How Do You Live with a Husband with Manic Depression? He's Been Arrested, Lost His Job and Tried to Walk out on Their Marriage. but Still This Pathologist's Wife Says She Won't Give Up on Him
Byline: ISLA WHITCROFT
LAST September, Andrew Hastings secretly decided it was time to end his marriage of 26 years. He still loved his wife Janet, and his grown-up sons Simon and Richard, but as the retired consultant pathologist explains: 'I felt very strongly that it was absolutely the right time to close this particular chapter of my life.
'I wanted to move on, try new and different experiences, and to sever ties with my wife. I didn't think about the hurt I'd be causing -- in fact, I was sure she would understand. I was exhilarated by the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.' So one afternoon he walked into an estate agent's, put down 84,000 in cash and left with a six-month rental agreement on a shabby, two-bedroom bungalow just a few miles from his large detached family home near Mansfield, in the English midlands.
But this was no ordinary mid-life crisis. Andrew, 56, a tall handsome man, a talented pianist with a distinguished medical career, was in the throes of a bipolar episode -- an illness that has dogged him for most of his adult life.
Worse was to come: instead of moving into the bungalow, Andrew suffered one of the most severe breakdowns of his life.
A few days later, Janet, 61, a former school teacher, came home to find her husband missing. At that moment, Andrew was leading police on an hour-long chase through the countryside, his powerful sports car finally brought to a halt by three patrol cars.
'In my agitated state, I thought that the police were out to get me and that I had to outrun them,' he explains. 'I was quite surprised when they didn't quite share my view that I was just on a harmless escapade.' As a frantic Janet rang around the emergency services, her husband was already under arrest for dangerous driving (a charge later dropped) and was being assessed by a psychiatrist. By morning he had been sectioned under a mental health act: he was to remain in hospital for 12 weeks.
'I was actually relieved to hear he was there,' says Janet. 'I knew from past experience that once he entered a bipolar phase it was best for him to be in a place where he could get his condition stabilised.
'I didn't know until weeks later that he'd rented the bungalow and decided to leave me. When I found out, I didn't know what to think. All I could hope was that it was his illness, nothing else.' BIPOLAR disorder is a mental illness characterised by episodes of mania ('highs') and depression. Previously known as manic depression, the condition is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.
It's not clear what causes it, although a chemical imbalance in the brain may be to blame. About one per cent of the Irish population suffer from some form of the illness. Not only does it have a desperate effect on their lives, but on their families, too.
During the manic period, patients lose their sense of judgment and sense of what is normal, explains Dr Tuhina Lloyd, the consultant psychiatrist who is overseeing Andrew's treatment.
'They often think that they are immune from the usual rules of law, from death or social restraints, and so take risks that they would not usually consider, which can make them a danger to themselves and others,' says Dr Lloyd.
'The depressive cycle is characterised by sadness, sometimes suicidal tendencies, or simply an inability to face the world. It affects people from all walks of life, but many of them go undiagnosed.
'Often they don't suffer the acute manic phase that puts them in hospital and gets them diagnosed. 'In many people, the mania is not so obvious and may take the form of irritability or anger or agitation -- and people can easily go through life being thought of simply as very difficult to live with.
'Often, when a diagnosis is made, it can be a relief for family members, and although it doesn't make living with the illness easier, it helps them to rationalise what is happening to the person they love. …