For those of you who have been following my blog regularly, you will already know that my husband and I are separated. He simply could not live with the person who I had become when my bipolar disorder became severe and I was refusing help. He could not forgive me my indiscretions and disrespectful behavior; if he did eventually forgive, it is the forgetting he is unable to do.
I’m wondering what it’s like for other couples dealing with bipolar. Do we all end up separated and divorced? Is there a love out there so strong that it binds a family, regardless of illness? Regardless of behavior? Are there bipolar couples who get to work together on staying in love and building trust?
I often refer back to a book that I’ve read cover to cover a couple of times. It is a book a therapist recommended for my husband when I was first diagnosed, and it sat on his nightstand for a couple of years, well leafed-through and well-read. It made me feel happy and loved to know that he wanted to read it, that he was interested in helping me. I used to sneak it from his table and flip through the chapters myself, wondering what it was telling him to do, what advice it was giving him. The name of the book is, “Loving Someone With Bipolar Disease”.
It’s a great book, but it didn’t work. At least not for me.
The book really is a fabulous resource for family members of those suffering from bipolar disorder. It introduces the reader to the facts regarding bipolar, how to identify triggers, what therapies are available, how the disorder can affect work and money, and most importantly it coaches the partner on how to take charge of the relationship and remain a couple.
It is my belief that my husband got as far as chapter fourteen: “The Hard Truths about Bipolar Disorder”, and it was just too much. The subchapters include, “The Past Hurts”, “Acceptance and Loss”, and “Letting Go”. The following is an excerpt from “Letting Go”:
“There comes a time when there is just too much to handle, and you just have to let it go. If you want to stay with your partner, you will have to let go of what you thought your relationship would or should look like. Try to focus on the present. Thinking of the past can drain all your energy. Can you embrace your partner for who they are now? Not for who you thought they were when you fell in love. Not for what you think they should be, but as someone with a serious but treatable illness. To help the new plan work, try to let go of the past and any mistakes, hospital visits, money problems, sexual misconduct, and angry fights it might include.
But some things can’t be repaired. Your partner may have committed unforgivable acts when sick. Their behavior may have hurt you to the bone, yet you’re still here. But how are you here? Do you hold past behaviors over your partner’s head? Or are you able to let go of what happened? Some things can’t be repaired. So don’t try. Forgive, forget, and move on – if you can. This may be easier said than done, but you can choose to give it a try”.
My husband did not choose to give it a try. He couldn’t. He was worn down; exhausted. He was afraid of living his life in a state of paranoia: “Can I trust her? Is she well? She looks well now, but is it just a matter of time before she slips again? Do people truly change?” And to be honest, even though it’s been a year and I know my (in)capabilities, I know how hard I’ve worked to be a better person and I realize my faults and have made huge strides in self-improvement, I don’t blame him for not offering me a second chance. I sit here alone, day after day, medically well but terribly lonely, watching my beautiful children thrive without the conventions of a traditional family. And it hurts. And although I’ve done plenty to change myself, I can do nothing to change him.
He no longer keeps the book on his nightstand. I don’t know if he threw it away, or used it for kindling, or if it’s hiding among the piles of books he no longer needs but can’t bring himself to throw away. But I’m pretty sure he never got as far as Chapter 15 before he stopped reading: “How to Create Laughter and Joy in Your Relationship”.
However, there is a fresh copy of “Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder” now lying on my nightside table. It’s not as well-worn, yet, as my husband’s copy, but I’m trying to read a little of it each evening. Because maybe I am the person who needs to be reading this book now. Maybe I need to learn to love myself. Maybe the “someone” in the title is me.
“Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding & Helping Your Partner”, written by Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, PsyD