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My Husband’s Moods Controlled My Emotions… But No Longer

02 May 2017

The cars passed by the coffee shop. It was evening and the entire city was finding its way back home. Neha was doing the same thing. Except that she was not a part of the insane traffic. She was finding her way back to herself. She was sitting quietly in the coffee shop, holding a book and watching the city rush past her.

 

As the server came with her order of iced cappuccino, she smiled at him. Her favorite coffee. She felt somewhat calm in the midst of all the rush. She thought back to her home, where she was sure Aditya would be in a very angry state. For a moment she felt guilty and her breathing quickened. Her immediate instinct was to pick up her purse and rush back home. To calm him down, to pacify him. To be with him in his angry phase and maybe let him use her like an emotional punching bag. 

But she remembered her therapist’s words and took a deep breath. She decided that she would finish the coffee and then go home. Her husband Aditya had been the centre of her universe for over five years now, and it was extremely difficult to change the centre back to herself. Baby steps she decided. Plus she could not handle his outbursts if she was not calm herself. That is what the therapist had told her.

A couple of years ago, Aditya had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, although of course the condition had existed for far longer than that. Bipolar disorder meant he could have extreme mood episodes. There were times when he was on an intense high. Everything around him was lovely and positive and energetic. He was full of life and optimism. And then there were times when he was extremely depressed. Anger was often common to both moods—it was just harder to deal with when he was on a “high” phase” because he could control his impulses less then. It needed a strong partner to be able to deal with these shifts. What didn’t help matters was that he often “forgot” to take his medicine because he didn’t like how they made him feel. He’d usually go back on them only when life was becoming impossible for him too.

Initially before the diagnosis, Neha used to feel like a pendulum stuck between his mood demands. She had put Aditya at the centre of her universe. When he was happy, she was ecstatic. When he was depressed, her entire world collapsed. It was difficult for her to keep up with the extreme highs and lows. She was always exhausted. And her entire world swayed with whatever Aditya was feeling at the moment. She sometimes felt like she was an extension of him… a part of the rollercoaster that he was always on.

Ultimately, Aditya got help because the HR Department at his workplace mandated it after a situation at work where he had almost become physically aggressive. While the first consultation was regarding “anger management” the doctor soon diagnosed Aditya with bipolar disorder and prescribed Aditya medication and psychotherapy. The effects of treatment were obvious but because of Aditya’s non-compliance with the medication regime, the improvement was not as good as it could have been.

It was at this point that Neha realised that she too would get help so that Aditya’s moods did not “transfer” on to her.  Therapy turned out to be a blessing for Neha. She was given some tools to stop linking her own emotions and peace of mind to that of Aditya’s moods.

One sentence that the therapist had told her, which she held like a talisman to give her strength was, “You cannot pour from an empty cup. I know you want to be there for your husband and help him in every possible way. And that is great. But Aditya cannot be the one who decides what you think and feel. If that is the case, you will not be able to help him—you will just do yourself and your relationship more harm than good. You have to take care of yourself. You have to disconnect with the extremes Aditya can make you feel.”

The therapist also taught Neha some strategies to help her whenever she felt overwhelmed with the situation.

So right now today, after one such episode, Neha was dealing with “filling her own cup.” The minute she started feeling overwhelmed by his anger, she walked away. She decided to calm herself down with her favourite coffee and a good book. She was giving herself time to be able to help Aditya.
Finishing her coffee, she sat down for another 5 minutes. Finally, confident at the control over her feelings and calmness, she made her way back home.

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Tags: #Moods #Husband