While yesterday's post was about spousal/partner support, Josh wrote a comment, which made me realize that I should also write about spousal/partner lack of support. While I don't know about this first-hand, I do know what it's like to be deserted by other family members and friends. And it's terribly disappointing and painful.
I would imagine it's just devastating to have an illness that is as horrific as bipolar mood disorder, clinical depression, or seasonal affective disorder, and feel that your spouse/partner isn't supportive.
In fact, I have an acquaintance who divorced her husband because he is bipolar and she was tired of having him live off disability, sleep a lot of the time, and show no initiative in changing his situation. Since I heard about his situation through his mother-in-law--who was a friend of my mother's--there wasn't much I could say.
Had the BIP's wife been a friend of mine, I would have told her how horrific depressions feel and how difficult it is to survive them. I would have explained how difficult it is to work when you're constantly struck by depressive episodes. I would have asked what kind of help and support her husband was getting from his doctor, and perhaps have suggested other wellness activities.
I did tell my mother's friend that I would be happy to talk to her son-in-law or daughter, but I got the impression they wouldn't call me or email me, and they didn't. It seemed like the BIP's illness wasn't something they publicly talked about.
And this isn't the first time I've offered to help people who won't seek help. I once met a woman in a manicure shop whose grandson had been diagnosed as bipolar. We spent an hour talking about the illness and I offered to discuss things with her grandson and/or his mother. This woman, who so loved her grandson and felt so happy that I could provide hope, sadly said she didn't think her daughter would call me. And the woman didn't. Again, it wasn't something this family publicly discussed.
Josh, in terms of your situation, I don't know what to tell you. My husband and I had been married for many years before I was diagnosed as bipolar. For much of our relationship I was only depressed for two six-week episodes each year, and I was well enough to work even though I didn't feel well.
For most of our marriage, I was able to plan our social life and participate in it, travel, and assume marital and family obligations. Even during my six-week depressions, I was able to go out at night, share household responsibilities, and spend fun weekends with my husband.
I wasn't diagnosed until our son was five-years-old. But once I was diagnosed and went on medication, everything changed. Since I've written about this before, I won't repeat it here.
I believe that one of the reasons my husband stood by me is because that's just the kind of person he is. But, I also believe he knew that there wasn't anyone who tried harder than I did to achieve wellness. Also, I tried very hard to remain upbeat--even when I was personally devastated. I always tried to hide the worst of my illness from our son so that he didn't feel he was living in an "ill" household, or that his mother was "mentally ill."
My husband knew I would do everything possible to take care of our son to my fullest ability. And he knew that I hated canceling plans as much as he did, that I would try to socialize, try to participate in family events and holidays, and that as soon as I was well, I worked as hard as I could to get freelance grant writing assignments, and financially contribute.
I'm not sure if there are different dynamics when it's the husband who's ill, rather than the wife. Since I don't know you, I have no idea what your marriage was like before your illness. These are both important questions.
I guess if I had any advice to offer, I would suggest couples counseling. While I don't know anything about it, I would imagine that both of you need a therapist or counselor of some sort to open up lines of communication, and see if you can work this out. If any of my readers have advice, or have been in Josh's shoes, it would be nice to hear from you.
Josh, in the meantime, I believe there are sites for relatives of people who are bipolar. I'm not sure how helpful they are, but perhaps someone reading this can make recommendations.
I'm sorry you're not only having a tough time with this illness, but with your marriage as well. I truly hope that things get easier for you and your wife.