Marta: I take it day by day

“I was trying to keep it all together.”

Seven years ago, Marta saw changes in Tim’s behavior. At first she wondered if Tim, her partner for the past 20 years, was going through a mid-life crisis. He started to have panic attacks and excessive anxiety, especially when driving or riding in vehicles. He walked incessantly, stopped enjoying things he used to do, had problems with sleeping, and lost his appetite leading to weight loss. Although he consulted with physicians, he did not find an answer to his problems.

As his struggles continued, Tim abruptly retired from his job in a school system, a job he had for over 15 years. He made disastrous financial decisions and poor choices in social contacts. His drinking increased along with making irrational decisions.

Tim’s behavior strained the family financially and emotionally, creating distance from Marta and their two children. Although Tim moved out of the family home, Marta continued to look for resources to help him. Over the next year, he attempted suicide twice. One of those times, Marta was able to get Tim to a crisis unit followed by transfer to a hospital psychiatric unit by telling him that she was sick and needed to go to the emergency room. After a three-week hospitalization, he received diagnoses of bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. With medication and a return to his more usual behavior, Tim came home.

However, Tim’s struggles continued over the next year. His symptoms escalated with extreme highs and lows; he was drinking and not taking his medications. Marta did get him in for treatment once again, but Tim stayed only a few days. She described the challenge of living with Tim’s spiraling behavior and trying to keep her children’s lives on track.

I was getting up to go to work. I didn’t even realize because I was probably so exhausted that he had gotten up in the middle of the night and had left and gone walking, but then came back. All of sudden, boom, he was right there--it sounded like he had tried to take pills. Then we actually went to the county crisis center. He was still in denial, saying, “No, it’s okay. I didn’t do anything.” I didn’t realize that he had tried to cut himself too. It took a little of convincing because he was ready to run.

Marta began to cry as she recalled Tim’s continued troubling behavior and her efforts to help him find treatment.

It got better for a while. But then things escalated. There were two times we tried to get him into treatment. One time he was there for two days and he got kicked out. The other time didn’t last long either. It just continued to be harder and harder and harder. He was taking medications and doing okay for a while. But then he didn’t want to take the meds. He said, “I don’t need to take them.” He couldn’t be reliable, transporting the kids or anything like that.

More of the Story: Trying to Understand