Monday, November 23, 2015

Living with a Secret.

This has been something that we hid for a very long time.  Almost 7 years.  In the beginning, we tried to open up about it to a few people close to us, and we were hit with such negativity that our wall went up hard and fast.  

We had to try to figure it all out.  Alone.  But in the end it was the best thing for us.

I will start with a disclaimer that everything I write on this blog is with Brett's 100% approval.  He reads all my drafts, corrects something if he doesn't agree and has the final say.

That said... it is all me writing from my point of view.  

You will notice that I use "US" a lot.  That is because from day one, this has been something we have been discovering, learning and living with TOGETHER.  Even though it isn't about me... it is also very much about me.   

I will have Brett do a guest blog... one day.

I guess I should start from the beginning.

From the day I met Brett, he has been the most outgoing, friendly, kind and loving man I have ever met. He has a very big sense of humour.  He is very witty.  He is highly intelligent.  He is passionate about music and history.  

When we met, he had heaps of friends and was always the life of the party.  We spent most of our free time with friends or going out together.  We were always with people.  

Brett has always suffered from insomnia.  He took sleeping tablets in the beginning, but found that it was really hard to get out of bed in the morning.  It was like he was majorly hung over.  It would take him the first 3 or so hours to "wake up".  He hated the feeling, so only took them when he was desperate for sleep.  

I guess I started seeing Brett change dramatically in 2004.  He started to withdraw more and more from the world.  He started dodging friends and hiding out at home.  He had lost his passion for life.  He no longer found his favourite sitcoms funny.  He was no longer interested in reading, or writing, or music.  He was only just living.   I would try and "drag" him to functions.  He would sit in the corner, until he had enough and we would have to make up an excuse to leave.  I found it was sometimes easier to go without him.  He hated being with people.  He got very anxious walking into a room of even a few people we knew. 

We had many conversations about what he thought was going on.  Each time, he would go around in circles, coming back to the fact that he had no idea.

Everything was wonderful.  We had 2 beautiful babies.  We had a rock solid marriage.  He loved his job.  But something wasn't right.  I started suspecting depression, so I asked him to come with me to see our family doctor.  We are really lucky to have a wonderful GP, whom is male and he is about Brett's age.  Brett trusted him 100%, so it was easy to get him to come to see him.  I am thankful he came with me.  He didn't protest once.  He knew something was wrong.  He saw the panic in my eyes.  I saw it in his.  We took the step together.  I think this made it much easier for him.  He knew I had his back.

Our GP started Brett off on some low dose anti depressants, and sent him to see a psychiatrist and a phycologist.  

For the next 2 years, he waded through life day by day.  They tried a few different anti-depressants and a few different doses.  For the first 6 weeks on a new medication, or when his dosage was upped, he would be in a constant state of nausea and he would have a constant headache.  After the 6 weeks, he would be able to "manage" and "cope" with life.  Until he became "immune" to the drug and they would change to another type.  Apparently this is normal and usually only takes a couple of trials before you find the one for you.  So why weren't mainstream anti-drepressants working?

We stopped socialising.  He started getting anxiety with the thought of leaving the house.   He had to psych himself up to do anything.  A trip to the doctors became a month long planned event.  His days consisted of home and work.  There was nothing in between. 


Friends disappeared as we struggled to try to figure out our life.  We became hobbits.  I was dying inside for outside contact, but my priorities were my husband.  Nothing else mattered.  

Brett didn't think there was an answer to what was going on inside his head.  He struggled with the demons.  He struggled with things that were being brought up in his phycologist sessions from his childhood.  He told me the only place he felt safe was in our home.  He struggled with the anger that he had suppressed for so many years.  He struggled with being the best possible father he wanted to be, when all he knew was a father and a step-father who tore his childhood apart.  He started to realise that he had these feelings from as early as he can remember.  

The cycles were vicious.  He would go for weeks functioning as "normal" then he would crash.  Nothing would set it off.  It would just happen.  There was no way of predicting an episode.  And there was no way of getting him out of it.  We just had to ride it out.  

In 2006 he hit rock bottom for the first time.  I felt like a single mama to 3 babies under 3.5years.  He would come home from work, sit on the couch and not move.  He would toss and turn every night.  I remember the day I called 000.  He wouldn't get out of bed.  He was mumbling something about taking his own life.  I sat on the floor beside him and begged him to get up.  I begged him to not think about that.

As the tears streamed down my cheeks, I finally screamed for help.  No longer were our doctors enough.   I sat out on our driveway in tears talking to the local mental health hospital.  I begged for help.  I was losing him.

My heart was breaking for my husband.  For my children.  For me.   I wanted to make it all better.  I wanted to tell him it was going to be ok.  But I didn't know that.  

I kept asking him to tell me what the problem was.  What was making him "down"?  If we fixed that, he would be better.   Right?

But it wasn't that simple.

The hospital mental health clinic were wonderful.  I couldn't fault them.  They were on our doorstep within an instant.  They did daily phone calls to check in with Brett and weekly home visits to have a "chat".

We were put in contact with a Cognitive Therapist.  He was just what we needed.  Brett saw him weekly. He learnt technics to "survive".  I had sessions to help me understand what was needed from me.  At one stage, I saw myself slipping into a minor depressive state.  How could I not?  What we were going through was hell.  

Finally, in 2007, 3 years after our initial "depression" diagnosis, we finally had a 100% definite diagnosis.   And it all started making sense.  

Brett is Bipolar II.

Today, almost 10 years since his diagnosis, Brett is doing well.  We have learnt a lot about his illness.  The struggles fluctuate from daily to sometimes months apart.  But we know how to "handle" them.  We will always have to "handle" them.  That is life when living with Bipolar.

2008 - Not long after final diagnosis.



  1. Brave post, cognitive therapists are the very best kind, they dont focus on the problem but teach you how to move beyond it.So glad you guys got help by the system xxx

  2. I'm sorry that it took a major breakdown for someone to finally refer you to counseling. I hope you're all doing better now.

  3. @ Lil - Cognitive therapy is wonderful. And we had such a great guy!

    @Tenille - he had a few phycologists and psychiatrists from the start, but it wasn't until he first hit rock bottom that we really saw an improvement. I guess hitting rock bottom does that. (I do say "first" time, because he has hit rock bottom a couple more times since then ~ future post!)

  4. thanks so much for sharing that. I hope things have gotten better since then.

  5. We (Hubby & I) went through 6 years of a relatively disastrous marriage until he was finally brave enough to go see the Dr. But that took hitting rock bottom & sitting on the verge of divorce before that happened. Now the man's on pills & our family is recovering. It is amazing how many people are on them, or have depression when you tell them your hubby is.
    Very brave of you to speak it out! Great post... xx

  6. Thankyou so much for writing this post. My husband suffers from a mental illness and it has been three years since he was diagnosed. He is under medication but we are still trying to find our way. His issues stem from his childhood which was traumatic and still haunts him to this day.
    Each day is a new day and things do get better with time.

  7. Thankyou for sharing this. Our story is incredibly similar and so many of your words I could have written myself.

    The stigma around mental illness particularly in men is appalling. I hope very much that my children will grow up knowing that it is okay to talk, to ask for help, and to help others when they need it. I work towards that every day in the hope their generation will be the one to understand that illness is illness be it physical or mental.

    Much love to you, and to your husband for allowing you to share his story.

  8. thanks so much for sharing that. I hope things have gotten better since then.

  9. I have just come over to check you out since you liked my FB page (home life simplified). Thank you for sharing this post. It is so important for people to start talking more about mental health issues and for people to accept that this is a big part of our society today. I am so sorry that you had friends and family who could not accept the situation and hit you with negativity. If you have been to my actual blog (or clicked through to my posts) and seen my posts you would see that I am writing about my post natal depression experience. Whether it is PND, Bipolar or any other mental health issue we are all working to get rid of the stigma associated with seeking treatment. I took anti depressants, did cognitive therapy and it still took me 2 years to recover. Like your hubby I had 2 relapses as well. It is great that your marriage has withstood the strain, 6 years after my initial diagnosis the strain it put on my marriage never 100% went away. we are still healing all these years later.

  10. Thank you for sharing what I know can be a rather *hush hush* topic and your personal journey. I have 4 littlies and a husband that also suffers mental illness & I found myself quite teary throughout reading your post. It's nice to see you guys are making it through as are we!! Here's to Health & Happiness x

  11. God, is story is SO much like mine, it's eerie. I'm in (hopefully) the very bottom of a 'down' cycle. I hope.

    I hope he's doing ok at the moment, and you. I've no doubt your support is as invaluable to Brett as my husband Joel's is to me. Sounds like Brett and I got lucky.

  12. Wow, just found your blog through a facebook page...I am a new fan and will be following...I like the writing style (story telling) I am doing the same type on my own newly started blog...Though very difficult to be so honest and real out "here", it will be "Freeing" to you, thank you for sharing...

  13. Thanks to you and hubby for sharing. It is SO important, because as you know, it is an illness, like any other, which can be treated and managed, like any other. Yes, sometimes you relapse, but it's back to the treating professional, to get more help and you're soon back on track hopefully. Absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and I have only admiration for those who are brave enough to share their stories because it helps other people. All the time. Those struggling with mental health issues themselves, those - like you - helping to support them, those family and friends needing help to understand, and just raising awareness. And just helping people like me know I'm not alone, and again making me feel great, and give a little cheer that another family has made it through the fog because of their strength and determination. Thank God he had you. Thank God he was strong enough to stick with it and not run away in denial. You sound like a formidable team. All the best. xo

  14. wow.. I shed a little year reading this..
    glad ur 100% now.. u have an amazing family and uv
    inspired me to get my family orginised.. lol
    loving ur blog babes!! keep them coming!
    <3 patti cakes. x

  15. WOW... You two are AMAZING! Thank you for sharing. Bless your gorgeous family x

  16. We have had our own mental health journey here too. It is ongoing and e reason behind our farm change a well as the cancer my husband had and is still being followed up for. Thank you for sharing your very moving personal story. The more we share about men and mental health the more people understand and stop making it a dirty secret. I agree with previous person you both are amazing .

  17. I am so glad I found your blog, I'm struggling and your blog is a lil ray of light. My husband is bi polar 2 and the road to that diagnosis has been hell. thank you for sharing. much love.

  18. The world needs more people like you

  19. WOW.

    I just read your story for the second or third time since I found your blog in December 2011.

    My heart goes out to you and Brett. I can understand where you are coming from- What you have wrote about Brett's battle reminds me so much of myself. I have been told I have PND and Social Anxiety, but now I am wondering, is it Bipolar? I have cousins with Bipolar, so its not new to me, but untill reading your story, I never gave it a thought.

    If you would like to read about my story, you can visit my blog at to understand more about my ramblings in this comment.

    Thank you for standing by Brett and being willing to share your story. Thanks to Brett for letting you share your lives with us.

  20. Im nearly in tears reading this post. Like Trish says We have had our own mental heatlh journey here too. Nearly 4 years ago anxiety and depression hit my then 15 year old son. Oh my god the agonies we endured and the things we faced:( I don't wish that on my worst enemy. I am really glad you have answers for Brett and while there is a stigma atattched to mental illness it is one that needs to be ripped out and thrown away! Thankyou so much for sharing your story XX

  21. Thank you for sharing your experience. You are such a supportive wife (though you most likely get frustrated from time to time) and your husband must love you very much for your commitment and patience. So many can relate to the both of you. As for me - I empathise with you and also your husband. I am Bipolar and tests suggest that I am Aspergers also (My husband and I are more aware now that our son has been diagnosed with Aspergers). I have a wonderful doctor who specialises in psychiatry and also has a special interest in Aspergers. As I reflect on my life - I recognise so many early signs of Aspergers that would have gone completely unrecognised by my parents, peers and those who are unfamiliar with the condition. Since "discovering" this - i have experienced a certain peace. My doc also explained that those who are not diagnosed in childhood are most likely to develop bipolar, borderline personality disorder ect. Google "aspie quiz" if you are interested... I am most definately NOT suggesting that Brett is Aspergers but - if you are searching for more answers and the pegs fit - it can only be a positive thing. Best of luck hun - I look forward to further blogs from you.

  22. I live with PTSD, due to a life or narcissistic abuse crushing my self-worth. It put me on a road to misery, inner destruction, and it brings crippling anxiety, flashbacks, ingrained mindsets, and fear. I am learning, as I near my 45th birthday, to live with this, and so is my devoted husband. We will find our happy, together. Thankyou for your openness and honesty and bravery xoxoxoxo


I am a Mama of Five. A wife to one. I believe in documenting life using stories. I love telling you mine and would love to hear yours.

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