This is one of the many posts that are on this website that is an online support group from the Depression/Bipolar Support Association. I found it to be an excellent place for advice and comfort. I have only been on it for about a week. But in that time I was crying a lot and grieving the loss of the way my husband used to be and will most likely not be again. But I have also found that there are others out there with Bipolar and thier spouses that have hung in there and able to make their marriages work. I am so happy to have this now and wanted to share it.
My process of finding my way through all of the crap from the last few months has been difficult. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I expect to still have bad days and good days like anyone else. But overall I think there will be more good ones.
Pointers to Help a Spouse Live with Mental Illness
...by Denise Delorie, Affiliate Co-ordinator, NAMI Maine
The mental illness your spouse suffers with is something that is happening to your entire family. All are affected and it is nobody's fault. It is not your fault, your spouse's or your children's fault. It is an unfortunate illness.
You cannot fix your spouse. There is nothing you can do to make him or her well, so don't feel compelled to try. What you can do is be supportive, loving and handling the everyday details and practical issues of life that he or she cannot cope with.
All members of the family have a responsibility to cope with the illness. Escape is not a helpful way of dealing with crisis. You all need each other.
The ill spouse must recognize and accept the illness, be willing to receive treatment, and if possible, learn to manage the illness. If the ill spouse is not willing to do these things, it may become impossible for the family to continue to support him or her. The family is not required to throw away their own lives for someone who refuses to cooperate. There are limits and they must be enforced without feelings of guilt.
Educate yourself concerning every aspect of the illness. Education brings compassion. Ignorance just encourages anger and fear.
Grieve your loss. It is a great loss. You need to allow yourself the time and energy to experience the entire process of grieving.
Get help for yourself to cope with this incredible challenge, either from your own counselor or a NAMI support group. You can't do it alone. Don't refuse to recognize your own need for help, just because the ill spouse is getting most of the attention.
Help your children understand the illness as much as their age allows. NO FAMILY SECRETS. Don't deny them the opportunity to learn about the illness, the unfair stigma attached to it, and developing their own skills in coping. It can be an incredible learning opportunity for them. If they need proof and help to understand it and their own feelings, get it for them.
Try to create a safe environment for the spouse to express himself/herself without feeling threatened, constrained or condemned. He or she desperately needs a nurturing, safe place to express the incredible frustration he or she is feeling about coping with mental illness.
You and your children need to share your feelings, honestly and openly. It's okay to feel angry and cheated. At times you may feel embarrassed by the ill spouse's behavior, avoid trying to protect your spouse by not discussing the problem with family or friends. Don't require your children to conspire with you in a code of "family secrecy." Family secrets will only isolate you from others. Remember that small children, by their very nature, assume that they are responsible for anything in their environment that goes wrong.
Never put yourself or your children in physical danger. If you sense your spouse is becoming dangerous, you should leave and call for professional help. You should never tolerate abuse of you or your children. Trust your instincts and intuitions on this one. Say, "no way" and mean it.
Become your spouse's advocate with the medical professionals, assertively involved in his treatment and medications. If the medical professional or psychiatrist won't cooperate with you, demand a different one! Treatment should involve the entire family, so find a professional who will work with the whole family. You know more about your spouse's illness than anyone else. Trust your instincts.
Coldly assess what your spouse can and cannot handle, the compensate assertively. Some people with mental illness cannot handle money, some household chores, time commitments and too much stress. You must not do things for your spouse that he or she can do for themselves. Don't rob him or her of their dignity.
Maintain your own identity; resist becoming consumed with your spouse's illness. Life goes on. You have an obligation to yourself and your children to take care of yourself and meet your own needs. You all must continue to develop your own interests and talents. You are a valuable human being, so don't play the martyr role and sacrifice yourself. That's just self pity. "Get a life."
Always hope for healing. The medications do work and new ones are being developed. You may get your spouse back whole some day. If nothing else, the experience will broaden and deepen you in ways you never imagined. Or, you can choose to let it destroy you, your family and your marriage. It is your choice.
Keep in mind that bad things happen to good people and you're no exception. You have not been singled out for a special persecution. Trying to make good choices in life won't protect you from misfortune. You haven't been "dumb" to "get yourself in this situation." It is not your fault. Life is not easy, we have to take what we get and make the best of it.