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  • dealing with mental illness in family member

    I'm interested in connecting with any other AP parents out there who are dealing with a family member, particularly a spouse, with a mental illness. My husband has bipolar disorder, and while I think we're finally on a treatment regimen that will work, it certainly gets interesting at times.

    One of the huge problems I see is the stigma that surrounds this illness. It makes it difficult to find support among my family and friends, because I don't want them judging him. That's one of the things I love about the API community -- how accepting and supportive everyone is.

  • #2
    I am here Rita.
    My husband also suffers from BPII.
    PM me anytime.
    I am short on time right now as my DD just woke.
    BBL

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    • #3
      Hi! My husband also has Bipolar. He's on Effexor and Depakote, and that seems to be a good cocktail for him. But he can still be a bear sometimes, and acts in a way toward the children that I would prefer he didn't. But he's gotten good at recognizing that in himself and removes himself from the situation if he realizes he's losing control.

      He was officially dx'ed 6 1/2 yrs ago.

      Comment


      • #4
        My brother was diagnosed with bi-polar 2 this past summer. I live on the West coast while he is on the East coast living at home again so I do not have to deal with things daily. I met another mom at last month's LLL meeting who is bi-polar and grew up living with a mother who also had it. She is very open and I am hoping to get some information on on-line support groups. I'll be sure to forward you the information once I have it.

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        • #5
          Gosh, thank you for responding everyone! It's been so difficult and frustrating to keep this all to myself, trying not to let on that anything in my home life has been amiss. Very nice to have an outlet!

          My husband was actually just diagnosed, right before Christmas, but I had suspected it for years. We didn't discuss whether it's Bipolar I or II, but we do know that it's rapid-cyling. I always noticed the cycles, and then just the past two years or so, the cycles got a lot closer together and the lows got lower and the highs higher. We've had to go through a lot of misdiagnoses...seasonal affective disorder, ADD, obstructive sleep apnea, finally major depression which he started treatment for this spring...except the meds didn't seem to work real well.

          Finally, FINALLY, something in my little brain clicked...and I knew! At some point during our 7-year marriage, I read Personal History, the biography of Washington Post Company's owner Katharine Graham and in it is some graphic details about the progress of her husband's bipolar illness. Granted that was in the 1960s and so the treatments were crude and ineffective, but thinking about it now, it's amazing how similar some of the author's memories of her husband's illness matched my husband's.

          As soon as he got the diagnosis, I instantly forgave him: There's a big difference between being a jerk because you choose to, and being a big jerk because you have bipolar - at least in my mind. And the meds seem to have kicked in well, although I'm still a little nervous. I find it difficult to change my knee-jerk reaction toward him...for example, if I have to bring up some sort of item for discussion, I automatically raise my guard, and then when he reacts like a stable person would, I stand there staring at him for a while wondering why he's reacting so rationally. So far, thankfully, he hasn't said anything about these sorts of reactions from me.

          I guess, thinking about it now, I really haven't seen him stable like this for so long.

          Now for questions:

          1) My children are 2 and 1. They have seen some nasty behavior in my husband and have unfortunately seen a little in me toward him during his manic episodes (at times, it was unavoidable as my behavior was done to protect me and the kids from a violent outburst). There were other times when he was obviously suicidal, but more often, there was just bizarre behavior. How much do you think my children will remember from this? Do you think they would benefit from family counseling? I've been watching for behavior changes (night waking, clinginess, etc.) as well as themes in my 2-year-old's playing (if she's acting out anything) and haven't noticed anything. Overall, they've seen very little of the damaging part of the illness, but they've probably heard most it from behind closed doors.

          2) My husband is on Symbyax. I understand that the meds don't take away all of the mood swings, but in your experience, would you say there are a lot less mood swings and/or are the mood swings less extreme? What is your advice in supporting your husband during his manic/depressive episodes? As the children get older, how do you explain this to them?

          3) Where do you find personal support? Are there local support groups, family members/friends, a counselor you visit?

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          • #6
            hi sorry i dont have many answers to your questions but as a child i grew up with both parents suffering from mental illness. my father was never diagnosed as did not seek help and commited suicide when i was 9. my mother dealt with bipolar for years both before and after this, finally she is ok and has ceased regular medication.

            My relationship with her is very close and i believe our relationship has always been strong despite and because of these difficulties... i feel like a very strong person who is able to deal with problems in a positive way and since learning of ap , am bringing up my small son ,just 4months, with these principles.

            i suppose all i can say is good luck and that trust your children to deal with what life throws at them with love and support from you and your partner when he is able.

            while they are young be open and honest about what is happening and make sure they understand what is happening as far as they are able. (when i was seven i told people my mum was in hospital due to a bad back as i just didnt get it and no one had taken the time to explain very well!)
            When they are older give them many opportunities to discuss memories of upseting times and they will understand and forgive mistakes more readily than you can ever imagine.

            much love

            lizzie

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            • #7
              Originally posted by rita View Post
              How much do you think my children will remember from this? Do you think they would benefit from family counseling?
              Whether or not your family would benefit from family counseling is a personal call. Is your husband seeing a therapist regularly? It might benefit him to start if he hasn't already - he's lived his entire life a certain way with certain reactions, and it takes some effort for him to adjust. Many prescribing psychiatrists require that their patients attend counseling sessions.

              Speaking for my family, my kids retained no memories of the dad pre-meds, so that's a non-issue for us. But you know your children best.


              Originally posted by rita View Post
              2) My husband is on Symbyax. I understand that the meds don't take away all of the mood swings, but in your experience, would you say there are a lot less mood swings and/or are the mood swings less extreme? What is your advice in supporting your husband during his manic/depressive episodes? As the children get older, how do you explain this to them?
              Yes - in my family's experience, the meds do eliminate much of the swings, but not entirely. He still can get manic and depressed, just not as often and not to the extreme he was before. When he does, he has no self-control. He yells and screams at the slightest thing, and it's VERY hard for him to stop. I can usually tell him to take a time-out for himself, and remove himself from the situation, or he recognizes it in himself. He does try VERY VERY hard to control his swings and to calm himself.

              Originally posted by rita View Post
              3) Where do you find personal support? Are there local support groups, family members/friends, a counselor you visit?
              There are local groups, but I've never attended. I think for awhile I posted on a board that had a bipolar forum, but I personally do better just talking with a particular friend who grew up with this in her family.

              And what you said about previous dx's, yup, my husband was also first dx'ed with ADD, then depression. He's been going to counseling for years - pretty much our entire marriage on and off, and it was a very astute counselor who saw it for what it was and sent him to the psychiatrist for meds. I used to be a counselor myself (but SAHM for the past 7 years) and I didn't see it. Oh, I knew he had terrible mood swings and there were many times I had to walk on eggshells around him, but "bipolar" didn't pop into my head. Sometimes we don't see things like that in the ones closest to us.

              Bipolar does tend to run in families. My husband, his grandmother, and his aunt all have bipolar. For this reason I do keep an eye on my kids, but so far I think they have avoided the fate. BP in kids presents with different symptoms.
              Last edited by mahogny; 12-28-2008, 06:09 AM.

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              • #8
                Rita I just PM'd you.

                Hey all, do we need a new circumstance specific forum?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jessica View Post
                  Rita I just PM'd you.

                  Hey all, do we need a new circumstance specific forum?

                  melissa is on vacation right now, but i can forward your request (if you're serious) to her and she can then discuss it w/API. or you're welcome to PM her, too.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by PaxMamma View Post
                    melissa is on vacation right now, but i can forward your request (if you're serious) to her and she can then discuss it w/API. or you're welcome to PM her, too.
                    Half serious?

                    I don't have a strong personal desire to see such a forum but would anyone else out there like and use one?

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                    • #11
                      we would also need more moderators in order to be able to open up new forums.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lizziebee View Post
                        while they are young be open and honest about what is happening and make sure they understand what is happening as far as they are able. (when i was seven i told people my mum was in hospital due to a bad back as i just didnt get it and no one had taken the time to explain very well!)
                        When they are older give them many opportunities to discuss memories of upseting times and they will understand and forgive mistakes more readily than you can ever imagine.
                        Thanks for this advice. Mental illness in general, including bipolar, has such a stigma around it that it makes it difficult to know how to handle it within the family. My mother-in-law cried when she found out (my husband called her during a manic episode, when it was obvious that something was not right, so I had to followup with her). I asked her not to tell anyone other than her husband so that people didn't judge their son...not even his brothers. But perhaps we should be more open about it?

                        I also like your advice about offering plenty of opportunities to my children as they grow older of their upsetting memories, so that they can talk about them with us and resolve the feelings surrounding these...including any feelings of guilt. Both my family and my husband's family are pretty closed-off from this sort of thing, but I think this would greatly benefit my children.

                        Very good advice!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rita View Post
                          . I asked her not to tell anyone other than her husband so that people didn't judge their son...not even his brothers. But perhaps we should be more open about it?
                          Yes, there is a stigma against mental illness. But look at it this way - there is also a history of stigma against breastfeeding, especially extended breastfeeding. Not to say co-sleeping, positive discipline, etc. The way to counteract the stigma is education. Let people see you breastfeed. Tell people why you co-sleep. Tell them why you don't spank.

                          Same thing with this. The more educated people are, the less stigma there will be.

                          My husband and I talk freely about his bipolar. It's the only way to counteract the stigma.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mahogny View Post
                            Is your husband seeing a therapist regularly? It might benefit him to start if he hasn't already - he's lived his entire life a certain way with certain reactions, and it takes some effort for him to adjust. Many prescribing psychiatrists require that their patients attend counseling sessions.

                            Yes - in my family's experience, the meds do eliminate much of the swings, but not entirely. He still can get manic and depressed, just not as often and not to the extreme he was before. When he does, he has no self-control. He yells and screams at the slightest thing, and it's VERY hard for him to stop. I can usually tell him to take a time-out for himself, and remove himself from the situation, or he recognizes it in himself. He does try VERY VERY hard to control his swings and to calm himself.

                            BP in kids presents with different symptoms.
                            He was ordered to see a counselor earlier when he was diagnosed with depression but stopped a couple sessions in. Now, he's taking classes on nonviolent relationship skills. It's nine months long, and the mental health professionals in charge told me that couples counseling isn't recommended until he's done. I think I'll ask the doctor at the followup approintment later this week about individual counseling for him, besides the nonviolent classes as these classes only cover specific topics and don't delve into individual circumstances.

                            What BP symptoms are there in kids? My husband said he's always felt "off," since he can remember, and his mother-in-law told me in confidence that she always knew he was different (from his two brothers). I know that, as a young child, he threw terrible tantrums and became very withdrawn in high school.

                            I met him in college where he was quiet but fun-loving and friendly; sometime in our engagement, I started seeing changes but it was so gradual and I figured it was related to the stress of his final year of college and trying to find a job. Basically our entire marriage has been a roller coaster; I do remember nearly a year of stability several years ago. Hmm...it's just interesting to look back on our relationship now that I'm looking at it through understanding eyes, instead of the eyes of a bewildered, resentful wife.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mahogny View Post
                              But look at it this way - there is also a history of stigma against breastfeeding, especially extended breastfeeding. Not to say co-sleeping, positive discipline, etc. The way to counteract the stigma is education. Let people see you breastfeed. Tell people why you co-sleep. Tell them why you don't spank.

                              Same thing with this. The more educated people are, the less stigma there will be.
                              Another great point! I see nothing wrong with going against the stream with AP, so why would I do the same for bipolar? I do know that I'm much more sensitive about the jokes some people tell related to someone acting "weird" or "crazy."

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