Today has been hard. As a new mom who is bipolar, hard is really just part of life when you have a spouse who is also bipolar, but today was harder than normal.
After our middle daughter’s Thanksgiving play, my husband and I headed to his psychiatrist’s office. Normally, he sees his doctor alone, but with a recent increase in the dosage of his medication, I was asked to come to this visit to provide some perspective on any changes I’ve noticed.
Aside from that, this was also the first time I’ve met my husband’s new doctor. He seemed extremely knowledgeable and provided a lot of information to me about how bipolar disorder affects my husband specifically, but it was when he said just two sentences that I collapsed into tears.
“It’s going to take us about two years to get him stable. The best thing you can do is have low expectations.”
It felt like the vision of my life, of how I want my daughters raised, of the definition of normal I want them to see was all flashing before my eyes, disappearing forever. My shoulders felt heavy, my heart hurt, and my throat was tight and burning.
It was explained to me the limits my husband has regarding executive function and higher thinking. Essentially, he can’t always do things like say no to the impulse to want to take the girls on a trip to the store at 8 pm on a school night when they’re still dripping wet from the bath or avoid fixating on a seemingly meaningless task for hours on end while consistently walking past a mess of his own making.
Hearing those two sentences from the psychiatrist felt like hearing that I am now in charge of managing our life completely, of being held to exacting standards that he can’t be held to. I can’t lose my temper, I can’t feel resentment when he completely screws up his priorities, and I can’t blame him when the weight of responsibility is crippling me.
Part of me wanted to scream, “This is not the life I signed up for!”
But I know that’s unfair, and I’m sure there are many spouses encountering a myriad of other difficulties with their partners who have felt the same. It’s easy to go through life together when the sun shining and the birds are singing. It’s not so easy when you feel like you’ve built your house on the edge of a perpetual hurricane.
I’m still figuring out what this changes for us in the short term, especially regarding our separation, but I do love my husband. I agreed to walk through this life with someone who just got sick, and just as I would stay by his side through a physical illness like cancer, I’ll stay by his side through his mental illness… even if it means I won’t see him much for the next two years.