Monday, July 29, 2013

How My Bipolar Husband Affects Our Daughter

Living with a bi polar husband is hard.  But at least I understand, to a degree, what’s going on.  He’s sick, and I have to not take it personally.  I can’t imagine how hard it is to live with a bi polar father.  And so far, I had hoped that my two and a half year old had been mostly oblivious to the struggles.  I mean, he has anger management issues due to his disease, and sometime he snaps angrily at her and makes her cry, but he always apologizes and so far it doesn't seem to affect her for more than a few minutes at a time.  I hate, hate, hate that he does this, and every time it makes me want to gather my baby girl in my arms and protect her.  Which sucks when he’s yelling at her about something she’s legitimately doing wrong, and I have to back him up when every instinct in me is screaming at me to comfort her.  All of this is a terrible dynamic, but I still had hopes that I had some time to make decisions, some time to allow him to continue working on himself, before it started really affecting Olivia.  Well, I didn't reckon on how perceptive and dang SMART my kid is.  She and I had a conversation this morning that made me realize that I am running out of time.

When she woke me up this morning, she asked me where Daddy was.  It so happens that Lee is starting a new job today, after flaming out miserably at his previous one.  Like he’s flamed out at so many jobs before.  I swear I want to tell that man that he is on his LAST chance… but it’s never really been his fault. It’s his ugly disease getting in the way.  I’m torn between feeling like I can’t live this way any longer, and feeling like I don’t have it in me to abandon the man I love just because he is sick.  Anyway, he’s starting at this new job today.  So I told Olivia “Daddy is at work.” 
“At (his old job)?”
“No, at (his new job).”
“I’m pretty sure he’s at (his old job).”
“No honey, Daddy doesn't work there anymore.”
“Why not?”
“Well, because he didn't want to anymore.” (How, how, HOW do I explain the complexities of the situation to my little girl?)
“Oh.” She considered that for a minute. “Well, maybe when Daddy is happy he can go back to (his old job).”
And it hit me in the gut.  “Maybe when Daddy is happy.”  I realized how many times in the past few months I've heard her use that phrase.  Maybe when Daddy is happy.  She’s too perceptive.  She knows what’s going on, and yet she is way too young to really understand.  She doesn't understand that Daddy has a disease that makes it so he is unhappy all the time.  It’s not Daddy’s fault. But it is hurting Olivia, and it is hurting me.  And it seems like my responsibility to protect my little girl and my responsibility to protect myself are totally at odds with my responsibility to protect my husband… to take care of him… to love him, health OR sickness, better OR worse.
It’s not my husband’s fault that Olivia has watched him crying, sobbing, shaking on the floor in a full blown panic attack.  But my little girl still suffers, watching Daddy break down for reasons she can’t understand.  The beautiful little girl goes and hugs him, crooning “it’s okay baby, I've got you baby” just as we croon to her when she is hurting or upset.  And it doesn't help him, and she is baffled and hurt that it doesn't make a difference.
I am tired. I am wrung out.  I feel like I have given my husband absolutely all of me, and it hasn't made a difference. It hasn't been enough.  And it’s true.  I can’t be enough for my husband.  Bipolar is such an insidious disease.  Fortunately for me, he recognizes that he has a problem and is seeking help to treat it.  Unfortunately, it’s been a long time coming and we still haven’t seemed to have found the treatment that is going to make a difference for him.

I keep thinking that I've got time.  I don’t want this to damage my daughter, but I've got time to figure it out. To figure out if staying or going is the right thing to do.  And the thing is, Olivia just showed me very forcefully that I don’t really have much time left.  Time is running out. I've got to protect my daughter. I've got to take care of my husband.  I've got to take care of myself.  And I don’t know how to do all three things at once.

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