The Bipolar Ebb and Flow
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.
I was watching for signs of a depression but didn’t see anything, so I didn’t notice when he stopped taking his meds and then started sneaking money out of our bank account to spend it on junk food. Now, I know what you’re thinking… junk food? That’s his vice? That’s what you got to watch for with manic spending sprees? Yeah, it could be worse, but this guy can easily rack up a couple hundred dollars very quickly in just junk food.
And then, in May, I began noticing that he was acting a little off. It started out that he had some wildly creative ideas, but then he became obsessive about these wildly creative ideas – to the point where, if I tried to steer him off topic, that he would become out-of-sorts angry.
I vividly remember one afternoon, after saying that we didn’t have enough money to buy something he wanted, when he was outside doing some yard work with a rake. He was so mad at me for “crushing his dream” that he was beating this poor weed with the rake over and over, and then the rake caught a hold of the wire fence.
He was struggling to get the rake loose, cursing and yelling and doing everything you’d expect of a toddler’s tantrum, and the whole section of the fence pulled loose and flung into the air. Frustrated by the mess he was making, he screamed at the top of his lungs and threw the rake. All the while, I’m watching him from my comfy swing on the back porch, sipping my tea – and there was also this neighbor kid riding his bike on the street who had stopped at the end of the lane to watch him the entire time!
Clearly, something was amiss.
It took some investigating for me to figure out that he hadn’t been taking his meds for quite some time. He was very secretive about it – meticulously counting and hiding the pills so I couldn’t be sure if he was taking them or not. Later, he told me a story about hiding some pills he was supposed to take as a kid behind the stove, and his mom found them in the hair and grime, pulled them out, and made him take them anyway. Well, if I had known that story before, perhaps I would’ve been looking behind the stove for his Abilify.
This mania forced some major med changes, and my husband has not yet fully recovered to the level of stability from before. I’m not sure he will. I read somewhere that that happens sometimes – that a major episode will damage the brain enough that it’ll never be the same.
I used to long for the days before last spring’s mania or, more so, before he developed bipolar disorder – back when all he had was seasonal affective disorder, or at least that’s what we were told he had. I think I had to mourn losing that, that it’s healthy to spend some time mourning. But, after six years, I can feel myself accepting his bipolar more and more, every day a little more. I’m more understanding. I’m reading between the lines. I’m finding the human behind the mental illness.
I can accept his bad days, and I’m less wary about the good days. I relish his attention when he gives it, knowing that I’ll need to return the favor in a few days time when he’s depressed. I can see the ebb and flow. I know the good days won’t last, but neither do the bad days. Enjoy the good days, endure the bad ones with compassion, and live in the moment.
Brhel, R. (2012). The Bipolar Ebb and Flow. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 27, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/moody-marriage/2012/03/the-bipolar-ebb-and-flow/