Help, my boyfriend got a manic episode after proposing


Be wary of those doomsday agents who will tell you that you must leave him at once because of this first episode. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

My boyfriend of three years proposed marriage to me and I accepted because it was on Valentine’s Day. I did not want to spoil the mood. A few days later he was in hospital in a manic episode. What to do?

The fact that your relationship has lasted three years already would suggest that it might be that in sickness and in health, there is ‘something’ special going on between the two of you and before you decide one way or the other, it might be wise to go through this manic episode by his side and then see if indeed the proposal for marriage was part of the manic episode.

Even if it was, there are instances when a manic episode might enable a man to become sufficiently courageous to literally ‘speak his mind’.

Several other questions are raised by the concern you express. For example, how are the two of you and how critical is it that you must settle down ‘now’? If this is a subject that has been on your lips for the last year or so, and if the reason for the conversation has been because you are now in your late 30s, and plan to start a family, then the starting gun is about to be fired for the two of you to ‘get on with it with haste.’

If, on the other hand, you are both in your early 20s and met at the university and are yet to decide on career paths, the pressure to get married may be less and you might decide to give each other more time, to figure things out.

The other considerations relate to the illness itself. Is this the first episode of illness or has he had similar symptoms in the past? If you have been by his side in the past, you will have experience as to how quickly or slowly he gets better from such episodes. Similarly, having been by his side in the past, you are aware that he will soon get better, be on his feet and back to work!

If, however, this is the first time you are witnessing a manic episode, you might be unaware of the fact that this is one of the most treatable mental disorders, with an excellent outcome when properly treated.

For one to see a manic episode for the first time can be most frightening. You have not told us how else he was on the day that he proposed. Could you, for example, tell that he was abnormally happy, energetic, grandiose, and perhaps with a reduced need for sleep? How did the next few days go, and what was the precipitant to the hospitalisation?

Did he, for example, go on a binge drinking spree, or a spending spree or was he perhaps taken to hospital on account of extreme irritability that might have ended up in a brawl in a bar? These are all common presentations of a manic episode that could scare a first-timer. You might also be wondering if it would be wise to marry a man who has now been shown to have suffered from a manic episode.

Questions about the inheritability of mental disorders might be flying all over the family from cousins, aunts and anybody else who might have an opinion on the matter of mental illness and genetics. All these are issues that you will have to deal with even as you support the man you presumably love and might ponder getting married to sometime in the future.

There is the additional matter of whether you must make the decision now, or it might be wiser for you to wait until he has fully recovered from this episode and is in a better position to speak for himself in this matter. The last thing you want is to be accused of taking advantage of a manic episode to procure a husband!

As you can see, there are multiple questions that cry out for answers in considering your options but the most basic and perhaps most important matter to be settled relates to how well you understand the condition that your might-be husband has been diagnosed with.

Be wary of those doomsday agents who will tell you that you must leave him at once because of this first episode, and equally you must be careful of those aunts who will tell you that a marriage proposal comes to a girl only once and that you are already too old to be looking a gift horse in the mouth.

Your best bet is to get as much information as you can from both your reading around the subject as well as talking about it to his doctor, always making sure you get his consent to do so. Going behind his back will damage your relationship in ways you may not have intended.

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