The Bipolar Ebb and Flow

By Rita Brhel

My husband has been in a great mood. Very productive, easy going, good sense of humor, happy… No, no, it’s not mania – at least not yet. Hopefully, we’ll skip that this year.

Last year, my husband did well all the way through winter. It was his first winter in eons that he wasn’t struggling with bone-chilling depression. I thought we had caught a lucky break.

Then, on April fool’s day, I went into the hospital with a blocked kidney from a stone. It was enough to shake my husband’s stability, looking back at it in hindsight.

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Addressing the Moods by Taking a Look at the Work Schedule

By Rita Brhel

My husband is in a good mood. Is it a bad sign that this kind of freaks me out?

There was a time when my husband being in a good mood would thrill me. That was back when I thought there was still a chance that he would wake up suddenly cured of his cyclic bad moods. I now know that’s not the case.

I try to enjoy the good moods when they come. He doesn’t often have prolonged periods of bad mood, but prolonged periods of unstable mood where he’s happy one day and depressed/angry the next, followed by a few weeks’, maybe a month or two’s, worth of stable mood. So, he’s coasting along in a stable mood for, say, three weeks when something happens and his mood starts bouncing in and out of stability for the next, say, three weeks. It’s really quite annoying.

I can see he’s just as frustrated as I am at times. I can see that he’s truly trying to get to the root of the problem and trying to find stability. Hopefully he sees that I’m truly trying to support him without losing my own mind.

Lately, we’ve been looking at his work schedule. For the last couple of years, he’s been working two jobs. The reason is because the job that’s supposed to be full-time is a seasonal job; while it thankfully provides benefits year-round, the winter months are usually down on actual work hours. The second job, which is worked in the evenings and on Sundays, is meant to supplement the main job during these lean months, but in order to keep the job, he has to work these part-time hours year-round, even when he’s working overtime at the main job in the summer.

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A Lesson on ADD from Dishwater

By Rita Brhel

My husband and I do not think alike. This is true. We both comprehend this fact. But I don’t think either of us actually understands what this means as it relates to how we relate to one another, nor do we truly realize how very differently someone with attention deficit disorder thinks when compared to someone without ADD.

The other day, I woke up in the usual way – to a messy house, left in the wake of my ADD husband. An open drawer here, a dirty bowl there, crumbs and something gooey on the counter, a hot pad and a spatula on the floor, last night’s supper dishes on the table, a butter knife sticky with peanut butter on top of the stack of bills, a calculator in the fruit bowl…you know, the usual…when I happened upon a tub of very gross, dirty dishwater in the sink and a wash rag marinating in the mix. Eewww!

We had had a discussion just the night before about not leaving the wash rag in the old dishwater and to just dump the tub of water when he was done washing something. It’s a discussion that, like all of our discussions, we’ve had over and over. And as usual, he swore up and down that, yes, he agreed that leaving the wash rag in the dirty dishwater was as gross as I found it and that, yes, he would remember to dump the water this time.

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Poor Coping Skills are Worse than the Disorder

By Rita Brhel

It’s been a rough week or so. My husband has been in such a negative mood, and any time I’ve tried to broach the subject, he either shut down emotionally or blew up in a rage.

It’s not bipolar disorder, though. I’m becoming more and more convinced that his “rapid-cycling” bipolar is actually just a product of his attention deficit disorder combined with some rotten coping skills, particularly his habit of avoiding all uncomfortable feelings.

He tries to pretend that he’s not feeling the way he is, as if by ignoring it, those feelings will just magically disappear. But anger, frustration, bitterness, sadness, jealousy, and any other strong emotion don’t just go away; instead, they fester. Upset feelings that are ignored are like a cancer. They’ll eat you alive.

When he’s in these states of mind, his being is permeated with whatever negative emotion started it. The emotion is like a runaway train; nothing can stop it, until it finally runs out of diesel. At that point, my husband is emotionally spent – empty and exhausted.

He’s finally ready to switch gears. All the negativity has oozed out of him, contaminating his home and his workplace, leaving angry and hurt family members in the wake. It had to get out of him, one way or another; if not by him expressing his feelings in a healthy way, then by getting out of him in any way possible. It turns my husband inside out in the process, but apparently – no matter how painful and exhausting the whole deal is – it’s much more preferable to my husband than to talk about his feelings.

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It’s Spelled A-D-D, Not A-S-S

By Rita Brhel

Perhaps my biggest struggle as a wife is in controlling my knee-jerk judgment toward my husband’s actions. Actions that make my eyes narrow instantly, and the hairs on the back of my neck bristle.

Like dumping his coat on the floor right inside the door…and not coming back to pick it up when he has a free moment, just stepping over – or on it – on his way to the TV.

Or leaving a food wrapper on the counter instead of taking the extra two steps to put it in the trash can. Or not taking the overflowing dumpster down to the end of the lane for the weekly pick-up.

I know these are all symptoms of attention deficit disorder, but to me, it seems as if he’s purposely implying that I should clean up after him, like he’s trying to make my life harder.

It wouldn’t be half as bad if not for his reaction when I confront the issue – at once, putting me in the position of the parent and he the teenager. At once, narcissist and victim. Again, just another classic ADD/ADHD symptom. Sigh.

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Learning to Complement One Another

By Rita Brhel

Marriage is teamwork, a partnership. Marriage is two people coming together and learning how to mesh one another’s strengths and weaknesses. In some marriages, one person may seem to have a lot more strengths – particularly if the other one is feeling under the weather or unstable for some reason – but it’s important not to undercut each other’s potential.

I did a strength-weakness analysis several years ago when I decided to start my business. I wanted to make sure that I was cut out for entrepreneurship and that my choice of business venture was appropriate for me.

I learned that I am a great project manager – that I can see both the big picture and the small details, that I can stay on track, that I am a good researcher and analyzer, that I can come up with out-of-the-box ideas and follow through on them long-term.

I also learned that I get bored easily, so I fill my life with a lot of activities and can sometimes overwhelm my schedule. And even though I am good at estimating the time needed for a project, I tend to procrastinate because I get stuck on a certain interest or just plain need a break, which of course just adds to the overwhelmed feeling.

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Rapid-Cycling Bipolar or Just Moody?

By Rita Brhel

My husband was diagnosed years ago as having Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder. And for years, I took that diagnosis at face value – anytime that he got a little moody, well it was because of his bipolar disorder. But now, I’m starting to wonder if it’s just that simple.

We went on a mini-family vacation this past weekend. Let’s just say that the first half of the two-day vacation was hard, on everyone.

My husband was very moody. The kids were walking around him on eggshells, and I was wishing that we had left him at home…or the side of the road. Surely, me wrangling three kids and a bunch of luggage alone would be far more enjoyable than dealing with a moody man.

At face value, I could say that the vacation triggered his bipolar disorder. But once we got to the bottom of it – I’m never one to avoid the issue, although my husband certainly wishes I would sometimes – I learned that that his moodiness was more an issue of me and him having different vacation styles.

He likes to have an itinerary – to go from one source of entertainment to the next, on a set schedule so as to see and experience as much as possible. I like to be much less scheduled, to have a list of things I’d like to do but to not worry if I don’t get to all of them. What happened was that on the first day of our vacation, we left a little later than planned and was able to do most of what we both wanted but ultimately didn’t have time to swim at the hotel pool. Not a big deal to me; apparently, quite a big deal to my husband.

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Stop Using Bipolar as an Excuse (The “Stupid” Post, Again)

By Rita Brhel

Back by popular demand: Bipolar doesn’t make you stupid; you make you stupid.

There were a lot of people who didn’t like the original post, but there were also a lot of people who did. And many of those people do have bipolar disorder themselves.

Granted, I was a bit unwell myself at the time and that translated into one inflammatory post, but I still believe the essence of it is true: Bipolar should not be used as an excuse for rotten behavior. Rather, people need to take measures to try to prevent a bipolar episode that will lead to rotten behavior.

Or, conversely, people need to recognize if they are indeed using their diagnosis as an excuse for their behavior, when in fact they do have control over their behavior. While the majority of people with bipolar, I hope, are people who truly want to be stable and to treat others with care and respect, it is naïve to think that there aren’t people with bipolar disorder using their diagnosis as a means to an end.

It happens in the general population; it’ll happen to the bipolar population, as well.

I have made some tweaks to the original post. Here it is…

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Bipolar Might Be His Thing, But You’re in This Together

By Rita Brhel

Imagine owning a business with your spouse. That’s a lot how it is when you’re supporting your spouse in managing his or her bipolar disorder or attention deficit disorder.

You have to take into consideration each of your personalities, skills, life experiences, hopes, and dreams as you work out the challenges together – and you have to work intimately, every step of the way.

Yeah, owning a business together is a lot like marriage…and dealing with bipolar together has a lot of similarities. Here’s an illustration:

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Love Notes for the Future?

By Rita Brhel

I must have some sort of amnesia. For years, I had myself convinced that all the miscommunication between me and my husband (due to the attention deficit disorder), and the up-and-down nature of his moods (due to the bipolar disorder), didn’t begin until sometime after we tied the knot.

Last night, I realized – or remembered? – that wasn’t so. This relationship we have, with all its joys and triumphs, trials and tribulations – we’ve actually been doing it the same way from the beginning.

I have been reorganizing my bedroom. Since having my third child, I’ve come to terms that I will likely never again be a clothing size 4, as I was pre-baby, and so am ready to pare down on my clothes, many that I haven’t worn since college.

I have a lot of clothes to sort through, so to take a break from the monotony, I also went through my jewelry box and my other bedroom items. Among the belongings on top of my dresser is a memory box where I keep special photos, cards, and notes from friends and family – much of which is from way back when, before I was married. I hadn’t looked through it for years and had forgotten all the love notes in there from my husband when we were dating, before we were even engaged.

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