Treating his bi-polar didn’t fix his abusiveness – a story from a survivor
When my husband and I got married I was 20 and in love. I knew he was bi-polar and I knew it ran in his family but I loved him and I believe we could work through anything. Looking back over the past seven years I am now trying to de-tangle what was the mental illness from the abuse. For six long years I thought they were one and the same and I held on tight to the hope that if only we could get him stable then our marriage would be good. I know that I wouldn’t have stayed for as long as I did if I didn’t think that I could “Fix him”.
The first time he hit me was when we were engaged. He was depressed and I was trying to help him but only ended up making him angry. He closed-fist punched me in the face and gave me a black eye. He immediately apologized and swore that it was his depression and that he didn’t mean to hurt me. I forgave him and worked harder to be the support that he needed.
He would punch walls, break plates, and throw things at me when he got angry. (I have a scar on my face from a TV remote he threw at me. I had to get ten stitches.) He would blame it all on his illness and tell me that I needed to be a better support to him since he was ill. He claimed that he couldn’t hold down a job so I had to work, he couldn’t clean or cook so I had to manage the house on top of a full time job, and he couldn’t be bothered with the kids so I did everything and he did nothing but sit on the sofa and play video games.
My job gave my family full medical coverage so I immediately sought medical help for him. I scheduled his appointments, I drove him to his appointments, I picked up his meds, and I made sure he took his meds. We went though MANY different kinds of medication and I worked hard to find the “Magic Pill” that would make all of his symptoms go away.
I was forced to go to all of his appointments with him and praise him throughout the whole session. All of his doctors and therapists (he had several due to him “not liking that one”) said that aggression was part of the bi-polar and seem to be oblivious to the abuse. Though in their defense he was very careful not to tell them anything that would incriminate him and I was too afraid of “getting him into trouble” to say anything. They weren’t overtly abusive themselves but they should have picked up on something.
Finally after much research and lots of trial and error we found the perfect medication. After six years of marriage I would finally see the fruits of my hard labor!
It was wonderful! For six months I had the marriage I always wanted. He was perfect, sweet, kind and considerate. He cleaned house, cooked, and even started talking about getting a job. He didn’t have mood swings anymore. He was even. He wasn’t impulsive with the money: even though he still always spent it on himself, he didn’t go on spending sprees and no longer had a problem with compulsive buying. On the other end he wasn’t depressed anymore. He didn’t sink into deep levels of despair.
He wasn’t bi-polar at all: he wasn’t manic or depressed, he was stable. But the underlying abuse didn’t fully stop, so I slowly started to realize that it wasn’t because he was mentally ill that he was mean, he was just mean and entitled. It was pretty easy to identify the abuse in some cases. I started standing up to him more. It was one thing to take abuse from someone who couldn’t help it. It was an entirely different thing to take abuse from someone who had no “excuse”.
Other than the manic “I’m on top of the world” followed by the depressed lay in bed all day and cry, he was exactly the same! He would still get angry and throw things at me and everything was still my fault. After six months his abuse picked right back up again. He stopped cleaning and cooking and he said that if he got a job then we would have to get a babysitter and we couldn’t afford that so he stopped looking for work. He kicked a door in during a fight and two weeks later he tried to kill me during another fight.
It was the first time he had tried to kill me. He no longer had his mental illness as his big excuse to abuse, so it had to be my fault that he was still angry. It started out as a “typical” fight but since I was slowly realizing that it was abuse and not mental illness I was no longer cowering to his yelling and throwing of things so it quickly escalated. He told me that he was going to leave and take the children, beat me black and blue, smashed my cell phone, cut the cord to the house phone, and told me that I would “Never talk to anyone ever again.” I knew he was going to kill me. I laid there unable to move praying that someone would come to my rescue. Then the police rang the doorbell and took him off to jail.
I am still trying to figure out the fog of mental illness vs. abuse but I can see clearly now that it is TWO completely different problems. Mental illness doesn’t equal abuse and abuse isn’t caused by mental illness.
Its funny how we don’t realize that our stories are that drastic until we start to put them into words. Like the frog boiling slowly I never noticed that the water was getting hotter and hotter until it all boiled over. But looking back I can see all things clearly and realize that it really was “that bad”.
This story is from one of our readers. Thank you for sharing it with us, dear sister.