My husband’s bipolar disorder causes him uneven highs, where he has so many new ideas and goals that he can’t even keep track of them all. But he also faces extreme lows, that can be gut-wrenching as if he’s been hit by a wrecking ball. He can’t go to work; he can barely climb out of bed. It can be devastating to watch from the outside.
When it happens, I can see it on his face, that pensive yet lost stare into space. His words become fewer; his irritability, higher. He’s moody. I know it’s going to be another one of “those nights.”
My mind starts racing, stomach starts tightening, anxiety creeping in. Fear, worry, frustration, empathy, understanding, loneliness and a bit of anger — these are some of the feelings that race through me during my husband’s depressive episodes.
He’s closed off and communication shuts down. He doesn’t feel well. He tells me his heart is racing, he has a blinding headache and dark thoughts are creeping in. He takes his medication and goes up to our room. He undresses and gets into bed; curls up under the covers. He tells me he feels really sad, but doesn’t know why.
I bring him some water and ibuprofen for the headache. I try to talk to him. I try to understand, but nothing I say is helping. In fact, I think it’s making the situation worse. I give him his space and hope he will be okay. I pray things never get to that point again — that dark, low point where he doesn’t want to look forward. The point where I knew he needed help, and if I didn’t act fast and seek emergency services, there could be no tomorrow for him. I become scared, and I hope this episode passes and tomorrow morning he will feel better.
Why does life have to be so hard? Can’t we enjoy our life together? We have our three beautiful children, our new house, the upcoming weekend. The big things, the little things. I just want to shake him sometimes. Please snap out of this, there are so many blessings in our life! But my rational mind knows he cannot control it, and he doesn’t want to feel this way. I remind myself that this is something I can never fully understand. It is hard.
As much as we don’t want it to be true, there is still a certain stigma surrounding mental health. Because of this, we keep his battle private. I don’t talk to anyone about these episodes that are so very real and scary. He doesn’t want to involve family, friends or co-workers. I feel very alone during these episodes of depression my husband goes through. I feel like I shouldn’t even be writing this down.
It’s extremely difficult watching someone you love struggle so deeply. I want to save him; I want to help him. I want to pull him out from the depths of the depression, but I know it doesn’t work that way. When he wants to talk, we talk. The nights when he’s not in the midst of an episode, and after the kids are tucked in bed, we’ll make some herbal tea and sit and talk about our work day, our feelings and moods.
He’s very open and upfront when he’s doing okay. We’ll discuss issues or problems through. I’ll offer advice or my opinion if he wants it and he does the same for me. When we do this, we have a deeper understanding on what is going in each other’s lives and a better appreciation for each other.
He’s been extremely courageous, wanting to battle his recent Bipolar II diagnosis head on. He was willingly admitted into a behavioral health facility, participated in group and individual therapies, continues to take the appropriate medication since his diagnosis, and uses new coping mechanisms to help himself through manic and depressive episodes. I am so proud of him for this. I am overwhelmingly in awe of his bravery. If I was in the same situation, I don’t know if I could take these gigantic steps forward to get better.
I’m trying to be the best support system I can be for my husband while working full time and being a mother of three sweet babies. I feel like I’m failing sometimes, trying to keep the household together, trying to be a good wife and mom. I want to be as supportive as possible, but I don’t want to lose myself in the process.
For now, it’s day by day, one step at a time through this wary and winding journey of emotions.
K. Kelly is currently working on her master’s degree in English and Creative Writing. She has her bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of New Hampshire and her PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. She works full-time, is a mother of three children and enjoys spending time with her family, writing and attending rock concerts.