The Flick of the Switch

November 20, 2008

I found this site like a lot of you by chance, just as I trawl the Internet looking for anything that can give me hope right now. I have never been one to put my problems “out there,” but here goes for the first time.

My wife of 11 years (she was in clinic on our 11th wedding anniversary) has bipolar. She was diagnosed about 4 years ago, but for the first year neither of us really bought into the fact and therefore spent a lot of time in ignorance. Our marriage had always been tempestuous (so much of that makes sense now), but an underlying love kept us on the straight and narrow more often than not. Eventually, she sought help 4 years ago and was put on some meds – I can’t remember which ones.

After a few months, she went to see the GP who took her of her mood stabilizer and left her on her anti-depressant. Within 4 months she had an affair (well two kisses) with a guy of 23 (at the time she was 34 and I was 35), attempted suicide on our daughter’s 3rd birthday, and ended up in clinic for 2 weeks as a result. That was my introduction to the damage that bipolar can do!

She left me and our 4 children for a month after that initial clinic admission in October 2005 (we were apart for our 8th wedding anniversary). Suddenly one day she asked me to go see her and she broke down and said she did not know what she was doing or why she was doing it and she needed help. My heart broke and we got back together – a decision I have never regretted – unfortunately it appears she has!

Over the last 3 years it appears that things have gotten worse. There have been many good things in our lives. An understanding of BPD has definitely improved our lives together, and there has been an increased level of both emotional and physical intimacy. My wife is, I am told, a depressive BP. So we both have to contend with long bouts of severe depression. At first I was extremely understanding of this, but over time my patience wore thin and I lost sight of the goal of “being there” for her and I feel guilty for that, The anger had gone from our relationship, and for that I was grateful, but what remained has been depression and mania.

Since the initial breakdown, she has had two manic phases pretty much on the anniversary of the diagnosis. Each time, we have gotten through it. The worst I have had to put up with is some mildly inappropriate behavior from her with strangers in night clubs. I always accompany her even though it’s not my thing, as someone needs to keep and eye on her and friends just don’t get it and what alcohol can do to her and her judgment. During this time she had intermittent therapy on an as-she-needed-it basis, but she was not always the best judge as to when that was needed. She found out under hypnosis that she had been sexually abused at 6 years old by a family friend. This, coupled with the fact that she was date raped in her teens, forced her to come to terms with some difficult stuff. She has referred to our reconciliation of 2005 as a “switch being flicked,” and she suddenly could no longer see things the way she had been viewing them.

Something happened in the early part of 2008 of which I am extremely ashamed and I have definitely never put this out there before. My wife and I were partying with another couple whom we had recently discovered were swingers. One night, things accompanied by excessive alcohol went a little far, and suffice to say she ended up naked on a table being massaged by another naked guy and his equally naked wife. I, in my befuddled state, made an inappropriate sexual advance on her (my wife that is). She went absolutely ballistic, hit and scratched me and declared that that was it, the marriage was over. She did not talk to me for 2 weeks and we even had the dramatic scene during which all my clothes were thrown out of the house into the garden.

We sought couples therapy and ostensibly got over what had happened. I apologized profusely, but did ask her to accept that she had played a small part in things getting to the point where I thought that what I was doing was acceptable, but she could not see that. She went into a severe depression which culminated in her taking an overdose on September of this year. I took her to the local hospital, but she needed ICU monitoring and needed to go to a larger hospital some 60 kilometers (about 4 miles) away. I put her in an ambulance and went home to deal with 4 children, the eldest of which is our 17-year-old daughter. She was looking after the young ones, but was well aware of what had happened and was falling apart herself. She needed a parent, so I chose to go home, deal with the kids, and get to the hospital as early as I could the next day to see my wife.

My wife has not forgiven me for “abandoning” her and still can’t see why I had to put the children first. Admittedly I was cross with her for doing what she had done, and I know that came across in my dealings with her over the next few days and weeks. She had asked me for help a day or two before the overdose and I had not responded in the way she wanted. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, I just didn’t know what to do!! I felt so utterly helpless. Except for the initial break of 2005, she had never actually asked me for help.

She did not improve mentally and was admitted to a clinic for 3 weeks on 6th October. At that time we had become close again, and I was looking forward to her coming home. She came home in a worse state than when she had gone in – she was suicidal and self mutilating. She also went back to stay with her parents and told me she wanted to separate from me – I had heard this already from two separate sources (which really hurt).

I was and am devastated. My life and that of my children has been torn apart. The reasons for the separation are that she can’t forgive me for what happened in March and can’t forgive me for my reaction to her overdose in September. Added to that she says I am uncommunicative and I seek help from a therapist instead of talking to her. She is right about that, but someone in her position does not realize how insular they are and how hard it is to communicate your feelings of frustration and anger about the situation to someone who is so depressed – why would I want to kick her whilst she is down? She has “re-written” things in her mind – the divorce is all my fault, I am the reason she has not gotten better in recent years, and I am a significant hindrance to her recovery. Oddly enough she doesn’t hate me and says she still loves me (although not like a husband) but basically needs to deal with herself and she can’t do that within the confines of a marriage. The March incident took on a greater significance when she told me recently that she had been gang raped whilst under the influence of LSD when she was about 17 – I was again devastated that she had kept this from me for our 13 years together.

So here I am – allegedly single. I have the four children, and she lives in a flat we have on the property and gets to see them when she wants. She is finally committing to the recovery of long term therapy combined with medication and accepts that she is in for the long haul. But to my mind she is jettisoning everything that she can’t run away from and is only attempting to deal with what she feels she can – everything else, such as me, can be a casualty. I refuse to believe there is no future for us, and I firmly believe that the road she has to travel will be a little easier if done within a loving, supportive marriage. But she just can’t see that, so my life is wrecked and a casualty of this illness. I would point out that she has attendant personality disorders as well.

What do I do? She thinks I abandoned her in her time of need, she thinks I raped her in some warped way. She says she sill loves me but can’t deal with me right now as she has to deal with herself. I still love her with all my heart and have never wanted to run away from this marriage. I have told her that we are learning about this thing called bipolar more and more as time goes on and we need to use these lessons, but all I say is like bullets bouncing off Superman.

The added complication is a “friendship” she developed in clinic with a 19 year old bipolar drug addict guy whom she insists she is going to stay with in the near future. She assures me there is nothing between them, but I saw some SMS (text) messages she had left on her old cell phone she gave to our 10-year-old daughter, and I know now that this is not the case – trust me it made very difficult reading!! She is 37 and her best friend in the world at the moment and possible next sexual partner is a 19-year-old guy who also has his problems. If anything happens between them, then I am not sure I could come back from it. Aside from that, the logic of meeting someone in the safety of a clinic and then going to stay with them on the outside world is irrational and, at worst, potentially very dangerous – falling into the category she has discussed in her therapy of placing herself in vulnerable situations.

So the questions I keep asking myself are: Does she mean it? Does she really not love me any more? Or is this the BP talking and I just need to be patient? Will the switch get flicked back again? Is it right for her to effectively hide from real life and only heal herself in the context of a false existence? What do I do if anything about the guy from clinic?

What it boils down to is my complete confusion as to how she can not want to be with a man who has been and done everything for her and is still offering that on a plate?

As of today I have said to her that I mean all I say, but the time has come for me to stop talking. I can be there for her as a husband 100% committed, but I cannot be her friend as she goes about wrecking our lives. The result is, it is over. She insists all she needs is time to work on herself, but time is the one thing I do not have to give. If she even said that she has to deal with herself and then would deal with the marriage and that it is still a priority to her, then I could accept that and give her the space required. But she cannot guarantee that she will want to work on the marriage in the future, and for that reason it is not the “break” she sees it and I have decided to cut my emotional ties – self preservation is kicking in! I would not survive hanging on hoping against hope for a reconciliation in a few months only to be told its over and I am back here again, an emotional wreck! Easier said than done, but it’s a goal, hey?

Thanks for reading – I actually feel a bit better now. No, not really! 🙂


  1. I read your story and just kept shaking my head ‘yes’. The tears are still streaming down my cheeks. Firstly, I am sorry you are going through this. Secondly, your story is the story of so many of us. My soon-to-be-ex husband is very much like your wife. We have known each other for 16 years and when we first met, he was such a warm and helpful person. As time went on, (I beleive he was about 28) his peronality started to change. He became more and more agitated at the little things and then it progressed to all-out rage at everything. He gave his best self to everyone but his family (wife and 2 girls). We, unfortunaltely, got the brunt of everything that had made him angry during his day. We never knew who would be walking through the door at the end of the day. The verbal abuse was constant but when the physical abuse seemed near, he was told to leave-which he did. But that was only because he had someone (a girlfriend!) to move in with. That only lasted 5 weeks until she saw right through him. That was 3 1/2 years ago. He has since found ‘medication’ and he has good days more often than bad days but his bad days are really BAD. Although they are not usually directed at me, they are still horrific. And he does see the reality of things differently from the rest of us. In his reality, everyone is doing something TO him to make him the way that he is. It’s sad and there isn’t anything that can be said to make him see the same truth that everyone else sees. I knew it was time to make a break from him when I saw it affecting our children in a negative manner. I did not want them growing up thinking that this is the way people treat you. They now see normalcy in our lives, at least. They are sometimes very afraid of their dad and his reactions to situations.
    Although we are no longer together, we do still love and care for one another, just on a friendly basis. I only wish for him to find happiness and joy in his life as he wishes that for me. The only difference between us is that I am capable of finding it and I am not sure that he ever will.

  2. I myself suffer from bipolar and your tale made me cringe. Whatever way you had gone about things they would have been the “wrong way”.
    When we are depressed nothing feels right…you can’t do anything or say anything that will change that. I’m sorry. I make it sound hopeless, but just know, there was no right to be found. It will always be that way.
    I hope you find happiness.

  3. Where has my paradise gone
    The darkness rolls in like a thief in the night
    nowhere to run to…nowhere to hide
    I am lost as I watch her, my sweet ,compassionate, kind, caring, intelligent, romantic darling disappear into the darkness. I am now every horrible thing known to man, yesterdays paradise is gone, no kindness, no bliss
    She is gone again nowhere to be found , not a call nor a text, nothing at all, mania rules her for now but someday she’ll fall.
    It’s always the same my paradise is gone but it will return in a week or a month, why can’t she see the damage she’s done?
    I try to guide her to get help, I offer to go with her why can’t she see how much this illness is killing me.

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