Jim: Coping Strategies

Initially, Jim was baffled by Monica’s symptoms.

In all honesty, up until she was suicidal, I thought it was more of a copout. Marriage-wise it was really crazy. We’d be fighting a lot. I had no real clue about it. It’s been very stressful all along. Once she was suicidal and they decided to admit her, then I realized maybe there’s something wrong.

He had to take on the responsibility of caring for his young son when Monica was in the hospital.

I’d get home from work. I’d have to pick him up. Then drop him off at one of her friends or her sister. Then turn around and go visit her in the hospital. Come home. Pick up again and get him ready for bed.

Jim’s life has changed as he strives to support his wife who lives with bipolar disorder.

Oh, it sucks. I’m still friends with a lot of friends that she really doesn’t hang out that much with anymore. For the longest time, I’ve also had to put up with our friends saying, well that’s a copout. They don’t understand it. Mentally, it wears you out quite a bit. You do what you can to make her happy, because you don’t want to make her upset. It’s a drastic change in lifestyle. I used to go on fishing trips twice a year. I can’t do that anymore.

When Monica went for ECT treatments as an outpatient, Jim would have to take the entire day off from work. He explained that his boss did not understand mental illness but accepted that Jim needed to adjust his schedule. Jim likes his job and uses his job “as an outlet.” His work takes his mind off of family concerns. At home he will get busy working on projects, such as yard work, if something is bothering him. Although he has friends he can talk to, he explained “they don’t get it.”

Jim described what having both a wife and son who both struggle with symptoms of mental illness means for his life.

I think it’s because with her being bipolar and my kid having severe depression, I think I’ve always felt like I’ve got to be the rock. I’m the one that’s to take control of everything. We have some very dear friends, best friends for 25 plus years. They came out and asked one time, how are you doing. I’ve got no choice.

He tried attending a support group about seven years ago, but did not find the experience to be helpful. He commented, “I started hearing other people’s stories and it’s like I really don’t belong here.”

For a while in the past, when Monica was in and out of hospital, Jim drank beer as a coping strategy. In his early adult years, he would get together with friends, play softball, and drink beer. He realized his drinking was starting to affect his functioning at his job. Then when Monica had a DUI, he recognized that he was supporting her drinking habit.

At first, she was kind of angry because I didn’t want to go to the bar anymore. She still wanted to. So not to make her angry, I’d go down there with her. I’d drive. She’d get drunk. We stayed out to 11 o’clock at night and I’d have to get up for work the next morning. Instead of getting her to stop, I was just basically feeding into it.

More of the Story: Learning to Be Patient