly agreed.
After two months, my husband wanted to withdraw the divorce petition. I agreed on the condition that we would not live in the same house even though we would stay married. That’s what happens when a woman loses interest in her husband. I couldn’t stand to be that close to him anymore. We withdrew the petition as he complied with my demands.
We both lived separately for the next three years till Samuel’s sister passed away because of breast cancer. He was again homeless with nowhere to go. I said that he could come back and stay with our family, but on my conditions; mainly that he would regularly take his medicines. He agreed and I was living with my bipolar husband once again.
Now it has been over a year since my husband has returned. It isn’t perfect, but it’s manageable. My daughters have moved out. So now it is my mother, my husband and me at home. I am as happy as I can be under the circumstances. At least he can’t bully me the way he used to like after we first got married. I guess being married to someone with bipolar is just in my destiny.
Bipolar disorder is one that is characterized by many mood swings. So if you have a bipolar spouse or friend, you will notice that they will undergo extreme bouts of mania, anger and frustration, and then also sudden bouts of depression and isolation. Men usually display greater aggression as well and could also develop a substance abuse problem or become an alcoholic.
If the bipolar spouse avails correct treatment, it probably can, but it will be a long road. The extreme mood swings that one has to deal with while being married to someone with bipolar is not easy for the woman to bear.
Sure, they can. A psychological disorder does not mean that one cannot love or be loved by others.