Trying to understand husband's bipolar

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New Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 7/12/2008 9:13 AM (GMT -6)   
I'm quite sure my husband has bipolar but the doctor has diagnosed him with major depression. A year ago I went with him to a therapist and he suggested he continued with counseling, anger management + assertive classes. He went to a counselor for a short time and the man didn't diagnose him with bipolar either. He's 57 years old and has learned to hide his illness well. He is also impotent and we saw a counselor at a urologist clinic and after seeing us a few times told me that my husband was very sick and needed to see a psychiatrist. She also said I was still young 50 and could get on with my life (without him).
We've been married 2 years... at first I thought he was just moody but later because of his extreme moods and the horrible things that would come out of his mouth when he got down and the verbal abuses... well, I knew there was more to these 'moods'. I did research on my own and have a girl-friend who's a nurse who told me she also thought he was bipolar.
Anyway, why I joined this forum was to ask for help in how to deal with his up's and down's. When he's up - he is a bit hyper and can get overbearing. When he is down it can get so bad he shuts down and goes to bed- and yells at me telling me to leave him alone and get out and all sorts of mean weird things. I'm beginning to do better in leaving him totally alone without asking what is wrong - but he also works long hours and then sleeps alot. I'm trying really hard to stick it out with him - but sometimes it is difficult as the things he says are so hurtful when he's in a tantrum and rages. I feel worn out a lot from stress - like I'm walking on eggshells - never knowing who he'll be next.
Does anyone have any suggestions in how I go about approaching his doctor about his behaviors and that maybe he should be on something for bipolar? Also, how does one cope with a spouse who has bipolar? What should I do and not do?
Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 3715
   Posted 7/12/2008 9:50 AM (GMT -6)   
Hi Carol,

Welcome to HealingWell and to our board.

It's time for a second opinion. Try another doctor, go with him again, be honest with both your husband and the doctor about your concerns, and let the doctor tell you why or why not he/she shares your diagnosis. Bipolar is tricky to diagnose and a lot of times it falls through the cracks. Your advocacy might just be the push that gets your husband the correct diagnosis (or perhaps the doctor is right, your husband is depressed, and he just needs a change of meds.) One way you can help the doctor see the behaviors that your husband may "hide" is to make a list. Make it as descriptive and lucid as possible. Describe his behaviors when he's up and down. Describe how his moods change.

How to live with him... also tricky. I don't like the verbal abuse. You need to put a stop to that pronto. That's not bipolar. I'm not verbally abusive to anyone when I'm down or up. That's how your husband chooses to release his emotions and you need to let him know you're not going to stand for it. There are lots of other ways to release tension, and he can find other ones besides taking it out on you. Let him know what you're going to do if he is abusive to you (walk out of the room, end the conversation, go to a friend's for the night, etc...) and STICK TO IT. It'll take a few times, and he won't like it, but he'll get the hint. The only way to get respect is to demand it and expect it, and react if you don't get it. It doesn't matter if his moods are unpredictable -- you're a person too.

One way to find out how to deal with his moods is to talk to him when he's in a relatively lucid state. Tell him you want to help him when he's not feeling so good, but you're not quite sure how. What would he really like you to do when he's feeling depressed and low? Does he want to be left alone just to sleep or does he want you to help in some way? What about when he's feeling really good? Does he feel angry or irritated? Does he want you to help him calm down? Wait until he's calm and amenable to have this conversation. Until then, do your best to simply ask him gently if he needs anything and if he says no -- believe him and stay out of his way because it sounds like otherwise you're a target for abuse. Which is no fair.

This is a very hard situation and I can see why the counselor suggested you could still get on with your life. :-) But properly medicated bipolars make very decent partners. It's a long road though, trying to find the right cocktail of meds and doctors. I wish you luck and hope you'll stick around and let us know how things go.
Co-Moderator, Bipolar Forum
Bipolar II

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 471
   Posted 7/12/2008 7:29 PM (GMT -6)   
I think serafina has some great tips for you. The only thing that came to mind when I read your post was that while he has gone to psychiatrists and therpists you say he hides his illness well. A person that is 100% into getting better would not be hiding his illness from doctors. The first step in all of this is for your hubby to want to get help. If he doesn't no one can help him...including you. Bipolar people are very hard to deal with when they are untreated. I hate to say it would be best for you to move on if this continues and he doesn't open up to the doctors to get the help he needs because you guys are married, but you do have to do what's best for you.
27 female
Bipolar, panic disorder, PTSD, PCOS, hashimoto's disease/hypothyroidism, and in the process of being diagnosed with crohns. Too many meds to list!

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 88
   Posted 7/12/2008 8:59 PM (GMT -6)   
I'm like your husband and I have successfully sabotaged every relationship I was in until I started getting real help and therapy.

All the patience in the world and all the care and understanding is lost on us when we're far gone. I don't mean to be bleak or harsh, but I wanted to let you know it is NOTHING about you and nothing you are doing or not doing.

The thing is, sometimes it takes losing enough things, sometimes it takes being left with nothing but this illness to make a person seek help in an honest manner.

I don't mean to suggest you leave him or you treat him differently, that is entirely your call. But I will suggest that you take care of you and treat yourself well please. Also don't take his erratic behavior to heart, it has very little to do with anything outside of himself.

New Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 7/13/2008 10:11 PM (GMT -6)   
The well spouse is always more invested in "fixing" everything than the sick spouse is. I agree with the other comments. There's nothing you can do to help your husband if he's in the middle of a manic or depressive episode until he is ready to get help for himself. As best you can, you must distance yourself from his behaviors...something that is virtually impossible to do in a relationship with someone you care for, but is deadly important if you want to stay in your relationship or be hopeful about his future recovery.

Post Edited (Liz2008) : 7/13/2008 9:21:27 PM (GMT-6)

Regular Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 285
   Posted 7/14/2008 8:56 AM (GMT -6)   
I often say, I have the disease but my wife suffers from it. I never know quite how to respond to these threads because I was the one causing the trouble. I have asked my wife many times why she stayed with me with all the hell i put her through, but she only smiles then kisses me.

Sorry thats no help

I want "I wish I had one more day to spend at the office" on my tombstone.

I used to be crazy, but now I have enough money to be called eccentric.

Regular Member

Date Joined Jul 2008
Total Posts : 110
   Posted 7/14/2008 12:30 PM (GMT -6)   
Speaking from the spouse point of view - it's hell on earth at times. Even when the afflicted parter is committed to treatment, meds are so tricky that you're often on a different kind of that is riddled with a different kind of confusion considering the illness is being treated and *should* be "under control"...the illness never goes away, it is tamed at the surface, hopefully well enough for the afflicted person to lead a normal life...but sometimes that is nearly impossible given the cycles these meds propel.

As far as coping myself? Therapy. Couples, individual, and friends and family. I also refer to a picture of the two of us often when we were oblivious, in a moment of lucidity :)
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