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.

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