AFTER just three weeks of dating, while in the middle of an Ibiza nightclub, Lois Perry’s boyfriend asked her to marry him.
It was a whirlwind romance and she said yes at once.
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Her new fiance Richard was a high-flying “creative genius” at the media firm where they both worked.
Friends called him “the life and soul of the party” and Lois couldn’t believe she was dating a man so positive and determined to please her in bed . . . again and again and again.
He seemed the answer to her wildest dreams.
But things soon took a very different turn.
Within months Richard was refusing to get out of bed, calling in sick to work and barely talking or even eating. Sex was definitely off the cards.
Lois had lost her fun-loving husband — to extreme bipolar disorder.
Kim Kardashian posted a statement earlier this month in the wake of erratic behaviour by her husband Kayne West — who very briefly signalled an unlikely run for the White House.
Kim wrote: “As many of you know, Kayne has bipolar disorder. Anyone who has this, or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand.”
Her statement drew praise online for its compassion and many said it would help raise awareness of bipolar disorder suffered by thousands of others. But what is it like to be the woman living alongside a husband with such extreme changes in behaviour?
Lois says it has been one of the hardest journeys of her life.
The 39-year-old runs a PR company and lives in Essex, with Richard, 49, co-owner of their firm, and their two children Richard Jr, 17, and Lola, nine. After meeting at work, they went for a drink in June 2002 and their relationship rapidly progressed.
She says: “It was a whirlwind. He was intense, amazing. We just clicked. Within a week, he booked us a holiday to Ibiza. To me that was wild — but I loved it.
“It was while we were there, in the middle of a packed dance floor, he asked me to marry him.
“His enthusiasm for our relationship was infectious, so immediately I said yes.”
While she was on cloud nine, Richard confided the next day to Lois that he suffered with his mental health.
Lois says: “He said if we were going to get married, he had something to tell me.
“He told me he was a manic depressive — an old term for bipolar.
“I didn’t really understand it but it seemed strange because he was so positive. The condition honestly didn’t worry me. Richard always managed so well at work and had lots of friends. I thought it was something I could cope with.”
A few weeks after returning from their holiday, Lois found out she was expecting a baby.
She says: “In classic Richard style, it wasn’t a normal few months. Instead, when I was 12 weeks pregnant, we flew to New Zealand and tied the knot.
“We were so happy and after our son was born, we set up our own PR agency together.
“I felt like I was on this amazing rollercoaster ride.”
But as time progressed, Lois saw Richard experience his extreme low periods.
She says: “I hadn’t realised it because I didn’t fully understand bipolar, but the whole time (we had been together) Richard had been having a manic high.
“Then the lows hit. It was such a dramatic shift to the Richard I knew and loved.
“He would become very introverted and lose all confidence in himself and his ideas.
“His mood was low and he was depressing to be around.
“His diet would completely change and he would eat all the wrong things — junk food and snacks — and wouldn’t stick to regular family meal times. All the amazing things he wanted to achieve he suddenly saw as impossible.
“During those times, I was the one who kept up the momentum at the business and at home, everything.”
Lois gave birth to their son in July 2003 and found it very difficult being mum to a new child while also dealing with her husband’s extreme highs and lows.
She says: “I felt like everyone was leaning on me. Then we had Lola and as the children grew, I felt like I was a carer for everyone.
“Both children knew from an early age about their dad’s condition and have always been very accepting.”
Lois knew it wasn’t Richard’s fault but it remained a challenge for her. She says: “During his manic periods he was very open about his sexuality and during these highs he was very sexually active.
‘He wanted sex with other people’
“He’d want sex all the time and while that was great at times, it would sometimes become so extreme that he would say he wanted to have sex with other people — and was happy for me to do so too. I didn’t want that. I just wanted to be his wife and for us to be together intimately.” The opposite would then happen during Richard’s lows.
Lois says: “When you have such high energy levels, something has to give — and that’s when the lows come.
“During these times, our sex life dwindled to almost nothing.
“I found myself becoming a carer for Richard and began to resent him.
“It got to the point where I was more like his mother.” Things came to a head in 2012 when the couple were arrested by HMRC tax officers at 6am as they slept.
Lois says: “I was terrified but it turned out Richard hadn’t paid some tax our company owed and a case had built up against him.”
The charges against Lois were dropped and in March 2014, a judge gave Richard a suspended sentence and ordered him to do community service.
The stress proved too much for their relationship and they divorced in January 2016.
But Lois says: “I missed him so much and so did the kids. And I knew he needed me to help him.”
In the summer of 2017, the pair rekindled their relationship, though they have not remarried.
Lois says they have both learned to cope better with Richard’s condition.
She says: “He’d never given up on me and I knew his behaviour wasn’t his fault.
“All the things I’d thought I wasn’t prepared to tolerate for the rest of my life, I suddenly thought, ‘You know what? I can do that’.”
Partners become carers
KAY Francis of Carers Oxfordshire says: “Living with someone with bipolar can be very confusing, as they struggle to understand what is happening in the relationship around them.
“It can take years before they recognise they are balancing the role of being a carer as well as partner.
“This realisation often follows a significant event, which can add a whole different dynamic to their relationship, as it suggests some level of dependency.
“Many people find it surprising that carers can feel isolated. But meeting friends becomes difficult for carers, making that sense of loneliness overwhelming.
“Look out for your local carers support service or mental health organisation, or talk to your GP to get support if you are a carer who needs it.”
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