Jim: Learning to Be Patient
Currently, Jim’s biggest challenge is financial. Before Monica stopped working, they did quite well, financially. Since she stopped working, they have had to battle back from foreclosure on their home three different times. Although Monica receives social security disability, it is not enough to maintain the lifestyle they once had. Jim sees his friends doing things, such as going on vacation, which they no longer can afford. He is facing the reality of having to adjust to a lifestyle with fewer economic resources. Yet, he also wonders about his role in their family situation.
There’s been plenty of times when I thought could I do better. There were a number of times where I wanted to just get up and leave—call it quits. I started thinking that I don’t deserve this or what did I do to deserve this. There’s a couple of times I felt down about myself a little bit. Once again, you see how everybody else is living. You used to live like that. Well, what the hell. You come back to reality and you get to that point where you just say, this is what it is. Do the best you can with it.
Jim has learned that he has a lot of patience. He talked about having to mature fast, “rather than going out and having your fun party.” He reflected, “You learn to have patience in a big way. If you don’t have it, it’s not going to work.” When asked about how he learned to be patient, Jim talked about getting into a new pattern.
Getting in a rhythm—eventually I got to a point to more or less organize my time around what her time is. . .We both have an understanding of I need to be there to take care of her things, to help her. She also is understanding that I need my time. That’s key. It really helps a lot.
After they both stopped drinking, Jim missed going out with friends for a few beers. But he understood that would be uncomfortable for his wife. He talked about their relationship as a “give and take.” He found that developing patience was a process that took several years. Jim developed a sense of purpose in his life resulting from his experience with Monica.
In some ways, it’s like having a kid again. You have to be there for them. You have no choice. In some ways I think it sounds weird, but her disability and coping skills actually kind of help me become more of a responsible person. It helps you grow up a hell of a lot faster. I’ve had friends ask me, “How do you do it?” I have no idea, I just do. There’s no science to it or anything. You just do it.
When contemplating the future, Jim realizes he will not have the bigger house, travel, and newer cars he once thought they would have later in life. They will have to manage with older appliances. However, at the same time he discovered that he and Monica have a better understanding of one another’s needs and they have learned to appreciate a simpler lifestyle.
She knows I need to get away with the guys every now and then. I know she needs to go and do her thing, her church, which is very important to her. I know she needs that. You discover you don’t really need the money to be happy. The simple things. It used to be if you want to be happy, go buy something. Let’s do this. Let’s go do that. You find other things to enjoy. Whether it’s watching a TV show or just simple things like taking a walk. You really alter your lifestyle to keep it more simplistic where it’s not so dependent on getting all these nice things to make yourself feel better.
Jim advises others who have a spouse or partner living with bipolar disorder to take time for themselves. He reflected, “Even though you've got to do a lot of giving and adjusting, there comes a time when you have to realize you can’t do it all. You’ve got to step back a little bit and take a breath.”