Marriage can be complicated at the best of times. Imagine throwing bipolar II disorder into the mix! Don’t feel too sorry for my wife, as you will see, she can handle me 🙂
When I am hypomanic, everything is on overdrive. I need less sleep, more conversation, am easily irritated, and expect perfection. As a natural introvert, my wife’s idea of a perfect night is perched by the fire, snuggling the dog, reading a fantasy novel.
Then I roll in… pitching ideas! Wanting to brainstorm grandiose schemes, convincing her that it is obvious we need to move to Indonesia. Clearly, we need to sail to remote islands (better learn to sail first).
Luckily, she gets me
It is sometimes taxing, but after 17 years, she gets me
She knows that my manic ideas are not from a place of malice or vindictiveness; I am ill, I have an ailment. I am slowly getting better,
Reminder, the DSM-5 says hypomania is often identified by a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently goal-directed behaviour or energy, lasting at least 1 week and present most of the day, nearly every day.
This is almost exactly how I feel during this time. Although there is no easy way to manage marriage mania, but I have found these steps to be helpful
1. Find another sounding board
For my sanity, and Jess’s, I needed to find other people to bounce ideas off. She cannot pretend to be genuinely interested in my latest scheme, and I cannot pretend her disinterest doesn’t affect me. Jess is an amazing wife, but there is only so much one woman can take. I have gathered myself a bunch of friends and peers that can help share the load of my hypomania. Additionally, they love it. Carlos loves day-dreaming about travel with me. Andrew loves discussing ministry. Jarred is my bipolar brother, and Brendan and I go fishing together. Hypomania in small doses can be fun… too much fun, and it can make you nauseous 🙂
2. Let truth trump feelings
If I have exasperated those around me, and they need a break; that is ok. They are not rejecting me, they are not rejecting my illness; they are human. I know my loved ones love me. I know they care for me. When I feel like nobody cares, I need to let my truth trump my feelings. I have 17 years of evidence that Jess loves me unconditionally. I know God cares, he made me this way after all. I have a brother I can call on at any time, and if all else fails; there is always the dog.
It takes time, but learning to trust truth over emotion is essential. Try not to dwell on what feels true, dwell on what is true.
3. Trust God with your spouse
One of the greatest things about being married to a woman of God, is that I am not her first love. She loves Jesus, then me. She cares deeply for me, but I am not her pseudo saviour, nor is her security in me. Her identity is a daughter of God first, and a wife second. Essentially, she does not need me, she chooses to want me.
Why is this good news?
I cannot break her!
Her joy is not dependant on my existence. I usually make her life better, but when I don’t, she is not destroyed, because I am not her idol. I don’t take advantage of that; I thank God for that! Her dependence on God is inspirational and real. I pray I know God like this one day
4. Ask forgiveness quickly
Now, just because my wife is a woman of God doesn’t mean I abdicate my responsibility. Sometimes when I am manic, I rob the house of peace. The kids can sense it. Everybody feels just a little more on edge… everything just feels a little off.
For my mental health, I am relying on Jesus, and I am medicated. The risk is managed, but hypomania can build anxiety in others.
When I come to the realisation that I have been an anxiety maker, and not an anxiety breaker… I ask forgiveness. The last thing I want is to create a tense home where the family walk on eggshells. I want freedom, liberty and laughter to saturate our home. Our house is one of authenticity, joy and fun…. Until I occasionally ruin it…
We all mess up. Mental illness is a complicated journey. Asking forgiveness is the only way forward… until you mess up again, and ask forgiveness again. You don’t take that forgiveness for granted, because you’re not a man-child, but you repent, get freedom and move on.
Maybe this will help you, maybe not… but it sure has helped enrich my marriage.
In Jesus and Mental Health