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Marriage and Mental Illness: For Better or Worse?

March 17, 2012 Randye Kaye

What happens when mental illness changes your spouse? Having a husband or wife with mental illness changes the marriage and bring challenges.

For Better of Worse? Yes, that's the vow. But when the symptoms of mental illness seem to change the personality - the very soul - of your husband or wife, how do you keep going? How do you hold the family together?

When faced with mental illness, family members have two sets of challenges. They seem to be

  1. the emotions we all face (like grief, confusion, guilt, loss, anger) and,
  2. the more practical issues in the role of any family caregiver - a role we all have to play at least some of the time in this situation.

My most personal experience, as a family member of someone diagnosed with mental illness, is as a Mom. In fact, I'd venture to say that a majority of the people who take NAMI's Family-to-Family course are parents. A typical class of 20-25 usually includes a handful of siblings, spouses, and/or children (that is, adults who grew up and may be caring for a parent with mental illness) - but the biggest group always seems to consist of parents.

Many of the issues, emotions, and challenges we face as family members certainly are universal to all of these roles - however, there are also additional feelings and obstacles that are unique to each "relative group."

Yes, I am a mother - but I also watched my daughter suffer through the loss of the "big brother" she knew, and adjust to her new role with a "little brother", whose growth and accomplishments now trail behind. I also was married to an alcoholic for seven years (Ben and Ali's father, William) and though I now struggle to determine if he'd had a co-occurring mental illness, I know that I did live with some of the uncertainties that spouses face when mental illness changes the partner they thought they'd married.

Challenges Facing Spouses with Mentally Ill Partners

Here are 5 things I learned from spouses of those with mental illness about their particular objective challenges, in addition to the ones we seem to all have in common (financial worries, staying alert to relapse symptoms, coping with family conflict etc.):

Spouses also face:

  1. Feeling like you've lost the partnership of marriage. If you always turned to your spouse in times of need, where can you turn now? (I know, in our house, my friends' sympathy for my Williams' alcoholic episodes wore thin very fast)
  2. Financial burdens. Coping with the loss of a wage-worker in the household, if mental illness has led to job loss. (I began to lose count of the number of jobs William lost, or the number of customer complaints when he started his own business, due to unreliability)
  3. Resentment - and sexual distance - that can accompany the change in roles when one spouse takes on the "caretaker" role.
  4. Single-parenting coupled with being the primary caretaker of your spouse. (One Mom I met told me about walking down the stairs dressed in her husband's Santa suit to greet their three young kids after he'd been hospitalized on Christmas Eve. That may the tip of the iceberg, but it still broke her heart). Worrying about your children's emotional state as well as your own.
  5. Stigma, social isolation, loss of the "couple friends" group. Invitations dwindle when your spouse's actions are unpredictable and sometimes embarrassing.

What helps spouses? What helps all family members? In my next post, I'll talk about life balance, and some concrete steps like learning all you can, reaching out for support in new places, and self-care.

Are you a spouse of someone with a diagnosed mental illness? Does this ring true for you? What helps you?

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2012, March 17). Marriage and Mental Illness: For Better or Worse?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2012/03/marriage-and-mental-illnessfor-better-or-worse



Author: Randye Kaye

Bianca Rodriguez
November, 22 2015 at 11:15 pm

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B.G.
November, 9 2015 at 8:50 am

I married my best friend fourteen and a half years ago. I knew he had a horrific childhood. I knew he had anxiety and suffered from paranoia from time to time. I also knew he had the kindest and most loyal heart of anyone I had ever met. Most importantly, I knew he suffered from depression. But no matter what, I believed in him.
He was/is the most talented musician I have ever met. He was sweet. He was protective. But he was very, very ill and exceptionally good at keeping it bottled up inside.
Now, he is an alcoholic. He is dependent on benzodiazepines thanks to a half-ass psych. He is dependent on opioid pain medication thanks to a half-ass NP. And he suffers from PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic, and paranoia. He will not seek regular treatment because years ago it failed and he is convinced it will always fail.
I love him. I do not blame him. But where do I fit in? He deserves love and care and concern and help. But so do I. I read all the time about how the caretaker, the spouse, the partner needs to be understanding and patient and listen,etc.... I do this. Every day. But where do my needs get met? What do I do? I want my husband's love. His touch. His affection. It's not happening. I don't want to abandon him because he is ill. What is the answer? Is there one?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Taylor Arthur
November, 9 2015 at 11:32 am

Dear B.G.,
I am so sorry for the heartbreaking situation you find yourself in. The questions you raise are valid. Your needs matter. Your mental and spiritual health need tending to. My best advice to you is to start making yourself a priority. Is there anyway you could see a counselor? Having someone just listen to you who does not have a stake in your relationship (unlike family members and friends) may provide more relief than you imagine. It may also provide a safe place to unearth some answers to your hard questions.
Take care of yourself.
Blessings,
Taylor

Kathy
November, 7 2015 at 2:13 am

Hey
I got married over two years ago to the loveliest man. He told me he had a personality disorder but he had it under control and knew the signs and how to manage it before it became a problem.
We are now pregnant for the fifth time. The first four ended early either by miscarriage or ectopic. I am now 21 weeks pregnant with complications. The doctor has put me on bedrest so my husband has to do almost everything for me.
On top of that, he is having significant issues with his work colleagues. I don't know whether it began with his change of personality or the stress brought about a change.
He is literally not the same man. He has different likes and dislikes. He suspects all our friends and all his relatives of underhanded dealings. He is never abusive but I feel as if I am lying beside a stranger. It is like one of the early scenes from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Also, he doesn't seem to follow a conversation very well and it ends up being nonsense. I point it out and he can't see the lack of logic. (He is a medical doctor with a masters in public health)
We have spoken about it and we are going to his psychiatrist on Monday. I get the feeling that he doesn't really see the need and is just going along with me, his pregnant wife.
It really scares me. I am living in a foreign country under Islamic law. If anything happens, I have very few rights.
My employer is recommending that they send me home to Ireland for treatment and observation for the rest of the pregnancy. I am waiting on my obgyn to approve travel.
I am afraid to leave in case I am the only thing keeping him together. I am afraid to stay in case I am not. I am terrified that if I go, I just won't come back.
He wants what is best for me and he is well aware of the pitfalls of Sudanese healthcare.
Am I a horrible person/weak person for being so terrified? I don't know what to do. I am drowning in fear. Fear for our baby, for myself and for him.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Taylor Arthur
November, 7 2015 at 10:41 am

Dear Friend,
First of all, I am so very sorry for your losses. The grief and stress both you and your husband are experiencing must be extraordinary. Secondly, you are not a horrible person for being scared! After so much loss, any mother would be afraid. I know I was stricken with fear after my loss. Right now, your health and the baby's health are your number one priority. Your baby needs you to take care of yourself so that you can be as healthy as possible throughout this pregnancy. Do you have a counselor to speak to or at least a trusted confidant? Talk therapy was incredibly helpful to me while I was pregnant. Please take care of yourself and do whatever is necessary to keep you and your baby safe.
Peace to you,
Taylor

Mrs. W
September, 25 2015 at 6:05 am

This is completely on point, I definitely feel go trough a lot of these challenges. It can feel very lonely at times and the hardest thing is to not take anything personal. I am a newly wed too and I am trying very hard to learn how to cope with my husband mental illness.
lovingmentalillness.com

becky blaugh
September, 9 2015 at 10:14 pm

Eliza,
I loved what you wrote it rings true forme to .. when someone hurts me I am afraid of what and how I will react to them. because when I am in a bipolar mood swinging mind set. I don't give my actions any thought or second.
guessing. I react with vengence and take it to levels I wouldn't normally . If would have taken the time to calm down and assest the cituation .
And what the other person might have done was really bad , I go back at them 20 folds. I get my revenge 20 times over. And the hole time I am in a chaos state of mind confusion and hurt. When the smoke clears and I see what I have done said and how I handled it. I am ashamed and regretful . And I spend the rest of my time beating myself up because I don't want to be vengeful hateful and vengeance is not.ours the Lord said. And I know and believe this in my soul. I don't like people that go out of there way, of there way to hurt others. and that is what I do when someone hurts me. I don't like myself like that! I have a husband of 25 years that I am sepetated from and every time we make great strides toward getting back together I take us ten steps back. because I was hurt during the break up and he to. And I get thinking about it and feeling like I hate him and I don't hate him and I just tear everything
we worked on apart. I intentionally sabot the hole thing. and I think about past affairs he had and he is living with this women he had known from the past. and a couple of months ago she called me up and said my husband was between her legs and said here you can listen. Now my husband says she was just trying to even the odds and defend him. That it was s bad joke. He then said she is a good person and didn't want any problems. And she also brought him over to my house one night he says because he was going to take our van. My reaction was don't feed me that shit. If this women didn't want any problems she wouldn't have called and did what she did. She chose to involve her self on her own accord. He said she was just sticking up for a friend. Then I said why would you choose to say that out all things to me? You know I am bipolar and you know I think stuff. why would you put something like that in my head. He said no I didn't know she was going to say that . she just grabbed the phone and said it. I was like so why didn't you say something to her. I said well after she said that you both kept calling saying take your meds you but case.
they were calling me names because I am bipolar. like two kids on a school yard making fun of someone because they wear classes. like school yard bullies. yes that hurt not because of her but because it was my husband doing it.
we have seen each other went to motel rooms for the night and we got our love making back. we didn't touch for years on end. and sometimes she will call him to see where he is or if he is okay. And he is so sweet and soft spoken to here and he lies and acts like he is just running around . He doesn't tell her he is with me. Matter of fact he tells me not to call her because he don't need the trouble and he doesn't want to get kicked out. And then I respond saying she will kick you out for being with your wife? And he gets angry because I am questioning him. then he says you need not come out there or calk her because she carry's a gun and she is a black beltand she says you come out there she is going to shoot you . So dodon't do it Becky because it is going to end bad for you.
know I have been threaten by the same woman that said.my husband doing her. the same woman that came to my house at midnight. now she sends Mt husband to threaten me. well over the last two months he and I have seen each other. and I am not happy that he still lives there and I bring it up and he gets mean and says its none of my business we are seperated. and I cannot take that and I won't. I want him to move out of there and everyrltime I bring it up or I say something about her he freaks out starts threaten me hangs up on me. and then he wants me to believe they never did anything when he is acting that way. he is acting like a man that has or is cheating . And he just don't see it like that. he sees it I am crazy and mean and he has to protect her. but if that were the case, why would he worry about it when he said his self she is a black belt and packs a gun so that don't make any sense at all. And why does he hide the fact he is seeing me ? And why dies he put his phone on silent. And ignore my calls until he is clear of her. so he is trying to convince me its my bipolar getting the best of me I have no reason to think things.

rebecca blaugh
September, 9 2015 at 8:23 pm

I have bipolar and some form of scyitxophrenia and PTSD . I was diagnosed last year . I have h
gone all my years knowing I had something wrong because its abchsllenge everyday to not mood swing and not to misinterpret the information I read or hear.
I have been married to my husband for 25 years. I was fortunate to had met someone who would take the time to sit and talk to me for hours . I called it bringing me down. I would call his work I'm the day and his boss would say he is on a test drive, instantly I thought he was with another women. I thought his co workers were covering him . I would be in a panic crying because I would vision him with a women. I would cry and talk to myself telling myself see he has been lying to you. he is pike every other man a womanizer and a cheat.
He would finally call. And I would grab the phone and start screaming calling him terrible names. I wouldn't give him a chance to say anything . And I would hang up in hysterics . then I said I got to leave him and I would start packing my bags. Sometimes I was gone when he got home. And he would call around or come looking for me. begging me to come home but it feel on deaf ears . I was angery and full of deceit .. I would concinplate hurting back I wanted to feel dispare and sadness like I was feeling. In my mind if I punished him he would realize what I felt and never do it again. Even though he hadn't done anything . In my mind I visioned it and for me that made it real.
My husband didn't stand a chance because my mind was right and I ran with it. My husband could have ran or maybe should have . But if I know my husband he said to his self I will find away to deal with this he always was a problem solver and thought to his self she needs me I haft to save her.
He started to come home and sit me down on days I did this and sometimes talk to me for hours. He would brake everything down and say see this is what I was doing it took me what 10 minutes to call you back if I was doing this how did I do this in ten minutes time. And I would come out of it and relize he is right. But was horrible for me , it was like a perfect storm in your head. And there was no way out of the choas in your mind . But it had to been even worse for my husband because I would do this frequently and on some occasions embarrasse him in front of his co workers or boss and friends. Andsome wwould tell him you need to get rid of her. And he would tell them sgevgas problems and I love her.
He knew I was molested my entire childhood and he didn't understand it entirely but he knew the way I treated him was related to what happened to men He knew I had not gotten counseling for that. OK I will pick up were I left off later. When I talk about this
s it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. sorry be back later.

Eliza
September, 1 2015 at 5:17 am

I have schizoaffective bipolar disorder and PSTD. I have never cheated in a relationship, I do not lie, drink, steal, or anything else. In fact, the people I was with who have no mental illness cheated on me, lied to me, had drinking problems, let me work two jobs and go to school and did not try to improve themselves.
I have met more immoral people who have no diagnosis whatsoever and are considered sane. In fact, even my doctor told me that most people abandon their family when they become seriously ill. That is the majority of people out there and I am not surprised.
Having a mental illness does not make you immoral and in my experience other people would trigger episodes because of their actions and then blame the person with the mental illness for losing control.
If you get involved with someone with a mental illness, you better be an honest, loyal, and dedicated person because you are dealing with someone whose emotions are ten times stronger than yours. So, if you are cheating on them, and expect them to act sane, it is not going to happen. If you are a liar and expect your mentally ill spouse to not lose control because of your lies, then you are the one with issues.
Mentally ill people need a relationship that is stress free, reliable, dependable, and with people who are loyal and decent. THere is no point in fighting with a drunk, but people tend to argue with psychotic people and hold it against them.
I know people who are married to people with schizophrenia and bipolar who have longer and happy marriages than normal people out there because normal people are not necessarily good people. Having a mental illness can make you are more compassionate and understanding person.

Kathy
August, 6 2015 at 2:36 pm

For everyone here, please call your local NAMI office, National Alliance for the Mentally ill. Take their course Family to Family and don't be afraid of the time involved with the course - its worth it. Some offices have the class on Saturdays and some have it during evenings. This will help you. Don't be afraid to go to the court and have the court force him to go to a hospital to be treated for mental illness. Nami will help greatly with this - the family support groups in your area will tell you which are the good hospitals and which will just send him home in a few days.
I have been psychologically tormented on and off for 20 years, and due to it has flash backs. He is a lawyer with many degrees.His family was not supportive. If you can, get away from him and the psychological abuse. It can get better for a while, but there is always an issue. He lied about taking his medication. For me, his worst break occurred when he was 54 years old. He ran off for 2 months and spent every penny we had and got himself in an enormous amount of debt because our credit was so good. We lost our house, our cars, everything. And, for the first time he assaulted me - dislocating my shoulder, killing part of a bone, ripping my bicep and rotator cuff. Leave before its too late and you lose your friends and your family. Go to them and tell them what is happening. And, then just GO.

kimberly
July, 27 2015 at 5:36 am

I have been married for 17 years.... My husband has had about 5 mental breaks in the last 12years. Which included just walking away to only God's knows where three times... And being gone for up-to 2 weeks with no communication whatsoever. Each time I have taken him back with open arms... Feeling nothing but grateful to have him back in my life but always knowing that there was something else hiding around the corner to rear it's ugly head and once again destroy what we had built back up. The most recent episode started back in Jan of this yeR. Things had been off and I knew something was Coming...and then one afternoon when I came home to him he was acting odd. He couldn't sit still at first my fear was drugs(he had been down that road many years previously) buy soon realized it was something all together new... He called in to work for about 3 days.... And then after must urging I forced him to the county ran mental facility that he had previously been an out patient years before. After a month of gruelling in office appointments and paperwork he was finally able to see a real doctor who at once decided to admit him into the mental hospital.... About 3hours awY as there were no free beds in our town share he remained for almost a week. Once again I worried the entire time he was gone as I was only allowed one phone call from him every other day... And welcomed him home with hope for the future but fear surrounding me with all the uncertainties that come with the unknown. Will the meds work?? Will he stay on them? Can he work and if not how will we make it financially on just my pay?? And of course will he be back to how he use to be? I now know the answer to that last question.. No... And he never will be the same. The man I met and fell I'move with.. Who got happy just hearing a Christmas tune.. He's gone.. The man who used to always want to hold my hand and kiss me.. Has vanished.. But I k of he still loves me.. But that happiness.. The spark is gone. And that is what makes me the saddest of all..

Eanu
June, 9 2015 at 7:55 am

My husband is 24 and was diagnosed with ptsd bipolar depression and extreme anexity disorder, we have been together 7 years in October, married 4, ad have 2 girls, one is 3 and the other is 1 month old. Im writing because he refused all medications fom h hi s counselor and doc, he attempted suicide in December because I left with our oldest, I had enough of the verbal abuse he would talk down to me and always say how I did this wrong or my parenting was horrible, one time his dad bought his meds without insurance because my husband demanded it in order to work his new job, he said that night to me"see this is the kind of parent I wanna be who would do anything for their kids what kind are you?" Mind all of you I take care of both children and did the first one on my own also, he never put her to bed did not change her bathe her or feed her hardly feeding he would but I could tell you it was. Handful of times, I couldn't do anything for myself or go out without her with me, I feel alone in this because his parents have always done things for him, he says I make him disicate from being his real self, I make him say things like I wish you were dead or how he hates me all during his outburst and losing his temper, he self medicates with pot, and since released from the mental hospital afte the suicide attempt hasn't takn meds and won't work because of the menta illness, hasn't in a year. He is verbally abusive but reassures me he loves me, not sure what to do anymore its good for a while then hes at my throat again I feel I do nothing right and im taking care of not only 2 children but a adult to who insults me when he says hes trying to help me grow as a person and be better but its hurt ful most of the time, I guess my question is what's the difference between having ptsd and the persons symptoms and just being mean? He doesn't cook or clean and its a challenge to get him to even shut a drawer he got his clothes out of. I ha e always been here for him and stood up for him, I feel stuck and the only one thinking responsibly, he says its to stressful to do the things a normal person can but makes times to be with his friends and go out a not be sober. If he has time for that then why not try to do things for us? Its so confusing, im 23 and will be 24 Thursday I don't want to have a huge regret amd feel im young enough to be something more than just what im doing now, he just makes me feel incredibly quiltly

Lean6
June, 6 2015 at 7:17 am

Here's my final update in case it helps someone out there:
After the frivolous protection order attempt 6 months ago, my wife apparently decided that she was not going to go back into the court room to be further exposed. I also found out from remorseful close family of hers that she was a really morally corrupt person with some skeletons in her closet that probably "split her soul." She crossed some lines and lost herself forever. Let's just say that my instincts and precautions probably kept me alive...and it felt good to know that I had not been paranoid. I don't know if she miscalculated what it meant to not participate in the divorce proceedings but, as I said previously, things were going to get worse for her...I didn't even realize things were going to get THIS much worse for her. I was successful in getting a default judgement in my divorce (100 percent of all property, custody, child support, retirement, etc), and I have the full backing of the court and the sheriff to escort her out of my life over the course of the next 2 weeks.

So Tired
June, 1 2015 at 8:21 am

I been married to a pot smoking , binge drinking woman who has depression for 27 yrs, it was manageable until 13 yrs ago, she had a heart attacked , that event completely depressed her to the point of her trying to self destruct , she got involved with cocaine, pot & alcohol on a daily basis . We have 4 wonderful kids , and it was my older daughter who informed me of mom escalating to cocaine . The Fighting between me and my wife was bad, she would not admit it was her and the drugs continued. One Night of arguing she decided to end her life not to hurt her family any longer , so she overdosed on her prescription drugs, downed it with alcohol , made herself an sandwich and went to bed. Lucky i fond her on the floor and called 911 , 3 days in a coma and on life support the doctors wanted me to pull the plug, I didn’t have the heart so I said no, she survived.
She came home and all the Kids and I forced her into counselling once more, also took her to church 2 times a week which she loved. She was clean for about 2 yrs, but slowly I began to see evidence of pot again, but as usual she lied and manipulated about it. The arguing started all over again about her drug abuse on a daily scale. One day she was so upset because I had caught her buying her pot that she binge drinking so heavily it was like I was dealing with satan. When she would get high she was just mellow, never cause trouble but was also like a zombie, but when she drank , there was no controlling her rage. So one night it got so bad, the kids had had enough and called 911, 5 cops in my home who were very nice tried for a few hrs to calm her, finally they gave up and she got arrested for the first time. She was charged with assault on me and the kids (my wife remembers non of this) . She was gone for a yr till her case was over, and even during that yr we all tried to help her back into counselling , getting her lawyer .
Well she’s been back home now for 9 mths, and though she stopped drinking she informed me she cannot stop the pot because she says it helps her, her depressant meds she says makes her feel like a zombie, but the pot helps her relax and removes the depression. So I decided for the sake of peace to leave her alone , its been 27 yrs of her smoking and the last 13 that have been a nightmare . She’s 60 yrs old now and obviously our sex life is completely non existent , her driver’s licence has been suspended 6 times for all sorts of tickets and non payment because all her money goes to pot. Im 7 yrs younger than her and all i am is her care giver, but I am so lonely to be with a woman and what holds me back is my Christian beliefs , but deep inside I’m dying a slow death .
Since she came back I tried to make her happy like I always do, to show her me and the kids love her and want her cleaned up and want to have a relationship with her , so paid all her tickets , legal fees, took her to Cuba vacation for 2 weeks, bought het new wardrobe so she can feel good about herself, take her out for dinners, i call her daily while I’m at the office to check up on here. But still no sexual relationship. I have asked her but she says the prescription drugs for her heart and depression kills her desire .
I feels so so traped

Lean6
May, 25 2015 at 2:18 pm

I left a comment previously: October 21, 2014 at 1:10 pm, and here I am because I found words from my previous comment through a search engine. Great time for an update, I guess.
Seven months later, I'm in the middle of a divorce. The month of December was the kind of stuff that movies are made of. Around the time of my original posting, things had gotten so bizarre that I had to start recording phone calls and conversations, keeping text messages and emails, and writing in a journal. She was making all kinds of statements about death and what not, rambling and repeating herself, claiming to be the reincarnation of ancient spirits, speaking in weird gibberish proclaimed to be Hebrew mixed with extreme profanity, etc.
The night that things took a turn, I had to call 911 for the safety of my minor child, who now lives with me. That night, I was exposed to evidence of what had apparently been some extended period of religious experimentation and confusion. The next two weeks were even more incredible, both in the bizarre and hostile behavior, and in the discovery of a person who had been lost and living in an alternate reality for years. Thank God that I was able to collect a mountain of evidence during this time to knock down what my wife tried to do to me next.
During a court hearing for a completely frivolous petition for a protection order against me, it was only the recordings that I played in a packed courtroom (and her complete lack of evidence or coherent claim) that saved me. Thankfully, I had a patient but no-nonsense judge as well. I point this out because otherwise it was the word of a hysterical and determined woman against a large man...the scariest day of my life, and i've served in war zones on the other side of the world.
My wife is still undiagnosed, and before I escaped in December, she was still abusing alcohol and Xanax. She will not work, and her only plan is to hope for a golden parachute from the divorce. She has failed to appear at all other court hearings since the failed protection order attempt because she doesn't want to be confronted with evidence of her behavior again (she admitted so, and I recorded that too).
I opened a case with Child Protective Services prior to going into that protection order hearing in the interest of my kids' safety and not knowing what to expect during the hearing. She simply refused to cooperate with CPS, and I thereby kept sole custody of my minor child. I suspect that the only possibility for her getting attention will come when I demand a psychiatric evaluation considering all evidence and object to her having visitation with my son.
Sorry, but from what i've experienced with all of the enablers in society, I have no confidence at the moment that me or my son are out of danger yet. Based on the way the divorce proceedings have gone with her non-participation, things are about to get even worse for her...and therefore for me and my son also. She's become isolated...estranged from all family, and the desperation will be severe.
I'm no psychiatrist, but from the years of observing and living with her worsening behavior, and from researching my experiences, I see the most consistencies with Schizoaffective Disorder (Bipolar Type).

ColdWinnipeger
May, 16 2015 at 1:10 pm

I am in my late 40's and my wife is in her mid 50's. We first started dating about 6 years ago, she has two adult children from a previous marriage. Her boy left home once he started college and never returned. Her daughter recently graduated from medical school and is also moving far away.
My wife has been having problems that are obviously related to her Mennonite childhood. She has been on Disability for 7 years, at first I assumed it was physical but in a recent application for the disability tax credit - which she was very reluctant to do - I discovered she was put on disability due to mental health issues.
We are now in a situation that is desperate. I can't hold a job because she expects me to be at her calling, even on the job. Naturally, I get let go if I miss too much work. She will stay up all night and sleep all day.
I have suggested seeing a psychiatrist, but she refuses to do so. Next comes the guilt trip, the ultimatums, threatening suicide, threatening to live at the garbage dump, threatening to leave me and take half the house, etc.
I really don't know what to do. Her brothers and sisters enable her behavior by bringing a religious delusion element into it. Her two kids at this last Christmas, point blank, told me right in front of her that they thought I was crazy and a chump for putting up with her. Before they walked out the door, they said their mother would ruin my life, just as she ruined their lives (Both spent years in counselling but were able to move on with their lives). The daughter referred to her mom as a "crazy maker".
They also warned me to just walk away before I lost my sanity. I really am losing it. I used to be an effective manager, assertive and confident. Now I easily get panic attacks in public and find myself shaking at even the thought of any job that requires responsibility.
There is NO HELP out there. I have spoken to doctors, counselors, nobody will do SFA until it turns into a tragedy.
Not sure why I am even telling people this. Nobody cares, nobody will do anything. I really should just pack my bags, maybe move in with my spinster aunt. Get back on my feet.
To hell with my house, she can have it. My sanity is more important.

sweetmalis
March, 19 2015 at 11:00 am

Well I read many of these blogs after being awake now for about 3 entire days so if I ramble or don't make sense I apologize ahead of time. My hands are also killing me and I have a migraine that has not responded to my arsenal of meds. My hands hurt because I started to write my husband a notecard, small one, just cause its been a bad few weeks due to my mental and physical issues. I am a 40 year old woman and my husband also 40, we started dating exclusively in 1993, married in 1999, and had our beautiful daughter in 2003. So I have spent more than half of my life with this man. And boy my little notecard turned into a 26 page letter, once I started I couldn't stop. Mainly it was one apology after another and another until I truly realized just what a crappy hand my family got with me, and that's quite an understatement. Quick history, my Mother who passed away in 1992 and the most amazing person in this world. She fought an absolute evil, cancer, I hate that word. And up until the last night of her life in which she had went to Florida, we live in Connecticut and it was February and my Mom loved the warmth and her sister lived there. My father and sister and me all knew it was terminal and I think she truly knew she was going to die in those next few days, so off to Florida she went to protect us from seeing her pass. But after 3 days in which my aunt later described as the best weather in Florida while my Mom was there and I believe her warmth from her heart gave that entire state those most beautiful days. We did get an emergency call that she was in an induced coma, she was in so much pain they had to do it...but it was in those few hours in the plane that she last spoke and her eyes open, told my aunt to give both my sister and I her wedding rings and that she loved us so much that we would always have her as our Mom. And that night my aunt did leave to give the three of us alone time and my Dad actually kissed her cheek, wiped one tear from his eyes and said he was going home with my aunt, after all it was a long day and he was tired. He left my Mom and my sister, who just turned 18 years old, I was 17...and we both sat on each side of her bed holding her hand not even getting up to use the bathroom for the next 6-7 hours. And as lucky as I was to know that she was the first one to hold me when I took my first breath as her baby, I was there and held her hand as she took her last breath. I hope that doesn't sound morbid but to be able to just be there and she wasn't alone got me thru that time. I think I would have succeeded after so many suicidal attempts since 12 years old but that I couldn't do to her. And I tried...tried hard with this deep darkness of depression in which everyday I wake up I curse God that I woke up, then I sit or "clean" my house watching the clock praying it will be night soon and maybe my meds will work and for a few hours I can escape. To even type these words are so evil because I have the most beautiful 11 year old daughter that instead of getting the gift of a Mom that fought thru pain I couldn't both physical and emotionally do, I am so blessed that I do have a husband still, and it is only because he knows I could never live alone and no family since my dad left my sister and I alone that night, I would commit myself to a mental institution than live with him. My husband is an amazing father, for all intense and purposes he is a single parent who works 60-80 hours a week as an electrician so no cushy office chair for him, and then come home to find my daughter either glued to one electronic device or another. I'll have to come back to this my head is too bad...thanks and sorry

Ouch
March, 5 2015 at 11:12 pm

I thank God for finding this site. I thought I was completely alone and somehow was too weak to fix things. Long story short.
My wife and I are both 55 years old. We began to date 13 years ago and have been married for almost 11 years. I was financially pretty well off. Had a nice home and mortgage. My Step Daughter from my prior marriage lived with me while going to college. I met my wife in a group of friends we hung out with. We both had an outgoing manner and great sense of humor. After 6 months of being friends, I asked her out. Did not even kiss on the first date. But it was wonderful from that moment forward and a year later when we got engaged everyone, including me, was ecstatic. Then I noticed things got different. Day to day was great. She was the woman of my dreams. But she began to talk about past relationships in a weird way. She didn't talk about hurts, but about explicit sexual encounters, details about intimate times and body parts. I asked her to stop. She did for a bit. Then a few weeks before the wedding, she told me in front of all of us planning the wedding she had been engaged 5 times, had run, and thought it was funny. In the past she also had discussed being stalked, raped and molested. I had never been around this kind of thing. So I became her white knight. Fast forward a few years. We have always been very loving and best friends but that began to change. She began to flirt with guys and though our friends were worried, I felt we were immune to that. We had an opportunity to move to a paradise in Mexico. We began to be targeted by the then new gangs and began to be extorted. She would not leave because she enjoyed the party. Her behavior got more erratic. She began trying to strip at bars and took her clothes off on a dinner cruise. I finally got us back to the U.S. When her family saw her and confronted her, she made up stories of me abusing her and forcing her to sell her body. The only thing I did was save her life! Over the next few years she has been in and out of psych wards and rehabs. Sometimes not letting me know where she was for months at a time. Her family has pretty much given up on her. Finally, 2 and a half years she was declared legally incompetent. When she received her Sri settlement I was supposed to manage her money and affairs. I found a private agency to do that instead as I figured I would get blamed for something sometime. Well, she talked her way into getting it all herself. Within 6 months, the money was almost gone. She had an affair with a homeless guy for a few months who we both knew had herpes and had been exposed to HIV. It didn't matter to her. She now has herpes, no HIV as yet, but that can take a couple years. Bottom line is I left. Filed for divorce. I went to see her about 2 months later over some financial issues and she looked almost dead. Beaten to a pulp and 30 pounds underweight. I stuck around to help. I showed kindness. A year later no one will have anything to do with her. I have spoken only well of her. When she is angry, she threatens to call the police and claim I beat her she did this once and they took her to jail! I have also found out the beatings, rapes and stalking claims she made from her youth were either greatly exaggerated or made up. I love her because I remember what she was for a time. The Best. I made a vow to stay and love no matter what. But I am afraid.
Lowlife Guys come around while I'm at work and she is getting that paranoid, mean attitude that means she is about to do something horrible again. The saddest part, is she really thinks she is being logical. We are now totally bankrupt and in debt from this. Lost a huge house, large savings and retirement and in huge debt. She tries. Her sanity and logic flow in and out. But the bad times are getting worse. She can't or won't accept real help. If I leave, I will live in a one room crap hole for at least a year to get back on my feet. In my heart I would do anything and walk over hot coals if she would get better. But it's been going on for 6 years, getting worse. The only one who won't participate in her recovery is her. She either won't or can't. I hate mental illness and the stigma it causes. I want my baby back so much! But I don't think she is her anymore and I am 55 years old a tired. Please God, Help Us!

Erin O
February, 5 2015 at 8:41 pm

I am just now seeking info and help for coping with the loss of my mentally ill husband. It looks like there are as many kinds of situations and sets of needs as there are stories.
Since my husband was arrested for assaulting me during an episode, my hands are tied by the state of Oregon and I cannot advocate for him directly. His lawyer is not familiar with the complexity of an insanity plea and I am afraid he will go to years in state prison for a crime he would never have committed if he had received proper care. Since he is a veteran, his PTSD and bipolar-like symptoms since the war were supposed to be administered by the VA, but they are hesitant to admit the fill extent of his need or address the accompanying alcoholism that kept him inconsistent in seeking treatment. Now, he is facing a long and unhelpful road, and I am virtually unable to help him. I am sure that prison will only make him worse. He is a good man, an educated, upstanding guy, respected by friends and family -who was having worsening episodes and issues.
Although we have no future as a couple (my son witnessed the event and there is no way to set a healthy precedent for him or ensure our continued safety if my husband is in the picture), I love and care for my husband. I was his biggest advocate and cheerleader as he worked tirelessly to seek help and self-improvement. To see his life go down the toilet this way simply because proper care wasn't available is breaking my heart.

john J
December, 7 2014 at 5:13 pm

Has anyone ever had a spouse leave and never return? My wife left 2 years ago after suffering for 4 years after a breakdown. I worry about her daily but feel totally unable to help after years of trying to protect her and our children.

Anon
November, 19 2014 at 8:50 am

I was with a man for 10 years, married for almost 6 years, who suffered(s) from mental illness. There were warning signs from the beginning that I ignored or dismissed. I found out more once we were married. The mental illness ran through his whole family. I didn't ask and it was a "family secret" that I was only to know once I was part of the family!??! I refused to have children with him because of this.
I have no idea what his ultimate diagnosis was. I know he had ADHD, but the paranoia and narcissistic qualities confused me. He was too disorganized for only a personality disorder. I stopped going to his therapy for a while until I realized he was lying to his therapist. Then I went to set the record straight. That's when I realized I had to pull away. That I was becoming a parent, tattling on him for his bad behavior. It wasn't going to help him and it wasn't going to help our marriage.
After that he deteriorated more and more, refused to bathe, work, contribute to the household, bought large amounts of items and expensive items without an income to support himself, alienated my son (from a previous marriage), became volatile and bizarre, ignored me wholesale, refused to take his medications or participate in his own therapy. He was hospitalized once, voluntary. After he was discharged, he sold his medications for cash. I felt like his caretaker and not like a partner. I didn't have a partner. I no longer had a mate.
Divorcing him was hard. He stonewalled, made outrageous demands, was "fired" by his own lawyer, I had to get a restraining order, he threatened to kill the pets, he stalked me, he interfered with the utilities.
I went into therapy myself to reconcile the vows I had made. That whole "in sickness and in health" thing. My therapist pointed out he broke the vows first. To live as man and wife. I still struggle with guilt over my decision. But you cannot help someone who refuses to help himself. I still have awful dreams at times about this person. That he is here and won't leave. I did the right thing for myself. I was not able to help him. I have been told I do not have to accept responsibility for that. I have to make peace with that. I'm still trying.

Lean6
October, 21 2014 at 8:10 am

Most articles that I've read refer to people with diagnosed mental illness. I'm a man living with a wife with undiagnosed mental illness. This is not Hollywood, that's for sure. We're getting to the point where others are starting to notice and contact me with concern for her behavior, namely her immediate family. It took some tremendous loss of life to get there. Yet still, I have no faith that relief is anywhere in sight. The world is full of enablers...people who are more interested in being heroes instead asking difficult questions. Not to mention those people who also bear some burden of guilt. The family is telling me to take action, but I know what I'm dealing with and what's a risk in dealing with any agency in society...I've seen it. The further she sinks, the farther I move away for my own safety, the more at risk I become for when she eventually falls completely apart. There's been periods of alcohol abuse, prescription drug abuse, and over the counter medicine abuse. The psychologists or counselors that we've seen along the way under other pretenses have all been duped. The usual pattern is that she clouds the sessions with stories about her mother, or simply telling people that I'm unaffectionate, she gets more Xanax prescribed, and she quits if they've gotten too close. She recently left an emergency room that was suspicious of her drug-seeking behavior, went to another hospital with EKG leads still attached, and nobody said anything. They just accepted the excuse of poor customer service at the first hospital. She knows where the boundaries of insanity are and she's manipulative enough to mask this behind tears and quite regularly consuming me for strength. I'm cowering in another room barely speaking to her these days and trying to avoid confrontation. I've stayed because I cannot bring myself to leave my children there for any period of time, just hoping that family courts will be any different. I seriously fear that someone is going to get hurt. The most depressing thing in the world is to be heavily muscled at 6'1" 250 pounds, and to be pushed around by a 5'3" woman this way. Nobody could ever believe it and she feeds off of that as well.

Tammy
October, 16 2014 at 3:12 pm

Marko, I feel your pain. Been married to my husband for 14 years, together 19, and over the last two years he has become someone I hardly recognition. He too insists nothing is wrong with him, but has had absolutely explosive outbursts at our business that have cost us staff and customers. He has become paranoid and is suspicious that people are "out to get him," almost to the point of being delusional at times. His dysfunctional family does nothing but make excuses for his behavior.
I profoundly miss the man he was, but the man he has become is putting everything we have at jeopardy.

Marko Barrows
September, 11 2014 at 9:22 pm

My wife(married 15 years) suffers from extreme bipolar disorder, possibly late onset schizophrenia, but is in complete denial. Stress triggers her episodes but alcohol is generally to blame. She has become violent with no recollection of the offenses. She has humiliated both of us in front of friends and family. One half of me says RUN and the other half says fight for the woman she was. Any conversation of therapy winds up in empty promises or angry rejection. What is my best first step, besides joining this forum?

michelle
September, 10 2014 at 4:57 pm

Sister married got child his with her in australia he suffers mental illness and she wants divorce doesnt know how to keave him they own house which needs to be sold, he has no friends dad dead mum in mentsl home england and my dister worried hiw to get out. She csn come to nz for 30 days bur as kid was born in austealia he could insist they go back. He is on high dosage has weird thoughts spying on her dhe has no feelings gor him and wants out how best to do this.

Chuck
July, 22 2014 at 5:18 am

Dear Erin,
RUN! DON'T WALK, RUN!
I am NOT any type of qualified mental illness councilor, but I have the misfortune of having too much life experience dealing with and trying to put reason to complete unreasonableness. With that disclosed, please feel free to disregard all that I assert below, but I hope you may find some of it helpful.
1) RUN. There are 50 ways to leave your lover, and you listed at least 10 reasons to do so in your (very detailed) post.
2) RUN. I will quote Zig Ziglar, you are "cooked in the squat." Please listen to "How to Get What you Want." You state that you are going to wait for over 6 years to leave? That is NOT a plan. You have personally and quietly commented yourself to over 6 years of prison. The WORST and MOST terrible plan I have ever heard! RUN!
3) RUN. As you assert in your post, children who are subjected to a parent that has a mental illness, likely acquire the same illness. The same thing happens to adults who study and / or are around people with any type of sickness. . .
. . .prepare yourself. . .
. . .either you already had many of his mental illnesses, or through your caregiving you have developed, exhibit in your post, several of his mental illnesses that you described.
Finally, (PLEASE) RUN and listen to "How to Get What you Want" by Zig Ziglar.
Most Respectfully Yours,

sheri
July, 1 2014 at 2:15 pm

Wow Erin, that's so sad, yet it's so true. My husband has bipolar/ schizoaffective disorder and we've been married for 6 years. Life is so difficult at times, I'm so glad you shared, God Bless you <3

Erin
June, 27 2014 at 8:48 am

Ms. Patel, I want to assure you that relapse is not possible, it is inevitable. The odds are about 20% that any children parented by someone with a mental illness, will develop the illness. It has been my experience with my schizoaffective husband, that the stresses of parenting can trigger a (mildish) episode. My husband tends toward manic mood swings although depressive ones occur sometimes.
To hear his mom talk about his childhood it seems he was always ill, although my husband had his first encounter with the psychiatric system when he was 18. It was chalked up to drug abuse and/or demon possession. His mom held an exorcism, he returned to the church, and they declared him 'healed by God.' He stopped psychiatric treatment about a year after the break, and got married to his ex shortly thereafter.
His ex- tells me about the things he would do while they were married - he had an out of control sex drive and would masturbate several times a day; he would refuse to feed himself, once calling her home to make him a sandwich while she was visiting family over 100 miles away; impulsive activities like a midnight naked bike ride around the neighborhood were common, as was naked rolls in the snow.
A year after their fifth child was born, he was working a full-time swing shift job at a lumber mill, working a part-time pizza delivery job, going to school for an AA, doing the Body For Life fitness challenge, remodeling their house piecemeal, and cheating on her. (This seems like classic mania to me...)
He had begun seeing a GP for depression and was given various antidepressant meds by that dr. who was not trained in the specialty. That is when he had a major manic/ psychotic break and his ex removed the children from him.
He had a manic depressive episode which ended in psychotic break within our first year together, and I took the Family to Family class at NAMI. After the class, I thought I had it figured out.
I do not have any children with my husband, but true to statistics, one of his 5 children has bipolar disorder which was present at 7 years old & adhd (as well as type 1 diabetes), one has Asperger's and adhd, and three have just adhd (that we know of.)
Although he does not have custody of the children, his ability to parent has often been affected by his illness. When he is even slightly 'off', he does a poor job of caring for his child with diabetes and bipolar because he is unable to stick to a routine (sleep, meds & insulin injections must be done on a schedule), his discipline of them is erratic and often done in anger, he drives unsafely due to aggression and cognitive problems, he is self-focused on his own needs and wants, and he has poor judgment. When he is having an episode, he turns into a big selfish teenager who rebels against every responsibility.
These issues are not isolated incidents. These are ongoing struggles, especially because during these times he feels omniscient and any interference is 'emasculating'.
When I told him to slow down just prior to him receiving a $400 ticket for reckless endangerment, his response was that I was overreacting. The ticket was given for driving 90mph at 11pm during driving rain, to pass someone on the right.
He still drives erratically when more ill, but since having a premonition of dying in a car with him at the wheel, I refuse to be in a vehicle with him driving when he's manic and I have started to tell his ex that he's not suitable to drive the kids for a visit.
He became maniacally aggressive while driving a few weeks ago, and when I told him to slow down and stop being aggressive, he said he didn't care about my opinion of his driving. That's when I lost it: I screamed that YOU BETTER DAMN WELL CARE, MY LIFE IS IN YOUR HANDS WHEN I AM YOUR PASSENGER. He pulled over, and hasn't shuttled me since.
(I suspect during episodes, many with MI regress to the stage of development they were at when they first became ill. My stepson regresses to about 4 yr old behavior with tantrums, baby-talk, thumbsucking and clingy neediness.)
When he is ill, which has been a lot since we were married 7 years ago, he is a verbally abusive, self-centered jerk. If I am suffering with a headache, it doesn't matter; he will play the drums regardless and for twice as long. We have moved several times, and only once has he truly been helpful. Most of the time he will come up with a litany of physical complaints to get out of helping (although he is a very healthy, physically active 42 year old man who is never in enough pain to stop skateboarding.)
He became floridly ill around July '12 when he began to 'celebrate turning 40' which meant drinking a sixer a day. During that time, he cheated on me twice with a meth junkie (yeah, I got STD tested), started several fights in our neighborhood, threatened to shank someone on Christmas eve, opened up credit cards and maxed them, ruined hundreds of dollars worth of food because he was constantly unplugging the refrigerator because he couldn't block out the sounds of the motor running, put holes in our walls...
He has been more violent toward himself and our property than to other people - has stabbed himself in the hand, and punched himself in the eye (then told others I did it.)
I had become trained as a NAMI Family to Family co-facilitator, and I knew I had to draw boundaries. I told him to leave. He moved out into our minivan and stayed in church parking lots, then eventually parked the van at his mom's. His mom told him he had to go find a place to live, and he came back to my town. He tried using the internet at the library, but couldn't because people were talking about him, 'they' were tracking his internet usage, and the library was too bright.
He came back to my home five months after being asked to leave. I love and care about him, and I was scared but I let him come back to search for a place to live. We went out together to find him a place, but no place was right- there were too many windows, not enough windows, too many people around, not enough room for his drill press or drum kit...
I let him move back in with some conditions. 1. He has to take his meds as prescribed. 2. He cannot drink alcohol at all, ever. 3. I must have a medical power of attorney.
Well, he won't give me the POA, but he takes meds (although erratically and unwillingly) and he doesn't drink. That helps, but he's still paranoid, delusional, erratic, and abusively argumentative. His symptoms, as per what research has shown, are progressively getting worse with each episode.
I don't trust him now, after he has repeatedly: failed to care for his child with life-threatening illness; stolen from me; lied about me to others; cheated; launched unfounded verbal attacks on me and others...
I have been trying to teach the kids about his illness, to help them understand their dad and brother. His son is now 14 and we are currently reading An Unquiet Mind together to help him understand. Although my husband recognizes himself in that book, he argues with me as I read aloud because he has always railed against any information about mental illness (it's all conspiracy from big pharma to sell more drugs.)
I am still young: 34, but because of the daily stress, my husband makes me feel like I have lived 50 years in the last 7. It will be another 6 years until the youngest kid graduates. I think when the kids are no longer in danger from him - when they are grown and stop their court-ordered visitation - I will finally leave.
I hope after that time, I can recover enough to love and trust and feel young again.

Msmith
June, 22 2014 at 9:56 am

My husband was diagnosed with mental illness years before I met him. He was upfront but said he had it under control. He was quirky but still loving and fun. We got married and after 4 years of marriage he had a bad episode. He will not get treatment and believes I was a plant put into his life and I work for some secret agency. It has been 8 months of this, he has been verbal abusive making me do stranger and stranger things to prove I love him and am not working with a secret agency. This morning he told me he never loved me and he wants a divorce. He wants me to give him all our belongings and leave now. I know he needs taking care of. His family wants nothing to do with him and I still love him. Any advice, I can't force him to get treatment and I can't force him to stay married to me. My family wants me to run away fast and giv him up as a lost cause. I take marriage more serious than that. If anyone has gone thru anything that this how did you get thru it?

Riya Patel
June, 20 2014 at 11:03 am

A boy (not boyfriend) has had paranoid schizophrenia since he was 26. He is 36 now. he said he is ok now just taking only medicine everyday. should i get merry with him ? is any problem when we will planing for family? is it genetic illness? it will be attacking again or not? i just want to be safe family.

Vincent
June, 3 2014 at 11:20 pm

I have been going through all of this with my SMI BPD I wife, including selling and buying the same 3 items so many times in 1 week to the same pawn shop I lost my tuition for an entire semester in pawn fees. But now, the police have changed direction. She doesn't go to crisis for evaluation, she goes to jail. She is now racking up criminal complaint after criminal complaint and the PO fees, restitution orders, court fees, legal fees and jail fees are enough to make me want to walk away and never look back. Any advice here? I'm out of ideas.

Brina
May, 16 2014 at 2:55 pm

I'm so glad I came across this website. I have been with my husband for 22 years and married 19 years. My husband was clinically diagnosed with Bipolar 1, cycling bipolar and post traumatic stress disorder a year ago. I work in the health field and new 6 years ago when his moods and temper became manic that he had a mental health issue. We have three children 18,16, and 13. His rages and abusive langauage towards me and our oldest son have gotten so out of control that I am ready to divorce him, his moods swing from being in a rage to a few hours later crying and being depressed. He has threatened to kill me because he becomes very paranoid and believes that I am cheating, constantly calls my job to "check" on me, gets very angry at our oldest son for no reason (our oldest son is going to live on the college campus 15 minutes from our hous, paying $11,000 extra a year)just to be away from his dad who is verbally and physically abusive to him when he is in a manic phase.He has called my friends during early morning hours 3am, 4am, etc, cussing at them and threatening them as well. Our life has become constant fear. We are constantly walking on eggshells around him and never knowing what is going to set him off.I am so tired of living with this man that I no longer know. I took my vows seriously"for better or for worse" but I seriously cannot handle this any longer. He refuses to go to therapy any longer or take his medications.Hospitals will only keep him a few days and than discharge him back home. He won't leave the home(that I just bought in November) and I can't leave the home with 2 underage children to take care of. He doesn't work and everyone is telling me that if I divorce him, it can cause him to spiral out of control and leave him feeling that he is all by himself. My children and I can't continue to live like this.

M
May, 3 2014 at 8:35 am

I've been married for 18 years. It's been 6 years that my husband has been suffering from sever depression, anxiety, sleep disorder. He has been diagnosed as bipolar 2 and OCD. He's been on many many medications. Every time he switched to a new one we had to face many withdrawal symptoms. Nothing is helping. He sees his physiatrist every week and takes regular psychotherapy. We have two boys. The older one is 13 and my younger one is 9. I have no family in the country that I live right now. My boys and I have been suffering a lot from his ups and downs. Last week he had a blood clot in his brain that I think it is the side effect of his recent medication (saphris). Took him to ER and was in ICU for 4 days. His family is not supportive and they don't have a clue of how it feels to live with someone depressed and anxious with the kids. The air in our house is so depressing. He doesn't like to have people over and when around the kids he looks like another piece of furniture in the house. I have no good memories from him and even before the 6 years he was so high that he didn't see me or my kids. I feel hopeless, helpless in a foreign country with two kids and a mentally unstable husband. He has never been a husband but a budrden on my shoulder. I want to go home because I have more support there, but the kids won't be happy there and don't think they agree to live there. I need emotional support. Nobody knows what I am going through. I don't open up to people and the ones I do get tired of hearing my depressing situation over and over again. I want to meet with the people who are going through the same. I know I am not alone.

Elmira
April, 28 2014 at 12:06 pm

I have known my now husband for over 5 years. We have been married for 1 1/2. He has always been a likeable and extremely intelligent person - but I always felt there was something not quite right about him, and could not put my finger on it. And I felt sorry for him because he had this kind of mild "palsy" that made his hands shake when he got very tired or upset. It was not until we were living together that I was able to experience his huge mood swings and various cognitive impairments. He exhibited a mild to medium level of behaviors found in those who were autistic, OCD, ADHD, Dyslexic, Depressed, Narcissistic....Unfortunately, I met him during the height of the recession...and one thing we had in common (I was 58 and he was 52) was that we had both just lost our jobs. I had held only two employers in my entire life - 10 years in State Social Services and 22 years in Education. Never had I seen jobs eliminated before the recession...but in my school district one day they called in about 80 of us all at one time and "offered" us "early retirement", telling us our positions were eliminated. It was in this state of shock that I met my husband, and we of course commiserated. To cut a long story short, after I agreed to "join forces" with him and we began living together, I noticed all the little mental inconsistancies, the biggest of which was that he could not remember from one day to the next things we'd discuss. He had skewed memories of what was said during arguements and discussions...and in fact he seemed unable to have a NONcombatitive discussion about any issue. He was unable to organize his thoughts or anything, for that matter. He literally could not take care of himself (look for work, interview successfully, look for an apartment, organize a move, organize bills, set up a garage, figure out how to pack a box, follow a recipe, follow simple directions, etc etc). With the help of a friend and my refusal to cohabitate with him until he was employed, he finally did get a job. 6 months later he was demoted...6 months after that he was fired for being "untrainable" and making inappropriate comments to the women at work.
He also had sleep apnea (which he vehemently refused to believe) and woke up having nightmares where he would think spiders or black cats or whatever were attacking him in the bed!). And I use the term "woke up" loosely, because he never did remember these episodes once morning came. It got to the point where I was terrified he might wake up and think I was trying to harm him. I started showing signs of sleep deprivation - in two years I put on 50 pounds just trying to eat enough carbs to keep my energy level up.
Right before he got fired, I FINALLY I managed to get him to a doctor (he'd fought it tooth and nail)..and was diagnosed with having E.T. Essential Tremor. It is a genetic disorder that is incurable and progressive. But the interesting thing is the doctors didn't really want to discuss the cognitive parts of it. They also found a tumor in his brain and luckily that evolved into him having to be neurologically and psychologically tested...which resulted in the tumor being benign, and the cognitive issues coming to light. They also diagnosed him with sleep apnea after two sleep studies and said he needed therapy - both of which he again vehemently refused. Even though the tests clearly showed he had issues,you can't force a person to get help unless they are a danger to themselves or others.
Right now I feel like the only adult, raising a very intelligent child with a HUGE sexual appetite, who has the personality of about a six year old. Complete with the quite frequent tantrums.....I handle everything - finances, meals, planning, keeping track of appointments, all home and car maintenance. Everything. He holds down a minimum wage job that is based upon the fact that he finally agreed to disclose to them his handicaps (complete with letters from his doctors)...but the only reason he goes is that his addiction to "routine" prevents him from quitting. (I guess I should be damned grateful for this, shouldn't I). I went to a lawyer....do you know what the lawyer said?
"Quick. Leave him before he gets worse. If he gets bad enough that he's fully disabled mentally, you'll never get a divorce approved by the courts..."
..........and that, ladies and gentlemen, is where I am right now. Sleeping apart (MY doctor's advice), have stopped gaining weight and slowly losing...but absolutely overcome with the huge responsibility of caretaking a 57 year old verbally abusive non communicative demanding and seemingly narcissistic gradeschool person with a constantly burgeoning sexual appetite that I have absolutely no interest in satisfying........And this is marriage.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Betty
June, 8 2018 at 11:07 am

Your story is extremely similar to mine. I'm so sick of the petulant demands for sex. I still love my husband, but I certainly don't like him! He is on disability, and I do Everything! He reads, works jigsaw puzzle, and goes to daycare. I can't depend on him for anything. So much of the time, I just feel like screaming! I'm so depressed myself,(on meds when I remember to take them)that I feel exhausted, and hopeless.Thank God, I have great grown children, who support me.
.

Me
April, 10 2014 at 12:23 pm

It is 12 years now since my wife was diagnosed with mental illness - I feel like I have lost so much of my life and so has she. What a waste. I feel so alone and isolated. No one visits any more. No one truly helps - even the doctors become bored and simply prescribe more drugs. I despair...

Laura
April, 1 2014 at 5:03 pm

My husband and I have been married for almost 15 yrs and we have 3 children under age 10. I work PT from home so I can raise ours kids. He developed a mild anxiety disorder about 13 yrs ago and it was well-managed with medication until recently. Four years ago, he left his job to start his own business. Initially it was successful, but the income dropped by half in 2013. During the same time period, I began to notice that he was more and more distant from me and our kids; isolating, no motivation to do anything, non-existent sex drive. About 4 months ago, the anxiety began to snowball out of control. Every morning brought dry heaves, which then led to daily vomiting and eventually to him being unable to function at all. I located a psychiatrist for him who adjusted his meds, but a month later he attempted suicide and was hospitalized.
Now we are two months after that, his meds are still not working well. He is in counseling (CBT) as well with limited results. He is convinced that the only solution to his anxiety and depression is a new job, but he has been repeatedly turned down for jobs in his field, which leaves us no choice but for him to continue to work on his own.
I am completely worn out by this past year, and especially these past few months. I feel like I'm becoming this person that I don't even like - I'm grouchy and resentful. I often daydream about taking our kids and leaving. I love him, but I cannot live the next 30-40+ yrs like this. I don't know how I will know when enough is enough, and I feel guilty even having these thoughts. I feel like I'm drowning in this marriage. He's not a husband in any sense of the word, and he hasn't been for quite a while. I'm really, really lonely. We have a lot of family support, and they are aware of his diagnoses, but I'm still so isolated and just want to leave; yet I'm also so scared to be alone.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
April, 2 2014 at 2:11 am

Dear Laura,
Your feelings are so understandable - and shared by so many dealing with mental illness in a spouse. It's so heard - harder in ways than being a single parent. And yet- we hope.
Can you get a different psychiatrist for your husband? Sounds like the last one was not helpful. "Adjusting meds" must include follow-up and re- adjustment as needed.
But you also must take care of you! Have you contacted your local NAMI affiliate? Family to family , and support groups when well run, can help with your feelings of loss, helplessness, and loneliness.
You are not alone, though it feels like it. There's also a book, "when someone you love has a mental illness" that many spouses find helpful.
Hang in there,
Randye

Lisa
March, 30 2014 at 9:38 am

Hi Randye, Hi all, Really great to read this blog, especially this one about marriage. I've been married to my husband for over 23 yrs who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. We have 4 kids. I've managed over the years but not easily and now he is in the hospital and the kids (2 teens left in the house) don't want him to come back, and neither do several members of my family. He is not well but I'm not sure what to do. I cannot afford private pay. So it is a real difficult situation. Plus the single parent responsibilities, with work, are a lot, even tho the kids help out. He is not abusive - but with the symptoms and his medication he is very inactive at home. he has not been able to work for the last few years. We don't really have much of a marriage, more so custodial and caretaking. I am going to go to a NAMI family support meeting in my area tseeo k help and guidance there. Good to read that I am not alone.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
March, 31 2014 at 3:48 am

you are most definitely not alone! thanks for writing...am I am glad you've found NAMI. Have you taken Family-to-Family? The education I got there made a huge difference, emotionally and practically
Randye

roberta
November, 24 2013 at 11:51 am

Should two mentally ill people marry each other? We are past child bearing age so that is not an issue. My kids are grown and out of the home, but they have issues and we have conflict and they cause me considerable stress. This was an old boyfriend who treated me well and I found on Facebook. I feel that my relationship with my kids will drive him crazy and I don't want to make him miserable. I would like to marry a man who is not mentally ill to help stabilize my life and yes, to reassure me and be my rock. Is this a blessing in disguise or a disaster I best steer clear of?

ms heidi
November, 19 2013 at 1:43 am

I am very troubled. I feel as if I need to leave my husbands mental illness has been heavy for 3 years no one helps, I am suffering from a fractured spine because of the bad situation we are in. He was fired from his job because of his mental illness after two years of disability. I am at a loss we are losing everything we worked for and I am repulsed by his inability to pull himself together.

Cassie
November, 2 2013 at 10:57 am

I am married to a man with bipolar disorder. I love him so much. I have been to NAMI's Family to Family course. It helped tremendously but working all day and him being disabled, he cannot keep a job due to his illness, and then coming home to talk with him, keep him company, cook with him and other things. We do not go out of the house a lot because in the summer, it is too hot and taking lithium makes excessive heat dangerous for him and in the winter, it is depression. We have in periods of time had great fun together but they have been far apart recently. He is an introvert so it doesn't bother him but I am an extrovert so it affects me more. I am tired, lonely, and so much of the time confused, as his moods swing frequently. He says that I can go out but he texts me when I am out and checks up on where I am. I have never given him reason to suspect that I am doing anything that I shouldn't. He wants to listen to my phone calls. I have no me time or privacy and I, myself am almost to the point of having to go to the hospital for rest. No insurance or access to therapy is available due to finances and not much accessable, affordable help is in our area. I am to the point of exhaustion and depression myself. I want to stay positive but I am just hanging on by a thread. I want to be here to help him. Leaving is not an option. I take my commitments seriously. Thanks for listening.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Betty
June, 8 2018 at 10:54 am

I'm right there with you. It's so very hard. But it's comforting to know we are not alone. Hugs, and best wishes to you both.

john
October, 3 2013 at 8:25 pm

My wife and I had been married for almost four years now with a wonderful son whom we adore so much.
My wife has been initially diagnosed with BPD last year. That explains all her verbal and physical rages, naggings, up and down moods like an unpredictable roller coaster ride and her being consistently inconsistent. After many failed attempts for her to seek help, we just decided to go on marriage counselling and church gatherings. She had so many breakdowns, that has left me numb and feeling helpless. I will have to admit, living with her has been chaotic at best. I recently left my job to help her run her business and to run my already-existing business and most especially so I can be with her in her time of need. But all she did was to keep me from going to work. She would berate me, threaten to kill me or go with another man where she can find "love". She never wanted to run her business and just wanted to stay at home with me and our baby. Any initiations to work will be met with tantrums and physical fights (as me as the receiver). She has besmirched my name and my reputation. My family also feels the brunt of her breakdowns.I love her. My family does too but has advised me to end the marriage or for me to get away from her. They said I have the right to be happy.
After so many breakdowns that has left me numb and confused, i decided to leave her and our son (only temporarily) while i sort my sanity back again. I am just waiting for my recommissionship to my senior post again this coming weeks. I am not looking forward to staying with her or taking her in to my new assignment's location. I have decided to track away from her for a period so that i can put my self back to what is right. She was successful isolating me from the world: from friends, family, close friends in my church, my hobbies and future hope for my career.
I have told her that I love her so much and our son. I will never forget them and will send money for them. I am committed to seeing my son weekly and providing for him. Although I am physically distanced from her, I gave her my assurance that I will always be here to listen to her and be her strength.
Eventually I feel that I should love her from afar. I always pray to God everyday that I do the right thing.
I need to get back on with my life.

B
August, 31 2013 at 3:27 pm

My husband has recently developed a mental illness. We have a 4 month old daughter. I would help him through this but he wants a divorce. He says he's not sick, he just loses his temper. When he snaps, he treats me like crap. I don't put up with it anymore. For my own self-esteem and safety, and for my daughter's own good, I have left. I mean, he wanted me to leave last time we talked, but when he is sane, he wants to work it out. Leaving him is breaking my heart. I love him. When he is sane, I look at him and light up because the man I love is back, and loves me too. But then he snaps, and an angry, hateful, soul-less pair of eyes stare me down. I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking it is okay for a man to verbally abuse his wife.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
September, 1 2013 at 3:01 am

yes, B - I can totally understand this decision, as will many other readers here. While you regroup. I highly suggest you check out NAMI in your area, where you can learn more about your husband's illness, as also what you can do on your end. Caring for a newborn is stressful enough (tho joyful, but all new parents know it's also hard work and a huge change), and I can only imagine how that stress is multiplied now. Stay safe first, and don't try to "handle" this alone. There are many resources that will help you, like "When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness", or any of the books that look good to you on the Healthy Place books page. But also please do find other real live human beings who understand what you are going through so you don't feel so alone. Nami.org is a great place to begin - find your local office too and ask any therapists etc as well.
hang in there,
Randye

Sam
August, 13 2013 at 7:58 am

WOW this just sounds like excuses to divorce. I know living with someone that has these issues is a problem, but nowadays if you don't agree on what color to paint the kitchen, they constitute it as emotional abuse. Too many spouses use this as a way out, instead of helping to other to get through this. So much for loyalty.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jp
May, 11 2018 at 10:56 am

At this very moment I don't know if my boyfriend is alive or dead!
This is REAL emotional abuse that these people are going through and I think that you belittling the trauma that loved ones go through is very unfair.
Do we really have to sacrifice our own mental well-being for their mental illness? Is it fair that they can use their mental illness as an excuse to verbally abuse us or manipulate and torture us?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

jill
June, 19 2018 at 8:00 am

You have obviously never been married to a person with a mental illness. Every mental illness is unique and every marriage is unique. Im trying to understand and learn more about mental illness, but one thing i do know is that it is very difficult and can be very toxic and distructive to those around them. I do feel that some mentally ill people avoid taking personal responsiblily to better themselves and in this situation the caregiver becomes an enabler. In my case ive tried to get my spouse mental help, Ive created boundraries which he consistantly breaks, he is always acting out and is very angry, treats his Dad badly, isolates himself from friends and than says he has no friends, hits himself in the face, says his life sucks, meanwhile he has so much to be thankful for and takes everything for granted.So when you say divorce is an easy way out try living with all that first.

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