How Delusion can Destroy a Relationship

I’m writing a memoir called Daniel Undone, in which I tell the story of my mental undoing.  I want to understand how it happened.  At what point did I truly lose control and was there a point at which I was simply being a bad person.  It’s not so simple to distinguish.

I made choices along the way.  I do not doubt that.  But based on what?  I believed that my marriage was coming to an end.  I believed that my wife was a bad partner.  That she was controlling, manipulative, frigid, and unappreciative. I believed that she was standing in the way of my grand dreams.   I believed that she did not love me.  I even convinced a marriage counselor of it.  I thought that I had no choice but to seek love elsewhere.  I thought she deserved it.

When she found out I was cheating, not with one woman, but with six, I left her.  But she did not kick me out.  In fact, she wanted, even then, to work it out.  I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. When the episode ended and I began treatment, all of those perceived problems went away.  She was not what was wrong with our marriage;  my illness was.

I was caught up in a delusion which was built piece by piece over the course of several years and became intensified with anti-depressants.  Many people build delusions about their spouses.  That doesn’t require a mental illness.  That’s what marriage counseling is for;  to help couples see the truth about themselves and their spouses.

But this seems different to me.  The delusion ended very abruptly.  I could see that my wife had been hurting.  That what I perceived to be controlling was her desperation in living with a man who was out of control.  And yet she loved me through it all;  clinging to her vows.  Clinging to hope that we could somehow work it out.

And so, was I in control?  In the end, I wasn’t.  I pleaded with a minister to pray for me to be able to be faithful.  I believed that I was incapable of it at the end.  I would have paid my life’s savings not to do it again.  So, yes and no.  If all of those things I believed about my wife were true, I still did not have to cheat or fight or drink at least not until the end.  I could have tried to worked things out.  I could have tried counseling for real.  I could have divorced her.  I chose to cheat.  But I chose to cheat under the influence of a bipolar delusion.

It’s a fine line between illness and excuses.  My wife took me back on the condition that I stick to my treat, never even look at another woman, and treat her well.  I agreed and I’ve done my best.  We are happy.  But what if I don’t have bipolar?  What if I just want to stay married and I’ll do anything to do that.  What if I’m simply looking for a way to get off the hook?

I’m sure people wonder that.  Maybe she does.  But I know that it’s not true.  I know what happens when I miss meds.  I know what happens when my disorder progresses as it is now.  I’m not normal.  I’m not myself when I’m unmedicated.  I am aggressive.  I am a cheater.  I am impulsive.  I am mean. I am delusional.  That’s not me.  That is my illness.


6 thoughts on “How Delusion can Destroy a Relationship

  1. Treatment gets us to a near normal level of function and gives us array in our lives. Stick to the plan and it will become like 2nd nature for the rough patches that come up, youll do better. She loves you and genuinely does to stay with you through it all. Sounds like a special “show me” kind of woman. A real keeper. Stay on track my bipolar brethren.

    • I’m the exception in this scenario, and I did little to deserve it. That is why it is called grace. Most people would have baled. It’s a debt that can never be repaid. The best I can do is live out my amends through faithfulness.

      • The other part is knowing and acknowledging your self worth and worthiness. Bipolar robs us of that but its attainable and replenishable.

      • This is tricky for me. I believe that I’m worthy, but I feel bad about saying so…like I’m the only one in the room who believes that shit. Like, I have no right to believe that because of how I was when I was so sick. Fucked up.

      • But its something thats okay to believe no matter how messed up you may have been. More than half the time people are saying that you are worthy we are our own worst enemies. If God can forgive us we can forgive ourselves too my dear.

      • I feel strongly that God forgives me. My faith has strengthened through this because of it. Painting a picture. Her mom had to see her daughter suffer because of me. She’s always going to be on my wife’s side, as she should. Today, her mother loves me. I’m not who I was in the ways that count. But if I suggested I was worthy of forgiveness or of her daughter’s love, she would laugh (or spit) in my face. So I feel that I have to play the role of the “I’m not worthy, and I don’t deserve you daughter’s love” guy. I’m a good husband when I’m well. I treat her like a queen. She names it, I do it. I spoil her. I listen. I support. I encourage. I leave notes by the coffee machine in the morning. I’m the guy she has always wished i would be and perhaps the son-in-law her parents have always wished for, and I love it. It feels good. But I’m not sure it really changes anything. That I was sick doesn’t change anything.

        But am I worthy? In my heart of hearts I believe that she is just as lucky to have me as I am to have her. But that can never be spoken.

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