When I first acknowledged my husband’s mania I wasn’t sure what to do. I deliberately use the word ‘acknowledged’ because in retrospect the symptoms were there all along. I guess that deep down I did not want to see them.
Our wedding day was just a preview of my future. We were married in June and muddled along with untreated bipolar for two years or so. At the beginning my husband’s behavior was more irritating than worrisome. The overarching theme was that he would spend a lot of money and become obsessed or delusional about his career path. Sometimes he wanted to be a pastor, other times he was a band manager, but most of the time he was, as I call it, ‘Dr. Death’ – a mortician. His mania typically lasted for 3-4 days and then he would crash and sleep nearly all day for several days.
Pushing him to see a psychiatrist was not at the forefront of my mind. Plus, he did not see his behavior the same way that I did. He was blissfully manic. On top of the world. Nothing was wrong. Everything was great and he was just following the career path that he was meant to follow. What’s wrong with that? WHAM! Life really stunk. The post-mania crash left him deeply depressed and it didn’t seem like a good time to harp on him about spending money.
By the time my husband’s depression lifted I wasn’t angry about his spending and I didn’t have anything to say about his ‘career search’ because it was harmless. Everything faded into the background. These episodes occurred three or four months apart so it took well over a year for me to notice a trend. As I sit here now I can look back and pin point just about every episode – my wedding included, but I didn’t see it back then.
There came a time when my husband’s undiagnosed bipolar was impossible to ignore. It was a manic episode straight from hell. It started out the same as any other, and then it spiraled out of control until he reached full-blown psychosis. This is how it went down. He was already in Dr. Death mode and we decided to go grocery shopping. Two young men walked past us and one of them brushed his shoulder. There was nothing rude or obnoxious about it. It was just one of those things in life that happen. The kid apologized and kept on walking. My husband stood there watching the guy until he was out of sight and then looked at me and said, “Did you see that mother fucker? He was staring at me. Fuck him. I’ll kill that mother fucker,” then he turned around and quickly headed down one of the grocery aisles.
OKaaaaaaay, where the hell did that come from?
My husband is friendly and outgoing, and I don’t recall ever seeing him truly angry at anyone. Yet there he was. He went down the salad dressing aisle and picked up a large bottle of balsamic vinegar. I was thinking he wanted to buy it, so I told him we had plenty at home. He then flipped the bottle upside down, held it by the neck as if it were a club and told me, “I’m going go kill that mother fucker. I’ll bash this over his head and slice his throat.”
Whoa!!! Wait a fucking minute! Did he just say what I thought he said?
The next thing I know I am following him while he is searching the store looking for the guy. My anxiety was through the roof and I felt a sense of deperation. I was pleading with him to stop, then I tried to talk sense into him. When neither approach worked I walked faster until I was able to get in front of him. Suddenly I was seething and by the tone of my voice it was not hard to miss. I told him, “Give me that fucking bottle now!” He just stood there so I reached out, grabbed it with both of my hands and yanked it out of his grasp. I could have cared less if broke on the floor. I was going to get that bottle out of his hand any way I could and I was glad I got it on the first attempt. I put it on a shelf and told him we were leaving. End of subject.
That episode scared the shit out of me. A glimpse of that violent side left my head spinning. I had seen some agitation before, like sending a scathing email to someone but nothing like what I just witnessed. The only word that comes to mind is evil. He looked completely evil. Damn! My heart is racing now just writing about it. I went through many emotions in a matter of a few minutes – fearful, anxious, angry, sad, furious, heartbroken. I was so thankful that he listened to me. I don’t know what would have happened if he didn’t. It was a genuine no bullshit moment.
Over the years the only thing that has saved us is that regardless of how bad an episode gets my husband always listens to me. I am well aware that I hold a “power” that cannot be taken for granted. He is very prone to paranoia so I have to carefully think about every action I am going to take and everything I say. It truly sucks to have to be so calculated. However, if that is what it takes to retain the ability to be the only person he will listen to when he is in the midst of a full-blown attack with psychosis, then that is exactly what I will do.
The incident at the grocery store was the tipping point. My life changed that night and it will never be the same.