Rageful husband -- what to do?

Q: My husband was diagnosed with bipolar shortly after it took 3 police officers to remove him from our home. Of course he was pushed into going to a Dr by me and had gotten a Dr that didnt beleive in medication to treat this. He went 1 time then never went again well its gotten worse. He cant just argue like a normal couple he goes into rages in July he broke my ribs by hitting me with a flashlight and caused a brusing of my kidney I was hospitalized for 2 weeks. I didnt want to get him in trouble because here he will go to jail but as you see it has gotten bad yesterday he threw a chair at the christmas Tree. I have 3 children and a home and I dont want to uproot my family or leave him but at this point I need to get him help willing or not I can not with stand this abuse or eggshell walking anymore. When he is ok hes ok but when hes not its horribly frightening.I love him very much, Can you give me some ideas? Thanks you! Cindy

Dear Cindy --
Ouch, this sounds awful, all right.  You probably have several options.  First, contact your local NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill; start with www.nami.org) for some local help.  Sometimes the local group is great, sometimes not.  There are state groups too that often are stronger organizations. 

Second, find a psychiatrist that has experience with bipolar disorder. Even if your husband doesn't have that, that kind of experience will help her/him be prepared to deal with your situation.  Try this guide to find somebody.

Third, find some local resources to help protect yourself.  In our community there's a group called CARDVA -- the center against rape and domestic violence.  Your local district attorney's office might be able to recommend someone.  Alternatively, you can find your own therapist and "hire" somebody just to help you deal -- and specify up front you're looking for someone who can actively help you, not just sit and listen to you (e.g. ask if they can work with you thus, on the phone, before arranging a first interview). 

Fourth, familiarize yourself with your local "committment" procedures.  He was "committable" the first time he hit you ("danger to self or others") and may be each time he goes into a rage on the basis that he already hit you once in such a mood state, so when he's throwing things at the tree (could start a fire, etc.) he's potentially a danger like that again.  Find out what it will take to get him hauled off for treatment, not jail (I don't mean to criticize you, just to emphasize what you obviously want for him).  Your local county mental health department might be able to help you learn these things if you can't get a quick how-to from some one of the NAMI folks. 

Finally, be prepared to do some harsh limit-setting until he is in treatment and staying treated.  E.g. consider a restraining order ASAP and tell him you'll drop it when he's clearly better.  He's already been dangerous to you once due to his illness, and could be so again until he's treated, if that diagnosis is correct. 

A last thought: there are a lot of people out there who have been through this.  Try asking on the chat forum on this site and others for advice-- I'll bet you get a lot of it, from people who have even more direct experience with this than I. 

Dr. Phelps

Published January, 2001