Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Outside Looking In: Living Life With a Bipolar Wife (1)

In very loving, moving and profound words, TAO describes the challenges and triumphs of living with a bipolar wife and "the beasts that almost ended her life." TAO is the owner of the blog Corrupting Conservatives and I welcome his contribution to our series on manic depression.

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Its been a little over 5 years ago since my wife, of 25 years, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and let me tell you….its been hell!

The hardest thing is how people react to the diagnosis. If I had told people that my wife was diagnosed with cancer then there would have been an outpouring of compassion and all sorts of ribbons I could display but IF one were to announce a diagnosis of manic depression well, that just isn’t something discussed in polite company and I haven’t found a ribbon that one can wear in support of this disability.

That is why I admire TnLib for opening a conversation on the topic. It is very hard to get your hands around the subject matter and I think TnLib did an outstanding job and now I want to assist from the perspective of someone on the outside looking in….

To ask me now when I was first aware of this disease isn’t fair because I now have the benefit of hindsight and many, way too many nights to search for the answer but the reality is it was the disease that attracted me to her in the first place!

I have yet to meet a manic depressive person who was not highly intelligent, creative, energetic, outgoing, and an absolute joy to be with. These people have no enemies and they are, for the most part, the people who when they walk into a room they attract all the attention. These are the people with a gift: If there is any sign whatsoever it will be a temper tantrum or a mood swing from time to time but it is real easy to overlook these moments. They are also, if you look real close, insecure, but it is hard to catch a glimpse of this weakness in the overwhelming glow that they radiate.

Over the years the temper seemed to explode a little more often and the mood swings became what I then assumed was seasonal affective disorder….or I would tell her that she just had a little too much to drink.

It’s funny how we can be so damn logical that we end up being stupid. I was real good at seeking out justifications and or explanations for my wife’s behavior but now I realize she was slowly but surely losing her way: What she was so good at controlling and using to enliven her life and all those that came into contact with her was gaining control over her and almost took her life in September 2005 when she attempted suicide.

I realize that for 20 years I was always on the outside looking in and now I have come face to face with the beast that almost killed my wife and I can proudly state that it is beatable.

Its not easy, during the course of our battles, I have had all sorts of things thrown at me, I have been cut up, scratched, and bruised. I am 6’10” and weigh 275 lbs and my wife is all of 5’ 4” and weighs 120 lbs and I will say that there were more than a few times I feared for my life.

But, one thing I realized very early on: It was not my wife but rather the beast of bipolar/manic depression that I was battling. This beast will change your life forever, it will haunt you, it will sneak up on you when you least expect it but you cannot lose sight of the fact that your loved one is not the one you are battling but rather that you are a tag team and you find yourself in the ring with the beast only when your loved one has battled the beast to exhaustion. I know this because never once did I come face to face with the beast during the day, it was always later in the evening.

THAT is the only explanation that I can come up with for sticking this hell out. Of course some people comment about the fact that my wife has to learn to control this beast or that I should have left her because no one has the right to put another person through this. I am no saint, but I did come to realize that it wasn’t my wife doing these things, it was the beast. Obviously, my wife HAS been controlling the beast but by the end of an all day wrestling match she becomes overwhelmed and then I have to face the beast.

With the right medications and a respect for the medications along with a restructuring of the environment one can coexist with the beast. I know that anxiety and uncertainty are to be avoided at all cost and they have to be replaced with stability and security.

Now, instead of leaving the house in fear of my life and an absolute nervous wreck and not returning for days, when the beast shows its ugly head I get in my car and pull out of the garage and sit in the driveway and in less than 20 minutes my wife is on the phone pleading with me to come home…

Where once I searched for a cure so I could have my wife back now I realize there is no cure, the damage is permanent and irreversible; nothing will ever be the same. But, just today two old dear friends stopped by and before I knew it I caught a glimpse of my wife from the good old days…..

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I have battled the beast and won… what I face in the future is a weaker wounded beast at best.


  1. Wow. I can't really talk about what's up with me but I'm surprised to find it being written about here. Three years ago I tried suicide. I guess they label me a manic depressive. About 3 weeks ago I found it hit me again. I just clammed up and went away. I couldn't talk with anyone let alone communicate on blogs. Let's of guitar playing. lol
    Thank you for writing about it. My poor wife deserves better. I just started back and was afraid to write anything. It took a poor women being stomped on to get me pissed off enough to snap the hell out of it. I guess being pissed off is my natural state. So again, thanks...maybe someday I'll post about it.

  2. Tim, I busted up two doors to save my wife from her suicide attempt and I can only think of about 5 or 6 times when I wondered why I did....and I regret those thoughts.

    Suicide is not the answer and it never will be.

    Remember to let your wife know how much she means to you....and develop a system where you both understand that sometimes you just have to get away...let her know that it is not her that you are hiding from.

    Then get help...its a long hard road but there is light at the end of the tunnel...and never forget that this is a shared battle!

    Just remember to let your wife know how you feel about her.....

  3. Second that wow.

    Thank you for your honesty you two. My periods of unhappiness mean nothing when compared to you. I admire you both and wish you and your spouses nothing but the best!

  4. Tim: While you were "gone," I wrote a five-part series on bipolar from the perspective of someone who is. TAO has kindly offered to add to it by describing what it has been like being on the other side. Stick with us, kiddo. ; ) But I suggest you scroll down to "Sane Enough to Know I'm Not: Introduction" and proceed upward. The comments TAO made and those of so many others are even more telling than what I had to say. In the meantime, I wish you luck with your new old friend.

    TAO is absolutely right about suicide. It's so final - and it leaves loved ones with feelings of unbearable guilt for the rest of their lives.
    Not a day goes by that they don't ask, "What could I have done to prevent it? Why didn't I do it?"

    One Fly: It's a matter of facing the beast head on with the help of a qualified psychiatrist and appropriate medications. But it can be done.

  5. Thank you for writing this beautifully wrought piece that can only come from true experience and patience with Bipolar. So much of what you wrote resonated with me, (I am bipolar) and your wife is so blessed to have such an insightful tag team.
    Blessings to you both, it is true that we have these hideous bipolar beasts, and it is true that sometimes a subtle exit is the only way to prevent a battle turning into war. Thank you.

  6. My daughter thinks she is bi-polar, but has not been diagnosed as such. She has been diagnosed as clinically depressed.

    A person with this diagnosis needs lots of understanding and support. My daughter did not get it from her husband. One time she was sobbing saying she was not a good mother, a good wife, etc. and his comment was, "Why don't you do something about it then?" That was the beginning of a suicide attempt on her part. The marriage has ended.

  7. Thanks to both of you for sharing such intimate and vulnerable moments of your lives with your readers and those who stumble on your posts. I hope it was as beneficial for you to write about your experience with bipolar disorder it as it was for us to read about it.

  8. Darlene, if your daughter thinks she is bipolar then get a second, third, or fourth opinion. Tnlib points out over and over about the necessity of a good psychiatrist....I have another post that I am saving that deals with the issue(s) of the medical profession...especially general practice doctors who don't know what they are prescribing and rather than refer a patient they go with the "clinically depressed"

    Stick by her side and let her know its not her....

    That is the hardest thing for people to understand.

    Miss Renee...thank you...and yes "the subtle exit" is when you know that the beast is does take a while to get to that point and it takes alot of adjusting on everyone's part....

    Paula, I thank Tnlib for her courage and honesty...the stigma makes the diagnosis a lonely one and I am ever thankful for every peaceful day that I enjoy...and I just want people to know that it can be managed and their is daylight at the end of the long lonely tunnel....

  9. Tao, I salute your love and your loyalty. Life has handed you a tough test, and you're passing that test.

    Not always, I'm sure, but I have noticed that people who pass such hard tests are rewarded in various and unexpected ways.

  10. TAO: You are a giant of a man in more ways than one.

    To both of you: I continue to be touched by the words of those, beside regular readers, who have found their way to your posts. It is apparent you have helped and are helping still.


  11. Your story has moved me, married to a manic depressive for 55 years & walked your walk I can feel your hurt. Love and understanding most of the time was our saving grace, many bumps,many black days & now I just lost him to Cancer, as a caregiver I finally saw the man I loved for 56 years come out of the darkness to live a year of tenderness and reflection beyond expectations. I cry for his loss, I feel his love and that's my comfort. Lonliness is a monster.

  12. SW and BJ: Needless to say I was thrilled when TAO volunteered to describe his experiences from the other side. And so far he hasn't let us down.

    Marbur: Welcome and what moving words. You touched my heart.

  13. Marbur...

    Thank you for your post....

    Many times in anger and frustration I would wish things and wonder what life would be like without my wife.

    Then I would envision her death.....

    Not once during those times did the thought of her being gone and out of my life not end up with me in tears...

    It may have been hell at times but the alternative was worse.

    Loneliness is a monster....

    You have blessed us with your sharing! Thank you!

  14. Oh, if people said you should have left because no one has the right to put you through it, I say kudos to you for staying because no one has the right to walk away and expect another to live with illness alone.

    Tao, and Leslie, you have my undying respect.

  15. Bee: I'm proud of people like TAO and Marbur, but there are often extenuating circumstances. Removing one's self from an unsafe environment doesn't mean you can no longer love and care for them. On the contrary - just from a safe distance.

    If children are involved, it does them far more harm to grow up in a home where parents are always fighting and screaming, especially if there is abuse.

  16. are absolutely correct and I think that needs to be our next to remain sane in a very emotional situation....

  17. I am the one fighting the beast. For years I knew it was situational. I knew, also, I could command a room. For no reason I blew up and knew I was right. Worn out husband, kids, friends and family. Unless you have lived with Bipolar1 in it as the person with it or the ones on the receiving end you cannot know. Know the genius, the anger, the pain beyond words and the prison you will never leave wheather as the person with bp or the loving person with them. Meds is helpful, but there will always be stessors. I want those I love, my husband understands pretty well and my psych, but I want those I am around to realize this is not narcicism, this is a mood disorder that is hell on earth. Thank you for sharing the husband's side.