I'm engaged to an amazing bipolar man and despite the insistence I see on many of these web blogs that we should "run to the hills" when being involved in a non-diagnosed, non-medicated bipolar partner, leaving him is not an option for me: he is, even in his mania or depression, STILL the warmest heart I have ever met, always thinking of others (and even little animals!) before himself, he tries ridiculously hard to always compliment me, to do little things for me, he is very protective, fiercely loyal, and we are both madly in love. Even when he is trying to break up with me during his attempts at escape episodes, I know deep down inside and also from knowing him well, that he loves me - he will never deny that - and in his eyes I am what he wants from a wife and the mother of his children (again, he can never deny this, no matter what mood he's in)...he simply becomes even more depressed when he is snappy at me or gets angry at me for doing the smallest things, he soon realizes, becomes embarrassed and very sad and apologizing. I hate to make this reference from such a silly movie
but he reminds me of Edward Cullen from those Twilight films, obviously except he is not a vampire. ;).. But the realization that he is not good for me, in his own mind, that internationalization that it will never work out between us (because of him and his illness) and that he is destined to be happy alone in this world if it means saving the woman he loves from having to deal with a lifetime of grief that he is certain he will put me through, and he pulls away not because he wants to, but because he always beats himself up and feels guilt and plays the martyr. He does that with all the close people in his life and he has been "running" away from problems for a long time now. He has seen doctors, but pills are not an option for him (out of personal reasons I can't mention). And obviously during one of his episodes he seems so convincingly lucid, as if what he is saying is actually coming from the mouth of a truly normal and rational person and it almost makes me forget that he is bipolar. Which I think is the hardest thing to keep in perspective.
My questions go to both bipolar individuals and their spouses/partners. I am determined to make this relationship work, this man is the one and only love of my life, and if he doesn't want to go on meds then I will have to respect his wishes. It means that I have to have different coping strategies. I need to prepare myself, almost like going into a battle, and I need to know what are the best ways to deal with him in certain moods, ways that will not anger him, that will not stress him, that will help reassure him (without putting pressure) that I am always going to be there for him, ways that will not push him back even more...
1) When he is in his depression and curls up in the fetal position and refuses to speak to me or asks to leave to go back to his place (we live in different residences), is it best to just let him stew and do his thing and if he insists on leaving, should I just let him go, or should I try to do an intervention - tough love - and tell him he needs to stop running away from his problems and face them and I'll let him do that but he has to stay at my place, or should I let him go? And if I let him go, won't it just allow him to brew in his own self-misery alone (he has gone, at one point, two weeks without talking to me except a text message that said he loved me)? And when he very honestly looks me in the eyes and says our relationship is not going to work and tries to break it off (after just a week earlier asking me never to give up on him, to be his wife etc), how do I respond to this? Do I just try to ignore him (and doesn't that come off as insensitive?)? If I say anything to him in such a state, will it even process? I mean, really, how are we supposed to handle this? I used to cry and then he would get all upset that I was being too emotional and we couldn't even "talk", and then I tried to learn that it's his sickness and I can't allow myself to get sucked into the irrationality and I need to remain strong and rational, and now I try to be calm and cool and just keep reassuring him that he is stuck with me, so he'd better get used to it. What do you say to someone who one minute dreams of a house and family with you and the next minute is convinced that he will be happier alone in the world?...there are times I wonder if he simply is testing me to see how committed I am to him and the relationship, because once he threatened to run away to this obscure country and I told him I would go with him wherever he goes and he was so touched that he grabbed me and kissed me. What are your suggestions?
2) When he is manic and talking a mile a minute and lying and telling nonsense about
everything and even slightly hallucinating, I tend to try to act silly with him and make him laugh and if he says mean things I will just let it go through one ear and out the other and I'll punish him by tickling him. It's often in these moods when he says "we need to find you another husband" and "I'm really sorry for you that you have to be stuck with me." He often lies a lot in the manic phase, about
even the smallest things (for ex he'll say he doesn't like his FAVORITE meal while eating it...etc). What is the best routine for dealing with this phase as well?
3) When are the best times to speak to him about
possible therapy, or
opening up to him about
this disorder? There are times when he reaches out and says "I don't know what's wrong with me", or "I have a chemical imbalance" or "I really need to see a shrink." And there are other times, like when he's depressed or manic, where he will completely deny everything I say to him and insist that he is perfectly fine (as he lay on my floor in the fetal position, crying, and talking about
breaking up with the woman of his dreams). I would assume the best time to address issues is when he himself
opens up about
them, and to remain silent about
them when he is in manic or depressive stage? Perhaps in the latter stages we need to simply listen to our partners, even if its nonsense, and let them spit it all out and just try not to internalize it or take it too personal or serious and then keep reassuring them?
4) When my fiance goes into one of his bad moods and wants space, is it OK to text him or call him perhaps once a day just to make sure he's OK? What are the best things to say? Should I just be upbeat and pretend all is OK and just try to get him to talk? This has been what I've been doing so far.
Also, if there are any of you who'd like to keep in touch by email, please let me know... I could sure use some friends who know what I'm going through.