Why Is Bipolar Marriage Help Always About the Bipolar Husband or Wife?

I guess my article for today is more like a rant.

Why is it whenever you see an article or video for help with your bipolar marriage, the help is always about supporting your bipolar husband or bipolar wife? When do you get help for the marital challenges you’re facing?

PLEASE! Don’t everyone reading this rant leave me a comment on this blog post telling me how insensitive I am, how uncaring, how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I absolutely do know what I’m talking about, and I commend Dr. Art Bowler on his fine advice in this video. Keeping a diary of your bipolar husband’s or bipolar wife’s mood swings is an excellent way to provide factual (as opposed to emotional) feedback to your spouse’s psychiatrist.

After all, you are living with your spouse everyday, while your spouse’s p-doc sees him in person only 50 minutes maybe–what?–twice a year (barring any emergencies, God forbid).

In a bipolar marriage, someone has to be the detail-oriented or focused person to keep track of important medical information. Typically, this falls into the pile of responsibilities the well spouse takes on. No problem.

But for those of us who have a bipolar husband or bipolar wife, doing all the “shoulds” recommended by doctors, psychologists, self-help books, friends and family, can result in a full-time job caring for your sick spouse. (Actually, some months it’s even more than a full-time job.)

My rant is not about whether you should be a caregiver for your bipolar spouse. Of course you should! That’s what marriage is all about, taking care of one another.

My rant is that no one ever gives any bipolar marital advice on how to help the well spouse in a bipolar marriage (only how to help the sick spouse!) With all the bipolar marriages out there, there must be a lot of proven tips that could really help couples trying to make a bipolar marriage work.

Let’s think past all the bipolar marriage barriers.

First of all, the psychiatrist is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality not to disclose any information to you without your bipolar spouse’s permission. That permission may or may not be forthcoming. So already, you’re operating half in the dark when you must make caregiver decisions that affect your entire family.

When things are as bad as they can be, and you have no spouse to discuss a problem with (because the spouse IS the problem), how can you be sure your decision making is as good as it can be? Where do you go for help?

Of course, getting your own counselor is not a bad idea. At least a professional will have some idea of the responsibilities you have and the multiple layers of consideration you face.

And sometimes a bipolar spousal support group can be helpful. You can find excellent bipolar support groups through NAMI. Unfortunately, many times they only have “general” bipolar support groups, so you end up meeting with those who have bipolar parents, siblings and children. Their life experiences are very different than getting support from another spouse of a bipolar husbands or bipolar wife.

Do you have any tips, forums or websites where you’ve found help for you to make your bipolar marriage run more smoothly? Please leave me a comment below with your advice.

How to Help Your Bipolar Spouse — powered by eHow.com

Bipolar Husband – Bipolar Wife – Help with Bipolar Marriage

Why My Marriage To a Bipolar Husband
Qualified Me To Write a Best-Seller
on Being “Married To Mania”

…And Why the Bipolar Support Groups
Don’t Want You To Read My True Story

After 15 years of marriage to a bipolar husband, I wanted to help other spouses who were married to bipolar husbands and wives get answers they’d never hear from the professional mental health community. So I wrote a book that became a best-seller among spouses married to a bipolar husband or bipolar wife.

In doing so, I drew criticism from the “experts” because I was honest and realistic about bipolar marriage. As of now, my bipolar marriage book, “Married To Mania,” has sold in more than 38 countries and I continue to get positive feedback, like this note from Lynn in Michigan:

“I received the book yesterday, and have read it through twice already. There are no words for me to describe the level of emotions evoked through reading this information…sadness, awareness, shock, disbelief (are those all denial?) just an over-all unsettling feeling at the enormity of the situation I am in being ‘married to mania,’ and also the relief that there is someone else out there that “gets it”.

I have been married for almost 20 years, and all those ‘personality quirks’ and challenging times that we’ve had–well, I was clueless…..substance abuse has always been there, and my husband went to treatment 2 1/2 years ago, and was, for the first time, diagnosed as bipolar. We had a great two years, until (I didn’t realize he had quit taking medication) and he went into the first several day, non-alcohol induced manic phase that nearly did blow the roof off of our home, and we have 4 beautiful children!
What a relief to know I’m not alone. But now that denial is creeping away, I am in the grieving process, and stunned to the point of caution and apprehension for the next move. Thank you for writing “Married to Mania” and for providing this tool.”

This Is How My Book About Bipolar Husbands and Bipolar Wives Came To Be

I didn’t have medical credentials to write “Married To Mania.” But after 15 years of marriage to a man who was the most important person in my life, I was motivated to stay married, and was looking for all the answers I could find to do so. In my darkest, most hopeless hours of coping with my husband’s bipolar disorder, when I tried to reach out for information and help, I didn’t find many options. Most bipolar support groups are created for parents. Or they are for adults coping with a parent’s or a sibling’s illness. In the many support groups I attended over the years, I rarely met spouses.

Spouses are overlooked and under served in the bipolar treatment world. We’re continually uncertaint about whether our emotional needs are more or less important the needs of our bipolar spouse. If we choose our own emotional needs first (how selfish!), we often punish ourselves with guilt, then anger toward our spouse. Inevitably, that creates new problems for the marriage. But if we choose to put our spouse’s emotional, physical and mental health needs ahead of ours-—after all, they’re the sick one—who we get to be in life is a little more diminished. The choices are hard and always agonizing. A spouse is alone in coping with her bipolar husband or his bipolar wife.

Besides managing doctor visits, medications, decisions on whether to hospitalize or not, a spouse also has to fight to have a tenable relationship, which has turned out to be so very different than we originally expected. The line between partner and caregiver is thin and often non-existent. It can make for a lonely, if not devastating life.

You cannot share your feelings with your spouse; he’s the sick one and the cause of your distress! Your parents are empty nesters; you don’t want to burden them with your problems. And siblings have their own families to worry about. Unless your friends have mental illness in their families, they’re not going to understand what you are going through, and your spouse may not want you violating his privacy to share the details anyway. The pressures on us from friends, family and professionals can be unrelenting as well. It’s not supportive or even sensitive to be asked why you stay in your marriage or have it implied that it’s your duty to do so.

Bipolar spouses run roughshod over relationships. The divorce rate with bipolar disorder is two to three times higher than in the general population. When I did find a “spouse’s support group,” there was one man (divorced) and 16 women. A third of the women had husbands living in their basements as recluses, incapable of holding a job or contributing financially or emotionally to their family life; a third were divorced from violent men who beat them or were unstable and emotionally abusive to them or to their children; and a third were widows—their husbands had committed suicide. (The suicide rate for Bi Polars is 12 times higher than the “normal” population.)

Everyone in this support group thought I was in denial for having a goal to stay married. So I didn’t go back. Some help isn’t help. But I felt more isolated than ever. I just knew there had to be a “happy medium” somewhere that would allow me to “live life on purpose,” despite the unfair hand I was dealt in love and marriage. I knew there had to be better choices than living with bipolar chaos and avoiding emotional mine fields everyday.

So I set my sights on finding out my own answers, constructing a plan to take charge of my life, to retain control of my life’s goals and to discover concrete ideas for handling unexpected mood swings, uncontrollable outbursts of anger, inevitable guilt and remorse (mine and his!), and the emotions accompanying the realization that my life partner was no longer the one I married anymore.

Click To Continue

Bipolar Husband – Bipolar Wife – Help with Bipolar Marriage

The Story Behind the Book About Marriage
To a Bipolar Husband or Bipolar Wife
The Bi polar Support Groups
Don't Want You To Read (con't)

How To Be "Married To Mania"

It was a tough education. I had to learn tips for dealing with the medical and insurance establishments without second-guessing myself. They are decidedly not on your side. I had to accept going to counseling for me because my bipolar husband's psychiatrist wasn't going to be there with me when a bipolar episode occurred and my bipolar husgand was screaming at me uncontrollably for no reason, went on a wild spending spree squandering our future or became obsessed with other women or internet pornography.

His bipolar psychiatrist wouldn't help me decide whether to call the police or the mental hospital admissions desk. He couldn't be there everyday to help me figure out what to say and what not to say to the children or tell me how to explain what was wrong dad, and how it wasn't their fault.

I had to learn how to be “Married To Mania” but still make critical decisions everyday that took my bipolar husband's best interests into account without eradicating my morale and self-esteem in the process. I had to dig deep to learn how to still be me, the good person I know I was who didn't deserve any of this.

How To Be a Better Spouse To a Bi Polar Husband or Bipolar Wife

And after 2 years of research, I finished my book. I made sure to cover life-tested and proven strategies to help husbands and wives married to bipolar spouses become a stronger people and better spouses, despite the odds stacked against us. I wrote about how to take a mental-health break every now and then to appreciate the unexpected good days. And then how to jump back into your flak jacket, switch off the memory bank and turn up the force field when “reality” hits again.

All I wanted to do was help other husbands and wives learn to take care of themselves, cope with their mentally ill partner and sometimes to flourish in marriage made more challenging by mental illness. I wrote the book to help spouses in a bipolar marriage find the strength to merge two seemingly impossible objectives: staying married and taking charge of your own life (instead of waiting to see what your partner’s mood is before deciding what yours will be that day). I even discuss how to make the decision and gain the strength to leave.

I am very proud of my book, and it has sold well to its intended audience. But a funny thing happened on my way to "giving back." I sent emails offering review copies to all the major mental health organizations. I asked them if they'd review my book and then help me promote it to the spouses of the bipolar consumers they were helping. In exchange, I'd donate a percentage of every sale to their organization.

Rejected by the Bipolar Helping Establishment – Not There To Support Those
Married to a Bipolar Husband or Bi polar Wife

I was turned down by 100% of the bipolar disorder groups I approached. The general consensus was that my book was "too negative" or "not supportive." I had to laugh. I had been nothing, if not supportive, for more than 15 years. In fact, here's what one Executive Director wrote to me,

"Thanks for the opportunity to review your book, 'Married to Mania.' While it has some excellent material, we are not willing to put it on our website at this time. Some of our concerns unfortunately outweigh the many good parts. While we value your telling of your personal experiences, we want to foster Recovery, which is a reality for most persons with mental illnesses."

Of course they want to foster recovery–that's what they're mandated to do. The target market for this book isn't the bipolar husband or the bipolar wife! It's for the spouse of the bipolar husband and bipolar wife! The book is for the spouse who's married to a bipolar and who is about to fall apart, unraveling the last thread of support holding the family together!

The bipolar support industry totally missed my entire point. Here was a valuable resource that I'd searched for and couldn't find. A resource that an established organization could easily make available for the #1 supportive person in a bipolar husband's or bipolar wife's life…the one who was in daily charge of a bipolar husband's or wife's emotional, physical and mental stability. Take that person out of the equation, and the whole family dynamic falls apart. Wasn't that worth supporting, too? Or does only a sick person deserve help?

But, you know what? After I got over my anger, I realized: I really did have a best-seller! But I was pitching it to the wrong audience. I had to pitch my book to husbands and wives of bipolar spouses who know hope exists, but they weren't able to find it.

So if you're trying to make a bipolar marriage or a bipolar relationship work, then you're already familiar with the Bipolar Husband (or Bipolar Wife) Trifecta: Diagnosis, treatment and denial. You might find some life-changing nuggets in "Married To Mania." Because if you can’t live by the old saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” then I advise you not to take the trip.

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