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Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Coping with my Wife’s Mania

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Sometimes the hardest part about being married to someone with bipolar disorder is trying to reconcile the actions of the illness from the actions of the person. 

When you live with someone long enough you get to know them pretty well. You become comfortable with their habits (good and bad), their moods, and their daily routines. More than that though, you get to know the person underneath it all, the person they are when they don’t think anyone is looking. 

My wife has an almost compulsive need to help others, so much so that she often puts their needs over her own. She has trouble saying no (even when she should). She chooses to see the good in everyone (even when she shouldn’t). And when things go wrong, she often blames herself rather than placing the blame on others. At her core, that is who she is. But when a mania sets in, that version of my wife disappears. 

Have you ever seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers? It’s a movie about aliens invading the earth. These alien plant spores fall to earth and they have the ability to duplicate people, their memories, their looks and their personalities. These pod people are completely identical except they lack all human emotion. 

That’s sort of what it feels like when my wife is in the middle of a manic episode. It looks like her, it even sounds like her, but it’s not her. She dresses differently, she flirts more, and she spends money we don’t have. She barely sleeps but is full of energy. She has more ideas and creativity than she can keep up with. She wants to do anything and everything. She doesn’t think about consequences. She doesn’t want to hear that she may be manic. She gets irritable if I ask if she is taking her meds. Sometimes she says and does hurtful things. Her sole focus is on herself and how to keep the high she is feeling. 

We’ve been fortunate in our 12 years together that most of her manic episodes only last a week or so. And most of them are only pieces of the description above. Sometimes they can be helpful for her. They give her the energy and creativity to finish a big project at work, or keep her going in the weeks leading up to her work’s annual conference. Sometimes they can even be helpful for us, bringing some spontaneity and excitement into our marriage. But every now and again the mania lasts longer and all of the pieces come together like a perfect storm, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. 

So what do you do when the storm is over? How do you move past it? How do you know what was the illness and what was the person? To be honest, I still struggle with all of those questions. When you’ve been hurt and you’re angry it’s hard to focus on anything other than the pain you’re feeling. More than once I have made the choice to try and hurt her back without giving any thought at all to what she could control. It’s a regret I have to live with. 

Forgiveness takes time. You can’t go through something so emotionally trying and immediately be ok. You have to be willing to work through it together. We’ve found over the years that the when the bad manias occur they are usually amplifying an underlying problem in our marriage. So we make an effort now to talk more and to not ignore issues when they occur. It doesn’t make the manic episodes go away but it seems to have minimized the damage they do. 

What helps me is trying to put myself in her shoes. Try to imagine for a moment making a mistake that hurt everyone and everything you cared about. Now try to imagine it happening twice a year for a decade. Imagine how much regret you’d carry with you. Imagine spending every day trying to make amends for those mistakes. You’d probably try to avoid relationships altogether for fear of hurting someone. And if you found someone you truly cared about you’d probably struggle with whether you are worthy of their love knowing you will eventually hurt them. 

That’s the moment I realize that I’m describing exactly who I fell in love with. And when the storm is over that’s who is standing beside me. She’s the one that is punishing herself more than I ever could.  She’s the one that still can’t forgive herself long after everyone else has. I see the good in her, even if she can’t. I know the person I married and I’m hoping one day she realizes that she isn’t that other one. 

Read more of Ron's posts here 

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Comments

My wife is the same, except that her manic episodes last anywhere from 1-4 months and almost all the symptoms are present every time!

I too have used the "body snatcher" analogy to try get past the hurt, to protect myself as much as her, but it gets harder every time.

This is not the woman I married over 20 years ago. If I can't have the sweet, considerate, intelligent one without her evil twin that swears like a sailor, spends money like there's no tomorrow, drinks to excess and doesn't care who she hurts, then I want neither.

I know it would deeply hurt the "good twin" - I know it could destroy her, but there's only so much I can take, only so much our kids should have to take...

What did you do? Are you still with her? I am struggling with this myself.. do I fight to go on or just walk away.

Kay
I first have to say that we have been married for 37. I have been going through this for over 4 year's with my wife what, what happened she had just gotten off her meds that we were thinking were for depression but we're for bipolar. Will ones she got off them she started to have female problems so she went to OBYN and what they found was a cancer like adscess so her Ovaries

I can certainly identify with most of the comments made, except that my wife tends to have more
periods of depression rather than mania. However, we have built in trigger words or sayings that we use in order to prevent the manic episodes getting out of control.
We also use a technique to seperate the person from the condition, that makes it much easier for both to understand each other and the condition.
It is vital to understand the condition and the Mood Scales then it is easy to implement coping tool that enable better control of the condition.
Over the last 10 years we have developed a method of education and control that had helped numerous people

I am that bipolar wife. My husband of 16 years is amazing. He has been through so much with me. I was diagnosed about 6 years ago and positive I should have been many more than that. I also have had many manic episodes as well as many depressive times. But I do have to say to the husbands that stick in there with their wives going through this with them is a huge show of love. It's hard enough being lost in your own brain, when you feel unloved it can spell disaster. Even if things don't coast smooth all the time, you fell in love with that person for a reason. It's still there, it may be just as lost as she is though.take the time it be patient with her, and she'll remember that. I know I do. It just takes time, understanding and love.

You're a Star, Ron! I know it's Ben tough but good on you. It's really something to be proud of; loving your wife NO matter what!

I, too, am the bipolar wife, with a new diagnosis, and I have left my husband, thinking he would be much better off without me. But after reading this article, I just don't know if I have done the right thing...

I am am a bipolar wife and speaks to Anon (comment above)....I too left my husband and mimic your comment exactly. Its a tough one, as I was so not myself in the months leading up to my actual departure....there was so much underlying that was not delt with in our marriage...he is an amazing guy and I left him as I could not handle the guilt of not being the wife he deserved. I did other (evil twin sister) senarios that really hurt him....and the thing is I was numb....just so numb to knowing what was really right for me...so I pushed him FAR away from me. I have come out of this crazy place and and now at the low end of things living in the consequences of my actions. The actions of a women I did not know anymore....so lost. This women I am happy to say that I still believe in from time to time. He had assumptions on how I was and what I was doing and I feel he was clouded in his own agony ( I don't blame him) to recognise that I was in the middle of the worst manic I have had! they had most of the time out letted in creative ways...my art work. This was great, but the other side of the exhaustion ended up causing some pretty nutty behaviour and this ultimately ended in the loss of my beautiful marriage that once was...not that long ago. Regrets!! I lost EVERYthing....but working at making my life right now and learning from my mistakes. I only hope he can forgive me and understand beyond himself to get this. 13 years of mainly wonderful and three beautiful children.
If he can't see this and is happy to move on so quickly then that is his not mine. I will fly with knowledge of myself and where I have been...with or without him. :) I will respect his decisions and move forward with my crazy beautiful self....Bipolar is me and I choose to execept that and make it work in a positive way...that starts now!

I have a marital relationship with my wife for 5 years. She is facing more manic episodes and depression period. She letfme me 20 times and she comes
She has her own apartment and I have mine. She complains about everything and anything
She is really throwing her money away. She help people. She has more that 100 thousands dollars in the street. She buy drugs to her son. She pay men to have sex with daughter. She is really doing bad thing. She gets so angry at me when I try to tell her the bad things she have been doing
As of today, she left me 23 days ago. She refuses treatment and medications. She instead says the bipolar is me. She verbally abuse her mother son, sisters and daughter.. she is moving in overdrive most of the time.

Sorry guys on behalf of a bipolar wife hang in there if things don't work out don't forget to remind her of the good things about her I hate being bipolar with all my heart...

I identify so much with the above comments. My wife has bipolar and she left me taking our son with her earlier this month. My contribution to this is that she blames me for the breakdown of the marriage. She called me a emotionally abusive controlling narcissist. I was shocked by her perception of me. She had stopped taking her meds months before and I knew something would go wrong. She had threatened to leave me twice before but I persuaded her to stay. This time I didn't and she left.
I feel so much conflicting emotions. I love her but feel relieved that I won't suffer her manic behaviour. I miss my son but am glad I can provide him with a stable environment now. But most of all I have so much regret that I've lost my family. And my son will now be a child from a broken home.
My wife said so many horrible things about my character during the breakup, it makes me doubt myself. She also seems to have no remorse about the break up, almost as if the last 10 years together has been erased in her mind. That hurts alot. There is no remorse that weve lost our family home and now live separately and pass our son between us. I wonder how many other spouses have experienced this kind of apathy in their bipolar spouse who leaves them?

I am sorry to hear your story but at the same time so relieved not to feel alone. My husband seems to have no empathy right now. He's behavior is very narrcassitic. I am crushed. This is his second manic episode and we are 5 months into this one. Right now he has been gone for a week. I don't where he is, where he's sleeping, what he's spending. Honestly it would be slightly easier to deal with if he were dead. At least then you are forced to give up hope of returning to a happy marriage. Thank you so so much for sharing to help others.

I am going through the same thing. My husband of 11 years left suddenly and asked for a divorce. Completely out of character. He has been gone for 4 months and has not changed his mind. I think triggered by adderall. Won’t say where he lives.

My wife is bipolar manic,and she had a melt down 1 year and 7 months ago ,mental hospital. Dillusions,hearing things, thinking things, etc..she was out of her mind, anyway 10 years now with 5 affairs under her belt.it's always been spur of the moment things.We have 2 boys together 6 and 8.I've seen it all with her, alcohol and beating me up, etc. She smokes weed which,I've noticed when she's not, she's just great. She takes depokote after her hopi talk stay. Everytime she's left, I'm the bad guy, controlling,don't satisfy her,which is the exact opposite. I've always given her freedom and always got her what she wanted and needed.now 2 years later ,now.we was getting a divorce 2 years ago, she came back. Now this time she left, she's in a relationship with another guy this quick. He's on disability and does drugs.The boys and I are taking her departure really hard, because it was out of nowhere. I believe she's full blown manic.she's been for about 3 months or so. That said, what happens when the mania runs out?I can say,no other man or woman is worth tearing your family apart,unless your in a abusive marriage. Not the case here. Anyways, I'm just hoping she comes to and comes home!she's not being nice to me at all, and I'm not the one who split and cheated, so it's beyond me why you treat someone thus way when your in the right?

I have been married for 7 years never went off my meds my husband has been sending me away on vacations told me it was good for me. Last one I came home and realized that someone had been in our house. I felt like it was a woman and he was having an affair he has denied it and told me I'm crazy trys to provoke me by telling me to hit him. My doctor told me to stop traveling for a while but my family reunion was this past weekend he encouraged me to go I said come with me he said no I have to work so I stayed home and he never went to work. Now I'm at a point where I'm concerned that I am disconnected from reality and I'm in full manic mood.. I'm scared because I have been taking the same mg of meds for 5 years and it has worked for me now I have doubled the dose. I'm not sure if I'm loosing my mind or if my husband is really cheating on me..He also told me that our company is in trouble big trouble if that was the case then why send me away on these lavish vacations..I'm scared I'm loosing my mind and husband

I’m so new to this and learning everyday. I’m two years in my marriage and my wife had a HUGE episode. She kicked me out of our home, took to social media to let them know how she felt about me, threw out all of my things and even got physical. I LOVE her, but I’m unsure if this is something I can handle for the rest of my life. I’m 25, she was diagnosed a year ago but did not share it with me. I’ve been goin through this with her and have no emotional support myself. I end up puttin in twice the work to make sure I don’t trigger her. I live in fear and walk on eggshells everyday, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Whether I’m prepared is the unknown. Any tips?

My boyfriend has been in full manic mode since around mid March-April saying the most hateful things and then hours later talking about the two of us should make love. His thought process is gone. How will no once he isn't manic any longer.

I can’t belive how similar these stories are. I was full of self doubt when my wife of 14yrs demanded a divorce suddenly. I knew it was the BP, but her family didn’t think it was. She spread malicious stories about me. Now my 4 children are in a broken home. I hope the best for her. It is a terrible condition. It’s nice to see people in here share, it is comforting to hear the exact things and know you’re not a terrible person.

Well, the good news is that after reading all this I realize I am not alone with what I am dealing with. The bad news is what we all are dealing with. My husband is bipolar and we have gone through periods of both depression and mania, but except for lithium for a year after a depressive episode 36 years ago, he has never taken medication. He was depressed for about 14 years but functioned pretty well with my help. Now he has been hypomanic for 1 1/2 years and while acknowledging he is not depressed and acknowledging he is in a manic state, he does not accept it is damaging in any way. He is very verbally abusive, never apologetic, flies off the handle at the drop of a hat and then accuses me of making him feel he is always walking on eggshells. Everyone around us feels sorry for me but nobody will intervene but more and more people are not having anything to do with him. I fear it will hit him one day and then he'll have another breakdown and never recover from a depressed black hole :-(

It doesn't make me feel much better seing others go through the same things. My soon to be ex wife is bipolar and the disorder is getting worse. The same story beatiful and kind then blammm. Accusing me of being unappreciative, controlling, selfish. etc. same as many others. My only regret is not realizing much sooner what was happening. At first I thought it was anxiety and stress over her son, the menopause, but in hind sight it was a developing case of bipolar which gets worse and worse. My sickness is I still love her and would probably take her back with open arms and try to get the rights meds.

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