Small Problem #3: Am I supporting my Bipolar husband in the right ways?

My husband was diagnosed with Bipolar in his teens and has had some horrendous times, and some much better but still challenging times. He shared this with me very early on in our relationship when I was my usual ‘sure, I can handle anything’ self and we agreed that we both had our demons but it would be worth giving it a shot to see if there was anything here.

We’ve been married for nearly 5 years now, together for 8, and like any marriage it ebbs and flows but we support each other through everything no matter what.

About 18 months ago he decided he needed to come off his medication. He had been becoming less and less engaged with the world, with me and his job, his memory was really bad and he just couldn’t find the motivation or urgency to care about anything. He was making mistakes at work and not hearing how serious the implications were, bills weren’t being paid and he wasn’t seeing or hearing how much I was struggling to keep it all together while he coasted through ignorant to it all. He had changed so gradually that I think I actually forgot how he used to be for a while until one day he said ‘I don’t feel like me.’

We talked about what we should do i.e. change his meds, or stop them altogether, what I could do to help him stay in the present and eventually we decided to go and speak to his doctor about what he’s experiencing and what she recommended. The three of us decided the best plan was to slowly come of the meds, give it a month or two to see how he feels and to what degree without them and then assess what drug and dosage may be best for him.

He realised very quickly, once the fog had cleared, just how bad things had got financially, at work and he hated that he just hadn’t cared about it. He was fixing problems at work getting so frustrated with whatever idiot made this mess, only to realise it was him just a few weeks ago. I really felt for him.

I love my husband so much and I want to support him in any way I can, but I have this self-doubt that constantly questions whether I am actually supporting him, or if I’m enabling him. He doesn’t think or feel in the same way as most people and that’s one of the many things I love about him, but I really don’t know enough about his condition to understand if I’m actually being of any help.

One of the things I learned about myself when I realised I was suffering with depression, and was just so overwhelmed with everything that was happening around me, was that I was adjusting my own behaviour and sacrificing my own self-care to keep all the other plates spinning. My husband was very worried when I said I wasn’t coping with our home life and that all the support I was giving him was draining me. It was very hard for him to hear and he wanted to know specifically what I was doing for him that was so draining.

I only needed to give him one example: because of his paranoia and his insecurities, exaggerated massively by his Bipolar, I could never just tell him if he upset me, or if he was doing something that was wearing me down. I’m making him sound like a lead weight and that is simply not the case, I don’t know how I could ever be happy without him! I just mean those little niggles couples have, like putting a dirty teaspoon on the clean side of the sink because you intend to use it again but then you never actually do. Yep, those kinds of things. Very small and simple for most couples to mention and move on from, but with us, if I were to ask him to just give it a rinse and put it on the draining board he would forget. His mind focusses so intently on one thing for weeks and weeks that everything else falls to the wayside. After six or seven times any normal wife would say ‘look, sorry to be a nag but I’ve asked lots of times, it’s a little thing but would make a huge difference to me because it winds me up every time I see it’ and that would be accepted, problem solved. But my husband’s mind would go from ‘yea, I can do that’ and then totally forgetting to ‘that’s it, you’ve done it. She’s going to leave you’. So, everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – I say to him is carefully constructed to make sure that it doesn’t set his mind down that path. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t solely to keep him on the level for his own health, there’s an element of me not having the energy to talk him down if I were to slip up, but constantly trying to prevent this situation is really exhausting in itself.

When I explained this to him he was devastated that I felt I had to treat him this way, but he recognised that if I didn’t he would be constantly worried that he was losing me, something I never want him to feel. He made me promise I would stop and that any insecurities he had were for him to work on, not me.

This is what I mean by not being confident I’m supporting him in the right way – I was putting so much effort into protecting him from something and he had no idea, so it wasn’t actually solving anything at all!

Next up: Small Problem #4.

Such a Clumsy Girl.

So. On to the Clumsy Girl part of this yoga journey.

Those of you who know me are well aware of how clumsy I can be. And also how lucky I can be – it’s all usually scrapes, bruises, trips and twists. I haven’t been rushed to hospital in an ambulance and I haven’t broken any limbs. I really feel like I shouldn’t have said that…

I thought I’d share with you all just a small number, lets say ten, of the many ways in which my family have determined that I’m a danger to myself, but thankfully not others:

  1. Absent-mindedly walked into the back-end of a police horse. Yes. How did I not see it there!?
  2. Slipped on the decking in my back garden and smashed my shin into the step by the back door. Thinking about it I think that might have been my first experience of Pigeon Pose…
  3. Cut a perfectly circular chunk out of my finger opening a can of coconut milk.
  4. One year later gave myself a matching scar on the other finger trying to drill a hole in some shells to make a necklace. 
  5. At secondary school I lobbed (yes, lobbed) a javelin so hard that it broke into at least 5 pieces when it hit the ground. Plus side – I was never allowed to do javelin again.
  6. Walked into a lamppost while texting and broke my nose. I still have a tiny, tiny bit of bone floating under the skin on the bridge of my nose.
  7. When playing hockey at high school I slipped and smashed a poor girl in the teeth with the hockey stick. Starting t rethink that ‘danger to others’ thing right now…
  8. Stabbed myself in the leg with a Stanley knife while doing some DIY. Thankfully nowhere near my femoral artery but you hear some stories…
  9. Fell down a hole trying to catch a shiny Pikachu in Pokemon Go. I had to wait for my husband to stop laughing before he could help me up.
  10. And finally, my favourite – glued both my eyes shut with superglue. I had to have my eyes scraped with a scalpel… perhaps this is a post in itself.

Despite all of these, I really don’t have much lasting damage. I do, however, have a damaged knee from my teens. I was throwing a stick for the dog, my hips twisted but my foot remained in place and my knee-joint twisted inside my knee cap causing the cartilage to tear and fold. Again, no rush to hospital – an attempt at some physio and eventually a consultation with an Orthopaedic Surgeon leading to keyhole surgery. It’s never quite been the same, clicks sometimes and occasionally it just gives out, or I ‘go dropsy’ as my husband likes to call it.

I also have a loose shoulder from a drunken roll off a garage roof and I’m prone to sciatica as the muscles in one side of my back tighten much more than the other and nerves get trapped. All in all, I should really have more damage but thankfully that’s it. So far at least. This post is feeling more and more ominous the more I write…

Anyway, to demonstrate my clumsiness, I wanted to tell you about my experience at yoga last night. I have to admit, I had poor judgement at the very start and I should have stopped there and then, I ignored the signs that my back wasn’t as stable as usual and I suffered the consequences. Unfortunately so did my yoga instructor – he’s mortified that I hurt myself in his class but it really wasn’t his fault.

We were three-quarters of the way through the class, I’m sure we were about to start the relaxation. We’d been doing a lot of back bends and twists that I hadn’t tried before so some I was doing the very basic version, others I was sitting out all together, knowing that I really didn’t want to hurt myself and perhaps this wasn’t the week to try. My back had felt… odd… during the initial corpse pose – I couldn’t quite find the position where i felt my back was supported by the floor – and so I was being cautious. Until we started Pigeon Pose.

Now, I had done Pigeon Pose before, when trying a class nearer to my home, and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too challenging for me. I was also feeling a little like I hadn’t been able to do a lot of the poses on this particular evening so when my instructor guided us through one I knew I had done well previously I let go of my caution. Mistake number one.

In the position, with my right knee up behind my right palm, and my right foot somewhere behind my left palm, I’m laying forward over my leg, with my left leg outstretched, feeling really good about being able to do this one – and my weight shifts over to the right. Now, if I’d remained calm I’m sure I could have lift myself back to position and come out nice and slowly. Instead, I panicked. And the pesky all-or-nothing muscles in the right side of my lower back went into protection mode and seized up around my spine making it very difficult to get out of the position that was now really squashing my leg and – yep, you guessed it – my dodgy knee.

So, I’m out of action for a few days while I let both recover sufficiently, then I’ll be easing myself back in gently.

You may be wondering at this point, what relationship do I see between my clumsiness and my yoga journey?

Well. In my previous posts I explained how yoga made me feel, how my mental health was at a point where I needed to take control and make positive changes, but I’m learning that yoga has so many more benefits. Being the Clumsy Girl that I am, my balance is absolutely awful so I want to improve this. I’m hoping that I can strengthen my core and stretch those muscles in my lower back so that they all work together, at the same speed for a change. And I’m hoping that through learning the poses and working on my breathing I can become more aware of my body, more coordinated and mindful of my surroundings and can actually become less clumsy.

I’m hoping that through yoga, I can become a more stable person both mentally and physically. I’ll let you know how it goes…