This time of year is particularly trying for me. Mr. Man gets very Manic this time of year. He has difficulty sleeping, gets easily irritated, has difficulty focusing on anything outside of what’s in his own head, and other symptoms that vary from day-to-day.
What does this mean for me? It means that I bring Crazy Boy with me everywhere unless someone else can watch him for a few hours as Mr. Man at best isn’t mentally present enough to keep track of an active four-year old, and at worst is in a bad mood and likely to overreact to our son’s shenanigans. It is why I work primarily from home. Crazy Boy can hang out in the other room where I can hear him and have access to me if he needs something.
It means that I must have a very thick skin and not take things that he says personally (way easier said than done!). For example, he thought I was spending too much money on groceries (a topic I don’t wish to debate here, but the response is what I wish to tell you). I imagine a more typical couple would have some sort of discussion or even an argument and hopefully take a look at what exactly had been purchased and decide what can be eliminated or changed going forward. In our case, he ate approximately eight pounds of meat in about 48 hours in order to punish me for overspending. It hurt the budget and his digestive system. It did not solve our budget disagreement.
It means that if I need Mr. Man’s help or attention, I have to be willing to repeat myself a zillion times and not get upset if he doesn’t understand me because the thoughts racing through his head are too difficult for him to silence long enough to hear me out.
It means that I get little if any emotional support from him for whatever I may be going through because of or apart from him.
It means that I will get varying responses from family and friends when they read the insanity he posts on the internet. Fortunately I have some very good friends (including my family). I have people to call and who will call me to offer support. I have places I can go to get a break. And I have places to go if things get too wild and I really need to leave for good. All in all, I am blessed.
About a week ago my sister asked if I knew how long this would last. The answer isn’t clear. It seems to happen every year. Sometime in January I see little signs of the mania starting. Sometime in February it hits with full force and continues through March. From there? I couldn’t tell you when it will end, though he has always seemed to settle down by June. Not having tracked it that closely, I don’t know how exact the pattern is.
Why do I deal with it? Why don’t I pick up and leave? Some days I ask myself that very same question. It’s hard. I don’t like living with him when he is like this. But then he does settle down. He becomes closer to the man I fell in love with. He listens to me. He helps me out. He supports me. Summers with Mr. Man can be wonderful. Winters aren’t great, but they aren’t usually bad either. These days I can mostly deal with his depressions. It’s the spring mania that puts the greatest stress on our relationship.
In that last paragraph I said, “closer to the man I fell in love with.” He is not the same person. Mental illness can change a person a great deal, sometimes irrevocably. During his last episode when he stopped taking his meds, I read a lot of books about living with a mentally ill person. One of the things that has stuck with me is that families are often in mourning for the person they used to know. Yet as a society, we have no formal process or real way of acknowledging this like we do for people who die. The man I married is gone. Yet there was no funeral, no period of recognized mourning for me as a widow would have had. I think a lot about arranged marriages. How many couples whose marriages were arranged talk about “learning to love their spouse?” That is what I feel like I am doing. Sure, some things have remained, but many have not. I have to learn to love him all over again.
Sometime last week I had one of those defining moments we sometimes have in life. I truly realized that this is an illness I am dealing with. While you may be reading this and thinking, “Duh!” it is sometimes difficult to see it for what it is when you are in the moment of being accused of spending too much money or being told that you chose the wrong religion and are an idolater. It is difficult to see that when you are watching several weeks worth of food being scarfed down in just a few meals and you are panicking because you don’t in fact have a lot of money to replace that food.
Suddenly, I felt some of the trauma of the unmedicated phase of his life leaving my heart and compassion for him replacing the pain of the past. I have worked diligently to let go of my own hurts and leave them in the past. It has been about three years that he has been on medication again. It has been three years that I have put one foot in front of the other, sometimes facing the pain, sometimes ignoring it, sometimes wondering if it would ever just go away, and praying daily. It is finally going away.
I know the pain could come back under stress, but having even a few days of inner peace is fantastic. For that, I thank God. I haven’t talked too much about my faith on this blog. I would like to say here that without faith in God and some good people I know from church supporting and praying for me, I would be a total mess and utterly overwhelmed rather than moving forward with my life.
Has my faith been “perfect?” No. I was very angry at God for all I had gone through. I even doubted the reality of God for a while because I wanted a miracle and wasn’t getting one. Fortunately for me, God loves me anyway and never left my side even though I turned from him, then turned back and shook my fist at him and yelled angry words at him.
What does “moving forward” mean? Right now that means continuing to care for my family. It means continuing to accompany Mr. Man to doctor appointments. It means continuing to make sure Crazy Boy is cared for. It means doing all of this without dwelling on the hurtful stuff, without dwelling on the stressful stuff. It means doing what is necessary to hold onto that peace that I have fought so hard for and not confusing it with denial.
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