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Anyone else had/have a DP with mental illness/bipolar? Advice needed please

(27 Posts)
tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 21:34:16

My DP has recently been diagnosed with bipolar. We've only been together 7 months, so trying to keep what is a relatively new relationship on track, combined with this diagnosis is proving testing...

My DP was diagnosed following episodes of going completely 'off radar' from me, family and friends, ie not answering the phone, texts, emails etc, not going out at all, just spending days or up to a week in his flat, not sleeping, not eating, sometimes drinking to numb the anxiety and constant noise in his head.

He was diagnosed about a month ago and his since been on Lithium for 2 weeks. His dosage was altered last week, and over the weekend he had another 'episode', which has resulted in him tonight being hospitalised. He's just called me to tell me this, and that they want to keep him in for two weeks.
He was convinced that I was going to end our relationship immediately, which I'm not going to do, however I am scared at what may lie ahead.

Has anyone else experienced a similar situation of being with someone with mental illness, whilst also trying to keep calm/sane themselves? (I have low level depression/anxiety too, but never bad enough to be on anti-depressants).

Enoughalreadyyou Mon 20-Jul-15 22:27:34

Why oh why would you want to continue. You have only been seeing him for a little while so I would get out now before you get really hurt. No you wouldn't be unkind you would be looking after yourself first. That is what you should do before it's too late.

Enoughalreadyyou Mon 20-Jul-15 22:28:32

You shouldn't need to be scared of anything. You have a choice.

tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 22:31:32

Enough - because in the good times, they are really good. I love him. I don't want to end things because he's ill...

Just5minspeace Mon 20-Jul-15 22:32:57

It's a long, hard road & ultimately impossible to rely on your DP for support as you never know 'where they are' at any given point. Don't stay because you feel you must. Stay because you want to and have a clear understanding of the facts. It is not easy.

tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 22:39:24

Thanks Just. I think that sums up why I'm a bit scared - not being able to rely on him fully if I'M feeling low...

BoxOfKittens Mon 20-Jul-15 22:42:51

Maybe join a mental health Forum and research his illness. Ask if you can attend a doctors appointment with him to ask questions. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.

One of the most difficult things about being with someone with mental health problems is never being able to make your partner feel better. You want to help but cannot aside from being supportive. Try not to fall into the role of counsellor and also don't let unacceptable behaviour towards you slide and justify it because of his illness. It is really difficult to determine what is the illness and what is the person just being unreasonable.

He is getting help though so that is positive. My ex refused and by the end of our relationship I felt unwell myself and it took a few years to rebuild my confidence and self esteem.

I hope you find some good advice smile

Dogmatix34 Mon 20-Jul-15 22:55:07

I just want to add I got together with my DP at uni. 6 months in and he had an episode (depressive). He, his parents, my parents all thought I would and should end it. I didn't. He was and still is my true love. 16 years later he is on Lithium and still gets depressive episodes and highs but they are much, much less low/high than before. We have two DC and I have never regretted the decision. I am aware that it can be much harder than this and I'm not advising you to stay but just that there can be light at the end of the tunnel

tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 22:56:13

Box - I'm sorry your ex wouldn't get help. DP is saying he doesn't want to be like this, he's fed up of it, so he willingingly agreed to being admitted. You are very right in saying that it's hard to comfort someone - I know when I've been at my lowest, no matter what anyone says, I still don't feel ok until I can control my mind into a better place.

tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 22:59:01

Dog - that's heartening to hear, very comforting. DP actually said to me this evening 'if I were you, I would have left me at this point', and I felt like crying for him.

How often does your DH have lows, and how long before the Lithium has a positive effect?

moopymoodle Mon 20-Jul-15 23:09:56

Aww I feel really sorry for him. Ya know we are all broken in different ways right? Pool at every percentage for MH issues. So many percent for each, it leaves very little percenrage left for what is deemed normal.

In life people encounter problems, if we left a relationship everytime the person hit hard times we would never advance. That been said he needs to want to help himself and make sure he never takes things out on you and uses his illness as an excuse.

Dogmatix34 Mon 20-Jul-15 23:13:49

The lithium had an almost immediate effect. His lows come every year at the moment although he had 5 years with no highs or lows. He is a very insular depressive and only blames himself. He is in no way aggressive and, whilst it is sad to see him like that, we are able to lead a normal life and DC don't notice at all.

Dogmatix34 Mon 20-Jul-15 23:16:06

Actually, lithium took a little while- 10 years ago so hard to remember.

annandale Mon 20-Jul-15 23:18:08

I was pregnant within a few weeks of meeting dh, I loved him then and still love him. He told me early on that he had a long-term mental health problem but that it was under control with medication. That was true up to a point. Being in a relationship with me has been a stress for him at times, having a child with some broken sleep was a major stress. I think of him as being allergic to stress - not a technical way of putting it but it seems to fit best with the way it looks from the outside. Not always helpful as the logical outcome is to seek to avoid stress at all costs, which is not necessarily ideal.

The downsides are absolutely enormous. (What follows is more about the downside for me and us as a couple, not for him - I recognise that this is quite a selfish view). I never wanted an only child but I have one because I don't think we could survive having another. I work full-time and am the only earner. 'Benefits' application processes are now designed to make people ill, or at the very least take no account of what causes illness, so we withdrew from the processes and don't receive any. I would like to have a social life, so would he, but we can very rarely socialise as a couple because he can take days to get over social events. He takes a handful of pills a day which all have side effects, including sexual ones (he doesn't really orgasm any more, for example). At one point he stopped taking all his meds, had a breakdown over two weeks and went missing for a few days, all while ds was very small. He was once hospitalised, but got worse in hospital and we both felt he would do better at home, but God I needed that break. Another time I think he probably should have been admitted, maybe not, but there were no beds (actually I think that weekend there were no beds anywhere in the UK) and he had ECT, which is very tough to organise from a logistical point of view (again I emphasise that this is purely from the point of view of living with someone with this illness, I am not quite as much of a bitch as I sound) . He is quite dependent on his parents but can also have a bit of an episode after a conversation with them - not always. I can't play music often because he can be overwhelmed by noise and sensory input (though this is better than it used to be). I spend quite a lot of time talking through plans of action, plans for the future, being extremely careful about what I say. I can't ask him to run errands much or to do huge amounts of housework, even though I work full time and he is at home full time. I have to boost his ego as he struggles a lot with low self-esteem due to all this. I have the great fear that ds will develop the same illness, and one glance at the family tree shows that this is quite likely.

The upside - he is a sensitive, thoughtful, caring, loving, tender, creative, extremely intelligent, socially responsible, gossipy, chatty and humorous person with an outsize conscience who knocks spots off any boyfriend I've ever had, and who was actually willing to have a child with me. He's also quite hot We are frequently very happy together.

I could not honestly advise anyone to stay in a relationship with someone with an enduring mental health diagnosis. That's the brutal truth - it is not to be taken on lightly. If you choose to do so, however, you may find some unexpected positives. You will learn a lot about your friends and family - the ones who support you and him may not be the ones you expect. You may find some unexpected mental weaknesses in yourself, things that he has dealt with long ago. You will develop new skills and strengths.

Having said all that, I don't think it is worth it, not really.

tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 23:21:03

Moopy - exactly! One of the reasons I don't want to leave him is exactky because I am kind of 'broken' too.
He absolutely does want to get better, so that's a positive..

Dog - is there anything that triggers the lows, or do they come from nowhere? I'm feeling perhaps that high pressure situations may have triggered DP's latest episode, for instance I introduced him to a load of my friends AND my brother, niece, my mums partner and family, all in the same weekend, last week. Looking back, it was probably all too much for him (they all know that he's been diagnosed), and he probably felt 'on show' and the effort of trying to act ok may have tipped him over the edge.

UncertainSmile Mon 20-Jul-15 23:22:41

moopymoodle, that was a lovely and humane post.

UncertainSmile Mon 20-Jul-15 23:24:54

I fucking hate all this 'run for the hills!' stuff that some posters come out with, when people mention that their partners have MH issues. It's cruel and stigmatising.

tigerbear Mon 20-Jul-15 23:31:10

Annandale - thank you, such an interesting insight.
I'm under no illusion that a 'normal' home life probably isn't going to happen for us, even if he returns to 'normality'. I have a 4 year old DD who lives with me 50% of the week, and I just don't think he'd be able to cope with the demands of a child if we were to ever live together, and it wouldn't be fair on DD to live in this way.

Ladyconstance Mon 20-Jul-15 23:37:57

Please don't feel guilty about whatever decision you make. I agree with annandale that it's no picnic supporting someone struggling with mental illness. Both DH and I have mental health issues and I think that makes it easier for each of us to tell when the other person is not well and provide a sanity check for each other. However, we each accept that all we can do for each other is show our love and care for one another. We aren't able to counsel each other or advise on medication, so there is always a responsibility on DH and me individually to reach out for professional help as well. To that extent, one or other of us feels a bit helpless at times. That could become quite isolating and you might want to think about how much you'd be willing to be on the sidelines when DP is having treatment.
It would not be a cop out to end the relationship. It is far better to be honest with yourself about what you need and want and whether you're willing to risk some of that. Either way, take courage and make a free choice. Please don't stay together out of pity or fear as you and he are worth much more respect than that.

tigerbear Tue 21-Jul-15 00:02:02

Lady - thanks, another very interesting perspective.

You have all helped me enormously tonight, thanks to everyone who has posted. I'm off to bed now, but may have a few more questions tomorrow, if that's ok.

Dogmatix34 Tue 21-Jul-15 08:09:07

DHs lows have been coinciding with Christmas time and going around Easter. We aren't sure if it is a SADS type thing or just a weird cycle he is in. The highs last only a couple of days and are just him being aggressive and argumentative. Not horrendously so but definitely not himself. The lithium seems to stop the highs much better than the lows which is awful for him but the highs were the worst thing to live with. One thing I would say is you absolutely must NOT feel guilty if you decide not to continue with this relationship. You have a DD to consider and I think if I had had a child already I may have felt quite differently. DH does say though that he finds the kids the best therapy when he is low as he is so busy with them and they don't realise anything is different.

Kingie1 Tue 21-Jul-15 14:30:46

I think the diagnosis is important. Bipolar 1 can be very disturbing. Cyclothymia and bipolar 2, despite being destructive, can be easier to manage

happywiththis Tue 21-Jul-15 15:29:57

Firstly - hugs. What a difficult situation. So sympathetic.
I married my DH not knowing he had depression and was alcoholic. (he'd hidden both very adeptly!)
I'm not very good at offering advice - but all i will say is that those two illnesses have never prevented us from having a strong marriage and a fun, loving, happy friendship.
There has been very very sad, tough times. But i know his lovely, kind, intelligent, hardworking, affectionate nature and i am able to separate him from his illnesses in my head. So despite the difficulties, we're happy. (He's sober now)
I count it an honour to be able to be a kindof mainstay when he's having a down patch.
I have support from understanding family & friends which is brilliant when we go through a tough time.
People ask me would you have married him if I had known? and i say yes absolutely.
We MAKE it work. I think I am very lucky in that he's now sober which has made it easier... but i totally believe it's possible to be happily married to someone with mental illness. Not the easiest path to choose, i agree... but it can work.
hope you're blessed! xx

happywiththis Tue 21-Jul-15 15:31:55

Sorry - just want to add - this is not to say that those who are struggling and sad and going through hell currently aren't trying hard enough... not at all. It is terribly , horribly hard sometimes....much sympahty & empathy for you all xx

KetchupIsNearlyAVegetable Tue 21-Jul-15 17:39:40

A 7 month long relationship, you have a 4yo DD 50% of the time and you have low level depression yourself. You had some good times with him in that 7 months and some periods where he blanked you. You think meeting your family may have tipped him over the edge.

You sound like you are starting to take on some of the responsibility for helping to fix him.

I think you need counselling yourself.

It sounds like you are being a "rescuer". You want to rescue him because it is easier than rescuing yourself and your DD.

Personally, I'd say take a break on the understanding that when you are both in a better place, you'll be open to trying again.

This is not an established relationship with a long history of deep stable mutual support. You don't have the "roots" for this situation IMO. It's not an LTB situation just a "not the right time" situation.

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