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Galaxy, welcome to the TAM forum. I'm sorry to hear that you find yourself in such a toxic, painful marriage.
...just dealing with her wild swings in mood over the years.
Galaxy, when serious mood changes persist for ten years and drug abuse can be ruled out -- as in your case -- there are two likely causes to consider. As Emerald observes, bipolar disorder is one. The other likely cause is BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). I am not a psychologist but I can share with you my experiences of living with a BPDer exW for 15 years -- and taking care of a bipolar foster son for longer than that. Moreover, I took both of them to a series of psychologists in weekly visits for 15 years. Based on those experiences, I have found twelve clear differences between the two disorders.

One difference is that the mood swings are on two separate spectra having very different polar extremes. Whereas a bipolar sufferer swings between mania and depression, a BPDer flips back and forth between loving you and hating you. Significantly, you mention nothing about mania and very little about depression. Instead, you are describing a woman who is "nasty and negative" and flips back and forth between loving you and hating you (albeit, in the last year, she has negative nearly all the time toward you).

A second difference is seen in the frequency of mood changes. Bipolar mood swings are very slow because they are caused by gradual changes in body chemistry. They are considered rapid if as many as four occur in a year. In contrast, four BPD mood changes can easily occur in four days. The latter therefore seems consistent with your description of numerous temper tantrums and hissy fits. With my BPDer exW, for example, I usually saw outbursts or strong sulking every two or three weeks.

A third difference is seen in duration. Whereas bipolar moods typically last a week or two, BPD rages typically last only a few hours (and rarely as long as 36 hours). Again, these short-duration rages and outbursts seem consistent with with the tantrums you describe.

A fourth difference is seen in the speed with which the mood change develops. Whereas a bipolar change typically will build slowly over two weeks, a BPD change typically occurs in less than a minute -- often in only 10 seconds -- because it is event-triggered by some innocent comment or action. Significantly, the behavior you describe seems consistent with these event-triggered outbursts.

A fifth difference is that, whereas bipolar can be treated very successfully in at least 80% of victims by swallowing a pill, BPD cannot be managed by medication because it arises from childhood damage to the emotional core -- not from a change in body chemistry. You do not mention anything about meds because she apparently has declined to go to a therapist.

A sixth difference is that, whereas bipolar disorder can cause people to be irritable and obnoxious during the manic phase, it does not rise to the level of meanness and vindictiveness you see when a BPDer is splitting you black. That difference is HUGE: while a manic person may regard you as an irritation, a BPDer can perceive you as Hitler and will treat you accordingly. This seems consistent with your description of very hateful, nasty, spiteful behavior.

A seventh difference is that, whereas a bipolar sufferer is not usually angry, a BPDer is filled with anger that has been carried inside since early childhood. With BPDers, you don't have to do a thing to CREATE the anger. You only have to say or do some minor thing that TRIGGERS a sudden release of that anger. -- which seems consistent with your description.

An eight difference is that a bipolar sufferer typically is capable of tolerating intimacy when she is not experiencing strong mania or depression. In contrast, BPDers have such a weak and unstable self image that (except for the brief infatuation period) they cannot tolerate intimacy for long before feeling engulfed and suffocated by your personality.

BPDers therefore will create arguments over nothing as a way to push you away and give them breathing room. Hence, it is not surprising that they tend to create a lot of drama. And they tend to start the very worst arguments immediately following the very best of times, i.e., right after an intimate evening or a great weekend spent together.

A ninth difference is that the thinking and behavior of a BPDer includes more mental departures from reality (called "dissociation") wherein "feelings create facts." That is, BPDers typically do not intellectually challenge their intense feelings. Instead, they accept them as accurately reflecting your intentions and motivations. In contrast, bipolar disorder tends to be more neurotic in that the mood swings tend to be based more on extreme exaggerations of fact, not the creation of "fact" out of thin air based solely on feelings.

A tenth difference is that a bipolar sufferer -- whether depressed or manic -- usually is able to trust you if he or she knows you well. Untreated BPDers, however, are unable to trust for an extended period. Before they can trust others, they must first learn how to trust and love themselves.

Sadly, this lack of trust means there is no foundation on which to build a relationship. Moreover -- and I learned this the hard way -- when people cannot trust you, you can never trust them because they can turn on you at any time -- and almost certainly will.

An eleventh difference is that, whereas BPDers are always convinced they are "The Victim," bipolar sufferers usually have a much stronger self image. BPDers therefore have a strong need to validate that false self image by blaming every misfortune on the spouse. This behavior seems consistent with your complaint that it's "my fault again like everything."

Finally, a twelfth difference is that, although bipolar sufferers are emotionally unstable, they generally are not immature or childlike. BPDers, in contrast, are so immature that their emotional development typically is frozen at about age four. This is why they have a very fragile self image and have difficulty controlling their emotions. This seems consistent with your observation that "everyone apologizes to her and treats her like a child still."

Yet, despite these twelve clear differences between the two disorders, many people confuse the two. One source of this confusion seems to be the fact that these two disorders often occur together. About half of bipolar-I sufferers also have full-blown BPD.
I deserve better as do my kids. She has no patience with them either.
I suggest that, to find out what you and your kids are dealing with, you see a psychologist for a visit or two all by yourself. I also suggest, while you are waiting for an appointment, you read my description of BPD traits in Maybe's thread at http://talkaboutmarriage.com/general-relationship-discussion/33734-my-list-hell.html#post473522. If that description rings a bell, I would be glad to discuss it with you and point you to good online resources. Take care, Galaxy.
 
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