My wife went to her first therapy session since my breakdown in 2011. I’ve been encouraging her to do it for years. I think she is doing it now because our kids are graduating and she can turn her attention onto herself. She is an incredibly tough woman, and stoic just like her father and her grandfather both of whom had to deal with mental illness in a spouse.
The therapist was astonished at how much loss she had experienced since childhood and how strong, healthy, and happy she had remained. She also diagnosed her with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. And it makes sense. She has experienced enough emotional trauma to cripple many people. There was bound to be some damage. The therapist asked her to start by paying attention to what makes her startle. I immediately began to think of the times something I said startled her. It was as if I’d jumped around the corner on her even though all I did was say something. I think the therapist is dead on.
So my wife is becoming aware of triggers. She said one of her number one triggers is when I say “I have something to tell you.” The first time I said it to her was when we were in college and newly married. We were driving to campus and I turned to her and said, “I have something to tell you. I think I might be bisexual.”
I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. We knew lots of folks who were bi and gay. Why should it be a big deal? But her thing was that she didn’t want to be married to a bisexual man. I didn’t understand that. If she were attracted to women, I don’t think it would bother me. Fair enough. We can’t really help these things. I found a way to take it back. I said that I was simply overidentifying with our friends because we were in a lot of discussion in church about it. The truth is that I am not actually bisexual. The Kinsey scale goes from zero to six. Zero being completely straight with no attraction to the same gender. I’m a 1. That’s within a normal range for a straight person. But I was young and stupid and made a mountain out of a molehill, and it traumatized her. That was the first of many times I traumatized her. She has been worried that I will leave her for a man or cheat on her with a man for 20 years now. I’m careful about beginning a sentence with “I have something to tell you,” now.
Living with an alcoholic bipolar can’t be easy. I’ve cheated, lied, driven our family drunk, I’ve fought and fought and fought, nearly set myself and my daughter on fire (reckless, drunken accident involving pure gasoline), embarrassed her in public, walked out on her for weeks, told her I didn’t love her and never did, wrote stark raving mad letters to her family, and God only knows how much more I’ve done to traumatize her and my family. When I walked out, she quit eating and she cried constantly. I was gone for a month. We’d been married 17 years. She goes into a state of trauma when I get a text or come home late, or get even a little bit manic.
I’m glad she’s getting help, but I know that it will get worse before it gets better. She most likely has a lot of pent up pain and anger over me and my children. Both of my children have attempted suicide. My daughter (18) is bipolar. My son (16) has PTSD, anxiety/panic disorder, and clinical depression. My wife has endured hell. But I’m prepared to be supportive of her in any way I can. Not only because I owe it to her, but because I love her and will do anything to help her find peace and happiness and good mental health.