Living With Bipolar Disorder

*a guest post

Whilst living with bipolar disorder is extremely difficult for the sufferer it is also worth noting that the partner, husband, or wife will also go through a whole range of emotions as well. Life can, therefore, become rather tricky for everyone involved and I know this personally due to my own husband being diagnosed with the condition just three years ago.

We got married early in this day and age. I was 19 and he was 20.  It had never occurred to me that he had any kind of mental health problem over the two years I knew him before we were married. With the benefit of hindsight he was certainly showing the symptoms of the mood highs and lows the whole time I have known him. I suppose when you are young, life is more forgiving, it really isn’t until you have children and responsibility’s that life gives you less room for mistakes and shortfalls.

We had our first child when I was 21 and really it wasn’t long after that that the cracks started to show. The day I returned home from an afternoon studying at the library to find our newborn baby crying in the living room and my husband at the furthest most point in the backyard was a very strong indicator that we could no longer ignore. He was rocking in the fetal position chanting in a mantra-like way ‘please stop, please stop’. It was like the realities and needs of our child created the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

Not Knowing What is happening is Torture

We never considered that a real and tangible mental illness existed in our situation and for a long time I lived in complete and utter denial that anything was really happening. I discounted the sudden rages to be stress from the competition trying to climb the corporate ladder and the sudden crying to be emotions bought on by circumstances in life (the death of his cousin, the birth of a niece, a tragic event in the world). But honestly, the day that we finally got help for my husband and found out that there was a real and tangible illness with the exact symptoms he was suffering and there was some real and tangible treatments for such symptoms brought such relief and happiness to our lives. It was absolutely phenomenal. It was as if we had both always known and the veil was finally being lifted from the elephant pervading our living room that we had been so wanting to live in denial of and had been squeezing past for a long time. Before seeking help I just thought that it was the difficulties of life that we simply weren’t coping with, that I wasn’t being a good wife, that I wasn’t helping enough, and guiltily that perhaps my husband was not the one after all. I can still feel self conscious about those sorts of things and let doubts creep into myself but that is what happens with bipolar, it’s so obvious at times but so intangible at others. If you don’t keep acknowledging and understanding the situation all the time you can get lost in a maze of confusion of why all these feelings and emotions are ruling your life again.

Indeed, before the diagnosis, it was quite common to wake up in the morning with a degree of uncertainty hanging over my head about who I would be waking up next to. Would he be introverted, sad and distant or would he be overly excited and full of crazy ideas about the day? Or bless, would I find the man I fell in love with patient, sincere, loving and steady? This uncertainty was caused by not being aware of what triggers may occur during each day that could make him go from being the loving, care-free and happy man that I married to the flip side of depression and self loathing, or the crazy, impulsive, untrustworthy and even the angry man that had rage bursting out of him. But over time we both got to know these triggers better. If we’d had a visit with his family the day before we knew what to expect the next day. If I’d been really tired and cranky this bought up different feelings again for him. If we’d had a wonderful day as a family it could create different emotions again but we got to know them all better.

Adapting to Living With a Mental Illness

After the initial huge rush of relief from finally knowing what was going on in our lives, there was a new step to actually coming to grips with having a mental illness and then educating ourselves and making the changes that needed to be made to start to get our lives back on track.

The natural inclination from both of us to fall back into denial about the problem was incredible, far more than I would ever have expected had I not been through it myself and witnessed it first hand. After the initial relief period, there was such resistance to even discuss anything to do with the illness, from both our sides which definitely slowed down the whole process of adapting to our new lives. Especially when the medication took effect and my husband would go for fairly long stretches where there were no ups and downs or the mood cycles. We would both fairly quickly race to the conclusion that nothing was wrong and really changes didn’t need to be made.

Over time though, it became much easier for me not to fall into denial about it, it did take my husband much more time than me and he can still go through reckless periods where he doesn’t take his condition as seriously as he should, but they are few and far between now. But getting to this point has taken a lot of effort and love between us and the love for our little girl. I should mention though, that through all the moods, the only thing that never altered or wavered in my husband was the love for our daughter. He always thought about her first and if we had not had our connection through her, our marriage, I am sad to say, would probably have ended. But seeing his love and devotion to her allowed me to see through all the other symptoms that are difficult to live with as a wife and enable me to love my husband for the way he loves our child through those difficult times.

Life Goes On and is Good

Living with someone who has bipolar disorder is certainly very testing, but through time and through better understanding of what happens to them, what can trigger various reactions and how to best help them, life can and does carry on quite happily. If you really take the time to educate yourself you are overwhelmed with enormous empathy and compassion for what they are experiencing which really is key. Otherwise you can be overly frustrated. For example, to understand that simply rocking our baby in the rocking chair triggered childhood feelings of being rejected by his mother allows you to be loving and understanding of this situation as opposed to thinking ‘oh for goodness sake could you just take the baby and rock her as it gets her to sleep already!’. By remembering that they cannot help many of their various behaviors and feelings it does make it that bit easier for you to cope even when you wonder how they can be saying such things to you. Always remember that they still love you the same and cherish the fact that you are there supporting them as best you can through something that is scary and having an impact on not only their life, but your life as well.


Florence now spends much of her time trying to help other family members of bipolar suffers. One resource that has helped here a great deal is the work of biologist Jeremy Griffith and the World Transformation Movement and the biological explanation of the human condition that they are putting forward. 

*thank you for this guest post!


  1. Natalie J Vandenberghe says

    Thank you for posting this. My daughter suffers from this and we are still going through a difficult time.

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