Birgit: Husband with Bipolar

Posted October 2, 2011

I was married to a bipolar man for almost 30 years. Yes I say “was,” because in March of this year 2011 he was drinking heavily and decided he did not like my being on the internet with my supposed “lovers” and he assaulted me.

When we first married I knew he had bipolar disorder though at the time I did not understand what that all entailed. Just before we married he was hospitalized, for me the first time, for him, well he had spent time in hospital before. Three major suicide attempts put him there. He was at the time given lithium. As with so many, he at some point decided he didn’t need to stay on it and stopped. His family history is riddled with BP and so much more. He came from a very domestic violent history. Before we married I told him I would not stay if he got physical with me and up until March he kept himself in check.

When I was in the hospital giving birth to our first my son, he had an episode. I was totally unable to help him because I was helpless trying to give birth. Shortly after that, he accused me of having an affair and passing off someone else’s child as his. That was so not true. I loved my husband, and to me marriage meant everything… how seriously naive of me.

I saw him many times so psychotic it was scary. Rapid cycling BP can be very frightening. He also had delusions of grandeur, flashbacks from his heavy drug days, paranoia, voices inside him, the whole ball of BP wax. I became conditioned to try to hide anything and everything that would cause him stress because at that point I didn’t know what else to do. So I took control of everything, had to survive; otherwise, his spending habits would have killed us for sure. He tried to maintain employment and for some time was able to do that with a very good job, but unfortunately he got into alcohol more and more, taking his meds less and less and eventually he said he could not go on in that job and left it. In the meantime my daughter was born as well.

Trying to raise 2 children virtually alone because he went to work in the mornings and most often did not come home till very late because he was in the bar drinking was so difficult. I also had to try to figure out if he was taking his meds regularly which became another full time job for me. He called me his psychic cop, because at first it seemed reasonably easy to spot when he wasn’t taking them and I could talk him into getting back on them.

Through it all I was also still battling with money issues that he had caused so I was working outside the home too.

When the kids were little it was a bit easier they didn’t cause him much stress until they got older and he started in especially on my son. My son was a quiet little boy and my husband felt he needed smartening up and toughening up so he would say horrible things to him to get him to act more like how his dad was when he was younger. Wow, that led to some pretty scary moments for all of us and my son to this day is still having to deal with the emotional abuse piled on him at such an early age. (He now has been diagnosed with borderline BP and eventually became addicted to cocaine, as well, in an attempt to do what many do and that is self-medicate)

Several times my husband was admitted for drug and alcohol abuse. He is an alcoholic for sure.

I started to live a very secret life. How can you talk to people that do not understand all this? Many people advised that I leave with the kids but financially I had no chance to do that. I was too proud for welfare and I realize I should have run as fast as my legs could to try to save the kids and myself.

We kept on the merry-go-round, and now I know how much damage was done to both my kids and myself. Hindsight is a nasty thing.

The anger, the verbal abuse, the manipulation, the emotional abuse was sometimes in the extreme. He threatened to leave me several times through the years because he believed that I had the problems not him. Even his mother said his problems started with me though she was always the one to find him after another suicide attempt, and that was before he met me.

Each time he was hospitalized I had hope, hope that things would get better as they sometimes do with age and understanding but he had no willingness to stay on his meds ever and he just got better and better at hiding that from me until he lost control completely and once again I had to step in and get him sorted out.

Well time went on and sometimes things were better for some time and sometimes not so much. I think I developed a tolerance for what was going on with him. I don’t know, because I had so much on my plate with kids and work and home. No friends to talk to because he discouraged that. I was to cook and clean and he was to be my sole focus. Any outside interest I had he would attempt to squash because it took attention away from him. I used to be an avid reader and now I find it hard to pick up a book.

Eventually he was hospitalized again, and the doctors changed him from lithium to Tegretol (carbemazepine). He started to go toxic on the lithium. Well the Tegretol seemed to work for a time but still the alcohol and weed he smoked were there. If I said anything it became a huge war. I didn’t know what to do. I am not a group help sort of person, so I had to wing it.

As time went on, I began to lose hope, I was losing feeling for him in a major way and that scared me a lot. I was never the kind of person to give up. He at first was such a charming man, and I fell for him in a big way. He had intimacy issues and having to ask for a hug or affection was becoming something I didn’t even want to do anymore. Sex, well that was never great between us, but marriage to me wasn’t supposed to be just about sex either.

In February of last year I planned for us to take a cruise. My thoughts were to try to rekindle, to reconnect somehow with my husband. We both looked very forward to this trip, I had everything all planned out – horseback riding on the beach, swimming with the dolphins, all sorts of dream vacation stuff. It started out beautifully. Purely coincidence, but his nephew was also on board with the company and clients that he worked for. Well it became a drink fest, and about three days in I made the mistake of saying to my husband after hours spent in a bar and many beers for him, “Hun I thought that was your last beer.” Well, we left the bar, went back to the cabin, and he totally flipped on me. Threw furniture around the room and got right in my face screaming, “How could you say that, how could you embarrass me like that in front of the one person that means more to me than you or the kids do?” Well, at that point, I thought of throwing myself overboard. Here we had days still to get through and all I wanted was off the boat. WE did make it through the rest of the cruise, though it was very strained to say the least.

When we returned home, he again blew up on me, and I came to the conclusion that I had to do something to save myself. It got so I couldn’t be around him, and if he touched me it would make me cringe. I had for a long time been online having a little fun with FB, a few games, simple stuff. I always had an interest in computers though little knowledge. I picked up a game that was a multiplayer online game where I played and chatted with people from all over the world. At the time, I so needed people to talk to – normal conversation, laughing, joking, that sort of thing. I was always a people person. I think it kept me from totally losing control of myself, helped me keep some of my sanity. When not playing, I tried to come to grips with what I knew had to happen – I had to leave him, because I was literally dying inside. He tried to control every aspect of my very existence, and I couldn’t go on anymore. I grieved and I grieved over the coming end, but I knew it had to be. I lost all hope. Kids grown and moving on, I couldn’t see myself taking care of him anymore. The drinking also was taking its toll – memory loss, his health was going downhill, the lack of ability to stay focused on a job, the daily anger. He didn’t have a short fuse, he had no fuse at all.

Every day I dreaded his coming home, a traffic snarl would set him off, but then at that point everything set him off. Once again, I tried to talk to him, but it was pointless. From his perspective, it was my problem, not his.

I feel so bad but sometimes. I wished he would have an accident and not come home. OMG I feel so guilty about that it makes me cry.

Anyways, one night after a fight between my husband and son, my son left and took himself to the hospital. He couldn’t deal with what was going on inside himself, and my husband’s usual response was “Well he’s not coming back to live in my house!” I spoke with my son on the phone at the hospital and I explained to him what his dad had said, and I knew his girlfriend was going to pick him up. I made the mistake of going online. My husband was drinking very heavily that night and he started to stalk me around the house shouting out “Yeah go play with your lovers!” A short time later, he came into the room where my computer is and grabbed me by the neck and balls up a fist. My reaction was OMG, he is going to hit me! He had my neck in a death grip, and I thought this is the end of me.

Well, he decided to hit the PC notebook that I had in my hand and totally destroyed it with one punch. Then he said he would do my desktop next. I told him he would never touch me again, and he just started laughing. Now, as most know BP’s don’t laugh a lot, it scared the daylights out of me, and I called the police and had him taken away. I had him charged with assault and a restraining order was placed on him. It is something that they do in Canada where I live. I was shell shocked for days after.

Court came, and the terms of probation were that he not contact me for a full year. Here I am six months later, the weight of so much anger and stress has been lifted off my shoulders and I am now starting to feel like I am a person again. He did think that we would get back together again but that is something I cannot do. He told my children that he is getting better for me, but I know that is not the case. He was court ordered into help for the alcohol and anger management also he was ordered to go to his doc for an evaluation mentally. I don’t believe he did anything for me; he had to it because of the courts. I tried for too long to get him to admit there was a problem, that help was needed, and he scoffed at that.

I no longer trust him and I know if we get back together again the same ugly merry-go-round will start over again. I lost all feeling for him, I don’t even hate him. I feel nothing for him now. To me that is so totally sad, 30 years of my life, my marriage, everything is gone, but I am hopeful once again that I may find a small piece of that happiness pie. I do find now that talking about this makes me feel better though I think sometimes my friends think I am losing it. Once I get talking it’s hard to stop. So many feelings need to come out, need to be expressed, things I bottled up for way too long. I can’t be held responsible for him anymore. I needed to take responsibility for myself. I have the right to a life too. With the help of some great friends both online and real life, I am putting myself back together again and it feels great. I know I made mistakes throughout but OMG I didn’t know, I just always thought that with love anything is possible and anything could be conquered. In this case I was wrong. I survived and I now will flourish again.

Thank you for this site and letting me post my story. I wish I would have had the Internet a long time ago, the info may have saved my life.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I hope God sends you peace.

  2. You and your kids endured a lot. I’m glad you had the courage to say he had to be held responsible for his actions, Live the best life you can, for you!

  3. This sounds like a harrowing experience but its so good to see that the disorder didnt destroy you completely, and you came back looking forward to the joy that will come without that burden. My father is bipolar, i love him, but he’s a headache. When its family you can force yourself through it, but personal relationships are so much harder, and you pulled through. its fantastic to see, an inspiration.

  4. Birgit,
    thank you for sharing this story… you are one of the strongest people I have ever read about. Your children are blessed to have you as their super mom. No one can ever take that away from you. I believe I am BP but have not sought treatement yet. Married with young kids and your story is an encouragement me to get more serious about facing this WAY before things develop into the nightmare examples you shared above. Stay strong and take care of yourself.

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