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Blog Posted in avatar   Amber Rodgers's Blog

Does Mental Illness Play Into Divorce? The Answer for me was YES!

By Amber Rodgers
Posted Oct 28, 2011 in Lifestyle
I believe that all the important people in my life prior to 1982 were victimized by my illness."
Patty Duke
I'm fine, but I'm bipolar. I'm on seven medications, and I take medication three times a day. This constantly puts me in touch with the illness I have. I'm never quite allowed to be free of that for a day. It's like being a diabetic.
Carrie Fisher
I have often heard that the top five reasons for divorce are as follows:
1. Infidelity
2. Poor Communication
3. Financial Issues
4. Abuse
5. Boredom.
I can speak for myself here but I have to wonder how often does mental illness play into divorce? Of the many problems that we thought we may encounter in our marriage mental illness was not one of them. Your vows say through sickness and health, but how many of us thought while taken our vows that one or the other could develop a mental illness?
I am also fine, but I too have mental illness and Just like Carrie Fischer have to take 7 medications a day…It is true that it is no different than being diabetic, yet people look at mental illness different. There is a stigma. The belief that people who have mental illness look different, cannot be trusted, are manipulative or worse that they should be able to control their emotions without medication. This is just not true. Prior to my diagnosis I did not even take a Tylenol now it is completely necessary for me to take my medication to function from day to day and even worse from day to day can be a struggle.
For the people closest to you mental illness is scary, heartbreaking and leaves them feeling full of frustration and guilt. It is not easy to know how to fix someone when on the outside they do not appear to be broken. They appear to be the same person that they once were. Yet you can look deep in their eyes and know that something has changed.
It can be very hard living with the unknown and since it is hard for people with mental illness to create a stable environment. Life with them can be completely frustrating. I think it is important to know that the illness does not take away who that person once was, but they have to fight and fight hard to recover. Know that they may fail along the way and do not berate them for it, but instead help them see the signs. I think it is important as a family member that you get familiar with their triggers so that you are able to “Talk them down.” Understand as much as you can about their medications and how those medications can affect them. Help them create a safe and stable environment. Sometimes people with Bipolar or Borderline can seem very selfish when, in fact, in many instances they are very caring and loving. However, they know in order to give to others they must first get what they need and they need to feel secure. They need comfort and reassurance that reassurance can seem rather tiring to a spouse that does not understand these types of disorders. There is a great deal of fear of abandonment when you have these illnesses. Any sign of abandonment or threat of abandonment can send them into a complete tail spin. You have to learn to be sensitive to these needs. They are not trying to be bothersome but for them it is a need.
They also need to feel understood. As a person with this I have learned that I must be a better communicator. What makes sense to me does not necessarily make sense to the rest of the world. It is essential that I take a step back in order to effectively communicate. This can be hard to learn.
Help them create a life team. You must have people around them that they trust that can tell them that they are having an “episode.” I feel that it is best if the spouse is not on this team because often they will feel threatened or angered that the spouse is pointing this out. A good psychiatrist should be at the top of this team, with a close family member and other people that can relate to the person and the illness.
Help point out the positives about their illnesses. There are many highly successful people that have these disorders. Find someone that they can relate to who has the same illness and show them that they too possess some of the same qualities. It is good to laugh about the situation sometimes. I often joke and say that I have a twin, and talk about how fun manic can be. I once drove over 100MPH down the freeway and threw my shoes out because I felt it was hard to walk in my shoes…Safe no, but in hind site kind of funny.
My mental illness was most certainly the cause of my divorce. Sometimes we blame the people closest to us when we are not happy. It is easier to blame someone else than to take a deep look into your soul and admit that you are ill.
In hindsight, I wish that I had gone to a psychiatrist at the time I was considering my divorce. Although we had gone to a therapist it is just not the same as seeing a psychiatrist who can diagnose illness. I feel that by not doing so I almost killed myself. I was sick and the divorce did not make me happy in fact it only complicated my illness. I hope that others can learn from my mistakes. Mental illness is not fun, Divorce is not fun when you mix the two together they are deadly and have a horrible impact on everyone involved.
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