Living With a Mentally Ill Husband
My son's Dad was going fishing, because he was out of work again. This was a pattern with him. I have known him for 30 years now. In the 14 1/2 years I was with him, 3 years the first time and 11 1/2 the last, he did not want to keep a job. He would much rather go fishing. That's all good and fine, but there is a time for work and a time for play. Simple, huh? But you see, he is Bi-polar exacerbated by paranoid schizophrenia. Mental illness runs in his family. No one told me this when I met him. I don't know that it would have made a difference to me if I had known that. He seemed normal to me. Then reality set in when he had his first breakdown 2 years after I met him, then 2 years later again.
A mental breakdown is a very complicated thing. It is a slow process. They go to the Dr., in his case on a locked ward for at least 30 days, his longest was 90 days. They get on the medication they are suppose to take every day for the rest of their lives. He took his meds, at the longest, for one year. Then things start to unravel. It takes time, it can take 1 to 5 years for the mental incapabilties to show up again. There are so many signs, but after a time you forget. When the illness starts to creep back in, you don't recognize it at first. He was writing everything down, and I mean everything. He had served in Viet Nam for 18 months in 1969-70 and he would have flash backs from that time, thinking someone was after him. His mind raced and his body tried to keep up. He was abusive, verbally and physically, to anyone around him, his son and I included. He would sweat profusely and was obsessed with sex. He talked to himself. He railed against God. He seldom slept. Then in the end he would go comatose like. Eyes glazed, staring into nothing, rushing him to the hospital afaid he was going to die. I lived this nightmare with him on 3 of the 5 occasions that he had breakdowns in the last 30 years. It truly is enough to make a person question their own sanity. You want to pinch yourself and ask, is this for real? Surely I am going to wake up soon.
Mental illness is so hard to understand. When someone breaks their arm or gets into a wreck or has cancer, you can see the damage. No one knows what goes on in the mind of one that has mental illness. They are in their own unrealistic world. Once I went to the store and bought tomatoes, I found him with one of the tomatoes in the bedroom. He said he was going to screw it. The ice cream truck came by and the kids were getting ice cream, he was crawling around under the truck. He took a chainsaw in the woods and said he was going to kill his sister, the law would not even go in the woods, in the dark, after him. He put a knife to his own Mother's throat. He tried to choke me once because he wanted his rod and reel and it was at home. He had his hands on my youngest sons throat and said he needed an ass beating, I had to get in between them to stop him. He couldn't be left alone, he got into everything. I was always on guard when he was like this. I never knew what he would do next. Walking on eggshells as not to piss him off. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The times I would finally get him to agree to go the hospital, I always knew he would be locked up there, was a relief for me, not that I wanted him locked up, but that I would at least get a chance to breath. But then I would get home from there and I would be mentally and physically drained. Then I would begin to worry could they handle him, would they hurt him, would they drug him up? The worry in my head just seem to never end. The process of the breakdown sometimes took 6 months to a year once the vicious cycle begins again. So it would build as time went on til the day I knew he had to go to the hospital. Always trying to keep the peace in the house so that he would not get pissed off and go off on one of his tirades. When he was working, wondering what mood he would come home in. Always on my mind, there just seemed to be no escaping it. Once he was at work and tried to bury a port-a-can with a backhoe. He was fired. He told me he could have swore that his boss told him to do it. It was heart breaking to watch this man, I loved so much, deteriorate little by little.
Some of you will ask how could you leave him if you loved him so much and he was sick and he needed you. To you I say, you have never walked in my shoes and you have no idea what it is like living with a mentally ill person. He could not commit to any relationship. This is one of the characteristics of the mentally ill, they cannot commit, whether it is a defense mechanism or the insecurity of knowing they are ill, I don't know. Even those that are living on the streets want to be left alone. They prefer keeping to them selves. He would often say I like to go fishing, I can turn my back to the world. Mental illness tears families apart. You reach out to them and they back away. I did everything I could to take the pressure off of him. My son and I kept up the yard. I took care of many of the repairs at home. I didn't bother him with the bills. I didn't argue with him. All to no avail. He was a prisoner in his own mind, and my home felt like a prison, there was no joy, no relax time. I was mentally and physically exhausted all the time. I was always aware of where he was and what he was doing. Constantly making sure that my son and I were safe. This is no way for anyone to live, especially those that are sick with this disease that you cannot see. I would wish this on absolutely no one. Mental illness is a disease that takes and takes and gives nothing back but heartache for all involved.
When he pulled a knife on my oldest son, more than 9 1/2 years ago, it was the end for me. I could live with it no longer. In that instant I saw what life was going to be like and I was done. I was done being afraid for my kids, for myself. Tired of trying everything possible to support him and help. Tired of being mentally and physically exhausted. Tired of reaching out only to have him back further away. Tired of loving one that didn't want my love. At that moment it was over in my heart. I walked away and tried to get on with my life. I have seen him once about 6 years ago, my heart hurt for him. The years of mental illness has wore him down. He now lives in a Veterans facility, forced now to take his meds everyday or else. But he is just a shell of the man I once knew, I am told.
This country is full of people suffering their own hell with this disease. So many now that even the hospitals turn them away. No one wants to deal with what they cannot see. In Texas you cannot have anyone commited unless they have been previously diagnosed with a mental illness or they are a threat to themselves or someone else. You reach out for help and get nothing and sadly the vicious cycle continues. You do your best to help, then you do what you have to do. I wish him well. I can only hope that this disease can be better understood so those suffering from it can have a better quality of life to enjoy their families and loved ones that love them and want to be close to them..