I have Bipolar I with Psychotic Features. I do not always perceive what is real or true, and what my own warped mind has fabricated. I get angry at things most “normal” people would brush off, I get combative when I feel I am being attacked, I experience extreme changes in mood, and the list could go on forever.
My husband is a chronic depressive (not diagnosed) who is constantly harping on me about my illness, and how everything revolves around me. He complains that no one cares about him myself included. I ask him what is bothering him, and he either tells me that nothing is wrong, or he will start talking, and in the end, it is inevitably me who is causing all his problems. I will admit to taking out past frustrations on him, and nobody deserves that. However, there are things he does in the present that have caused arguments as well. He is in nearly complete denial about his depression. He calls it “being out of it.” Call it what you like, he is depressed. I know it when I see it; I have spent most of life that way.
Currently, our marriage is barreling downhill at an astonishing pace. He sleeps on the sofa downstairs, and I sleep in the bed. This has been the arrangement for several months now. He will not talk to me, and when he does the conversation invariably turns to “No one thinks about me, they only think of you.” They are my family. Of course they have my interests at heart; and he has made more than a few mistakes in this marriage and with my family that have caused them to be somewhat against him. He feels entitled to all the attention I “get”.
When he does speak, it is almost a given that my having Bipolar disorder will become the focus of the conversation. I do not think about having Bipolar very often. I have had it for decades. My meds are like taking an aspirin for a headache. I just do not think about it that much. I do monitor my self with regards to mood, anxiety level, etc. so that my psychiatrist can adjust my medication accordingly. He is the one that always brings it up, usually in relation to two other Bipolar women he’s known. He just doesn’t see that I am not them, that Bipolar manifests differently in every person diagnosed. Some are very high functioning, and some are not. I tend to be relatively high functioning (most of the time), so I do not understand some of his criticisms of me. I think it’s transferrence or projection of his feelings onto me. I am the mirror of his own illness; it is easier for him to look at me and project his feelings onto me because I am a diagnosed Manic Depressive than to look at himself and realize that he is depressed and not functioning very well.
For myself, I try not to let his mood get in my way. It is so easy for a Bipolar or anyone, for that matter, to start to feed off the feelings of someone close to them. However, for the Bipolar individual, it is even more important to not allow someone else’s feelings about themselves become your problem. As far as I am concerned, I have to look out for my health first because if I go down the rabbit hole with him, there is nobody to take care of daily household business. That, and Bipolars have a very high suicide rate, both completed and attempted. So, when I get too stressed or feel myself sliding down the rabbit hole for tea with the Mad Hatter, I become concerned because I do have attempts in my past, and the thought will flicker briefly every day that being dead would be easier.
It is difficult enough for a relationship to flourish when one party has Mental Health issues, but when both parties have mental health problems, it becomes survival oriented, communication breaks down as the depressed person becomes more withdrawn and the Bipolar half starts to cycle rapidly through episodes. I have a tendency to think everything is my fault, so when he goes off on one of little journeys, I am often left wondering, “What did I do or didn’t do?” The question drives me nuts. He will claim it has nothing to do with me, but it generally is some oversight on my part. Basically, I am left holding the bag for everything that goes wrong. He won’t even admit to himself that maybe his own problems with depression may be having a negative effect on the relationship. Nope, it is always my manic depression. This type of relationship where both parties have a mental issue doesn’t go very far. It can’t because it always in survival mode; it takes a lot of work to make a relationship like this work. One has to have basic respect and compassion for the other, otherwise it will end as one or the other begins to feel that they need to protect their sanity.