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How Family and Friends of Those with Bipolar Disorder Can Help Themselves

Rashmi Nemade, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D., edited by Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Feb 27th 2017

Bipolar Disorder is a condition that affects the entire family - mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, husbands and wives, and children.

stressed out 3D figure In cases of children with bipolar disorder, siblings may feel jealous of their affected sibling getting all the attention and focus. This can create an unpleasant and exhausting home life in which parents are always acting as referees to stop arguing.

Spouses and partners have to handle responsibilities for the person with bipolar disorder during times when they are most ill. Jobs may be lost and the family deprived of an important source of income. Insurances may be difficult to obtain. Normal child care routines may become severely disrupted, throwing the family into crisis. Family instability can lead to stressful holidays and family gatherings. Severe depression resulting in bipolar suicide impacts everyone related to the suicidal patient.

Family members can do only so much to prevent those with bipolar disorder from entering into dangerous mood episodes. Beyond doing all they can to support the person, family members may also need to insulate themselves as best they can from the extremes of behavior that they may have to endure. There are several ways that this strategy of insulation can occur:

  • Family members can educate themselves as to the nature of bipolar symptoms so that the various behaviors that may occur will not surprise them.
  • Family members may participate in bipolar support groups or family therapy situations where they can talk about and process their experiences.
  • The family may find it useful to develop an ongoing relationship with a family therapist who can provide advice and crisis management services
  • Patients' direct access to family finances can be limited, or protections can be put into place requiring additional signatures for any substantial purchases.
  • Regular testing for sexually transmitted disease can occur for both the person with bipolar disorder and spouses/partners when sexual promiscuity is involved. Similarly, long acting birth control can be used to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy (in women).

Taking these and similar steps can help family members to survive a loved one's severe bipolar symptoms.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

paxil saved me and my husband - - Jan 21st 2015

When i started dating my husband he had spots of severe anger.

After marring him I made him take paxil and it saved his life.

It made my life liveable there where times when i was ready to commit myself. I started taking paxil and it made my life tolerable. Then I threatened to leave if my husband did not try taking the paxil. Paxil saved his life and probably my own.

I know he could probably take something that would be better for him and me but, he won't admit he is  bipolar. I always wonder why his mother did not get him help. He is 55 yrs, and has held jobs but always lost them because of his temper. He would also say he was going to kill himself many, many times.

He is a good person but I lived a very hard life for fifteen years. Now that I am sixty I look back and think why did I stay with him. He still explods every other week and I quietly walk away. If you live with a person like this get away for it is a hard life.


Married to a bipolar person 25 yrs

HELP - Mary-Ann - Aug 14th 2012


I don't know how but when I was going to bed with a heavy heart, I thought of seeking out for help online when I came upon your website.  My only Son chased his dreams to New York even though he suffers with Bipolar sickness, a generational disease.  When he forgets to take his medication, he does things he doesn't remember, which I tried to tell the authority of New York, USA but they did not listen.  He is now serving a 25 year jail sentence and I am now 65 - I won't see him again before I go to eternity.  He did not obtain true justice because he could not afford one; therefore, he will be in jail and will be treated unkindly only because he has a disease nobody knows about.  And as a widow, there is absolutely nothing I can do - I tried to sell the house but to no avail.  I am now going to try and write a personal autobiography with the hopes of publishing the book, so to visit my Son.  I don’t know where you are at but if you know anyone in New York, please have them visit my Son, Greg.  Thank you from a broken heart mom in Canada.



Dear Lynne-re: your family's reaction & response to judgmental NURSE - - Nov 5th 2010

It sounds to me your family (husband and his relatives) are abusive and manipulative and are trying to trivialize any progress you have made. They are dismissing your emotions and it is MY suggestion you EXIT this relationship and start anew a life without them. They are not good people for you to be around. You need & deserve  love, compassion, support and understanding. Not abuse.

To that bipolar nurse who tells everyone to "buck up" and "get over it" and  "stop MILKING the SYSTEM":

You heartless, judgmental witch.

It worries me someone insensitive, sadistic and accusatory as you obviously are is working as a NURSE.

You completely lack compassion and have NO business in that profession.

You're a cold, nasty SADIST hag.

Maybe you'd do better working as a collection agent or one of those people who tows cars away or repossesses homes; tossing families out into the street. Would better suit your cold, NASTY personality.


husband recently diagnosed with Bipolar - Gemma - Oct 4th 2010

I really find your comments interesting because my husband 37yo has only recently been diagnosed with bipolar.  We have been married 12 years and a lot of the difficulties being mentioned about being married to a person with bipolar ring true.  The mood swings, the control and manipulation, the overspending and refusal to work to a budget.  I think the main thing I would like to mention is 5 years into the marriage my husband was physically abusive.  We seperated for 3 months and he promised to have counselling etc and he did.  He has not hit me since we got back together (7 years so far).  I know that success stories particularly about a physically abusive partner are few and far between and I just want to say that if a man is absolutely determined to change a particular behaviour (even if he is bipolar) that he can and you don't always have to prescribe to the theory that a leopard can't change their spots.

How to Help Yourself and your loved one - Linda - Feb 2nd 2010

Having a bipolar son for 20+ years now and going through absolute hell for many of them, the past few years have been so much more productive in getting help for us and our son.  This is because of a group called NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) which is there to guide all of us who are concerned about their loved ones who need the help to handle their diagnosis.  Including all kinds of brain disorders.  We've learned that we cannot cure them but through education, we can be of significant help to keep them living well within society. Constantly learning how we can change our attitudes to make it easier to cope and be better equiped to handle stressful situations in order to keep ourselves healthy.  We know now that the NAMI group is our most valuable family to help us get through our difficult journey.  The group support has been so beneficial as we are learning from others going through the same problems.  There is also a support group*called "Connections"  for those diagnosed with a brain disorder where they also can benefit from others  experiencing the same daily struggles.   Please look/ask about the NAMI program meetings in your area from the newspaper, mental health facilities, doctors office, or on the web by contacting  Believe me this will be the most valuable tool you will have to help fight the stigma of your loved ones mental illness.  If I can be of anymore help, feel free to contact me

Lost,unsure,and alone:boyfriend with BPdisorder - Ann 11 - Jun 29th 2009

This is in relation to Karla andK29,I too love a man with this disorder. We've been together for a year and a half. When he hits a low he blows me off for days sometimes weeks,then wants to resume as if it never happened.  I feel he is pushy and demanding with sex and seems to want to take it to a new level. I don't feel he will ever be satisfied,and is wanting me to do things I am not comfortable with. I have no support,he keeps his friends,family and I separate just enough to protect himself. The problem is I have a small child,who needs me more. He is not respectful at times of my parenting style. I've been struggling for a year now with the painful truth that I must end the relationship. He refuses to take meds because of the side effects and won't return to therapy. He was diagnosed long before I met him. I've tried to end it a few times,but he is very persistant and can become quite charming. I have been the one who's changed and accepted him,sadly I don't believe he'll ever want or get help. I cannot sacrifice my family for someone who refuses to get help. I really wish I had known what I was getting into from the beginning. This has been quite painful,and I'm also finding it more painful to end the relationship.

bipolar 25 year old son - Kelli - Jun 22nd 2009

My son is 25 and has bi polar for some time. Due to a housing situation that was not his fault, I let him stay with me. I wished I never did this. Everyday is a battle and I'm so tired to the point of my own depression. I don't feel comfortable in my own home. HE doesn't clean up after himself, Does things only when he want, no respect, and can't understand that what happened only yesterday is still the present not the past. I love my son, but I need him to go. In this state, if someone lives with someone for more that a week or two, I have to serve him with eviction papers. All i do is cry anymore. Can someone give me some legal advise for Connecticut.

Childless Grandmother - KSC - Jun 1st 2009

When I first learned that my future son-in-law had bipolar disorder, I was concerned. I was not aware of the impact it could have not only on the marriage, but the entire family. My daughter informed me just 2 months after meeting him.  Four months after meeting him, they became engaged. At six months into their relationship, he had to go away for two weeks, to have his levels checked and get his medication regulated. My daughter informed me that if he was feeling "off", he would get very paranoid that others would know he suffered from the disorder and would need his levels checked (whatever that means). At times, he could not answer his phone for fear he would be sought out by what he might or might not say.  He would record a message to leave then re-record it 3 or more times. He would instigate arguments between my daughter and I. He even lied to her about my deceased father, my daughter's grandfather saying a horrible thing and would never admit to me that he lied. That caused problems because he said he heard it from my brother, my daughter's uncle. My brother was confused and hurt that my son-in-law would say such a thing, and that is when I told him about the bipolar disorder. 

He always sent away for his meds (out of the country) and never had his blood checked in our town to try to ensure his secret. In earlier years, my son-in-law was institutionalized as a college student. However, when asked if any mental or medical conditions existed when applying for his employment, he withheld the truth. (Which he lives in fear the truth will come out.)  He is a medical doctor, a graduate of Harvard and Columbia University. He writes prescriptions and performs critical procedures, & suffers from severe bipolar disorder.

The most devastating thing to me was when my only daughter gave birth to my only grandchild & my son-in-law wanted me out of their lives.  I could see things that were going on that were either hurtful or harmful and he was not okay with that. Upon the arrival of the baby, I was told I would never watch the child because I was not CPR certified.  When my daughter went along with that, I knew there was more to the story than that.

My daughter and son-in-law had been nicknamed "the Bickerson's". That is all they did. The last time I was around them it turned to screaming, yelling, and driving like a maniac. I finally gave in after all my desperate efforts to communicate with my daughter and I stay away. She was so desperate to stay in that marriage, that she chose to hurt me for him. Understanding bipolar disease and what it can do everyone around them, helps me tremendously. 

My daughter's father passed away in '05. My son-in-law's mother passed away in '02 and his father suffers with dimentia. That would have made me the only grandparent alive and well. My grandson was born in late November '08. It is now June '09 & I not seen my grandson since January. Up to that time, I held him (briefly) 2 times and saw him 5 times. This is how bipolar disorder can and will wreck a marriage and the whole family.

I only wish my daughter would have been stronger, but from what I hear and read about Bipolar disorder, she is just another "text book" example.

I am open to talk to anyone I can share with and hopefully we can console each other.



I'm so tried - Carla - May 25th 2009

I too live with my bf who has bipolar. He can be very loving one min. and then he acts like he is mad at me the next.  He will go up stairs to bed and want say a word to me. The next moring he say I'm sorry. I ask him ( what did i do) he tells me nothing. I'm so tired of asking him that when I know I have done nothing wrong.

I'm a supporter & I need help-feeling very alone - K29 - Mar 4th 2009

I am a supporter of my BF who was recently diagnosed with Bipolar disorder & put on meds (Depakote 1000mg).We live together & I have a young son.I've been the main support & have been taking care of everything, but feels like no one is taking care of me-I'm feeling very alone, unloved, uncared for, unwanted, deprived & depleted. I have no support & everything is always about his needs & his feelings.

He can be very difficult at times & I've been on an emotional rollercoaster with him for about a year now, but just friends for a few years before this. One minute he acts loving like a boyfriend & then the next he treats me like I'm not even here &/or jerks me around.Sometimes I really don't know which cart I'm in on this coaster ride because it changes everyday & is very emotional hurtful & confusing. I cry almost every night & then he gets mad at me.

I live in upstate NY & there are no local support groups. Can anyone out there help me? 

understand. treat. help - M.J.P - Jan 29th 2009

I am a 16  year old teenage girl suffering with bipolar I. I was officially diagnosed at 13. It was hard for me to accept the fact that I had it in the first place, but after I was in a long term treatment center for a while, I fully understood why I had it, that it wasn't my fault, and that I can help myself. I am on 100 mg of seroquil and 200 mg of lamictol. Its the perfect dose for me! I can still feel happy, and I can still feel sad, just not in an extreme where I want to go hurt myself or scream at the world at how happy I am.


The last thing we need is people thinking we are fake, attention seeking, psychos that should be isolated from society.

If you are bipolar I can give you a couple tips for you :)

1) If you feel like harming yourself, tell someone! It could save your life. If you attempt suicide you could have long term consequences like being paralized! So if you get into a treatment center that could actually help you until you are ready. I've tried suicide attempts! Many times! In a total I've been in three hospitals,7 times! But in the end I found the right dose of medication & a therapist.

2) Talk to your doctor and be comfortable with him/her. If you think they are over medicating you, you are probably right. But give it time to see the effects on your body. If you are constantly drowsy like a vegetable, can't go to school, and drooling all over the place, you need to lower your medication! Or find a different doctor! I had to go thru 3 different doctors until I found the right one.

3) Find a good therapist and make regular appointments with him/her. Being bipolar means you have manic & depressive stages, and you can't see them coming. They can help guide you thru any pain & if they are good help you with any family problems you may be having as well.

4) Take your medication! I know accepting that you have it is one thing, but if you are on the right dose with no bad side affects, stick to it. It really is the decsion between going into treatment centers, going to school, and moving on with life as a productive person in society. You may not feel as happy or manic, and it may feel weird, but it can change your life.

theres other ones but i gotta go soo good luck!

Parent of a Bi-Polar Child - Shelley - Nov 6th 2008

Are there any other parents of BiPolar children out there?  My son is 11, and he was diagnosed when he was 6.  He is going through difficult times, being sent home from school constantly, kicked off the bus, not allowed to change classes as school with the other children (which makes him constantly late)  He has to check in at the principal's office when he arrives to school, spend PE and lunch in the principals office, and is not allowed to attend school parties, like the christmas party without supervision.  His meds aren't working, but I can't get the psychiatrists office to adjust them before his next visit, which isn't until January.  He is either angry or totally down all the time, he alternates between attacking his siblings or saying he's stupid and wishing he was dead.  I am exhausted, completely stressed and powerless to do anything.  HELP!!!

recently separated from my bipolar husband - - Oct 20th 2008

I find it interesting to read everyone else's comments. I know what you mean!

My husband is very manipulative, on ssi for his bipola "disability". He is also very controlling, demanding and not negotiating. He overreacts to things, stresses out about things, and chain smokes. Then it become my fault that he is upset and stressed out. The final straw happened when he had a physical confrontation with my young son from a previous relationship that ended up with my husband being arrested. I am just glad to be away from him. I feel as though I gave him the chance to show me he could step up to the plate and be a father and a husband and he has shown me that he is just not capable of it. My children's safety is at stake with him and I am determined to divorce him to protect them.

It's a difficult decision to make, but the amount of codependence and enabling that goes on in his family make it impossible for him to change.

There is something to be said for a family that has a strong sense of right and wrong and believes in accepting responsibility for the consequences of ones actions. (That would be my family, unfortunately for him -- not his.)

Bipolar People Need to do the work! - - Aug 12th 2008

After years of dealing with a bipolar family member, I'm sick to death of the excuses.  There are plenty of illnesses where the person has to buck up, take stock of their lives, and get their ducks in a row.  I'm tired of all of the net postings on how to get this benefit or that benefit, or basically milk the system.

How about you go get a job?  How about you make an effort to contribute to society and quit your self-centered behavior?  Get your meds regulated, get a counselor, accept your condition and stop the pity party.

I'm disgusted by enabling a bipolar person who continues to not take their meds, who constantly lies, who uses the system, who manipulates everyone and everything, and has to be the center of attention. 

Their behavior is NO different then a drug addict or an alcoholic who won't do what's necessary.

The recovery term KING BABY comes to mind.

Get help.  Get your own life and quit ruining the lives of those around you.

If you're a functioning bipolar person, spread the word:  meds work.  Support helps.  Structure helps.

I'm bipolar and a nurse.  I function.  I don't milk the system.

Stop the welfare abuse now!

emotionally damaged - erin - Aug 6th 2008


I need advise. I have been in a relationship with a man for two years and I love him. My three year old son adores him nad I hope some day that we can become a family. The big issue is that he is bi-polar and is emotionally unavailable and I keep hoping that onec his new cocktail of meds kicks in things will change....will they?

I have put blood sweat and tears into this relationship and I feel damaged by his behaviour and treatment. Should I stay in this torment? He keeps assuring me that things will get better...

 Perhaps I am the one that is truly sick?

Catastophic nightmare still going on - jeanne klimowicz - Jan 26th 2008

I,ve read your article.
  Yes, my husband has been diagnosed by two doctors as being bpII. The real story is that his original doctor has not diagnosed it yet. It has ben three years. It started with my husband being put on wellbutrin while he was in his inner most dark deoression... Ist time on medicine. I found the bottle in his coat pocket. Well along with the welburtin, he hhad been put on Stratera for adhd. Wihin a few months, mu new house we built the past two years wentb up for sale, he filed for a divorce after I went to file to freeze the assets when my home went up for sale, he resigned from 3 director of social worker jobs within a year and a half, within a short period of time, ... 5 months after these 2500 $ airline tickets to nowwhere were purchased, 1,000 $ car phone bill. He said someone stole the phone and made those calls, He was taking my 3 and 4 year old boys to canada on 200.00$   We tried to section 12 him. we thought he od'd on these two drugs... super mania with those two drugs togethet for the first time in a person's system with a strong family history of bipolar, and never on any type of medicine before. He was never sick  Right now, we are still in the courts... 3 years later, is newly married,,, don't forget we are still married . we have not gotten an official divorce decree fom the courts. I have filed sex discrimination over my husbands attorney, judge, etc for throwing me in jail, making me pay him 1,000 child support payments  for him to travel on impulse when he get those travel bugs... He actually has custody of my two boys now..    Do you get the rediculous picture of this big mess  >
Pastor and myself have acted on ourselves , have pulled away from the courts... they are scamming us financially, protecting someone who is ill and who so desperately needs to be hospitiliezd.. Decompensation bigTimE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!/. What a nightmare.

Weve got the attorney general in on this mess... also because of the Fraud on our home that was committed by my attorney, michaels financial staements never checked by his attorneys in court etc... I am gioing to sue them all and I have started the complaint process this weekend.  If you would love to write, I can surely apreciate your input or aide in comfort.. Everyday is a stronger step in victory for us to get out of this NIGHTMARE that has been ongoing, dragging for 3 years .

                                        Please write my e-mail at

Advice from a Bi-Polar - - Jan 25th 2008

It took a while for me to accept that I am Bi-Polar, but the sooner you face the facts the sooner you can get on with your treatment. 1. Do alot of research. Especially about medications and their side effects. Basically the Doc is just trying to find the right combo for you. I have had my disorder for about 14 years and the first 12 yrs I was basically self medicating on Paxil. Needless to say it took forever to get that out of my system. I'm sure some of you may know what it feels like to have the withdrawls if you miss a day or two of your meds. 2. Keep a steady job that provides health insurance. Somedays I'd rather sit at home all week or go on some binge and I have lost several jobs. Now having a steady job is my number one goal towards my treatment. 3. Try to figure out your cycles. This is the first year that I can see when  I am about to go through a manic phase and so I guess I'll go see my Doc and my dosages adjusted and try my hardest to keep myself pulled together. Relationships are almost impossible!! I think I have found someone that understands me and what I go through. Hopefully he will stick around. It is because of him that I have opened my eyes and figured myself out. One day I was really hyper, happy and talking so fast that I could hardly breathe. and he says, "whats wrong with you" which I thought I was just happy and normal. And then we went out to dinner that night and I was rude, mean and was yelling at him in front of people. Then my next step is ususally some kind of poor me pitty party: I hate myself, I hate my life, etc. So now that I see my patterns and how often I do this I guess I know when I am going through a "phase". so .... 4. Get help. 

On a side note it can be very frustrating and hard to figure out what meds work for you. My big issue is weight gain. So I refuse to take anything that causes weight gain. Currently I take Wellbutrin and Topamax which are great for weight loss.

Good luck!

devistated financially, emotionally, physically - - Sep 4th 2007
I am not sure how many realize how devistating bipolar disorder can be to a family.  Not only is it difficult to live with a teenager but imagine one that is ten times more moody. one that will react differently to the same situation with no warning whatsoever, one day a sibling may teasingly call him a name like dork or dingbat for doing something off the wall as siblings often do, and he will laugh and tease back while the next day he may collapse onto the floor and sob because everyone hates him, and  another time he may become violent and begin to attack the sibling for calling him names.  imagine having to try to maintain employment when you are constantly having to take off work to go get him from school, take him to see doctors and counselors and anger management classes, to do suicide watches when no hospital beds are available, supervise him every minute to see that he doesnt try risky behaviors like rollerblading off the roof, or climb to the top of a tree that is four or five stories high, imagine dealing with a completely unreasonable individual who accepts noo responsibility for their own behaviors, good or bad, and feels free to help themselves to what is theirs and everyone elses because they act totally on instinct or impulse. imagine the frustration at the lack of medical services available, of having to drag a child kicking and screaming to see a doctor and try to drive with them kicking and screaming inthe car for over an hour because there is no doctor or clinic closer that has any openings.  imagine the rollercoaster of emotion you feel when the child you love so dearly, goes from screaming obceneties at you, to sobbing in your arms and calling themselves worthless and wanting to end their own lives because of the terrible guilt they feel for striking you or hurting you, and all you can do is hold them tight and pray someday  the hormones will even out once again and return the child you raised for the first 12 or 13 years to you, the wacky, funny, smart, lovable, soul you know is inside this hormonal 14 year old, but cant seem to find. imagine trying to deal with  the schools who want them to conform to a way of doing things you know they are not capable of, and just want to stick them  in with the "bad" kids where they are bullyed threatened and tormented daily, and now comes home and explode with emotion after holding it in all day at school. imagine the guilt you feel when you begin to dread the sound of the bus pulling up, knowing that the child you love may come in that door raging mad and throwing things or may come in and collapse into a ball of emotional mush that you will spend hours holding and rocking trying to fix the hurt they have inside whether real or imagined, imagine trying to decipher what is imagined and what is real. there is so much involved in raising a hormonal bipolar individual, and it doesnt seem to matter what course of medication or mediation or how much counseling or therapy you seek nothing seems to last long, you finally get the meds right and see improvement and they will switch to the opposite pole and go from manic to the depressive and start all over again.  the financial devistation is just as stressful, from replacing broken things to the costs of treatment to the loss of employment due to missed days or having to go in late or leave early and there are no programs to help the families survive except ssi which at this point is only for use for the bipolar child but counts against the income limits for the little help available to the rest of the  family, including food stamps, so you may get food stamps to help feed the rest of the family but the ssi that can only be used to support the disabled individual counts against the amount the rest will recieve. try to feed a family of 4 on 116 dollars of food stamps a month after you lose yet another job because there is no daycare available for a 14 year old and noone would take him anyway and the school reduces him to half days because he cant handle a whole day, and he cant be left alone as his behaviors are not as such he can be unsupervised for even a minute.  imagine when he doesnt sleep for three days or nights and so neither have you. imagine how exhausted you would be.... how frustrated... how broke... how broken....just imagine. 

A FAMILY Problem - Terri - Aug 22nd 2007
Dear Lynn: I've finally realized that my family NEEDS me to be sick. They NEED someone on whom they can heap all the blame for all THEIR problems. They don't want me to leave. They don't want me to stick around either. Do what you can to make your life better, even if it means separating from them. There is good support 'out there'. Look for it!!! This old adage is worth remembering -  "Jump and the net will appear."

my experience as a bi-polar - Terri - Aug 22nd 2007

Pardon me, but I have to unload and present the 'other side'. At times I get sad , but often disgusted at the victim roles family members of a suffering mentally challenged person assume. I come from a "DNA challenged" family, my father a minister, my mother a control freak, prude, chronic liar and a master manipulator. "Everyone else is always the problem." We moved twelve times from my birth until I was 18, my brother and I always blamed for causing 'the agonizingly, slow death of our congregations. Meanwhile my brother and I became accustomed to public humiliation from both parents in the presence of church members and anyone else who had the misfortune of crossing our paths. Dad once introduced me, a female, as his 'eldest son'. If anyone dared to correct him we knew we were 'in for it'. As poor as we were, my parents always provided a clean home and simple but delicious meals. I am always grateful to them for that. But beatings with belts, switches, slaps and pinches, bruises, a broken eardrum or gashes in the skin on our bottoms were the  order of the day, and many nights we were physically jerked out of our beds, ordered to the living room, sitting up until dawn while we were threatened, shamed, emotionally abused and slapped if we tried to speak. Crying was a serious infraction. My mother ALWAYS sat to one side giving a blow-by-blow account (like a sports announcer) of all the imagined or unintentional wrongs we had done. She spurred him on and I now believe she was the major perpetrator.  She never lifted a finger to protect us or let us forget any wrong thing we had done. As adults (that description is only in years) we kids fit the profile to a 'tee'. Three of us are struggling alcoholic misfits at 62, 61 and 55 years of age, and even at 21 years of sobriety in AA we remain socially inept no matter how difficult it is to move from the wall into a group of people with hope that we can succeed in fitting in. The 'angel' is a full fledged, angry drunk with a sleep disorder who the parents favor for the expensive gifts she gives them and we are repeatedly compared to her. None of us were EVER bad children, but the pressure, harrassment from parents and other adults and school mates was unbearable. My life with bi-polar symptoms began when I was sixteen. I had a complete breakdown, a neighbor doctor gave me medications that my father immediately flushed. "No child of mine is going to take drugs." We were normal 'sinners', never mean, crazy, thieves or sexually active. We lied to protect ourselves when the truth would have been more acceptable. But, the truth would get us more in trouble. Despite my brothers, my sister's and my intelligence we failed miserably in school. To beat it all we became very successful in our jobs. I sought help from THREE doctors in the early 70's for my trouble, two said I should 'give my heart to Christ', the third literally kicked me out of the office 'because I wanted drugs' (his words). I have been on medication since 1992 and though I cannot work and am incapable of maintaining a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, I finally have activities that please me, educate me and my art is satisfying. I am most often alone and have finally arrived at a place that in my tiny apartment I no longer mind "running into my self." I never feel lonely. Isolation can be a friend and healer. My doctor and therapist understand the discription I make and I could never thank them enough for the kindness, empathy, support and encouragement they have given to me to become the courageous person I am. We work with my positives and not the negatives my family dwelt on. I have only two friends, they are enough and we are devoted to each other. I don't know why they love me the way they do, or shower me with thoughtful gifts. or remember special days. One has given me a new computer, the other is taking me on a cruise in a month. I never had this before. I'm not sure I ever earned their love but they give it freely and generously. As the 'old maid' in this 'rotten' group of people with the same last name I have been hassled to return to Nashville to live in my parents house and to nurse them in their old age. I put my foot down with no shame...NO, NO, NO!!! The father I have always loved, MY father passed away last December and in his last few days we constantly held hands, spoke of our love and admiration for each other, we made amends and though he had suffered from deep depression and wanted to escape the unbearable misery he was in, my mother refused to tell his doctor. Another shabby excuse not to reveal an embarrassing family secret. I miss him but can squeeze out a smile about him even though I miss him. He died peacefully at the age of 93. I have now been divorced from the rest of them, BY them. "There is no problem except for (me) I was told. I am far from perfect but believe God is my partner in transforming me into the best I can be...He is helping me to quit being so needy or dramatic.  In closing I want to make the same suggestion a total stranger made to me while I was in the throes of public drunkeness..Go to A.A.! Do you family members drink? If you stop do you pick it up again? Are you always angry, hurt and exhausted? Have you rolled your eyes at, made disparaging remarks about, complained about or expressed disgust with one that can be interpreted as a complete assessment of them as a person? Do you use them as a negative example? Do you impose your will on them? Have you threatened their security in any way? If so, you are mistreating yourself. AA says WE must always look inside our Selves, assess our part in broken relationships. It does not always apply to the drunk, addict or the mentally ill. NO ONE bears the same inward and outward scars that a mentally-ill person does or the self-persecution that often leads to suicide. It is a horrid role and the illness advances with time. On the other hand family members are wrought with sadness and need to take care of themselves. There are always plenty of seats for family members in Co-dependency Anonymous, Al-a-Teen, and Alanon. Please shed that tendency to label any family member as 'my alcoholic', 'THE problem' or 'my mental case'. Don't take sides with each other. Family members deserve the time apart from other family members to begin a new life to free and distance themselves from ALL the drama. Strangely enough all 12 step programs have similar descriptions of our illnesses. But Adult Children of Alcoholics have a slogan that says it all where our behaviors are concerned..."this is not an indictment, it IS a description." In  closing, I LOVE my family members. But, we are like oil and water. We need a mountain range between our respective homes. I thank you for listening. My wish is that something wonderful happen for all of you as well as me. We are all deserving of better lives. I'm too tired to edit this. I spent most of the day crying so I'm going to get a good night's rest now! God Bless You!

I understand - Carolyn - May 6th 2007

This is for the person struggling with the bipolar step-daughter.  I can identify completely, having a bipolar son.  It is totally exhausting to deal with, and you continually wonder how much more you can take.  Son is about to turn 18, and I would throw him out but husband would not support this.  The constant lying, refusal to take personal responsibility at home, flunking courses in high school, refusal to do school work, just wear you down.  It is like having a 2-year-old in a big body.   I pray a lot and rely on the prayers of my friends.  Not the support, because they truly do not understand. 

help for parents - - Apr 14th 2007
Not sure what to say.  I AM EXHAUSTED!  My step-daughter was diagnosed 4 years ago with bipolar.  Add into this pool that she is mildly mentally retarded and it is unbeleivable!  Family members who were once supportive and helpful, now cannot handle her.  I have no break and feel myself breaking.  It is like nothing that I ever expected in my life.  My hubby, my son, and I, no longer exist except for the fact to get her through the day... I don't know how much longer I can take this...

Judgement / Lynne - Paula - Feb 23rd 2007
Yes Lynne it is a hard road I was diagnosed bipolar 2 years ago, the first was very difficult coming to terms with my illness and continually criticissing myself for all the inappropriate things I'd done in my manic states. The second year much better I feel level now but continue on my medication because I fear returning to my old reckless state of mind. My family has been a wonderful support and I think that helps me tremendously. My in-laws were sceptical at first being unaware until they heard of another cousins child also diagnosed and experiencing a friend in a maniac episode. They are now very supportive, try and get your family a book on someone prominent with bipolar to help educate them. You sound very judgemental of your parents in-law, is it bipolar rearing its ugly head after a period of time off medication ? Or perhaps you are ready to face the things you are scared off. Either way Lynne I wish you every happiness and we can live happy, valuable lives because we are special people.

--- - - Feb 14th 2007
I think there needs to be more added on what family members can do. This really only mentions therapy, and that really isn't my style. So is there anything else I can do?

Are there any online support groups for family members? - Roxanne - Feb 2nd 2007

If someone could direct me to an online support group for families who are dealing with the emtional rollercoaster of bipolar disorder that would be great. My husband suffers from this disease and sometimes it is mentally draining for myself and our two boys. We never know what to expect from day to day.

Editor's Note:  I'm not aware of any list, but you can google for "bipolar family support group" or something to that effect and you will find a few communities that might help.  I found this one , by the above method (although I have not visited it and cannot vouch for it).   


Family judgement and behaviour may cause more problems - Lynne - Jan 22nd 2007
Someone should write about how spouses and families can play a devastating role in trying to keep someone in the "box" - continually judging them as ill even when the person has worked hard and made strides to overcome illness. In my case, in all areas of my live I am doing well, except in my personal life where I can't seem to get past being treated as someone who is mentally ill. In fact, I think my family preferred me to be compliant and easy to control. It was easier for them then. Now that I have the normal demands of a wife, my husband's parents are very unhappy that they have less access to him, and I believe his mother even views me as competition for his attention. It has resulted in a lot of heartache for my husband and me to try to rebuild a normal life, and for many reasons, he and his parents continue to label everything I do as being a decision of someone "mentally ill." I was treated for bipolar disorder for years after I experienced grief following my mother's death from cancer. One day, emerging from grief, I was told I was "high" and the cycle of medications over many years began. Through this time, I maintained a high profile career. My husband has stuck with me but received intensive support from his very close family. He also began to visit his best friend and brother on nearly every long weekend of the year, leaving me at home alone. These were his breaks from home and me. He also has a stressful job and began to work all hours, making me fear sometimes that he was having an affair. For many years I lived in fear of losing his love and felt that I was just lucky to have him stay with me. He is a good person, though emotionally unavailable and not very loving by nature...not the kind to give you a hug or hold your hand. Two years ago after extensive cognitive therapy, I stopped taking medications. In the past two years I have been doing extremely well. Hardly any sick days, making good judgements, starting to make friends again, re-engaging in the hobbies I enjoy. I am so proud of myself and so is my psychiatrist, who sees me regularly to chart how I am doing. There is some question as to whether I even have bipolar disorder. All of my problems (short bursts of depression or anger) seem to stem directly from how my husband and his family continue to judge me and treat me like I am unwell. I have to fight a family stigma. If I am really happy about something, they think I am just high. If I get weepy during a TV show, I must be unstable. If I get up early or stay up late, it must be a problem. I am exhausted by continually defending myself from their "concern."  I have reacted with anger when his parents treat me poorly and my husband does not stick up for me in front of them - allowing this behaviour. Now, he is confused and doesn't understand that I am doing well and want a normal relationship. He is angry with me a lot, and now that I am doing better it seems as though I am losing the love he had for me as a sick person. As long as I can go along being amenable to everything as though I have none of my own dreams or wishes, things go well. Anytime I stand up for something, big or small, in the most adult manner it can lead to problems. And if I start to cry because I feel unloved by his behaviour, he refuses to comfort me and starts to give me commands to snap out of it as though I am ill, not sad. I know I have typed a lot here, but I am very frustrated that there is nothing on this site that describes this "post illness - into wellness" situation on your website. At work they are happy for me, my friends are happy for me, but my family can't let my illness go, and they do not seem happy for me. It is beyond my understanding. And as a result, there are times I have an argument with my husband that I believe he is right that I am ill, because I become so upset and irrational. It shakes my belief in myself and the strides I have made. I certainly realize people have worse experiences with emotionally and verbally abusive or controlling relationships. I am starting to believe I am in one though. Any actions suggested by my psychiatrist are all risky as they will open the door to things I am afraid to discuss and face. I had hoped to find some answers here. Thank you for listening.

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