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Bipolar Disorder/Bipolar or Asperger's

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Question
Dear Jennifer
I suspect my husband is mentally disturbed and would like to find out if it's biopolar disorder or something else. Since we were dating, he's always been temperamental but I as I came from a family that had a lot of anger management issues (specifically my dad), I didn't think too much about it as it seemed within control. Over the years, he's not been able to find a job, been more and more verbally abusive with no attempts to control his temper, the triggers can range from not parking in a lot that he feels is more suitable, to driving too slowly to, what he finds is in appropriate if I don't honk at a driver who had cut into my lane. Some times, he might be happy to go for dinner but sometimes, any where we suggest would be bad. He'll attempt to leave my son and I or walk out on us but will come back and seethe in anger, telling us to hurry up so he can get the xxxx out. When I try to ask why he's so agitated, it's always the whole world at fault (service sucks or lousy food or I shd have stayed at home). We try to accommodate to his moods by allowing him to lead and make the decision but the smallest indecisiveness by my son would set him in a tailspin. So when we finally settle down to eat, he'll spite us by not ordering a thing. Sometimes, his mood changes and he's trying to play with my son but on other days, nothing we do can get him in a better mood. He has loads of anger within him. As his spouse and child I feel he hurts us intentionally with all the verbal hostility. When I tried to seek support from friends and he found out, that set him in a raving lunatic mode. He insisted I betrayed him and wanted a divorce. I attempted to confront the issue, to ask him to understand how I feel but he will turn around to put the blame on me. So even though he could not find a job and I've been the sole bread winner, he would not help around the house and resents it when I get tired and frustrated. When confronted, he'll turn it around to taunt me like I was such a 'martyr'. He'll sneer and make me wonder if there's something wrong with him.
There is a side of him that is rational, fun to talk to and knowledgeable but this is sadly lost when the jeering personality surfaces. I don't know what to do, I felt shocked to see such a reaction. There's no remorse but lots of anger and cynicism.

Answer
To be honest, I think that the current situation is about his feelings about his difficulty in trying to find employment and possibly a bit of inner conflict over your being the sole breadwinner while he, the man cannot provide for his family the way he may have been raised to believe he should be doing. The longer he feels he's not fulfilling his role as the man, the more this feeling of failure can fester in a person that has always been temperamental from the start of your relationship. What you've said about his behavior when you, your son, and your husband go out for a simple meal is telling - to him it's almost as if it's a public broadcast of who is the 'provider' (you). Some men have a lot of shame internalized over whether they feel they are meeting the gender role expectations as husbands, fathers, and as men.

As to what you should do, I would take some time to look at what's been going on not from a standpoint of "is this man mentally ill" and instead, look at what the real underlying causes may be, and then you have to decide if you're willing to spend more time trying to fix the relationship even if it means that you must start the work by yourself with a counselor. I know it's probably not going to be easy to find a time when he's going to be more receptive to you asking him to try counseling, but you've said that there are times when he's rational, fun to talk to, and knowledgeable - so after you've considered the situation and he's in one of those 'better' moods, that's the time to bring up working on the relationship, but do so with empathy for his feelings. Show that you are thinking of what he feels first, rather than telling him to think about your side and putting him on the defense from the start. You might be surprised (pleasantly) when you use that tactic, and if he ultimately isn't willing to at least try to improve the situation, and the anger issues continue to escalate, you're going to have to decide if staying is what's best for yourself and your son.  

Bipolar Disorder

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Jennifer

Expertise

I am available to answer questions of a general nature about bipolar disorder, provide online resources that address bipolar disorder in a more in-depth manner and sources to serve as a starting point for those looking for substantial information on the illness from a healthcare professional approach. I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist, my background is based in personal experience and extensive reading in my own process of understanding my diagnosis. I can also take questions that deal with the social issues surrounding bipolar disorder such as relationships; coping for family, friends, and the patient; marriage, choosing to start a family and related. Answers to questions of a legal nature will provide general information but anyone with a serious legal problem should consult an attorney licensed to practice in their jurisdiction.

Experience

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type II in 2000; as a SSI beneficiary, have experience and knowledge of the limitations and processes involved with the program; I understand the moods, the feelings, the worries, the doubts, and a lot more that there's not enough room to express - from the personal experiences of being bipolar. I have first-hand experience with the challenges of returning to college following hospitalizations and various combinations of medications that were tried before my doctor and I finally arrived at the most effective medication program for my treatment. My family and I have learned so much about each other in the process of dealing with the highs and lows that followed my diagnosis. I've had relationships with someone who also is bipolar and someone that is not - romantic relationships are no easier on either side! I feel that many of the ideas and beliefs that people have regarding bipolar disorder and those who have the condition promote the continuation of social stigmas associated with mental illness in general, and after learning from others with bipolar disorder, hope to guide others who may be trying to navigate the government health care system,& share information on other possible means of obtaining assistance with the cost of medications and/or mental health services and limited financial assistance programs for meeting basic living expenses for qualified individuals, dealing with problems from or with family & loved ones, co-occurring substance abuse problems, medications and side-effects (and when it feels like nothing will work, or why it's not helping the situation to ask whether or not a patient has taken their 'meds' when they seem hostile or moody to those around them).

Education/Credentials
I have a B.A. in Liberal Arts and will earn my J.D. upon completion of the Spring 2011 term after which I will be preparing to take the multi-state bar exam.

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