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I need greater understanding of why my wife's 36 yrs. of Bipolar mania causes her to turn against me and our marriage.

By Anonymous March 17, 2009 - 10:05am
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I'm desperately wanting to know why my wife (age 56), during manic episodes, turns against me (and other family members), and becomes so extremely negative about our marriage.
She threatens/promises divorce, seizes control of bank accts, separates herself from me in various ways, etc. She is presently hospitalized with another manic episode, and I am trying to cope with all the usual challenges, and with any and all unknowns.
I will appreciate your references to any and all printed information which might provide me (and her when well) with tools to be used to better understand and cope with this devastating disease and the many inherent challenges.
Very Sincerely,
Lynn D. Shank

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EmpowHER Guest

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder four years ago and it has been extremely difficult getting it under control. But now I lead a normal, HAPPY life.

I had to change psychiatrist four times....and try numerous drug combinations...and psychoanalysis before I cracked it. The improvement is remarkable and it has transformed my life. My new and final psychiatrist is BRILLIANT.

My main thought regarding your wife is that her illness is not being treated properly.

My advice to you is that you must KEEP GOING (and, yes, this is hard) until you and your wife find a psychiatrist who can get her on the road to recovery.

Her Bipolar does not have to ruin her life. It is very treatable.

ps: My mother also has Bipolar and she also has it under control. Her illness has given my Dad a lot of headaches over the years but the Bipolar is now stabilised. My mother works and has a full and normal life. They have been married 42 years.

June 4, 2009 - 1:32am
(reply to Anonymous)

JH, this is wonderful news. Bipolar disorder can be crippling to people, and it's so good to hear from a person who believed that things could be better.

I wonder if you could write a little bit about the time you spent changing psychiatrists and trying medicines. For instance, how long were you with each doctor? How long would you try a medicine or a combination of medicines until you asked for something else?

What sort of things did you start to notice once you clicked into the right combination of meds and doctors?

I'm hoping you can give our bipolar readers a bit of a roadmap. If they aren't naturally assertive, they may find it difficult to push, push, push for better care for themselves. Perhaps some tips from you will be inspiration to them.

Thanks for writing. So good to hear how well you and your mother are doing!

June 4, 2009 - 8:07am

Lynn, in addition to the excellent information Alison and Kristen gave you, I might ask if you have ever visited a bipolar chat room?

Sometimes one of the most helpful things is to just know you aren't alone, that there are many people dealing with the same thing you are. A sense of shared experience and true empathy goes a long way on a tough day; you can see how others deal with the same thing you deal with, and not feel so lost or alone in your struggle.

Here is one excellent, well-moderated chat with four rooms that schedule either different topics or just chatting (you register a name and password):


And here's another, which also offers resources and "survival info":


And one more. This is a page for family members:


I admire you for seeking information, for working to make things better and for trying to understand more about the condition. Please let us know what else we can do to help.

March 20, 2009 - 8:20am

Hi, Lynn,

I just want to add to Alison's great posts that there's a wonderful organization called NARSAD, which is the world's leading charity dedicated to mental health research. EmpowHer is a big advocate of this organization, which does amazing work and also provides excellent educational info and resources. Here's a page on their site dedicated to bipolar disorder: http://www.narsad.org/dc/bipolar_disorder/index.html They also provide an info line at: 800-829-8289 or info@narsad.org.

I personally have a lot of experience with bipolar disorder, as one of my parents has it. My childhood was a little crazy a result, and I felt many times like I was living on a roller coaster. Bipolar disorder is insidious in that it not only impacts the person suffering from it, but the loved ones surrounding that person. When I was a kid, I didn't know any differently -- I thought my experience with a parent who would be happy with me one minute and cruel to me the next was totally normal. As I got older, I thought I was the one who was mentally ill! I really feel for you and your family.

March 18, 2009 - 3:25pm

Hi Lynn,

One of my go-to resources on mental illness is the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and they have some great information on bipolar that you can read here.

As you know, "Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives."

What you describe as your wife's turning against you and the marriage in many ways is essentially the definition of bipolar. The good news, is that there is treatment for her, and resources/support for you.

Since your wife has had this disease for more than three decades, I do not want to provide you with simple lists of symptoms; you know them very well, I presume. The link above is just the beginning of what can explain the reasons behind bipolar, as well as the treatment options and clinical studies available. What treatment(s) has she already tried?

What can I provide you, as far as information? If you would like to tell me what city/state you live in (you can send me a private message as well), I can look up support groups and resources for you; it sounds as though you would like to connect with people and understand the "why" behind this from a social perspective, rather than my providing you a litany of website resources. I can do some research for you, as far as treatment options (traditional and/or alternative), clinical trials, support groups. I can provide more information about bipolar itself, but again, I assume you know most of this information already??

I hope to hear from you soon.

March 17, 2009 - 1:42pm

Hi Lynn,

I am so sorry that you are going through this, but am happy to hear that your wife is receiving help.

I will do some research, and get back to your shortly. In the meantime, I'm wondering if you have gone to counseling (with and without your wife), and/or are interested in a support group? There are many other couples who are coping with these same scenarios that you described, and as you mentioned, it is part of this devastating disease.

Take care, and I will talk with you again soon,
Alison B.

March 17, 2009 - 1:11pm
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