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The Struggle of a Significant Other

By

Updated June 20, 2006

Recently, my husband of almost 20 years was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. This was the time when our world suddenly crashed. Luckily for us, the story ends well, but the journey was tough and intense at times.

Last summer we started on some home renovation. My husband was very much into it working hard, fast and efficiently. Just about the same time, he got a job out of town. It was, according to him, the greatest job. During the week, he was working hard at his job and spending the weekend renovating. At this point, he also got an evening job.

Gradually some behaviors grew from subtle to more obvious, and more annoying. He started talking in very long speeches; he would get into a lot of activities but would get distracted a lot. He also tended to be more irritable for no obvious reason.

In late November, my husband called home and told me he thought he had been fired from his day job. He had an appointment and saw his psychiatrist (pdoc) on Monday and set another appointment for the following Monday. Then he went back out of town since he still had an evening job to attend to. However, a few days later, he called home again. He was fired from that job too.

The next Monday, he went to his pdoc appointment. Since, over the years, he had not reported everything to the doctor, I thought I should make sure the pdoc had information about the odd behavior at home. I had faxed the pdoc a letter stating some of the behaviors I had observed. There were six of them: irritability, talking a lot, talking in old English with an accent, doing a lot of things at once but easily distracted, making endless lists of things, and rapid mood swings. However, what was confusing me was that he was also very loving, very logical and even apologetic at times. That afternoon, I got a call from the secretary telling me that the pdoc had admitted my husband to the psychiatric ward. I was in shock. I had no idea what was going on. I called the ward and talked to my husband. He explained that the doctor had him involuntarily admitted but that it was a big misunderstanding. It was only going to be for 72 hours and then it would be all over. Finally, I managed to talk directly to the pdoc and he explained that my husband was showing signs of a manic episode - a completely new concept for me. I asked if it had anything to do with the fax I had sent, and he assured me that it only confirmed what he saw in his office during the last two appointments. He insisted he would have gone the same route even if I had not sent that fax.

That evening, I went to see my husband at the ward. He was very upset at the whole situation. He was also very upset at me for having sent a note to the pdoc without his knowledge. The more we talked, the more upset he’d get and the louder he’d get which was not his usual behavior. After about 20 minutes, he decided to leave and go back to his room. I stayed there, in shock, not having a clue what was going on. I just cried and cried alone in that interview room. Tons of questions were racing through my mind about his condition, our relationship, our future, the kids, his work, everything. And I had no answers and not even someone to ask the questions. Crying, questioning, doubting, feeling guilty became a daily events from that point, whether at work or at home.

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