Dealing With The Mentally Ill Who Damage Your Life

All across the internet you will find articles and advice on dealing with the damaged in a loving and kind manner. That is well and good in many cases. However, there are many people that have no interest in understanding themselves, their mental illness, or how it affects those around them. These people think that because they have problems that everyone else should cater to their issues and treat them with kid gloves. The person may also feel that they don’t need to change. Whatever the reason- understand that these people can and will pull you under the surface with them if you let them. They may not mean to, but they can.

So how do we deal with these types of people? In my opinion, the answer is quite simple. You establish rules, boundaries, and then enforce them like you would a child. The reason is the way mood disorders work. I often speak of my brain in an adversarial nature. “I didn’t want to do this but my brain decided it was a good idea.” That’s because my unwell brain is nothing like my well brain. My unwell brain may scream at me to take a swing at someone who won’t shut up; but I would never do that if I was in a well state of mind.

Rules and boundaries act as solid anchors to reality. The person CANNOT go this route without repercussions. It’s been clearly stated, they know what will happen otherwise, and these types of anchors can actually pierce through the turmoil by forcing an unwell person to stop and think about their actions. The more the person is forced to think about their actions; the better chance they have to realize what they are doing is a result of their illness.

The most common response I get to this line of thinking is “I can’t be harsh to my friend/loved one”. I would counter that by pointing out the person running wild in their instability is not your friend or loved one. It is a warped version of that person who is sick. Your loved one is in there somewhere; but for whatever reason they are presently losing their battle (not the war) with their mental illness. If anything, it should be viewed as taking drastic steps to try and find that person and haul them back to the surface.

I’m going to give some examples of what I’m talking about. It would be impossible for me to include a comprehensive listing; but if you have a specific situation you would like some input on, email me. Contact info will be at the bottom of the post.

*I have a friend who calls me incessantly to the point that it fills my voice mail and even cost my a job interview.

ex. “All friendships and relationships have boundaries and you are overstepping ours. Your actions cost me at least one interview and who knows what else because people couldn’t leave me a message. Do not call me more than once a day. If you do, I will call the phone company and have your number blocked.”

*I have an adult relative who lives with me. He does nothing but idle, won’t take his medication, won’t go to the doctors, and won’t get a job.

ex. “I am willing to help you if you are willing to help yourself. This isn’t a hotel and you’ll never get well unless you actually do something about it. So you can start making an effort to take your meds, visit your doctor, and (if capable) get at least a part-time job; or you’re going to have to find another place to live.”

*I have a loved one who is verbally and/or physically abusive while they are unwell.

ex. “Mental illness is no excuse for being abusive and will not be tolerated. If you persist on being verbally abusive, I will remove myself from the situation. If you persist, I will remove you from my life and get a restraining order if I have to. If I feel like I’m in danger, you hurt me, or you threat to kill yourself or me; I will notify authorities.”

As you can see, each one is very clear and concise in approach. It puts the choice in the hands of the mentally ill person. That way when they come around to blame you (and they will), you can point back at it and say “I gave you a choice and you made it. This was your decision.” The goal is to try and break through the mental illness to the rational part of their brain. A mood disorder unwell thought process is very similar to a tsunami. The further it is allowed to go, the bigger and harder to stop it becomes. There has to be something solid in the way to break up that wave (or thought process). By introducing such harsh measures with clear repercussions, we are hopefully putting sturdy walls in the path of the wave.

Reintegrating such a person into your life should be handled the same way. “I’ll let you move back in, but you must maintain your medication and go to your doctor. If you do not- then you’ll have to find another place to live. Entirely your choice.”

To all the friends, parents, supporters, and loved ones of those with mental illnesses like Depression and Bipolar Disorder- I know that many of you want to understand and help your loved one. The fact of the matter is, the only person that can truly help your loved is them. They are the one that needs to go to the doctor, take their meds, monitor their moods, and most importantly- realize there is a problem in the first place. The greatest way to help these people is to force them to realize that their way of conducting life, their way of thinking is damaging. The sooner, the better- which is why I advocate strong measures even early in the process. It could be the difference between lost months and lost decades.

Yes, it’s probably going to be difficult for you to establish limits and stick to them. Even if they storm away and you end up separating from that person for awhile; you are actually still helping them. At some point their brain is going to hit rational thought processes again and think about those circumstances. It may very well contribute to their moment of clarity even if you haven’t heard from them in months.

Unfortunately, there are people that can’t or won’t help themselves either. These people will draw you to the bottom like an anchor. They will drain you of all of your emotional energy and bring the chaos of their lives into yours. It’s one thing to be there for someone who is trying to get themselves together; it’s another to be constantly victimized or treated badly by someone who is just fine with it. Look at the entire picture of the situation. Is this person trying to help themselves? If the answer is no- put distance between you if the person is damaging.

Many people with mood disorders and mental illnesses can reach a point of management and live a mostly normal life. Unfortunately, getting the person to realize that and fight for it is often an extremely difficult road. It can take years of suffering and loss before that person realizes they have to be the one to take control.


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519 Responses to Dealing With The Mentally Ill Who Damage Your Life

  1. susan says:

    ty for showing that is ok to say I’m done. I can only hope that one day the rational part of her brain will kick in.
    And until it does it is best if I stay out of her life.

    thank you for your post

    • Grimm says:

      You’re very welcome, Susan. I’ve seen people get ground under the heel of their mentally ill loved ones because they want to be there for them, want to help them; but that person is not ready to be helped yet. It’s one thing to want to be there for someone you love and care about; but there has to be a limit before it starts affecting your own mental stability and well being. It’s not an easy path.

    • Deede G says:

      I’m in the same boat as you; but for me it an ex BF…………..long distance relationship, verbally abusive, in denial about being bipolar, hasn’t worked in over 10 years, collects SSDI, argumentative as hell, shows no remorse, never apologizes, demeaning, etc. this has been going on for 2 3/4 years. I AM DONE….he has dragged me into the abyss…………….has your friend come around? I know your post is from 2013…………curious to see if they will ever be rational? He needs meds but doesn’t take any; no therapy……….works on a magic program that will make him rich….yeah, grandiose delusion much??

      thanks for posting.

      • Dennis says:

        I’m very sorry to hear about everything you’ve been through. Some people are toxic, cannot, or refuse to be reached. It’s an unfortunate reality. The important thing is to free yourself from that abuse and pain so you can move forward into happier times for yourself.

    • Dianne D. says:

      Dennis. I am so thankful I found you and your blog!
      So, I thank you for your blog. I am trying to download the kindle app so I can purchase ebooks.

      • Dennis says:

        I’m happy you’ve found my work useful and hope my ebooks provide some further enlightenment.

        Just a note: Don’t use your full name when discussing mental health online. You don’t want to have Google associate your name with posts in the event someone decides to search your name.

    • Stephen says:

      This is one of the best postings I have read. Lets me know that I’m not alone. It is almost completely impossible to talk to other people about someone that you think has a mental disorder. So many time s, I get the response that they are telling me I’m looking for someone to be on my side and then I’m not supporting my wife. I end up trying to tell them, “…how else would you like me to tell my story?…”.

      My wife had a stroke a year ago. Even before the stroke my wife had symptoms of a mental illness of some sort. All seemly coming from a bad previous marriage, which I’m now considering the vadality of the story I was told by her. What scares me the most is that she is making me be out exactly what her husband was in a previous marriage. She’s trying to convince me of things that are wrong with me and that she continues to be in to me every day as if I have some kind of major serious problem. The same exact problem her ex-husband supposedly had as well. One very upsetting similarity that she preys on is trying to attempt that I am making a scene in restaurants and people are staring at us. She told me that exact story how her husband would embarrass her in restaurants and the people stared at them all the time.

      • Dennis says:

        Hello, Stephen. I can see by your post that you are venting mostly about your situation, but I would like to chime in to suggest that you may want to look into a therapist for yourself for dealing with the stress of your wife’s stroke and how she is acting. There is a term called gaslighting, where Person A who is actually unstable, mentally ill, or toxic projects and manipulates Person B, someone who is mentally well/healthyish, so much that they begin to think that they are the problem. This kind of thing can have some pretty drastic and severe consequences on you further down the road, if it isn’t already.

        Do see out a counselor to confide this information in and work with. This isn’t the kind of thing that you want to share with friends or other loved ones. As you’ve experienced, they’re probably not going to understand.

    • Kmoney says:

      Sigh, I need help.. my sister is allegedly (I say that, as I have a feeling she’s pretending, so she can’t pay her child support) bipolar, she’s on major meds, and I’ve been bailing her out since she’s been ‘affected’ by this. She lives w/ dad (we recently lost mom) and I’m busting ass working to keep them both happy. I have never once been asked by her doctors or counselors to come talk, which is why I think she may be faking, and that she’s a liar from the gate…
      BUT, I still trust and love her, and just don’t know why I have to support her. When she runs out of cigarettes, she gets “manic’… I think she’s playing this as mental, to get some disability (I WISH) and not have to pay her back child support. She has no car (now, cuz it got impounded, from many DUS, DWI, etc.) and can’t work, or won’t. I can’t afford to support my adult sister. WTF ??

      • Dennis says:

        Hello. First, I’m sorry to hear about your mother. That’s a tough thing to deal with.

        Second, you never will be asked by her counselors or doctors to come talk because of Doctor-Patient privilege. It’s just not a thing that is done.

        Third, you don’t have to support her. The only two things you HAVE to do in life are pay taxes and die. Everything else is a choice, although it may not be a pleasant one to deal with. Also, she is going to have to pay her back child support either way. That doesn’t just go away because you’re mentally ll or disabled.

        If she’s taking advantage of you, you have to be the one to stop letting her do it. You don’t even have to be confrontational about it either. Just start saying, “I don’t have the money to give you.” Which is true, if you’re having a hard time living your own life or staying afloat.

        Trusting her seems foolish, just based on those two paragraphs you wrote. You can still love her and care about her. It’s going to hurt to watch and see her suffer, and probably her reactions towards you withdrawing. But, assuming she isn’t faking, the kind of mental illness and problems your post implies are not minor or going away any time soon. So if you keep trying to keep up, you’re going to burn yourself out, sooner or later. The mental illness has years to do that to you.

        You have to be the one to draw your own boundaries and enforce them when dealing with people like your sister. You should also consider going to a counselor to talk about the situation, including how to draw and enforce your boundaries. A counselor will also be very helpful in helping you cope with the emotions that will undoubtedly come from it all.

      • Jackie says:

        Omg I have a sister just like yours !! Too lazy to work faking mental illness to manipulate the system and family for money and cigarettes swallows meds n pain pills enough to sedate an elephant . Sleeps all day everyday does nothing but smoke ! Took it in my house cause it’s boyfriend n kids turfed it out like a football was Gunna be homeless . Doesn’t help me with anything ! Unfortunately mentally ill an addicts are self serving , manipulative , lazy and just don’t give a shit it’s sad !! I worked all my life an am half cripple at 40 yet I seem to manage to raise a child which is what she is behaviour of a 5 year old !! Thanks for letting me vent … ahhhhhh

      • Petty says:

        Hi, have a son who is bipolar. We have been belling him out since he was seventeen, and now thirty nine. I have started to put distances between us. Put rule in place and no more money every time he ask. I am so tired and he ask why should I be tired. Now I supervise someone with mental illness. I learn to hold them countable. So I can do the same for my son. I want him to be better.

      • JLY183917 says:

        That’s my brother in a nutshell except he does have a mental illness. He’s bipolar and schizophrenic. In all the years my mother has been caring for him, he’s never shown any signs of improvement. He’s 31 now and continues dragging me and my mother down with his outbursts and demands. Cussing, insulting, and degrading us in every possible way while he sees himself as top dog and the man of the house. There are times when he is sweet and nice, dare I say supposedly concerned about us after he’s taken his medication. But after that, he’ll start going ballistic if he doesn’t get what he wants or if we don’t agree with his delusions of grandeur. He’s been in jail and we’ve tried putting him into homes, but my mother keeps allowing him back in the house to ruin her life. I can’t watch as my almost 60 year old mother wastes away catering to him. No one should ever see their mother go through that.

    • Josh doe says:

      I am dealing with a similar situation my girlfriend of 10 years has brought me down to her level as verbally abused tortured exedra and never apologizes never feels remorse what can I do and everything I’ve been told is that they will never change but I love her and have tried to help her for years and years and years but it’s gotten so bad that I can’t take no more the lines and boundaries have been crossed so many times that they don’t matter anymore I can set them all I want but none of them are respected or followed I put myself in the situation but fell in love with her have done nothing but try to help and nothing seems to work and by reading this stuff lets me know that it’s never going to work I have sucked up too much of my pride to continue on this way there’s only so much a man can take

      • Dennis says:

        Hello, Josh. Love is, unfortunately, not enough to make a quality relationship. It requires active work and sacrifice by both parties. There are mentally ill folks who work hard at it. There are also mentally ill folks who do the kind of shit you’re describing. There are also normal folks who just don’t care enough to try.

        If she’s been doing this to you for 10 years, it’s time to let go and move on. She is the only person that can help herself. No amount of love is going to fix her.

        And do yourself a favor, talk to a counselor. Living that kind of relationship for a decade takes a deep toll on a person’s emotional health and it is something you will carry forward with you into future relationships. Don’t let the damage she has done define your future relationships. Take some time work on yourself, find your center and happiness, and rebuild from this.

        Love is not enough. Love is NEVER enough. Contrary to what rom-coms and society has tried to drill into everyone’s heads.

      • Chloe says:

        Josh you are definitely not alone! I fell hard for a man that hid his illness for nearly 2 months from me. His family has abandoned him, he was about to be homeless. My kind, want to “fix people trait” was exactly what he needed. I know there was a purpose for us and our time together. Mental illness or not we have to make the tough decisions on how much we are willing to compromise. That’s me putting it lightly, we begin to lose our identity when we compromise beyond our own gut that little voice/feeling that says, “I’m not okay with this.. but I guess its going to happen whether I like it or not.” When did that ever become okay? We would never want that for our loved ones to be losing themselves in the pursuit of someone else’s journey. Yet we allow this behavior and way of thinking to invade our healthy mind state. Enough is enough! Love from a distances. I’m so happy and relieved to find this page. I have made the hard decision to leave him as of yesterday. I’m not happy about it, we had plans and goals. I pray one day I’ll get to meet the person underneath the illness. Illness or not, I just want him better and as happy as he can be. The key to it is what Dennis states. Love is not enough. And ask yourself is this person trying to help themselves? If the answer is No, don’t continue to be their enabler. Whos going to save you?!?

    • dm24 says:

      I hear where you are coming from Susan, as hard as it is, I too had to make the tough decision to stay out of my 32 year old daughters life. I continued trying to help her whether it was trying to get her to get meds checked, because she was still out of control from her Bipolar Mania w/psychosis diagnosis. She has been verbally abusing me for years for times she said i abandoned her which was her go to excuse for treating me the way she does. I was a single mom working two jobs to make ends meet and every chance she gets she tries belittling me. I’m over it and i have decided as sick as she was making me feel in order to live somewhat of a happy life, I had to cut myself out of her life. She was always ungrateful and nothing was ever enough. It was a toxic relationship for years. Never heard an apology for her verbally abusive mouth. I’ve been going through crap since she was 14 years old. I’m done and tired and have to live my life. This is heartbreaking for me as a mom who truly tried to have some kind of relationship with her daughter and i’m afraid it will never happen.

      • Jean says:

        I too have experienced this pain. My 33 year old bipolar daughter has been doing this to me for years. I am 64 years old and can no longer tolerate this kind of behavior in my life. Recently she was arrested and I think that may have been the breaking point in her life. I get that she has an illness but when does a grown adult start to take responsibility for their life and stop blaming everyone else.

  2. RobB says:

    I have been attending therapy for over thirty years for an anxiety disorder. Within the last three years I discovered I have a bipolar disorder. I was put on medication which now makes me more stable.

    During all this time my wife “danced around the ilness” rather than take firm action. Since I have always been in therapy, I believe it would have a real benefit. She never explained my illness to my kids. As a result our relationships have been damaged. My career had promise, but I am now only working part time. When I asked her about her support recently, she stated “it’s your problem, you always pushed me away.”

    Is her responsible typical? She says my moods were hostile and demeaning. For some reason, I did not become aware of my actions. Now, I don’t understand whi detecting the moods went unrecognized.

    • Dennis says:

      Hey Rob!

      The problem with mood disorders is that they are often difficult to tell the difference between a person who is mentally unstable and someone who is just being a dick. If your wife has been with you for a long time, she may have not have known how to handle those swings or even recognized it as a sign of mental illness. Perhaps she tried early on and you responded with verbal abuse that did end up pushing her away? Everyone has their limits.

      The good news is that you have your diagnosis and you understand why these things are happening now. It’s difficult to see that the way we act is so severely abnormal when it is our “normal” for so many years. Even if someone does say something, we have to actively consider their words and see if we are in fact unwell. However, if we don’t know anything about the disorder, we will typically just respond in an argument because everything makes perfect sense to us.

      Nothing is stopping you from going out and repairing the breaks being Bipolar has caused you. Call your kids and talk to them. Apologize to her for all the shit you’ve put her through; and tell her you’ll do your best to stop and analyze yourself and moods if she tells you that you’re being irrational. You may even want to ask your therapist if they can recommend anyone to provide marital counseling that has experience with Bipolar couples.

      I usually get a lot of flak when I suggest that apologizing is a good route- but understand I’m not suggesting you apologize for being mentally ill. You’re apologizing for the effect your mental illness has on the lives of the people you’re close to. We have to understand and take responsibility for the fact that it can be just as hard, if not harder on the people that are close to us.

      Is her response typical? Yes, after enough time has passed. You didn’t become aware of your actions because they seemed to be normal and justified in your mind. That’s what makes it a Mental Illness and not just quirky behavior.

      Why did it go unrecognized? To put it simply- mental health care, in general, is atrocious. It takes an average of 8 years (a figure from NAMI) for a person involved with the mental health care system to be correctly diagnosed as Bipolar. A lot of people don’t understand mental illness- even the people that are paid to understand it. Others simply don’t care. While other’s just don’t know what they are looking at. The reasons are many and honestly- not worth dwelling on too much.

      It happened, it sucks- but now you have the ability to understand yourself, get on a better path, and attempt to patch up some of the holes in your life. Start with your family and move outward from there. There’s no reason why you can’t get back into pursuit of a meaningful career and life once you have the Disorder and your anxiety managed.

      • LV says:

        I thought this post and response was excellent !!

        • Dennis says:

          Thank you!

        • lorac says:

          me too! Dennis, you have your finger on the pulse and then some. It’s a great help to read these posts and know I’m not alone. I’ve known that for years, as my 27 year old son has been ill since his first psychotic break at age 19, but it helps immensely to read, in black and white, that others are living this same uncertain and hellish existence! I like your straightforward and accurate responses to these posts, and thank you very much.

          • Dennis says:

            Hello, Lorac. I’m glad you’ve found my work and what’s posted helpful. It is a very difficult journey when you feel like you’re alone. Glad you found a little comfort in the shared experience. I sympathize with your family’s struggle a lot.

      • Deede G says:

        what a great response Dennis! If only all the ppl that are bipolar and refuse to accept their diagnosis could read this, we’d all be in a better place (carers of them!). How do you respond when they tell u they are NOT ill, (although u know they are since they’ve done two stints in psych ward and got official diagnosis and was on lithium) and that you are the crazy one….u are the one with BPD and that you obsess over their “supposed” illness??? They are master manipulators and highly cognisent of what they’re doing…….they can twist words and make it all out to be about you………..
        all I can do is shake my head and walk away for my own sanity and peace of mind. Thanks for this great forum.

        • Dennis says:

          Thanks for taking the time to comment, Deede.

          You pretty much answered your own question. You shake your head and walk away, erect whatever walls and boundaries are necessary to keep yourself well and healthy. A lot of people focus on the aspect of “denial,” but what they don’t consider is the additional impairment that an unwell cycle creates that reinforces that denial. So, not only are you trying to get through the denial aspect of it, you’re also trying to break through the disillusionment and warped perspective that unwellness creates. And that isn’t easy to do at all. In that kind of situation, all you can do is protect yourself really.

          • Sam says:

            Hi Dennis. I am so fortunate to have found this dialogue, as I am dealing with my first experience of someone close to me with a true mental illness crisis. My partner of four years went from a successful young professional to a bipolar alcoholic. Since we met, he has been diagnosed having bipolar disorder (didn’t take medication), gone to one in-patient detox program, and weaned himself off alcohol twice at home with the help of a prescription for Librium. He’s now been in a month long episode where he barely gets out of bed, and has become physically weak. He says he knows he must deal with the bipolar diagnosis and has asked for my help. He refuses to go to any inpatient program, but desperately needs one. He says all he needs are Librium and Lithium to get detoxed and somewhat stable. How do I help him understand that he needs real medical attention. He is an intelligent individual, but has some real issues going on. I even called several psychiatrist offices and could not find one that was “accepting new patients” after I described the situation.

            I really love this guy and we do manage to enjoy our life together, despite the problems. All of our conversations regarding this issue end up getting too intense, and I back off.

            He has to do something soon, as his health is starting to really suffer.

          • Dennis says:

            Hello, Sam. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

            Going in-patient isn’t always the best option for people. Medications generally take time to work, either way. Being that he accepts he has problems, knows he needs to medicate, and actually do something; in-patient will likely just be a cost sink at this point. But, different people take different things out of it. You may want to suggest that he get with his general practitioner and ask if they can get him a referral for a psych. Or, failing that, at least get on any wait lists for local psychs for when a slot opens up. Additionally, going in-patient doesn’t mean he will have psych support when he actually comes out. Really depends on the quality of the programs and the area.

            Seeing a doctor and getting medicated is “real” medical attention. What you’ll end up learning is that the process of psych is usually fairly slow in comparison to what you’re actually dealing with, because if you go fast and a medication happens to be wrong for you, it can do pretty terrible things to a person.

            If he’s at a point where he accepts he needs help and he’s willing to get it, there isn’t much more to discuss past that, really.

  3. Donna W. says:

    Thank you SO much for your work and article. I have spent years and years dealing with my sister who is very verbally and emotionally abusive. While our parents were alive I became her conservator. Now they are gone and I am sole trustee of the trust bu t no longer conservator. She calls incessantly and blows through thousands of dollars. I am now seriously considering paying the atty to deal with her allowance, etc. I no longer want her in my life….I love and pray for her from a distance…..People are quick to tell me what to do…but no one helps….I am SO done! Thank you for explaining all that you have…Many many thanks.

    • Dennis says:

      Sounds like an unfortunate circumstance, Donna; but one fairly typical of having a toxic family member. You probably will be better off having an attorney deal with her so you can step away from the situation for as long as you need. And yeah, people always have an opinion. It’s easy to spout drivel when they aren’t the ones that have to deal with the chaos and pain it inevitably brings. You need to do what’s right for you and get yourself into a better place mentally. Mental illness has all the time in the world to drag the associated under.

      • Ann B. says:

        Attorneys cost money. Is there a county mental health program who could provide a case worker to oversee her care and bills?

      • Rhonda says:

        Great answer Dennis. I had to do this awhile back but after awhile, the attorney quit due to her abusiveness! Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  4. lyn says:

    Hi there

    I came across this article, and it gave me much insight into the life of my best friend who has bipolar, we have been friends for many years although we live completely different lives, I went of to uni, got a career, and she, I would comfortable say rushed into a marriage, had two kids (one on the way), one autistic, and all will be under 6 years of age.

    I for much of those years have managed to deal with the bipolar, and in fact I was the one orginally who told her I thought something was wrong, and that she should get help. You see when we where teenagers, she dropped out of the school we were attending which she was an A student at went to a co ed school instead and just made really bad decisions, engaged in a lot of different relationships etc, I thought that behaviour was pretty bad, but it wasn’t until we went on our O.E together that I noticed her severe mood swings, and when we got back form Europe, I suggested that she seek some help, at that stage i suspected depression, a year later she was diagnosed with bipolar and put on lithium.

    She continued to go in and out of relationships, until she then meet her now husband, in which within 5 months was pregnant and got married. After the birth of her first son, she got post natal depression, and it was a tough stage, however she still managed to be a good mother. The support from family and friends was there, I went to most of her therapy meetings, was at the birth. I would say we were like family. Her marriage at that stage was a little rough also but they worked through it.

    Not long after she was pregnant again, I suggested to her that possibly she should have waited a little longer before trying again, I feel like she makes this decisions without thinking of the consequences, and what do you know the exact same sort of situation happened, the emotional support I and another close friend had to give was a lot. To the point I nearly got depressed over it. Her first child was then diagnosed with autism which may the whole situation harder. With the support of family and friends things were going relatively well.

    UNTIL. the last year, one of our closest friends got married, and another friend after much trying with IFV, etc managed to finally get pregnant we ( the group of girls our friends) where so extremely happy. within a month of the announcement, my bipolar friends tells me she is thinking of having a baby, At that point I was sick of the decisions she was making not realising how much of a strain it puts on her support network. i TOLD her that maybe she should worry about herself, her marriage, her son with is autistic and her second child, and be extremely grateful for those blessings alone. Nether the less, she got pregnant, some what of me believes she was pregnant at the time of telling me. Our friend who tried with IVF, went into early labour 2 months early, she was so scared and worried, it was traumatic, my bipolar friend dismissed the event and proceeded to talk about how she thought her pregnancy might be a disabled child, and wanted all the attention to turn to her. Now within this year I had loss the father figure in my life which was rough, and she wasn’t there to support me, I let it be as I have other great friends, and just put it down to her illness. This time seeing the selfishness was to much. I made the decision to distance myself. In which she hasn’t bothered to make an effort on the friendship, which hurt but I am not surprised with her manic episodes.

    We had a girls lunch, my bipolar friend whom had not been there for my friend who had the baby early and nearly lost him, decided to take her selfishness one step further, and sit int he room and cry and start complaining about her life. I couldn’t compel myself to lend a comforting message or display signs of affection or support, Because all the emotional energy I had for my bipolar friend was gone. I had become so disgusted in her behaviour that all i could see was bipolar, and it sadden me to think that, was how i saw an old friend. The part that I disliked the most was the first words out of her mouth towards my friend was “i know i haven’t been supported BUT” and it was to much, I watched my other friend brakedown for three weeks as she watched her son fight for his life in an incubator, and for her to bring her selfishness in a time that wasnt about her made me extremely angry.

    I decided that, it was enough that i had to make the decision to either endure the friendship, or distance myself, and i decided that distance is the best option for me. I know when she goes to have this third child, life will be the hardest it has ever been for her, but she continues to make the same decision OVER AND OVER. I believe my friendship to her over the years has been just as destructive as much as it was her saviour during tough times, and she knew i was always there to listen and tell her what she didn’t want to hear. The moment i tell her what she doesn’t she cut’s me out, but now she has lost the support of other friends as well. As my friend with the new born felt extremely hurt by her selfishness and actions.

    I can also say I am done. and knowing that other people deal with the same issues is comforting, and sometimes I felt like she had a reason she felt the way she did, she had bipolar, what was my excuse? I felt like an emotional wreck anytime I am with her for long periods of time. and when you walk into her house its extremely messing and disorganised, and no matter how many times i try help clean it it goes back to the way it was, and it serves as a metaphor for her life.

    When I seen her the last time, i KNEW that was the moment i had needed closure to be the friend form a distance. I will pray for her, but for my own life I cannot be there for her.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello Lyn. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

      What you’re relating does happen on a semi-regular basis. Your “excuse”, if you can call it that; was to care about someone who has deep-seated problems. You (and her other supporters) sacrificed too much without making any demands on her. And of course, everyone has their limits. You finally reached yours, your friend that was 2 months premature on the birth did, and others will too eventually.

      I realize this is after the fact for you; but I’m going to talk briefly about the scenario and how to better handle it for the benefit of other readers.

      This is how I handle those folks.

      1. I quash any sense of pity or sympathy I might feel for person. If I can’t, I just don’t let it show. Because a person like your friend will pick up on that, latch on, and drain you. I make it clear that I will be there for them but I have expectations. “I don’t feel sorry for you. I help people help themselves. If you need help, I’ll help you; but if you want to wallow in your own misery then that’s on you.”

      2. You are allowed to have expectations of the person. Yes, they will periodically slip and fuck up. They will periodically do insane things. But what are they doing about it? Are they trying? Do they go to their appointments, take their meds, and try to manage on their own? Or do they just do whatever they want and expect everyone else to sweep up the ashes?

      3. There is a difference between being a Supporter and an Enabler. I talk to a lot of folks who love a Bipolar person and put up with a lot of crap because they want to help their loved one. The best way to help these people is to help them understand that they have to help themselves. I’ve met a lot of Bipolar people who think our illness gives them excuse to be above reproach. And that is bullshit. You may periodically think you have an important appointment with the Queen of England to receive Knighthood while you’re brain is out in space; but you can choose to place trust in a friend to say “Hey, you’re being fucking insane. Don’t fly to England.” And in situations like that, where a Supporter is present, we have a choice. Do we fly to England? Or do we trust our friend even while our brain is screaming at us to do otherwise?

      4. Don’t be afraid to say you can’t handle them. Tell them to call or find or a therapist. Talk to their doctor. Call a suicide hotline if it’s that bad. Supporters aren’t providing the kind of care needed to actually get that person to a well state. If they are just putting up with it continuously, then we’re crossing back over into the enabling side of things.

      And I know a lot of that sounds harsh. Every situation is different. The presence of different mental illnesses also changes the way you address things as well. The reality is; gentle and soft just gets rolled over by the tidal wave that is a Bipolar mood swing. That’s what makes it a mental illness and not just a quirk.

      Lyn; you did a good thing for your friend for a long time. Slightly misguided but how would you or her other supporters know any better? Don’t feel bad or guilty about distancing yourself, if you do. It certainly seems time for you to have some much needed rest. And if she comes to you again, tell her:

      “I’m pissed at you for the way you acted when NAME OF YOUR FRIEND was going through her difficult time while her child was in the incubator. I’m done with just blindly supporting the decisions you’ve made over and over through the years. If you need support, go talk to a therapist. And I would highly suggest you take a strong look at yourself and the way you handle your problems before you lose everyone that you lean on. Everyone has their limits.”

      Change around for phrasing you’d use but still be harsh and a bit caustic. Remember, soft and gentle gets swept under by the Disorder. Hard and caustic has a better chance of standing out.

      Also- if you do talk to her again- you may urge her to talk to her psych about the attention seeking behavior. It might be indicative of something else going on in her brain. Not a doctor or anything; but the people I’ve ran into that are that severe in their behavior have had molestation or abuse in their history.

      • Crystal J. says:

        So very true. I come from a family of mentally illness. My mother was a very violent person who had such a quick temper that ppl would avoid her altogether! It was nothing for her to hear blades up and brand my brother for not finishing chores….. Tying me up with telephone cord in my sleep, so that she could whip my face until if was red striped from ear to ear! She did all types of things to all five of her kids and husband (my dad) until the day she died at 53 yes old. I pleaded with her to get help, but she considered the idea an insult to her status (mother) and her intelligence. Because I wanted no parts of being that type of threat to ANYBODY….. I would voluntarily seek counseling and diagnosis for early detection of any signs is the illness within myself. I am not mentally ill… I was all stressed and rest-broken from dealing with my family. I took the suggestion to separate from them and moved 240 miles away for 10 years. Life was undeniably simpler without the negative component present. But… In the last couple of years I came back home to assist my ailing Aunt (the only other family member not afraid to recognize the family problems) that passed last April. Immediately…the problems of old resurfaced with a vengeance! I am going up the loose ends of my move back “home” so that I and my daughter may get back to the business living in peace. It is the only way for us.

        • Dennis says:

          Hey there. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please note that I edited your display name to remove your last name. You should never use your full name online when discussing mental illness so Google does not associate your name with posts like this, in case a future employer or someone looks you up.

          I sympathize with everything you’ve been through, and I’m glad to hear you managed to make better decisions in pursuit of your own mental health and well-being. Scenarios like yours are why I am not a mental health apologist. We can do awful things to other people for insane reasons. Many people have to move physically far away from toxic families to escape the negativity. I hope you’re able to get back to a place of peace sooner, rather than later.

    • Aeva Willow says:

      I couldn’t even read through your comment because of the amount of judgements I read. Your comment gas nothing to do with your friend with bipolar and more about what you think is “acceptable”.

  5. zoe says:

    My ex partner and I split 11 years ago yet he never fully leaves me alone. He has hit me, destroyed my property and verbally abuses me on a regular basis. I am absolutely terrified of him. I believe in my heart he has a mental illness he also smokes cannabis
    Please could you advise me
    I have now had the courage to call the police
    I really think he needs medical help or he is just out to destroy my life
    I don’t know what to do please advise me. Thanks

    • Dennis says:

      Contact a local domestic violence prevention group or the local police for help specific to your area (not sure what country you live in). They will be able to advise you on how to get legal protection and work to prevent any further damage. That will be your best approach, Zoe. And do it as soon as possible while you’re still feeling strong enough to follow through!

    • susan says:

      this has to be the toughest you will ever do. but you have started the process now just keep it going. where ever you live, there should be laws to protect you. hugs for your bravery

  6. nayeli says:

    Great article, I was ready to leave an abusive relationship with a bipolar man and it took far to long for me to recognize that he wasn’t respecting boundaries or serious about his own house this article is so on point I hope that others don’t feel guilty like I did and leave as soon as they know they are emotionally drained as to protect their own stability and health.when I was finally over I was so exhausted but also relieved and grateful for the opportunity to move on.

    • Dennis says:

      Glad to hear you’re in a better place mentally and emotionally now, Nayeli. There are definitely limits that everyone should have and we Bipolars should respect. Bipolar Disorder will take and take and take if we let it.

    • Deede G says:

      that’s the point I’m at right now…..I can’t tell you how many times I said I was DONE, just to keep crawling back…..and me always being the one to reach out first to check in on him………….

      I finally can see things clearer, more objectively and have decided to take a stance for my own sanity and peace of mind. I can’t continue on this emotional roller coaster any longer. The arguments became too frequent and the verbal abuse has gotten a lot worse. If he can’t respect my boundaries or take ANY responsibility for his actions, then it’s best we both move on. THanks for sharing.

  7. JH says:

    I have been in a relationship with someone who is mentally ill with PTSD and possibly bipolar for 18 months. He is verbally, emotionally, and has been physically abusive. We live in separate houses; he is retired military. I have tried to break it off several times which have been followed with anger, threats to show up at my house, threats to commit suicide, tears, love-bombing (cards, “love” emails), repeated apologies, insistence on “talking things out”, and stalking behavior. I am currently working with a counselor on why I keep allowing this person back into my life, because he uses friendship as a reason to move into a full-blown, possessive relationship. During the good times – which last several months – he is funny, charming, helpful, and in general a dream come true. During the bad times, he is a nightmare.

    Your article was very helpful to me in understanding that he is not in his right mind when he is in a paranoid moment. He recently moved into an apartment and any transition makes him extremely paranoid. We had an incident where he reached into my car to grab my keys in order to force me to listen to him apologize. I was able to get away from him, but he now is email, phone call, and text bombing me. I have blocked his personal number; getting ready to block his work number. He truly is a different person when he is like this. During his “normal” moments, he looks at his past behavior and is ashamed, and truly seems to understand how frightening and self-centered he becomes.

    I did as you and my counselor suggested, and emailed him that he has overstepped boundaries with his behavior and threats, and that I need space from him. His response was “good, you’re talking to me. Now I want to tell you about finding a couples counselor.” I do not want that; I want him to go away. At this point, I don’t know how to do that in such a way that he understands. His mood is where he refuses to accept that I have any choice in the matter, and he is forcing himself on me.

    I don’t plan to respond to him. Not responding to his emails and texts makes him crazy and even more paranoid and angry. I plan to, when I do respond, keep it simple and to the point, like you suggested (which is the same as my counselor suggested). I do not have enough yet to justify a restraining order, and I have yet to call the cops on him. Can you suggest any more language that I should use, and or ideas on separating myself from him? I am afraid of him and what he might do, and more than that, just exhausted by his repeated contact and attempts to manipulate me.

    • Dennis says:

      I would keep working with your counselor on fleshing out what exactly you should do about this. His behavior sends up several of my red flags. Talk to your counselor about how to go about establishing what you need to establish to get the cops involved. You may also want to look into local non-profit groups aimed at helping victims of domestic violence. They can likely connect you to someone that has a better idea of the legalities and the best way to go about protecting yourself from this man.

      The combination of factors and situation you describe scream warnings to me. The disconnect from reality, domineering personality, and willingness to be abusive is a very, very bad combination.

      Have you informed your counselor about all of his behavior? I’m worried that your counselor may not see the potential gravity of the situation.

      As to your question; there’s really nothing you can say to someone in that mentality. You are most likely going to have to exercise whatever legal options you need to create a space between you and him. Keep documentation of his behavior; stuff like email and text logs, shit he sends you, or scary behavior. If you ever feel threatened, call the cops. You’re probably not going to be able to end this quietly or amicably with the way the Disorder warps his mind.

      If you have a Concealed Carry; I would definitely do it. If not, I would invest in some decent mace to keep on you.

      Locate a local Non-Profit ASAP. You need to do something sooner rather than later. I don’t know how things can turn out in the long run; and that’s the problem. You can’t predict how far a manic person will go with a mentality like he has.

      I’m frankly surprised your counselor hasn’t expressed greater concerns about the situation.

    • Erika says:

      This is what I am.going through. I have been there for my ex and he has dragged me through so much. And causes so much drama towards others. So many people have tried to help him. I.was constantly told being verbally abused, stalked anyone I . he would get mad and stalk them. I finally had enough. I was close to a nervous breakdown. I really tried. For 7,years. All I can do is pray for him. He constantly blames others. Never take responsibility for his actions.

      • Dennis says:

        Hello, Erika. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Please note that I changed your display name to remove your last name. When discussing this stuff online, I highly recommend you never use your full or real name so Google doesn’t turn it up if someone Googles your name.

        Unfortunately, situations like you’re describing happen all too often. You can’t help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves. Sometimes all you can do is let go. It is certainly okay to take care of yourself first and foremost. It sounds like you gave a lot to try and help your ex.

  8. JH says:

    My counselor has expressed huge concerns about his behavior. I didn’t mean to imply she didn’t. However, like I said, there hasn’t been enough to justify having him arrested. He is seeing a counselor through the VA and is on meds, but he says he has abandonment issues and refuses to let me alone. I have not responded to his emails or texts, and I have blocked him from my phones. He has gotten around that by using pay phones, and left a message tonight on my home phone that he doesn’t care who hears, that he wants to work things out and we need to talk. It just doesn’t end.

    I have spoken to my attorney about a restraining order and she said I don’t have enough right now, that I need to get a police report in order to have it go through. The worst case scenario is that I get the emergency restraining order and then when we go to court, I don’t have enough evidence to make it permanent, which can happen. That would be a victory for him and would be devastating to my chances of doing anything in the future. It is not as easy as many believe, to get a restraining order. And, often when people have restraining orders, it means little to nothing to the offender who is not in his right mind anyway to pay attention to something like that.

    I was hoping for some advice as to what I can do at this point, what words or methods I can use to hopefully break through his panic and anger to help him understand that he needs to let me go. He repeats that we need to talk, that I am partly to blame too, and that he’s working on changing but that it takes time. And then he has the phone calls and messages where he’s pissed because I won’t take his calls and he plans to show up at my house to force me to listen to him. Again, I haven’t responded. But not responded just makes him more pissed, and like he says repeatedly, he’s not giving up.

    • Dennis says:

      Well, it’s good to hear that your counselor understands the gravity of the situation.

      I am definitely aware that someone in their right mind won’t respect the order. That’s why I pointed out you should really have a means to defend yourself readily available. It’s more of getting a history established quickly so you will have the law on your side in the event things get worse.

      I honestly don’t know of what you could say to break through that. I don’t think there is anything. If there was, this mental illness would be simple to deal with. But the unwell mind twists and turns things around no matter what, which is exactly what’s happening. You’ve told him over and over that it’s over, to leave you alone, and his mind just takes that, twists it, and tells him he needs to work harder.

      I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of hours and there just isn’t any good routes for dealing with this. The only thing I can think of that you may not have considered is the following.

      Do some research into local veteran non-profit orgs. See if there are any that are focused around veteran mental health that may be able to intercede to help him before someone winds up dead or him in jail. My dad used to be involved with the officership of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter; and they had connections to different veteran oriented services and non-profits to help vets in distress.

      You may also want to ask your counselor if they know of any veteran oriented non-profits that you can reach out to.

      I am really sorry that I have no better suggestions. This situation is far out of the scope of assistance I can provide as a random, eloquent mental patient.

  9. debra ashmore says:

    To Dennis, I think that is your name I need help with my partner, I have lived with him for only 18 months and that was in 1992-1994 and I had to move back to my parents house with our daughter as we have a child together and she is now 22 and my reason for that was because my partner was intimidating, controlling, angry and damaged which I found out whilst living with him. He has his positive points and negative points but the negative points out way the positive ones by far. We have been in and out of relationship with one another and now we are back together but again he has slipped back into controlling the situation once more. We are talking about living together again but not yet maybe in a couple of years time but I am frightened to do that as he needs help as he has now been shouting at our daughter, and I hate him for it because my daughter means the world to me and I will not go near him when he shouts at her for no reason which is just parking the car and he just started shouting at her, got out of her car, slammed her car door and said things to upset her greatly which makes me really angry even to talk about it gets my blood boiling.

    I have posted what you have and this is him and I do not know what to do about it can you please guide me as I am desperate for answers as I want to help him and I have recorded what I want to say on my phone and I want him to listen to it but a friend has recommended not to for fear of me getting hurt by partner not that he has ever hit me but he is menacing and intimidating and thinks he is right and no one else is.

    Unfortunately, there are people that can’t or won’t help themselves either. These people will draw you to the bottom like an anchor. They will drain you of all of your emotional energy and bring the chaos of their lives into yours. It’s one thing to be there for someone who is trying to get themselves together; it’s another to be constantly victimized or treated badly by someone who is just fine with it. Look at the entire picture of the situation. Is this person trying to help themselves? If the answer is no- put distance between you if the person is damaging.

    Many people with mood disorders and mental illnesses can reach a point of management and live a mostly normal life. Unfortunately, getting the person to realize that and fight for it is often an extremely difficult road. It can take years of suffering and loss before that person realizes they have to be the one to take control.

    I need help desperately please can you advise on what to do.

    Regards Deb

    • Dennis says:

      Hello Deb. First of all, I apologize for how long it took me to reply to you. Unfortunately, I was dealing with my own brain.

      In this situation, you have to take care of you and your daughter first. Absolutely do not move back in with this man until he has made meaningful gains in pursuing his wellness. What are “meaningful gains”? In my experience, people will regularly acknowledge they have a problem, apologize for doing something, swear it will never happen again; and then promptly forget about it. You’ve been doing this song and dance with this man for a long time. Meaningful gains means the person not only acknowledges that they have a problem; but they’re actually trying to do something about. The standard I would hold people to is help from medical professionals.

      Even then, you run the risk of the person just phoning it in. They’re only doing the bare minimum they need to do to get back into your good graces so you’ll let your guard down and they can slip back in. A person that is genuine about wanting to change will look and sound like an entirely different person after they have their epiphany. Again, just what I’ve noticed in my experience.

      Your friend is right to be concerned for your safe. The kind of behavior you’re describing sounds like the kind of framework that can lead to it. All it will really take is one severe triggering moment and that could change. If this man ever assaults you; you need to report it to the local authorities and look into abused women’s resources locally. They should be able to provide you with better insight on local resources and programs to deal with this in particularly.

      And finally; I would encourage you to visit a therapist yourself to explore why you’ve been going back and forth with this man for so long. If the negatives outweigh the positives and he’s been doing this for years; why are you still putting up with it? You’re not his mother or his keeper. That sounds like something that you should explore with a professional so that you can work to heal yourself and figure out why you’ve put up with this garbage for so long.

      The reality is; you’re most likely not going to get through to him. If he’s angry and believes he’s right about everything, he’s probably going to fall square into same category that I did where I finally had to hit rock bottom and realize there was no other choice but to sink or swim. But him? He still has you- someone who will put up with his shit and still welcome him back.

      You and your daughter deserve better. And if you can’t do these things for yourself; do them for your daughter because she’s been watching you go through this all this time. Would you want her to go through the shit you’ve gone through with a man? Or would you want her to find a man that would treat her with love and respect?

      Please feel free to email me directly if you need to. I should be back into the swing of things, checking my blog more now though.

  10. susan says:

    I just wanted to let everyon3 know that I have progressive supernuclear palsy or psp
    the hardest thing is dealing with the emotional swings

    if there someone to help or just be happy to let me whine….

  11. Alex Gerena says:

    Hi my name is Alex And I love the info here and the replies. I myself am dealing with a girlfriend who has all sorts of bipolar, multiple personalities, and severe mental illness, she has gone over the edge and has caused my son to speak to his counselor at school he’s only 11 years old and the counselor called me and told me he expressed all that he heard and now my son can’t stay at my home, what should I do.

    • Dennis says:

      Talk to the counselor and find out what the appropriate course of action, legal-wise, for the area you’re in. You pretty much have to play by that set of rules now. You may want to consult with a therapist yourself to discuss your situation in-depth, since it sounds far more complex and difficult than just the paragraph you posted. You’ll want to seek advice from someone you can familiarize with the depths of your situation and legalities for your locale.

  12. Sarah says:

    Hi Dennis, I’m hoping you can offer some advice. My partner has not been formally diagnosed but has been told this week that he is on ‘the bipolar spectrum’ and has been prescribed Meds. He is seeing another doctor on Tuesday for a full diagnosis. We have been together 8 years and have one child who is 5 years old. Before reaching this diagnosis we have spent the last 7 years dealing with his alcoholism which he overcome, substance abuse (he still smokes cannabis) depression, to finally get to this place. We have split up before but I went back through promises of change and through my own feelings of guilt for leavingThroughout this I’ve encountered a lot of verbal abuse, name calling, him exploding over trivial things, throwing and smashing things, often no reason, everything’s my fault, nothing’s good enough, holes are picked in my personality/the way I look/how bad I am at maintaining the home, literally everything. I walk on eggshells and I apologise before I speak always aware that whatever I say could be taken the wrong way. He is controlling also. It seems to be happening more often, every 2-3 days. I spend my life anxious unsettled and never knowing what will happen. He is not like this to anyone else , just me, and unfortunately my daughter does get to see many if his outbursts and abusive language towards me. Everything’s high drama and over reactive. He acknowledges he has bipolar, but takes no responsibility for his hurtful actions and never apologises for them. He shows no care towards me, even when I’m in bits he can’t show any emotion or care towards me. He blocks me out, often ignores me for days, then decides that he wants to go back to normal and expects it to be just that …..I’m not allowed to discuss it just move on from it. I’m at the point where it’s making me really poorly and I’m not sure what to do. I have just started counselling but I’m not sure the counsellers right for what I need. My question is, is it normal for a bipolar person to not feel anything for their spouse, to be able to hurt them so much but show no apology for the hurtful things and to blame them for everything and never see that they could have perhaps been wrong? Can the Meds change this, can the verbal abuse and the outbursts stop? I know I’m not strong enough to continue like this but hanging in there at the moment in the hope this can stop. He says it’s a bad time to say I can’t do this when he is just getting started on treatment but I’m not sure u can do it anymore.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Sarah.

      First of all, a therapist is definitely the person to be discussing these issues with as well. You’ve just described a massively emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship, including highlighting the effects on you. Living in that kind of environment definitely takes it’s toll, both on you and your daughter. Chances are good he would need significant therapy as well to understand the negative impact his behavior has had on other people, to acknowledge it and attempt to work on correcting on it if he wanted to at all.

      You ask if it’s ‘normal’; anything can be normal when it comes to dealing with someone who is mentally ill. The abnormal is normal. And honestly, it’s impossible to know what is the mental illness and what is genuinely him. There are plenty of shitty people that also happen to be mentally ill. Personally, I know I felt awful about the way I treated other people after I rebalanced. But I also know plenty of other Bipolar people who never fully rebalance. They skate through unwellness and just alternate cycles without ever really dropping into any sense of normalcy.

      The fact of the matter is; he could be working towards wellness for years. It’s not like a broken arm where you go to your doctor, they set it, cast it, pat you on the ass and send you on your way. It’s months of trying things. Figuring out what works, what doesn’t work. Trying to find the solution that fits that individual person’s brain and brain chemistry.

      Only you know your limits. And if you’re at the end of your ability to be patient and suck up dealing with his bullshit; then that is a conversation you should explore in-depth with your therapist. That’s what they are there for.

      You’re not his mother or caretaker.

      To answer your questions – anything can be normal with a Bipolar person. It boils down to so much more than the mental illness. His relationship perspectives have probably also been formulated by his upbringing, the way he’s seen women treated in his life, among other things. Getting “well” and emotionally healthy could take years. It could take the rest of his life and he still may not succeed in doing so. That’s just the way the ball bounces.

      Yeah, the meds “could” (and I use that term very lightly) cause a dramatic change in his personality for the better… or worse. Depending on how the meds function in him. But, considering what you’ve said in your message, I wouldn’t hold my breath. It is likely rooted in far more than just the Disorder.

      And definitely discuss these questions with your therapist. That’s what you’re paying them for.

  13. Lauren Allen says:

    I have a brother who is bipolar. He seems to be fixated on a delusion that I have taken everything from him. Meaning that all bad things that have happened in his life are because of all the good things that have happened in mine. He has been physically abusove with other people in his life. He threatens to kill people who he feels have wronged him including family members, teachers, etc. I am terrified when he makes these threats. (This has been going on for 3 yrs.) I am scared to tell him I will call the police because he has had his fair share of encounters with the law and says don’t threatened me by calling the police. I have tried to convince him his thinking is distorted and of course he thinks his mind is of higher intellect. My mother and father are exhausted. He has drained them mentally, physically and financially. Thanks in advance for your help. I’m looking for advice how to respond when makes these threats.

    • Dennis says:

      If you’re in America, the only thing you really can do is keep the police involved and in the loop. Don’t bother threatening or telling him what you’re going to do; just do it. Because you won’t win that exchange since he’s more than willing to go farther (based on his previous experiences with law enforcement). At this point, you may want to consider a restraining order and getting him out of your life on a regular basis. Yes, it may absolutely fuck up your relationship with your family; but the only way to deal with people like that is to apply an equal amount of force back.

      Given his “superior” mentality and the overall way in which he carries himself, he is probably going to wind up forcibly committed or incarcerated. If you have not consulted with the police on the matter at all, that should be your next step. They will be your best option in figuring out what you can do with your local laws and such.

      It’s a shitty situation all around because it will probably get worse before it gets better. I would minimize the time I spent around him as much as possible and talk to local law enforcement about possible options. At least get a file started with the local cops about collecting his erratic behavior, threats, and so forth.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m on the same exact boat as you are. My brother is manually unstable and blames me for everything wrong in his life. He thinks I steal his money and demands that I support him financially. When I tell him to get psychiatric help, he tells me he will come beat me to a pulp. He lives with my poor mother and I don’t know how she stands him. I feel like one day he will hurt her or himself and that will be the end. I’m preparing myself for that phone call and I hope he realizes just how much he needs help before it’s too late. I don’t know what else to do and I decided that he can’t come near me or my kids until he gets help. So far, it hasn’t phased him but I am no longer going to tolerate his behavior. I hope you and your family finds some solace.

      • Dennis says:

        Hello, Ingrid. If you haven’t, you should talk to a counselor about the situation with your brother. They should be able to point you to resources to help your mother and keep her safe. You may also want to look into local Senior’s advocacy groups (assuming she’s a senior) or even try the local social services offices to see if they can connect you with any groups that could render assistance. Social services offices (at least in the US) typically keep a list of 800 numbers to local charities and groups available for people that they can give you.

        Don’t wait for the phone call! You cannot count on him to realize he needs help. It could be YEARS for that to happen, if it ever does. And in the meantime, your mother is going to be suffering a great deal from living and dealing with that instability.

  14. Jane says:

    After dealing with an alcoholic, bi-polar, narcissistic, manipulative ex-husband for over 30 years I can sympathize with what other people are going through. My solution has been to distance myself from him as much as possible. Our son as well as ALL our relatives have chosen to do the same thing. Fortunately our son is grown now. It makes it easier to cope. Geographical relocation also helps tremendously.

    There is really not too much legally to do that will help. Taking out a restraining order will potentially result in something tragic. Constantly calling the police is only short term unless they do something that results in significant jail time.

    • Dennis says:

      All true and agreed. It’s impossible to know how things will go when dealing with someone who is severely mentally ill and unstable. Getting the cops involved is also about establishing a provable pattern of behavior as well. That way if you do end up in court against the person, you have evidence as to their behavior instead of he said/she said.

      Hell, doing anything or nothing could result in something tragic when dealing with someone extreme. It’s unfortunate all around.

  15. Rain says:

    I moved back home (across the country) after years of living back east. I stayed periodically with my father until I found a place of my own. During that time, my sister was there, as well. She hasn’t been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I’ve worked in the health care system long enough to know she is. She is abusive verbally and mentally to my father and her daughter, spreads lies about people, is lazy and demanding, reckless with her money, paranoid, imagines things and makes them reality in her mind, and ran almost everyone off. I fear for my elderly dad, who she still lives with, so I live nearby– close enough to get my fair share of verbal and mental abuse. I am at the point I hate her anymore, and am not sure what to do.

    • Dennis says:

      The only way to deal with people that toxic is to cut them out completely, let them suffer the repercussions of their actions so they know they cannot behave the way they are. I’m guessing your father isn’t willing to do that if she is still living with him.

      But I think what I would do is ask if your dad has any plans established for moving forward into older age. See if he is willing to appoint you guardianship over him and his estate when he is unable to continue doing so, so she cannot make his medical decisions, take his finances, house, and just throw him in a home or something.

      Also – if she is abusive to her daughter, that is a matter that needs to be taken up with CPS.

      Quite frankly, given her behavior, she needs thrown out on her ass so she can see there are repercussions to her actions. Your dad may feel “responsible”, but he’s not. He didn’t choose to make her mentally ill. He doesn’t choose that she ignores her own problems. She’s toxic. And the only way to deal with toxic people who act like she does, is to be just as hard edged back to them.

      • Rain says:

        Thank you. Your words gave me the courage to kick her out of my life. As for my father and her daughter, I check on them, but no longer interfere. The school is dealing with what’s going on with my niece, and I’ve come to the conclusion my father is an adult and I can’t control that situation.

        • Dennis says:

          That’s about the best you can do really. Glad you found a way to deal with the situation to preserve yourself.

  16. Annabelle says:

    I’m 17 and i’m living in a household which is constantly giving me alot of stress. My older brother seems to be mentally crazy. We grew up mostly with our mom while our dad came to live with us for only a couple of months every year because his work is in another country. Its quite complicating because my family immigrated to Canada, but my dad still kept his job in their home country.
    Because of this situation it seemed to have a toll on my mom because she basically had to raise two kids on her own while having to deal with financial issues. Before they immigrated my parents were kinda rich but they didn’t spend much time with my older brother so therefore he was only left at home with a servant to look after him. The servant never abused him but because of the neglect i find that it might contribute to some of the problems that he has now.
    After my parents and my brother immigrated to Canada, they had me. Growing up my brother would always try to get on my nerves really bad he would use ways such as threatening me to do things for him, break my things or just hit me and i can’t recall any details but i remember i would always cry and scream and i had a really hard time and i cried alot. My mom was also abusive, mostly verbally though and i always cried. I remember i would cry multiple times everyday and cry to sleep. It was bad but i think i got used to it and i would recover really quickly. During this time i remember my mom and my brother would fight alot. My brother was especially really violent then and he would always break furniture and sometimes use violence against us. It was really scary and that time he used to game alot playing violent xbox shooting games.
    Eventually i went to highschool and things got better. School got really busy and somehow i forgot everything- like specific stories. Until this year in grade 11 when my brother and i had a talk and he told me things he did and what my mom did. Today my brother and i have a good relationship and we even talk about our problems and he acknowledges everything he has done and that he is truly sorry. Same thing with my mom but i think that mostly she was just really stressed before but she always had that oblivious side to her, saying things that would be offensive to people, but she wouldn’t know it herself.
    Anyways, im sorry my writing is all messed up. But then, these couple of years my brother is in university and he seemed to not care and he started playing this rhythm game and he got ranked. He plays competitively but hes always raging when he plays and he just has this really strong personality and i dont know how i feel about it. Mostly i’m used to it but i know its not normal and i think its better if i could leave this house but i’m only 17. Also my brother is 21 and recently he dropped out of university and he has no job and dosen’t go out. My parents are really worried about him and they always ask me about him. My dad’s living with us permanently now but he and my mom are at work most of the day and only return in the evening. They’re constantly bugging my brother about what he’s going to do and he always gets so mad. I’m an introvert and i hate how i’m always so timid and i have severe anxiety but i have alot of expectations for myself to be sucessful but im constantly afraid that i will not succeed and become like my brother. I’m really scared and i just wanted someone to give me some advice.

    Thanks! Sorry for such an unorganized piece. :/

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Thank you for taking the time to write to me.

      I can see why the situation would be very scary and difficult for you, particularly if you have anxiety problems of your own. But always remember, you’re not your brother. You can choose how you deal with your problems. Your brother chooses to not deal with his problems at all. That is incredibly damaging and shitty all around, but that has absolutely no bearing on what you can accomplish with your life, regardless of what you want out of it.

      The best way to deal with fear is to confront it. Anxiety blows fears up huge in our minds. So doing things to show yourself that they aren’t as bad as what your anxiety is showing you is very helpful. Get yourself a part-time job, visit a therapist to learn about dealing with and managing anxiety. There are a lot of people in the world who find success while having mental illness. There’s no reason you can’t either. But you need to understand your problems and how to deal with them effectively if you want to overcome them. Read up on anxiety, anxiety management, and start incorporating these things into your life.

      You are not your brother. Your brother’s problems are his own. So put your focus on understanding and overcoming your own problems!

  17. Deb says:

    I was so upset and felt a small amount of guilt leaving after an episode of verbal abuse and a fit of rage from him tonight. When I read your site, I knew leaving was the right thing for me to do. He has been very sick because he is not taking medication. He doesn’t drive any more and social services don’t send my ride where he lives.

    This afternoon I thought I would bring over dinner and take him to the park because he complained he felt cooped up. The park was fine, although he complained it was too hot, bugs, and a multitude of annoyances. After an hour an hour we left and went to make a nice dinner with dessert too.

    When we get at the house, he didn’t want the steak because he teeth hurt and I made him a burger instead. Then the full attack started and yelling like I just wanted to poison him. “Why don’t I ask and drive him around, then expect him to eat when he is in pain?” I said quietly…. if he didn’t feel up to it, save it for another time. Now he screams I am mocking him. I said stop, you talk to me in a voice that is respectful and if you continue to speak to me like a dick, I am going home. “Just run like last week and go to your perfect house. You know I am sick and no one wants to help me!”

    You get the picture and after an hour and I made some suggestions on who we can call on Monday to get the ball rolling again. He was so nasty and said if I leave it might be the last I see him. I said I hope not and to use his steps his therapist gave him as coping strategies. I told his aunt to call 911 if he continues, but I had to leave.

    I felt bad I didn’t stay to get him help, but he flips the mental illness card when he is rude and nasty. Now I got ten texts how sorry he is and he was out of line. I fibbed and said I was sleeping and talk to him tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing and giving tips. The care giver is a thankless job, but I pray some day there is a light for mental illness and people can get the help they need without all the red tape to start a program.

    • Dennis says:

      Sounds like you have a very good approach in dealing with him. When he pulls that “no one wants to help me” card, the rebuttal I use is “No one can force you to want to be well. You either do or you don’t. And until you do, no one can help you but you.” And then I just disengage from the argument.

      I understand that you would feel guilty and upset about the situation, but you did the right thing! Dealing with mentally ill loved ones like that is difficult and rarely pretty. So try not to beat yourself up about it when you do need to do it!

  18. Sarah says:

    I find the hardest thing to deal with is that my bi-polar sister can lash-out and say and do the most abusive things, and when I call her out on it – I’m the bad guy. She can turn her bad choices and mistakes around on a dime. Then kick me by saying everything comes easy for me and it’s always hard for her. She can’t hold a job or management her money. That’s not my fault. She uses people and manipulates others. She can talk to someone who not a close family member and make them think the entire family is out to get her because we won’t put up with her. It’s such a frustrating thing. Recently I called her out on something horrible she did – she threatened to call the police on me for harassment. Huh? She is passive aggressive using Facebook too. It’s just so hard. I’m thankful to know I’m not alone.

    • Dennis says:

      You certainly are not alone. Unfortunately, several people have similar issues with toxic loved ones. All you can really do is minimize the damage they can do to your life. Not let yourself get baited into arguments that you know you’ll never win. And do your best to not let their bullshit taint your life.

  19. Angie says:

    My adult bipolar daughter has been truly driving me crazy for 50 years. My doctor told me to distance myself from her or I would end up in a mental state myself. I did and Oh My God, what a relief. I am truly relieved. I have been puting up with her terrible abuse for so long. She was so manipulative and even lied to others about me. Thank God I finally got the strength to get away from her. Thank you,thank you God.

    • Alana says:

      I have a daughter just like that,, it’s pure hell, she thinks it’s me and goes around telling everyone I’m crazy, even my grandchildren, so heartbreaking..apparantely she has sever depression, I think it’s a little bit more than that but no one listens to me, I just want peace, enough is enough I can’t handle the verbal abuse, name calling etc..

      • Dennis says:

        Yeah, severe depression usually doesn’t cause people to do that sort of thing without some other things going on. Generally speaking, the only way you really get peace from that kind of conflict with those individuals is to cut them out of your life if they do not understand that there is something seriously wrong with them that needs addressed, or if they don’t care how their actions affect those around them. It would be a good idea to explore your situation with a counselor more in-depth, to see if there would be any decent options for building boundaries to minimize the damage she can do with you and get further insight on her mental state.

      • A Rose says:

        My heart goes out to you. Just an hour ago, I had to put my 22-year old daughter out of my house for severe verbal abuse. She was supposed to stay the summer before school started up again. What a mess. Her siblings are very stressed out, and she just can’t seem to see that her behavior is beyond the pale. She has said (false) things to me that I will never forget. Awful things. I’ve been the most caring mother possible to her and her siblings, and love them all very much. I’ve put them first all their lives and given them every advantage I didn’t have, and I did it as a single mother (bipolar, abusive ex abandoned the four of us many years ago). Seems unfair.

        Please don’t despair, friend. It isn’t you. It’s the affective disorder. You are right though not to tolerate abuse and chaos. It’s so, so hard to do this as a parent, I know. You bleed for them, and you fear for their future. Mine tells everyone I abused her verbally all her life, which is quite far from the truth. I don’t even know whether she believes it or finds it expedient. She’s got a thyroid disorder, and is non-compliant with her thyroid meds, so is there any chance that your daughter has a thyroid issue which is exacerbating symptoms? I don’t think it’s my daughter’s only issue, but it definitely contributes to her instability when she refuses to take her thyroid replacement.

        I’ll keep you in my thoughts. Know you aren’t alone, and be strong. You deserve better.

  20. Alex says:

    I have cared for and about someone who’s seriously ill for many many years. I have exhausted many of my resources, personal and financial, trying to make a life with/ alongside someone who lives in either in fear and misery or rage, and simply cannot take responsibility for his health or his happiness

    In truth, my loyalty is a little suspect in itself. For a great many of these years, I convinced myself every time there was an upheaval that there was hope THIS time. It seems I’m unable to deal with the reality of this person: as well as someone I loved who was talented, warm and funny, there have always been addictions, excuses, high dramas, lies, delusions, broken promises, betrayals, dark moods, undermining actions. And in the end, I have been the one who didn’t get cared for – I am the one who has held the fort alone for months at a time while he was in hospital or under the influence of some idea or drug that took all his time and attention.

    Now… M suffers horribly, and has self-harmed in the most shocking ways. That is truly horrible and sad. But it is painful as well to admit how my own neediness and craziness has burdened the relationship, and this ill man, with unfair and unreasonable expectations.

    I wish I had been able a long time ago to stop demanding of M that he love me in the way I so desperately wanted, to recognise and truly accept the limits of what is possible between myself and such a troubled person. I am so very sorry that I couldn’t keep unreal promises I once made – promises based on hope, that I would always be there, when I cannot – when at last I realise I need to take care of myself, and that I cannot do that while he is in my daily life. This means stepping out of our long dance and standing on my own feet, rather than burdening him with demanding what he cannot provide.

    So the last couple of years have been a slow skid to the death of something once dearly hoped-for. He has been learning, painfully, how I am not so reliable, and I have been trying or to learn not to respond to his distress.

    We’re both older and sadder than we once were, and perhaps wiser than we once were. But as M’s illness controls more and more of his life, bringing chaos and violence, that wisdom seems unfairly hard-won. The destruction his condition continues to wreak on his life – and its after-shocks and outwash on my own – break my heart, even now that I’m better protected from it.

    • Dennis says:

      Your story is an unfortunately common one. But there comes a time when you have to step back to preserve yourself. Many Bipolar people are able to recover and have somewhat normal lives. Not everyone does though, unfortunately. It sounds like you went above and beyond. Please be sure to take care of yourself now.

      • Alex says:

        Thanks – really like your POV and think the discussion here is exceptionally good. Best wishes.

      • Alex says:

        I think it’s very important to recognise that carer and cared-for have a dynamic relationship. Bipolar disorder can mean that there’s very little “normal.” It’s easy to get swept along, since things change so much so often, and there’s little time for reflection. But the sick person shouldn’t get the whole blame – those of us who have been “in there” might not have been so willing to get involved if we’d been healthier ourselves. True especially if you have boundary issues of your own, as I do.

        I like this site and think the discussion here is exceptional – power to you and all who visit here.

  21. Jeff C says:

    I have 55 year old brother who has been having bipolar, schizophrenic issues since a child. He has attacked me in the past(25 years ago). He has been trying to cope his whole life and quite frankly I have been dancing around the issue his whole life. He occasionally goes off on me verbally but usually apologizes later. I now have a situation where my daughter is getting married in three weeks and I have invited him because he has been okay for a relatively long while. However, I think he recently adjusted his his meds and he has lost it again. He verbally attacked me and now I am worried he will act out at the wedding. I want to keep him from coming. What can I do ? Help!

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Jeff. Instead of guessing if he is adjusting meds, ask him. In this situation I would spend a day or two with the brother beforehand to gauge how stable he actually is. You don’t mention how far away you all live from one another or anything so I’m not sure if that’s an option. If he is unstable, then the best approach is to be direct.

      “Listen, you’ve been really unbalanced lately and we feel like a wedding may be a bit too much for you right now. I don’t think any of us want Daughter’s memories of what should be one of her happiest days to be spoiled if you get overwhelmed. So, instead of the wedding, I was thinking we could get the family together for a dinner or some time together shortly before or after in a more private, less stressful setting.”

      Most likely, the response is going to be anger. It’s important that YOU keep calm and collected because there is no “winning” an irrational argument with a mentally unstable person. The best thing to do is stick to your primary point – we’re sorry but I’m going to have to uninvite you if you are unstable.

      At the same time, I feel like this approach honors everyone involved. If he has been compliant and found a lot of stability with a diagnosis of Bipolar and Schizophrenic, that is very fucking cool and definitely should not be overlooked. But hiccups with medications happen. Your body gets used to them and you have to fudge around with them a bit to get back to a working tolerance through no fault of our own.

      I know that for someone in a position like yours who has dealt with many years of abuse and difficulty because of mental illness, that can be a hard thing to see or accept. People will gravitate back into the defensive patterns that helped them survive and deal with the shit before. But if he’s been largely compliant and is just having a hard time at the moment, you don’t want to make him feel like that effort is wasted – hence the small get together with just immediate, close family for you guys to celebrate your daughter’s wedding together. It still acknowledges his place in the family and the effort he is putting in to staying balanced.

      Now, I do want to warn you. I don’t know how close everyone is to one another. Depending on how unstable he is, this could kick off a pretty severe depressive cycle. A Bipolar thought process could easily go “I’m not welcome at my niece’s wedding -> all these years of pain and suffering -> I’m not wanted by my family -> I shouldn’t be here anymore. What’s the point? -> Potential suicide attempt.”

      That type of thinking can best be counteracted by actually spending time together to show that he is very much welcome with the family. Just that while he’s unstable, it’s for the daughter’s benefit and not because he’s mentally ill or you the family doesn’t want him there. When I deal with people, I use pointed fact to drive that home. “Look, you know you’re mentally ill. Sometimes instability happens. I know that’s not your fault and you don’t have great control over that. What do you have control over is how you let it affect other people. Daughter’s wedding is her big day and I know you don’t want her memories of that to be you lashing out at me other relatives. Right?”

      See if you can get him to agree to it first rather than saying “you can’t do this”. But if you have to say “you can’t do this”, then do it. Your daughter deserves to have her special day as much as your brother deserves to have his efforts and problems respected – which I know is not the usual kind of shit people say about the subject.

      • Jeff C says:

        Thanks for your reply! He told me he was cutting back on an anti-psychotic about three weeks ago and today he sent an e-mail with an article describing withdrawal effects from it. I don’t know how long this takes and what the outcome will be but both my wife and I are freaking out.

  22. Dennis says:

    There’s a lot of ambiguity in that statement. Not sure if he is weaning off of one and on to another. Not sure if he’s doing it with his doctor’s supervision or why he’s doing it. But, in this case, his acknowledging it and the withdrawal affects is actually a good thing. It means he recognizes that there are difficulties associated with it, so hopefully he will be more understanding of the marriage situation.

    If he’s been coming off of it for about the past three weeks, then it it shouldn’t be causing too much instability for him for too much longer (based on my entirely nonprofessional experience and what I’ve seen in other people). However, there is the matter of whatever instability it was keeping in check and whether or not he is going to be starting up a new med; which could potentially lead to more instability. So yeah, Best to have that conversation either way, I think.

    EDIT: And you’re welcome on the reply!

  23. Trish says:

    Thank you so much for this post and especially for specifically granting permission to print. I’ve finally been able to help my mother see how abusive my brother’s behavior is but she feels guilty for standing her ground. She’s not much of an internet person, so I printed this for her. I think it will help ease her mind.

    • Dennis says:

      Happy to hear. Your mother is not alone in what she’s dealing with either. Many parents struggle with the same decisions. Unfortunately, there are many things that can take their child’s mind away from rationality. Standing one’s ground is essential in dealing with abusive types, regardless of the reason. Because if they know they can get away with things, they will just keep pushing and taking; for whatever reasons are driving them.

      You may want to look into local support groups to visit with your mother or suggest she visit a therapist herself. In both cases, it will be very helpful for her to be around people that are dealing with the same stuff she is, or in the case of a therapist; someone who can provide neutral feedback and empower her to do what she needs to do to handle your brother.

      • Amy says:

        Thank you for this forum. I’m struggling with distancing myself from my son but I know it’s what I have to do for myself & for my son. When you hear ” someone having by mother issues I never thought I would be THAT mom to my son. He is so disrespectful & starting to be violent towards me. He’s currently in jail & I’m not sure what he’ll be like that when gets out. My hope is that he’ll see his future if his irrational decisions and behavior continue & he wants a better chance at managing his life. But it’s his choice & as much as it stinks and literally hurts. I have to let whatever is going to happen – happen. I’m very blessed to have to support & wish my son knew how much we would be here if he had some moment of clarity and less arrogance. He needs hospitalization to be fully observed but that’s just a fantasy.

  24. janet says:

    I have read your article and thoroughly understand and agree with its content. However on the other side of things, I would also caution anyone thinking about sharing a diagnosis with someone they believe they can trust to be very very careful. In my opinion, there still remains huge stigma relating to any form of mental illness and this new age belief of confiding in someone when you don’t feel well or receive some form of diagnosis is a very dangerous one. After 25 years of friendship, I blurted out to my best friend that a doctor had once told me I had borderline personality disorder. I had kept this information to myself for many years of our friendship but finally cracked as felt I had to get it of chest. Big mistake. The person immediately began to avoid contact with me, literally overnight. She had surfed the internet, added two and two together and came up with eight. Up until that point, we would have socialized every few months by having a meal or going to the cinema. The point I am trying to make is that the avoidance began overnight after nearly 30 years because I said the wrong thing. In my opinion and the opinion of some practitioners, labels do violence to people. For many mental disorders the is no definitive test and it it’s down to the opinion of the individual practitioner. For example, my family doctor laughed when he heard the diagnoses. My advice is to stick to the professionals when there is a need to talk to someone. Do not risk your reputation or relationships. I no longer have contact with the person concerned which is sad. We grew up together. So sometimes it is not always about the person being pulled under by another who is unstable. Sometimes it is about the black and white mentality of some when confronted with the words “mental illness” will run for the hills no matter what.

    • Dennis says:

      That is definitely an unfortunate circumstance, Janet. And by no means am I trying to minimize that pain you experienced in dealing with that, but your story causes some questions to pique in my mind.

      First and foremost, what was your best friend hiding? Rational, reasonable people don’t throw away 25 years of best friendship over anything. Her knee-jerk response, finding the awful in what she read, and discarding 25 years of history is strange to say the least. Strange enough that it makes me wonder what she may have been hiding from you all this time as well. The couple times I have heard a similar story from someone such as yourself, the person who did the running also had some severe problems of their own that were not found out about until much later. I also know one Bipolar person who came out to their best friend, and that person’s best friend bailed because the best friend did not want to be reminded of what the doctors had told her about her own mental health previously. It seemed more like she was fleeing looking in a mirror.

      Yes, there is absolutely stigma out there. Yes, there are potential consequences to every action. And additionally, there are several people out there with undiagnosed mental illness and problems of their own who do irrational shit like throw 25 year relationships away over nothing.

      I’m sorry that you lost your best friend. That truly sucks. But in the past five years of engaging in advocacy, listening to people talk about situations and so on, your friend was likely running from something in her own mind that had nothing to do with you. It seems like you were a convenient reason. That’s the impression I get anyway.

      But to second what you said, yes we should be careful about who we come out to. If the person is known for being hostile towards anything relating to mental health, don’t tell them. Don’t tell toxic people. Don’t tell people that will potentially use that knowledge against you.

  25. Deb says:

    I find your comments very direct and helpful. I have tried to help my bipolar son for 20 years, he is now 37, but the same old pattern of verbal abuse and blame continues. He has been living back at home for 2 years now and I can’t get him to move out. He says he is willing to but it’s always to unwell physically to put any effort into finding a place. I try to assist looking for rentals etc but he isn’t interested and when things get really bad and I tell him he must leave he ignores me. He has been an addict and has been on the suboxone program for years now. I don’t think he is using drugs but it is hard to know. He is reclusive, starting in his bedroom, OCD, ADHD and likely high functioning autism as well. We have been through much in the last 20 years but I now find I’m so tired and I’ve run out of answers and energy to implement any new rules of help for my son. I’ve given up my career and been diagnosed with MDD. I battle suicidal thoughts weekly as I’m just so tired of the pain and roller coaster of moods. I still want to help my son because I still see hints of the boy I knew but it feels like is me or him now and I don’t know what to do. I have been a single mother through these 20 years and not wanted to complicate my life further with a relationship. My son tells me he needs me, that I need to teach him how to be a man, that I need to care more, I have been doing that all his life. He was my life, how do I make him understand that I can’t do it anymore?

    Thank you for your kindness in trying to help others.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Deb. First of all, thank you very much for your kind words for me. I do appreciate them. Now.. on to your message.

      I have certain rules when it comes to my mental health. My primary rule is – nothing comes between me and my mental health – not family, friends, anything. I’ve warred with severe Bipolar-Depression for years, and if I wound up killing myself I would be no use to any of those things. The situations I’ve seen in my life like yours are the reason why. I know it’s fucking awful for you, a single mother, to not be able to help your son. But the simple truth is that no one can help your son but himself.

      It sounds like you’ve done everything you possibly can. If he’s fallen far enough that suboxone is involved and hasn’t been able to recover, there’s a distinct possibility that he may never be able to gain the perspective to recover, particularly with additional mental illness involved. In that situation, you have to take care of yourself and put yourself first. I know he’s your little boy, but it sounds like you’re teetering on the edge yourself. That has to change. You can’t do that forever, nor should you.

      Sometimes, the only way we can help someone is to let them fall. Rock bottom is a thoroughly unpleasant place. And not everyone survives it. But some people have to fall before they can gain perspective and make meaningful changes. Other people fall and are never able to make meaningful changes. It’s just an unfortunate part of life. Mental illness is brutal and destroys many parents’ little boys and girls.

      So, what can you do? If you insist, give him one final chance. Tell him he has X number of months to find a job or else you’re kicking him out.

      Next, inquire with local law enforcement about your situation and will be required to forcibly eject him.

      If you’re not seeing a therapist now, you really should be. The shit you’re going through is not stuff you should be dealing with alone so you don’t get lost in his chaos and your mental illness.

      It is NOT. YOUR. FAULT. It has never been your fault. It will never be your fault. Your son is severely mentally ill and clearly has some other severe problems. That’s not your fault. You didn’t make him mentally ill. And from the sounds of things, you’ve given everything you possibly can to try and help him.

      The next time he comes at you with the “needs you” crap, recognize it for what it is. It’s crap. It’s stereotypical manipulation for him to shove his problems off onto you. You tell him that you’ve cared so much you can’t care anymore. You tell him that you can’t teach him how to be a man, it’s something he needs to figure out for himself. You tell him there’s nothing more you can do for him, because there isn’t.

      It’s time you took care of yourself, Deb. You have to or you will get swallowed up.

      I highly recommend that you visit a therapist and discuss the situation with them. Hell, print off this reply and show it to them and get their opinion on it.

      A lot of times dealing with mental illness boils down to choosing which flavor of shit sandwich you want to. I know that is not poetic at all. But it’s the simplest way to express the absolutely awful decisions some people need to make. And given what you’ve expressed about the situation, the only way to make your son realize that you can’t do it anymore is by not doing it anymore. Because rationalization and reasonable approaches have failed.

      I am very sorry for your pain and sympathize greatly.

      • Deb says:

        Dear Dennis, 

        Thank you so much for your response. Your words helped to give me the strength to make those very hard and painful decisions. I am working on boundaries, have cut off the money and vowed not to accept any more excuses from my son. I have put him on the long list for public housing and I’m looking for a cheap caravan so that I can at least move him out of the house in the meantime. I hope that will help put a little distance between us.

        I expect that as my boundaries take effect that there will be verbal abuse and increased attempts by my son to emotionally manipulate me, but I will keep working at getting him out of the house and rebuilding my own sanity. I hit rock bottom the other night when my hand reached for a bottle of pills with the intention of taking the lot. With a shock I suddenly realized what I was doing and promised myself that I will not let my son do that to me.

        I love my son very much but you are right, only he can help himself now, he is 37 and I feel like I am nolonger enabling him to get better but enabling him to stay the same.

        As parents we are the ones charged with looking after our children and we go on sacrificing for however long they are in need. Eventually there comes a time when we have done all we can and must let our children as adults take responsibility for themselves. There is no easy answer, we will never know if we make right or wrong decisions, but if we act in love (even though that’s tough love), then I think that is the best we can do.

        Many thanks again Dennis,


        • Dennis says:

          It sounds like you are on a healthier path for dealing with it. You may really want to consider visiting a counselor yourself though. There is a lot of emotional turmoil and damage there that will need to be worked through, including coming to terms with the difficult choices you are needing to make. It’s definitely the kind of thing where a therapist can provide a great deal of support and insight.

          You’re very welcome. Feel free to write any time.

  26. Janet says:

    Hi Dennis. I am desperately seeking help for my husband and I in dealing with my 21 year old bipolar son (also diagnosed as having Aspergers, OCD, and explosive anger disorder).

    He has been in and out of the psychiatric hospitals in the last several years, has had issues with alcohol and drug abuse (mostly over the counter medicines he can easily get a hold of), and now minor run-ins with the law with shoplifting these over the counter meds. He is unemployed, has no outside interests, no friends to just hang out with, no ability to drive a car (or the desire to learn), and will not follow any basic boundaries for any length of time.

    He frustrates easily, is emotionally abusive, and can become physically destructive to property when frustrated. The everyday stress of caring for him has become so bad that I often lock myself in a room. This offers little relief since he will usually knock and bang on the door until he becomes physically exhausted or my husband will strong arm him to back away from the door.

    He has been under the care of an outpatient psychiatric facility for years now with many different medications tried in stabilizing him. It’s questionable how well he follows his doctor’s orders in taking his meds which we do try to monitor daily. He has also had years of therapy and group sessions.

    Because he is 21, we are severely limited in terms of talking to his doctors and therapists and we are not really sure how much they understand how bad this all has become for us. When he is “in a calm state of mind”, he has commented that he is aware that he is hurting us, but will quickly justify his behavior. Any time I have tried to tell him how his behavior is affecting me and others, he always threatens harm to himself to “end the problem”.

    My husband and I have no outside resources such as extended family to help care for him. His own father is bipolar and is homeless at this time. My son is often suicidal, and has made attempts, but there seems to be no real aftercare when he is released from the hospital.

    Because of all this, I am often held hostage emotionally by these threats of harming himself and it is affecting my own well being. He is constantly “up and down” and depends on me solely for his emotional needs. When he is “down” he is abusive and relentless with his demands for attention and emotional support.

    I am reaching the point where I am no longer able to support him and am afraid I am in emotional jeopardy myself. I am often depressed and angry, feeling like I am losing my ability to cope with everyday problems. I am not able to work outside the home because of the demands of caring for him and the fact that he becomes destructive when left alone for extended periods of time. This has also taken a huge toll on my husband and our marriage. We don’t know where to turn.

    I know it’s coming down to saving ourselves. But, how does someone “separate” themselves from someone with NO income and no other family to take him in? How would I even remove him from this home? Would the police come and put him out on the streets while we got a restraining order? Is there anywhere for parents like us to turn to for guidance and support? Please help us. I wrote to NAMI and got a lot of great links for helping HIM. But there seems to be little for people like me.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Janet. I am very sorry for the pain that you and your husband are facing because of your son. I’m going to forewarn you that this reply may be upsetting. So be sure you’re in a good mental place before you read the rest.

      First, there is little support or aftercare because that’s just the nature of mental health care. There’s no easy money to be made. It is entirely a sink. So even aftercare for people like your son is woefully lacking; whereas for people like yourself who are fairly well-adjusted have even less available to you.

      Second, I highly recommend that you visit a therapist yourself if you’re not. It will be incredibly helpful to have that neutral place to escape to, discuss what’s going on, and discuss options. If you decide to do so, I would also recommend that you get their input on what I’m about to say here as well.

      There comes a time in the lives of many caregivers like yourself where they have to choose their survival over friends, family, and loved ones. Mental illness will take everything away and destroy anything it is allowed to destroy. No one can help your son but your son. He is the one that has to go to the doctors, take the meds as directed, work to control the mental illness. For many people in his position, they have to hit rock bottom before they can realize that they cannot keep conducting their lives the way that they are. And unfortunately, there are several people that do not survive that fall to rock bottom.

      You HAVE to be able to draw boundaries and enforce them, no matter what the outcome may be. Knowing what I know and having seen what I have, I would give him one final chance. I would sit down and develop a list of reasonable expectations and say, “This is what you need to do to continue to stay here. If you will not do it, then you will need to leave by SET A SPECIFIC DATE.”

      As you’ve demonstrated in your post, it is quite likely that he will come back with threats of suicide or self-harm. This is the hardest thing for anyone, let alone a mother to have to deal with. The simple truth is – you can’t own his actions. Self-harm and suicide attempts are a choice that only he can make for himself. They are choices that only we, the mentally ill, can make for ourselves. And there is a possibility that your son may decide to take that route. But you can’t own that. It’s not your fault, regardless of whether you have to set boundaries or shove him out if need be.

      If he chooses to do these things, that’s the choice he will have to live with. That’s not something you can own. It sounds like you and your husband have gone far for him; and he hasn’t been able to make use of that. Unfortunately, love for a mentally ill person like your son can’t be soft. The most loving thing you can do for him is to allow him to start suffering the repercussions of his actions and choices. It’s the only way he’ll be able to see that he cannot conduct his life the way that he presently is.

      You need to do what you need to do to preserve yourself.

      I’ve had this conversation with many parents and it’s always a painful one. I mean, what words are there to really cover how deeply painful this kind of choice is? But the simple truth of the matter is – mental illness doesn’t care. It will take, mangle, and destroy whatever it is allowed to. Love does not overcome it. Only a lot of hard work overcomes it. And until your son is ready to put in that hard work, then he’s going to continue to lose things in his life to it.

      You should speak to your local authorities about your situation and find out what the processes are for you. He’ll probably end up needing to go to a homeless shelter.

      You may also want to look into local Bipolar support groups. Many of them welcome friends and family, and sometimes there are ones that are specifically for friends and family. It can be very helpful to be around other people who have deal with the same shit. You can ask local hospitals or mental hospitals about it. You may also want to look on ‘s website for any local support groups.

      And you should definitely consider visiting a counselor yourself for dealing with this. It’s not easy.

      • Janet says:

        Hi Dennis. Thank-you for your compassionate response. What you are telling me, I knew deep inside my heart. As a mother, you never want to face the day that you may have to separate yourself from your child.

        I finally did when he pushed the last boundary.

        He chose to get incredibly intoxicated a few days ago while I was having lunch with a friend. When I got home, he got right into my face and became incredibly menacing. This time, I reached for my phone and fled the house to call the police.

        He was taken by squad car to a local psyche ward and I thought I would be “safe” for a few days anyway.

        Was I ever wrong!! My son called that night to say he was being released the next morning since he was no longer a danger to himself or others.

        That is when my husband made the decision he was not returning home.

        It’s one thing to have a family member that is mentally ill, but a whole other thing to have one that chooses to get intoxicated and abusive. Suddenly it was crystal clear to us that my son didn’t want to get better; that he was holding us hostage with his behavior.

        So as it stands, we got a temporary PFA on him so he can’t return to our home. The psychiatric hospital gave him a list of shelters and other resources. He called the one friend he has that lives an hour and half away and had him pick him up.

        I also handed over my cell phone to my husband so that when my son starts with the calls, I would not be available to take them since I was always the one my son could convince to give him another chance.

        He’s facing a court date in a few weeks for shoplifting cough medication (drug of choice) and I am hoping the judge will send him to rehab instead of just paying fines and doing community service. My son claims that is what he wants “help”, but for now, I don’t believe a word he tells me.

        I feel for all the parents here with grown children like this. I cry many times, knowing I will most likely never realize the dream I had for him. It’s such a profound loss that most don’t understand.

        • Dennis says:

          I can’t begin to imagine the pain you’re going through with needing to do this, Janet. But honestly, this is the best thing you can do to try and get your son to realize that he cannot conduct his life the way he has been. The hardest part, in my personal experience, of trying to get through to people like that is trying to get them to realize that the way they live and experience life is abnormal. I know it’s incredibly sad and painful.

          They don’t typically hold people very long in situations like those. They’re not really equipped to hold people for very long and medical funds and facilities are woefully lacking in most places. In general, it’s never more than one night for the person to level off or sober up.

          Let me give you a couple of points of advice.

          You and your husband should really, really, really consider going to a therapist yourself to deal with this. The therapist can help you sort though and process the feelings, help with coping mechanisms, and push through. Also deal with any latent suicidal feelings and the depression you’re dealing with too. The stress and pain of the situation could easily tip you back into that extreme and you need quality, appropriate support just in case it happens.

          First of all – you should not let him return home at any point in the near future. I am merely speaking out loud about how this stuff can work further down the road if it ever reaches that point so you know about it if it ends up being relevant a couple years in the future.

          In my experience, people like your son who are able to string people like yourself along and convince professionals “they’re fine” are heavy on the manipulative side of things. The most common tactic I see for these people to use to get back in to the home of their family member or spouse is – “I’m really trying to get well, but I can’t do it being out here. Can I come home? Things will be different!”

          Do not allow him to do this. Okay? If for any reason you and your husband decide that he can come back, you MUST have rules and boundaries in place to ensure none of this shit ever happens again. Typical examples include 1. You must attend therapy and psych appointments. 2. You must take your meds as directed. 3. You may not drink/use drugs.

          If they break the rules, no second chances. Straight out.

          Now, is there a chance that he will have an epiphany and want to change his life. Yes. There is a chance. There is a small chance. A very small chance. The best measure of this is how much effort the person actually puts into changing themselves. Most of the people I’ve dealt with who were just trying to manipulate their way back in do little to nothing to help themselves. So the easiest way to separate that out is to make the person prove that they have actually changed. Demonstrate six months or more of stability. Holding a job, conducting a life, being clean. Whatever.

          I am not telling you whether you should or should not ever let him back in. I am telling you that if you and your husband ever decide this is an option at all in the future, he must be able to demonstrate a real pursuit towards wellness, abide by strict rules to ensure he is not able to be manipulative, and given virtually no wiggle room on the matters. These are also things a counselor would be able to help you determine in the future.

          Frankly, were I in your position, knowing what I know with the experience I have – I would be looking at a minimum of either two years or until you and your husband have both healed before I would EVER consider allowing him to come home. He needs to experience life as it is. It’s the only way I’ve ever seen people like him actually recover.

          I’m very sorry for your and your husband’s pain in dealing with this situation. Hopefully, this can open a better chapter for you to find some peace in your own mind and home. It’s going to take work though – to cope with and accept the situation and to actually repair the damage.

  27. Josh says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I came across this site after a quick google search and after reading your article, I thought I’d comment asking for help (my first ever time posting on a site like this). My situation makes me really confused. I am a 21 year old father to a beautiful one year old son who I love and adore so much. Everything I do in life is now for him, I don’t go out clubbing or for a night out, I don’t really drink any alcohol, I just work, work a bit more after work for my business and then make sure I do my Karate and Ju Jitsu training (competitive). Most weekends are spent at home as a family. Though, the weekends are when we tend to argue. I also took a week off work recently, and whilst I originally took the week off so I can spend more time with my partner and my son, it turned out to be one of the worst weeks I have had in my life. I don’t want to sound like I’m talking myself up but as a man who rarely cries, in that week my partner who suffers from Bipolar II and OCD made me feel that worthless, I ended up tearing out three times rather than bottling things up, which I usually do.
    The hard thing is we have been pretty much on thin ice and I have left for a night to my mothers a couple of times when things got too hard for me to emotionally take and accept the emotional abuse, yelling, putting me down. It was just killing my self esteem and I was honestly breaking into pieces. Each time, my partner would message me and contact me (LOTS of messages), apologising and saying how she will change, go see a counsellor and to give another chance. I’m not going to play the victim card here and say that I am 100% the innocent one because that’s a lie. I, as much as I don’t want to sometimes end up breaking loose when my “bottle” is full. Most of the time our arguments happen from small things. Then she would rumble on for 10 minutes, yelling and raising her voice saying how I do nothing, when I financially support her (I am the only one that works in the family paying all the bills and rent). To me, a few minutes or five minutes of yelling, I can tolerate and cop. But 20 minutes of non stop yelling at me when I ask to stop raising her voice or to just speak when she’s calmed puts me on my nerves and after listening to someone scream at me for that long, I end up losing it too and call her names saying “why do you do this to me, why do you make my life hell” – Her response is “because… this because that.. ” Having a one year old son, leaving my son that easily is too hard for me, especially when I love him to bits. So what do I do? I come back home. But after a day, things become the same old.
    She refuses to seek help and constantly says that she doesn’t need to seek help for bipolar. I stay because I love her and I remember the good times, plus I also have a son I love to the moon and back.
    The truth is if I go out for more than an hour to see a friend as well I will get yelled at. Which is also why I don’t go out and see my friends anymore… As she threatens to break up with me (threatening to break up with me means to her that she also threatens me to never our son ever again..) Yet, the other day after an argument she stayed for the entire night at her friend’s house who I completely don’t trust. (She smokes ice….) Ever since then which was only a week ago, I kinda lost a lot of trust and respect for my partner too..
    This being my first PROPER relationship, I don’t even know or understand if what I am going through is normal… Noone has ever made me feel this low or down in life.. and I don’t really know what to do anymore. I love my son but I hate to see my son see us argue or see her yelling at me as I know he will grow up thinking that this is the way to treat people. That is something I DON’T WANT as a loving father. Then again, i want to be able to wake up and kiss my son good morning but I’m in an emotional wreck. My self esteem has dropped since her pregnancy and sometimes I even feel suicidal…

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Josh. You’re in a severely emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. It’s not normal at all. If your partner is that chaotic and refuses to seek help, it’s not going to get better. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to leave. I would highly suggest you consult with a family law attorney and start developing a plan of action for withdrawing while being able to maintain contact with your son. Legally, she cannot prevent you from seeing your son. But people like her who are that unstable will often resort to things like fake police and domestic violence reports to paint you as the bad guy to exert leverage, manipulate the system, and keep the kid away from you. So you need to compile AS MUCH evidence as possible about her instability and put it in a place that she cannot get to.

      Save text messages, record voice mails, record abusive behavior; whatever you can get documented will be helpful. You may also want to consult with local law enforcement, inform them of your situation, and ask them what routes you can take to better protect yourself.

      You will NEED legal guidance in pursuing custody and protecting your child. Resources for men in abusive relationships are pretty few and far between, but you can look around and see if any exist locally. If you try to withdraw, things are going to get nasty and that is most likely when she may decide to file fake domestic violence reports. So you want to have all your ducks in a row before you do so. And do not just take your kid and run, that is kidnapping if you do not follow the legal processes.

      You should very much consider going to a therapist and discussing this with them too. Suicidal depression is a bad place to be and no place someone should stay. You need professional help – both from a mental health professional and from an attorney. The situation you are in is severe and is not going to get better.

      • Crystal J. says:

        And please don’t leave that innocent baby with her! You’ll just be abandoning him and subjecting him to her abuse unsupervised. He needs someone stable and coherent enough to afford him a peaceful rest of his life. Sorry… Had to say it.

  28. Jane P. says:

    Absolutely fantastic article Dennis! I have a mother who suffers bipolar, has done for years. Both my eldest sister & I have suffered the consequences of her illness throughout our childhoods into teens & adulthood before the doctors diagnosed her disorder. I can remember very well how she tore me apart with abusive words, violence, confusion & how she left me with a life of insecurities. We had no other family members to turn to, both of us had absent relatives and absent fathers. We endured children’s homes & foster care. I grew up with self hate, no trust in others & attempted suicide. I went on to marry my now husband at 18 & suffered depression with our first two children & that put immense stain on our relationship, I viewed myself as my mothers daughter & things just got worse from then on in. I saw my mother throughout these years until one day when my younger sister (mother remarried) called needing help because my mother was having an episode. As always I went to help defuse the situation, more so because my sister was 4 months pregnant, she couldn’t be left to deal with my mother alone. I was also pregnant with our third child. On arrival my mother was abusive, emotional & irrational, I begged her to stop because we loved & needed her but she continued all the same. After ringing the police to take her away for her own safety I sobbed & sobbed & sobbed! I then felt an overwhelming need to protect my unborn baby, my children, my own sanity. That day I walked away & have kept my distance ever since. I realised that if I could conquer my own severe depression for the sake of my love ones & self then so could she. Yes she took so much from me but I became my own victim when I let her continue taking when I became an adult, mother & wife. That was three years ago, now I am a fighter…I’ve let my past make me stronger. My children, my husband, my friends & I give myself reason to live & to love. I often wondered if walking away was the right thing or the selfish thing to do until I read this article & all the posts. I made the best decision for myself & for her & I have no regrets anymore. I thank you for letting me tell my story & thank you for your honest & true words. May all those who feel as lost & broken in the world of a bipolar loved one know that it’s not their fault & that it’s ok to do what is best for them…xxxx

    • Dennis says:

      A quick note – I edited your post to remove your last name from the display. You should not use your last name when discussing these matters online because google will eventually aggregate it. And you do not want your name popping up associated with these things if someone (potential employer, mentally ill person) decides to google your name.

      That being said, thanks for taking the time to write. You were absolutely right to do what you needed to do. You can’t help someone that won’t help themselves. Another person’s mental illness can and will destroy others by sucking them under with the person. It is an unfortunate decision that many children, spouses, parents, and other loved ones need to make. So never feel guilty about that. All you can do is play that hand the best you can, and if that means separating yourself from an abusive person that refuses to help themselves, then so be it. And be sure to tell your sister that as well.

      If you haven’t, you may also want to consider therapy if you feel there is anything latent from your history that may be affecting you today.

      I would contest one point in your post though. It is absolutely wonderful that you made an epiphany as you did. Unfortunately, that’s not generally how it works for people like your mother. Your post suggests, that despite everything you’ve been through, you’ve maintained a large degree of functionality. People like your mother who have been mentally ill for a long time often don’t understand that the way they experience life, emotions, and thoughts is incorrect. “This is the way I’ve been all my life, there’s nothing wrong with me.” This is the single hardest thing I’ve found that needs to be overcome in getting through to people like your mother. It’s a problem I’ve been thinking about for years now.

      I am not suggesting that your approach or perspective is wrong. Just that the perspective of someone with a chronic, severe mental illness is far more warped and twisted. So the things that helped you realize what you need to do, break away, and start getting well do not necessarily apply to her.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Be well.

  29. Barb L. says:

    I have a 30 yr old daughter who lives with us. She has 3 master degrees and was quite normal. After a broken engagement she was suddenly crazed then diagnosed bipolar. She has been on many medications and nothing helped. Lamictal worked but she got allergic reaction. She now is weaning off seroquel, down to 200 mg, was up to 1,000. She takes 40 mg Valium a day and can be fine one minute then tearing up our home. I’ve had enough but my husband cottles Her bc she’s sick. She has ruined all our lives for the past 2 years. She works 3 days a week and is fine but the other 4 are horrific. Her friends are all married so she’s always in her room alone. I’ve already had one mini stroke and know next time I won’t be so lucky. I want her out of my home. My husband disagrees. Soon I will be suicidal if this keeps up. Should I move out to save myself, no money but I can try. HELP

    • Dennis says:

      If your own mental health is deteriorating to that extreme, then yes you may want to see if you can find some place else to stay if your husband will not agree to push your daughter to find where you live. Assuming your husband does actually care, your leaving if even for a little bit may be enough to get him to realize how serious the situation is for you. My question is why he puts more importance on the daughter’s health over yours, given that you’ve already had a stroke and should be in a lower stress environment (to my knowledge).

      Also – I edited your display name to remove your last name. When you post or talk about mental illness on the internet, I highly suggest not using your full name so it will not get associated in Google searches if someone decides to Google your name at some point.

  30. Bella says:

    My partner and I live with his sister who 37 she hasn’t had a job for 5 years and doesn’t intend too she is on welfare benefits. She has a mental illness and is always in her room she never cooks a meal so she doesn’t eat we rarely see her go to the toilet. She has said she has a mental illness but may I ask why is she not trying get herself better after 5 years? Is this the governments fault as they are not helping her? We both work and I assure you it does frustrate us when we come home as we know she is capable of working . I don’t know what too do we have a 8 year old child that my partners and we hate her seeing all this. I don’t know if she is cheating the government system. It’s getting to the point were we have to lock our fridge as we are not sure what she is capable of and it’s making us feel sick and stressed. Her mum is in Adelaide so there for does not see what going on but doesn’t want help her daughter that 37 she is playing her mum for a fool. She never goes to any aapointment s but lies I’m at my wits end and it’s making me stressed

    • Dennis says:

      Sounds like severe depression. Easy to look like lazy, but laziness doesn’t cause people to rarely if ever eat. When you have severe enough depression, it can be very difficult to push towards wellness. The apathy just drains all will, want and desire away.

      The simplest way to deal with a situation like this is to impose a deadline. “You need to be going to a doctor regular or working by XYZ date or you’re going to have to find another place to live.” That puts the responsibility on her and will hopefully help jar into taking some action to help herself. And if not, it gives you a means to get her out of the house. Because if she’s not trying to help herself, she’s never going to get any better.

      If she’s a manipulator, which your post suggests, it’s likely she will try the “oh poor me” route or go to her mother with some sob story about how awful you guys are to her. You need to stick with what you decide though.

      If you want to give her a fair chance, I’d suggest about three months as her ultimatum.

  31. M. says:

    I have a beautiful 37 year old, mentally ill daughter! I definitely needed to read this today. Thanks for telling it like it is. I’m going to start taking a different approach with her.

  32. Frances says:

    Hi Dennis

    First of all I would just like to say that having read your article and the subsequent comments & replies I will never need to read another item about bipolar. Your article has hit home to me the harsh reality that I cannot love my partner better and so I am now taking steps to remove myself and, more importantly, our 16 month old son, from the nightmare situations that you and previous ‘commenters’ have talked about.

    I’m looking for a couple of answers really. When my partner has an ‘episode’, he is vicious, relentless, there are no lines that cannot be crossed, rude, obnoxious and cruel…and as you say, I get the blame. My question is this – if he is to be alone, how will his episodes manifest themselves if there is nobody there to be angry at? It’s always something that I have done or said (or even had the wrong expression on my face) that triggers something off, if I am no longer there am I being massively naive to think there can be no trigger?

    I’m not looking for answers that will allow me to stay with him as I’ve done that and had the emotional and psychological abuse for long enough now, I’m just keen to get a good understanding of what his health may be like once I’m gone. Would he be safe alone with our son, for example? (He’s never been violent to me, and he is ordinarily a warm and affectionate man)

    Many thanks Dennis. I’m blown away that you take the time to read all these comments and reply with such full and honest answers. I don’t think speaking to a psychiatrist about the condition or reading websites would give me the insight and strength to go that you have.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Glad to see the information could provide you some meaningful insight. There are a lot of difficult decisions that go along with being Bipolar and loving someone with Bipolar Disorder. They aren’t always good ones.

      To address your question. He’ll still trigger whether or not you’re there. If it’s not you, it’ll be something else. And given your brief description, that sounds like the tip of the iceberg in an emotionally or mentally abusive relationship. I can’t imagine how tough that must be.

      I’m not qualified to speculate on how “safe” your son would be with him. I would encourage you to get in touch with any domestic abuse organizations in the area for more information. They will be able to provide you with more meaningful information, including safe ways to extract yourself from that situation. I don’t know if you’re in the US or not, but many Job and Family Service locations can give you a list of county-specific services and 800 numbers of organizations that can help. Your mileage may vary depending on where you’re located though.

      But make sure you don’t just pick up the child and run. That does constitute kidnapping (in the US) unless you follow the appropriate legal channels. If you’re married, look into divorce attorneys if you can. If you can’t, there may be women’s groups in the area that can help. I know there are non-profit orgs where some lawyers donate their time to women in a position like yours.

      Thank you for the kind words. I do appreciate them. I don’t think that the perspective of someone like myself is more valuable than that of a psych. They are different bodies of knowledge with different applications. That’s how I feel about it anyways.

  33. J says:

    My mother has bipolar depression and while she functions at a near normal level to the outside world most of the time, she has always been verbally and mentally abusive at home to her husbands and to me and my sister. After the worst of her manic episodes, she tries to return to normal, pretending nothing ever happened. It’s exhausting – does she really not remember her erratic insane behavior during her manic episode? Or has she just moved on already while we are still cleaning up from her tornado of destruction? And what do we do? Demand apologies and recount the details of the hurt, pain and details of the behaviors as we reinforce our boundaries OR blow off the details and just enforce the boundaries?! We don’t want to cut her out, she’s our mother, a beloved grandmother to our kids (she somehow keeps her act together in front of them). We desperately need some advice please.

    • Dennis says:

      There’s no easy answer to that situation. Denial is a powerful thing, especially if it’s been reinforced over the years by no one actually pushing back against her and calling her out on her behavior. She most likely remembers it. But I’ve seen many people in a similar situation who gloss past it just because they have no idea what’s going on. It seems reasonable and normal in their own head because that’s the way they’ve been for decades. It usually takes an outside force and confrontation to get a person in your mother’s situation to realize how abnormal their behavior is.

      The problem is that it will most likely take a unified effort from the entire family to really make an impact. But if they aren’t willing to address the problem, then it is very likely she will continue to just gloss past her actions and conclude that you are the problem.

      The other problem can come from her own history. What kind of environment did she grow up in? Because if it was extremely abusive and chaotic, survivors of that often end up equating those things to “normal” behavior. That makes it even more complicated to get a person to realize how abnormal their behavior is.

      So, in a situation like this, if it’s not likely you can get anyone else onboard, the best thing you can do is minimize the potential damage she can do to you and the grandkids. You don’t have to tolerate or accept her abusive behavior. I would also highly recommend talking to a local counselor who can dive more into the details and help you formulate a strategy in confronting or managing the situation.

  34. Anita says:

    My daughter is 22 years old and although she is not diagnosed with bipolar, she has other mental health issues that she refuses to get help for. She has the majority of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder. She used to take medicine for depression and she seemed more stable then. She cannot keep a job and as a result of a poor work history, now she cannot get a job. She’s had some terrible boyfriends over the past few years. Her self-esteem is in the toilet and has been for a long time. She doesn’t take care of her personal hygiene any longer, unless it’s done in exchange for something like using my car. I’m a single mother and pretty much always have been. Between myself and my parents, we have tried and tried to help my daughter. She has been in therapy numerous times, but always quits after a few months. We have tried to get her to go for treatment, go back to the psychiatrist, anything, but she refuses. The past few months, she has been in a relationship with a 28 year old guy who has a host of problems himself – he was homeless when they met. She spends her days hanging out with him, riding public transportation, walking around the stores, etc. She refuses to go on birth control and I believe she may be trying to get pregnant. She lies all the time, it’s very difficult to believe anything she says. Lately, she has been bringing the boyfriend to our house when I’m not there which I have asked her repeatedly not to do. She disregards any rules I try to enforce. I’ve talked to mental health professionals and I have gone to NAMI meetings and I keep hearing the same thing… she has to hit rock bottom before she will get help. I’m meeting with a lawyer today to inquire about the eviction process. I’m getting conflicting input from friends and family, which is difficult because I fluctuate on what I should do. Any input you could provide would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    • Dennis says:

      The NAMI people and doctors are right. The problem with getting input from friends and family is that they often do not understand how severe mental illnesses like your daughter’s functions and how it causes people to act. I had to hit rock bottom before I could get help. It was the only way I was able to really see and finally understand that there was something drastically wrong with the way I experienced life. From the sounds of things, your daughter needs the same sort of wake up call.

      To be perfectly frankly, I usually suggest that people not turn to friends and family for advice on situations like this. The reason is that stigma drives the opinions and beliefs of people that simply don’t know any better. Unless they’ve lived it or dealt with it, chances are pretty good they don’t understand it. And I’ve met people of people who HAVE lived it or dealt with it who still didn’t understand it.

      The simple truth is – you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves. Your daughter will probably have to hit the bottom before she can recover. Hopefully, rock bottom won’t be too unkind to her. It is rarely a pleasant drop and landing. I know it sucks and it’s painful, but a lot of times dealing with mental illness is just choosing which flavor of shit sandwich you want to bite into.

      As it will be for your daughter for some time. So yeah, if you want to decrease your confusion, I would stop getting input from your friends and family. It’s clear you love and care about your daughter, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So do what you need to do, whether or not your friends and family understand it. They probably won’t. And keep leaning on the professionals and NAMI meetings to make it through.

      Also – you’re probably going to want to change your locks. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up breaking in when you’re at work. If she does, report it to the cops. Boundaries have to be enforced.

      • Anita says:

        Thank you, Dennis. I read your reply last Thursday and I have been absorbing it since. I also have been reading more from your website and I appreciate how open you are about your illness. I have my own mental illness and I feel responsible for my daughter’s illness. I wish I had been able to get my shit together years ago so that her upbringing had been more stable and perhaps she would not have followed in my footsteps, so to speak. Hell, much of the time I don’t feel like I have my shit together now. I’ve always been able to work and earn a living, even when I felt like the rest of my life was falling apart, but unfortunately, my daughter took the brunt of my down periods and my mood swings. I was not physically abusive to her, but I know that my chaotic world took a huge toll on her emotional well-being. I’ve been in treatment for some years now, but it’s not easy and now dealing with my daughter’s illness is causing me to take a downhill slide myself. I’m trying to get a grip and trying to maintain stability despite feeling out of control. I’m caught in the middle — my mother has untreated mental illness, I have mental illness, and now my daughter does, too. What a sad legacy to pass on. Anyway, I appreciate your comments and you advocacy.

        • Dennis says:

          For what it’s worth – it’s not really your fault. You can’t control your daughter’s genetics. Sure, she most definitely felt some of the chaos of your early struggles. But it is what it is, you know? It’s not like you chose to have the problems you have or chose to make her mentally ill. And unfortunately, she is an adult and is choosing to make the wrong decisions for herself. Again, not something you can really “control”.

          What you can do is keep working on yourself as best as you can. Keep striving and pushing to get your own mental illness under better control. Hopefully, when your daughter is ready to be well, you’ll have the knowledge and experience to more effectively help her when she is willing to be helped.

          First and foremost, you do have to take care of yourself – which I know is contrary to about any mother’s feelings. Can’t do anything for anyone else if you get lost in your own issues and backslide. You know? So make the most of your own treatment and keep pushing forward. It’s all you can do right now.

          And you’re welcome on the comments and advocacy.

  35. Piper says:

    Hi Dennis, I’m hoping you can offer some advice. I am married to man who has Bipolar & was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. My husband has not worked for years, which I’m fine with as long as he helps in some way around the house. There are days when I come home to a cooked meal, bed made, laundry done – it’s a dream! But those days are very few & far between. Most often I come home to find that he’s done a few dishes & maybe a little laundry, and has spent the majority of the time on the sofa watching movies. Many times I come home to find him drunk. When he’s been drinking, he lies & becomes mean. He will accuse me of not allowing him to go anywhere or do anything, which isn’t true. He has accused me of not allowing him to have friends, when in fact I have encouraged him to call his friends. He tells me he’s taking his medications but unless I count the tablets, there’s no way to be sure. I certainly understand with his MS diagnosis that things will be difficult for him but when I come home from a long day at work to find that he is so drunk he can’t stand up, and hadn’t bothered to do anything, it’s really frustrating. He once flew off into a full blown rage, where he took a maschette to a tree & started yelling & screaming that I don’t allow him any freedom when I asked him to help me move something while I was recovering from back surgery. I later found out that he was having an online affair with a woman. I’ve come home to find him not home, he doesn’t leave a note & he doesn’t answer his phone & will come home later that night drunk. I recently finally told him he needed move out. Now his cousin, who also has Bipolar, is angry with me for it because it messed up her plans to visit. She called me up & told me in so many words that it was my fault she wasn’t visiting because I had asked him to leave & when I tried to defend my decision, she told me I was “a psycho”. I’m so confused! I’m starting to wonder if maybe I am crazy, like maybe I’m delusional or something. This situation feels toxic to me, but I’m worried maybe I am being too harsh because he does have MS. Am I doing the right thing? I’m so confused. Please any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Piper. I feel like you’re doing the right thing. First of all, let’s discuss “gaslighting”. Gaslighting is when a mentally ill or abusive person attempts to convince a sane person that they are actually the insane one. Some people use this as an active means of manipulation, other people don’t realize they’re doing it. Their brains are so messed up that they can’t actually tell how abnormal and strange things are.

      You’re not crazy or unreasonable for taking the actions that you did to protect yourself. Your husband is making bad choices and needs to face the repercussions for them – in the form of you making him leave. You can’t help someone that won’t help themselves and it sounds like your husband doesn’t care.

      Now, to preserve your own sanity, don’t bother arguing with someone who is mentally ill and potentially unstable. It won’t do any good. You can’t win. Because even if you have a airtight case, delivered flawlessly, their mind may not be in a rational place. Furthermore, since it’s your husband’s cousin, he’s probably told her who knows what about the situation and may have lied. So again, you can’t really do anything against that if she has already taken his side. The correct answer for that kind of confrontation is no answer at all. I generally let the person rant, rave, as much as they need to, shrug my shoulders and say, “Okay.” And then do whatever I need to do anyways. They aren’t the person dealing with it, I am. So their opinion is irrelevant to me.

      The situation with your husband sounds toxic. I’m sure him developing MS in addition to being Bipolar is probably very hard on him. But even still, the world doesn’t stop turning for our problems. His problems don’t give him a right to treat you the way he was.

      Compassion is well and good, but there has to be limits to it otherwise toxic, damaging people will take advantage of it and grind you down. In my eyes, what you did was fair and reasonable.

  36. Anonymous says:

    What do you do when it’s your brother and not a husband or boyfriend? We’re both underage so there’s no getting away. He’s very violent and it’s scary sometimes. One time he threatened my dad with a knife! But he knows exactly how hard to push. He’ll scream throw things, break things, sometimes hit people, but he eventually backs off-only not quite far enough to call for help. My parents say not to worry and that we’re stuck because we’re family but I don’t quite understand why family should suffer but not other loved ones. They also try to tell me that he’s really a sweet person but I honestly can’t see past his illness, which is I don’t know the name of, but it was described as a connection in his brain that was never made when it was still developing because of his abusive infancy. (He’s adopted) He goes to school in an emotional support IU classroom and has a therapist who is supposedly amazing but if anything he’s gotten worse. I’ve already had to call the police once because he ripped a board out of his doorframe and was swinging it around with nails sticking out. How do I deal with this? Right now it’s 9:13 am and I’m writing this because he’s downstairs and I’m afraid to leave my room…

    • Dennis says:

      Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of options being underage with your parents not familiar with how to handle the situation you are in. You posted another comment about his “symptoms” and what they may point at – that’s not for me or anyone other than a professional to speculate on. It’s clear he needs professional help from your description, but again, that’s not something for random strangers on the internet to address.

      You absolutely should notify authorities if he is being violent, threatening people, or threatening suicide. Yes, it may piss off your parents. But, unfortunately, it’s arguably better than someone getting hit with a board or stabbed. Making people like your brother suffer repercussions is the only way to curb them.

      You may want to suggest to your parents that THEY visit a therapist themselves to discuss the situation with your brother with a professional. A good professional SHOULD see the toxicity of the situation and inform them of what I’m essentially telling you here, that they need to have hard limits and enforce them. Hopefully, hearing it from a professional will help them realize that the way they are doing things does not work and is only encouraging similarly shitty behavior.

      This is a very unfortunate thing for a young person to need to deal with. You really should talking to a knowledgeable adult that you trust about the situation or ask to go to a therapist yourself so you can discuss the situation there. That person will be able to provide more meaningful help and advice than random internet searches. If you’re in the US, you can also try the National Suicide Hotline (800-273-8255). It’s called the “Suicide Hotline” but they actually help people with many other extreme, crisis situations. They may be able to provide some meaningful help.

      You may want to be careful about how much information you give your parents on these thoughts as well. I’ve seen people in a position like your parents side with the mentally ill person on a regular basis because they feel bad for the person because of their illness. It’s a natural emotional response to seeing someone who is sick and in need of help. Unfortunately, it is the wrong response for dealing with someone like your brother.

      So instead of saying what I said verbatim, you could instead be like, “You know, a therapist may be able to help you guys figure out how to help XYZ.” or “I’d like to visit a therapist just to talk about what’s going on in my life.” Rather than the specifics.

      But yes, absolutely notify authorities if your brother is threatening people, suicide, or violent. That is not a situation for untrained people.

  37. Chris says:

    Hi Dennis,

    I wonder if you can offer some advice. My sister has been diagnosed with Psychosis and also Bipolar. She has been suffering now for 8 years. In the beginning when she was taking her medication she was calmer and would be able to communicate with us more and would attend family dinners, going for coffee etc.

    In the past 6 months she has refused to take her medication and she has manic episodes, drinks and smokes a lot and is verbally and physically abusive to both me and my parents. She refuses to sign up to benefits because she doesnt want to get taxed more when she works, she hasnt had a stable job in a long time. So is always demanding money off my parents. I do not live with my parents and they are both retired. They are unable to handle her and are at their wits end, they should not have to go through so much stress in their old age. She also has issues with me, her mind believes that I have taken her life, so when I try to talk to her she gets angry and wants me to go away.

    Only yesterday she had a manic episode because my father refused her money because she spends it on alcohol. She went crazy kicked and hit both me and my parents so we had to restrain her. I do not know what to do because I know that she needs to want to get help in order for her to get help. She doesnt think she she needs any help! any advice please – thank you x

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. The first point – there needs to be a unified front from you and your parents in dealing with her. If they aren’t on-board, then she is always going to have an angle to manipulate and abuse from. This is a hard pill for parents to swallow. There are many loving parents out there who’s children inherit this shitty mental illness and need to make unfortunate choices to preserve themselves. Does she live with your parents? These are the pretty typical guidelines for dealing with a person like your sister.

      Establish hard rules.

      1. Any physical abuse or threats of suicide will result in the authorities being called. Period. These are the two most common ways toxic mentally ill people manipulate because normal people who have yet to be through the grinder just see their loved one suffering. Toxic or severely unstable people will absolutely use that as leverage against them.

      2. If she is living with family, it is not unreasonable to demand she be taking medication, going to the doctor or therapy, and not doing drugs or drinking. If she doesn’t want to do that, doesn’t want to apply for benefits, then she needs to find some place else to stay. Period. And honestly, given their age and the fact that she’s been physically violent, were I in that position I wouldn’t let her stay at all.

      DEFINITELY look into local resources. Visit a therapist with your parents, or check into local mental health support groups, to find help and develop a strategy for dealing with her. The situation that they are in is severe and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. People like your sister usually have to fall pretty far before they can meaningfully recover. And she will drag everyone down her if the three of you let her.

  38. Sadness & Anxiety says:


    I wish to express a concern I have about my familys past and what I have witnessed during my childhood years. When I was young, I witnessed some pretty violent behaviour in my family. My parents couldn’t have a decent argument without using very abusive words followed by physical violence. My father passed away a few years ago while my elderly mother is still alive.

    My mother has recently exhibited a certain hatred towards me as she threw stuff at me and chased me around her house with two big kitchen knives threatening to stab me hard. I had to take cover behind a door and luckily enough I wasn’t injured. This wasn’t the first time this person had shown a willingness for violence towards me, when we verbally argued after my father passed away. I have never been voilent towards her or anybody but there is a history of mental illness from both sides of my parents families. I never knew that I had an uncle who was locked up in a psychiatric ward until the day he died while my other uncle’s death is shrouded in mystery, which I suspect is suicide.

    I suffer from occasional bouts of depression which I seem to somehow manage by going for long walks. I sleep, eat well and keep in shape but how can I know for sure whether I am genetically predisposed to some inherited mental illnes as I suffer from bouts of anxiety too. I strongly suspect that my parents suffered from some form of serious mental illness as both were physically and emotionally abusive towards me and other siblings.

    What would you recommend ? Are there tests which can be carried out ?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Psych screening is usually done by a licensed professional in a question and answer format. I’ve known very few people to have “paper tests” to determine any sort of mental illness. But given the sounds of the family relationships, sure as hell sounds like it.

      Now, it’s not clear if you are asking on behalf of your mother or for yourself. If it’s for yourself, I want you to understand that just because your family turned out that way doesn’t mean you will. I would highly encourage you to see a counselor/therapist to discuss your family issues and see if they can shed some additional light on the situation; as well as help you formulate a strategy for dealing with mom. No one should have to live with that kind of fear and abuse in their lives. And it would be better to get some help and professional insight before mom has a chance to hurt you in a serious way. Doesn’t take a lot of strength to slice or pull a trigger; particularly with rage and instability behind it.

  39. Bronte says:

    I finally left my bipolar boyfriend two weeks ago and I’m still devastated. We’ve been together three years but I moved in with him three months ago. He was diagnosed Bipolar II about eight months ago – he WAS compliant on meds for a while but when he had a bad side effect to one of them he declared that was “it” – he wasn’t bipolar (“and my friends say I’m not bipolar”) he wasn’t going back to therapy and he kept breaking up with me and getting back together with me. He was verbally abusive, kicked me out of the house (it’s his house), and then wanted me back. I told him he had to stay on meds, go therapy regularly and stop being abusive towards me. But he refused. Then he changed the alarm code, would only allow me back into the house on his terms to collect my stuff and threatened (when I didn’t answer a call of his at 2 a.m. – I was staying at a friend’s) to throw out all my stuff. I finally spoke to him and told him EVERYTHING he wanted to hear – just to get back into the house so I could plot my escape without him locking me out again or throwing away my stuff. He told me he’d deleted some of my files off the computer and hid some of my things because “I deserved it” because the 2 a.m. call was about where had I hidden the cookies???? Apparently I’d done this “deliberately” This manic cycle had been going on for weeks. And so, in a 24 hour period I and my friends organized a moving truck, a storage facility and the following morning when he went to work I had 10 people in the house – we packed all my stuff up and got out. He came home from work that night and was completely shocked that I’d just moved out without telling him. I couldn’t. I was terrified he’d destroy my things or lock me out again. He has no idea where I am (staying with a friend) but he DID go back to the therapist because he was “confused” as to why I left. He wanted to set up a meeting for the three of us but I refused. I finally sent him a long email explaining why I left him. He’s still trying to contact me. Don’t know what he wants. So far, no apologies from him for his behaviour. Therapist thinks he’s still in a manic state and thinks that he’s still “fixable” – he needs a different medication. He also told the therapist he would “consider” going on a different medication. I’m still devastated. I have not responded to any of his efforts to reach out to me and due to a whole set of complicated issues not worth going into here I have to leave the country and return to my country of origin. He KNOWS this so he knows the clock is ticking on my time here but his grandiosity and his pride won’t allow him to acknowledge his behaviour at all. He honestly can’t seem to wrap his head around why I left him. Not even with the letter I sent him. I don’t know if I should agree to a meeting with him and the therapist. Part of me needs to move on but part of me wants the man back that I fell in love with – the man who functions when on meds and accepts he has an illness. But that man has been swallowed whole by this awful disease. I don’t know if or when then man will ever return. I’m heartbroken.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Bronte.

      That is a very unfortunate set of circumstances. You did the right thing though. The fact that he was still so confused and erratic does suggest that he is still unwell. Though that may have smoothed out more if you’ve been out of contact for awhile.

      The shock of everything being gone is definitely a good example of the kind of severe action that may allow some light to pierce the fog of an unwell cycle. With your leaving the country and all though, not sure how worthwhile it would be to try and work through things with the therapist. I mean, are you coming back? Because the big problem is knowing whether or not he’s actually being compliant.

      His flaky language of “considering” going back on meds suggests that he still doesn’t grasp the severity of his situation. More often than not, the people that I’ve witnessed used such language will end up going off and on it. And if, for example, your coming back to the country you’re in now was dependent on his mental state; it would be very easy him to be manipulative from a distance (while unwell). And if you’re not around to actually see what’s going on, you may find yourself in a position that would be hard to get out of.

      You know the details and the decision ultimately has to fall to you on how you want to be reinvolved with him, if at all. You did the right thing though. People that function like he does while they are unwell have to know that there are repercussions to their decisions. He may be a great guy while sane and balanced; but that doesn’t mean shit if he turns into a monster while unwell and doing nothing to actually control it.

      That’s not saying that he won’t come back to a place of sanity and peace. These kinds of obstacles do need navigated from time to time; but the Bipolar person needs to want to be well and do all of the tedious, bullshit work that goes along with that. If he’s not passionate about that, then I don’t think I would gamble on it.

    • Kristy says:

      I really connected to your posting. I’m struggling myself with my partner of 2 years. We have a 11 month old son together.

  40. Bronte says:

    Thank you Dennis. I agree with all you say. I had hoped that my moving out would “pierce the fog” as you say but it’s been 16 days and that hasn’t happened. I’ll be here for at least another 4-6 weeks and I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth the three of us (us and the psychiatrist) meeting to try and get through to him. But I’m afraid of more blaming and berating from him. I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to hopefully get him back on track but I also want to protect myself. It’s a tough call. Therapist says his truly awful treatment of me was due to a severe side effect of a new drug he was on which I can see is true but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s bipolar and as you say unless he is willing to accept that then nothing else matters. Guess I’m wondering if the shock of my leaving and my willingness to sit down with him and try and get through to him what he HAS to do to keep me and to be healthy is worth one last shot in a controlled environment with the therapist. I know it’s my call. Guess I’m just speculating out loud here trying to weigh everything. So
    Glad I found this site and everyone’s stories and your insights. Thank you for your help and caring for those of us navigating these tricky waters.

    • Dennis says:

      Just calling direct attention to the fact that this is purely my opinion – but I think if you are not in any threat of destabilizing yourself, you should go to the appointment with him and the therapist. it is an opportunity to not only chip through his unwellness, but for you to help solidify whether or not you can be with him for the long haul. Sooner or later, the meds will stop working again or he may decide to come off of them. And if you’re in a relationship with him, you’ll need to be able to deal with that and the problems that arise from it. A sit down with him and a therapist provides a neutral third party that can help with the entirety of the situation.

      It may help clarify whether or not this is a facet of him you can accept and work with in the future. You mentioned in your other post “the man who functions on meds and accepts his illness”. That implies that he was once compliant and accepting. It is very possible that the extremity of this cycle caused him to lose touch with that reality. Unwell cycles tell us a lot of lies about a lot of things. But you are right that he may or may not ever get to that point again. That it may take awhile for him to get stable.

      If his unwell cycle is driven by a drug’s side effects, it’s going to be much stronger and artificial than his typical unwell cycles. So “piercing through” is way the hell more complicated, because when you pierce the fog the fog just close back up quickly. The fact that his therapist is aware of the problem and your guy is actually seeing the therapist are good signs though.

      I don’t know what to tell you on the berating and blaming thing. The unfortunate thing is that unwell cycles can spur some nasty actions, as you’re well aware. You need thick skin to deal with it. No, it’s not right or fair that you be subject to such things. But when you’re around a mentally unstable person, that’s just the way the ball bounces. I’ve been called every name under the sun and more. It’s just something you have to let slide off your back and keep pushing forward. I know it’s different from person to person, especially when you have a loved one doing it. It’s not fair at all. But neither is mental illness, so yeah.

      Anyway. Happy to have you here and I’m glad you found the information you found helpful. I feel it’s important to treat the problems and situations of people such as yourself with the same degree of importance that we mentally ill people want for ourselves. You’re welcome.

  41. Jeanne says:

    I just had an incident where my brother who is mentally ill became aggressive on me when I sanctioned him for smoking in the house. He has been living with me for over 12 yrs now under my supervision of taking his meds and obeying home rules. Prior to this he was in a mental institution for over 20 yrs. He is diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. I found that he was smoking in the house by finding cigarette butts in his garbage and yelled at him for it. He grabbed my wrist real hard and started twisting it as if to break it. I knew better than to struggle with him and just said “why are you doing this to me?” He let go and then called the police saying I threatened him and he was afraid of me. In a few minutes the police arrived and each one of us were asked questions, mostly my brother. I told the officer that a report should be filed and he said that if he was to do that that he would have to take someone to jail tonight. I didn’t want to have that happen to my brother but a warning would of helped Please advise.

    • Dennis says:

      Frankly, this sounds like a situation you should distance yourself from. If your brother is getting violent and unstable, that’s not something that you should be dealing with. I get that you’ve been doing this for a long time, but there’s only so much supporters can be doing. It sounds like you’ve long went above and beyond the call of duty for your brother. I think, were I in your position, I would start looking to get him out of the house and into a place that can provide safe supervision where he can’t do a lot of damage. Half-way house, group home, something like that. Or he may need to be institutionalized again.

      You HAVE to put your safety and well-being first. I’m sure you’re well aware that Paranoid Schizophrenia is no joke. I would be very leery that this is a precursor to a destabilization, if he had been previously.

  42. Louelle says:

    Hi Dennis. Your website is a blessing. My 40 yr old daughter has been diagnosed with a variety of MI over the past 20 years from depression, to bipolar, ADD, schizo-affective disorder, paranoia, to mention a few. She is so smart she manipulates all of her healthcare providers. She rarely allowed us to be involved in her treatment and the one or two time she has, she followed up by removing us from the contact list. She was never physically abusive but she is a verbal bully. Everything was my fault, she would say. I was a good mother, not perfect, but good. There was no drug or alcohol abuse in our family, no violence. She had a normal, caring upbringing.
    She admitted to having bulimia in her teens but now retracts that admission. She said she had bipolar but then retracted that. For several years, after the birth of her son, she became delusional , heard voices, and swore that people were infiltrating her computer, tv and phone. She replaced her devices a number of times. She swore people were after her. At this point I must say they she had been through a plethora of prescribed medications such as anti-depressants and made visits to the er looking for pain medications. She has a history of constant complaints about aches, pains, sinus trouble, stomach issues and was always taking OTC medications. She was like a hypochondriac . The worst time with medication was when she was prescribed adderal. She was addicted, thin and mean. When I approached her, she all but bit my head off.
    She is currently on the highest dose of WelButrin. I believe that she likes this drug because it keeps her thin but she is also experiencing new symptoms that seem like mini seizures where she spaces out, talks about an evil force taking over her mind and body and is practically incoherent.
    Here is my concern. She has been manipulating me to get what she wants by using my 10 year old grandson. If she wants money or he needs something, she uses him to get to me. I have been protecting my grandson from her behavior his entire life. For instance, if one of his electronic devices breaks, she has him call me to have it fixed or repaired. I hate to disappoint him because he has been through hell with her delusions and paranoia for most of his life. His dad is divorced from my daughter and they share custody. His dad is immature and is always criticizing him. He doesn’t spend quality time with him and he is an only child and tells me he is often lonely.
    These are two terrible parents but not terrible enough to prove being unfit.

    Here is my dilemma: How do I draw boundaries that protect me from my daughter’s manipulating personality without disappointing my grandson who I have been there for his whole life, countering the effects of his parents sad treatment of him? Tonight, my daughter called me and said that when he and my husband were tossing a ball in the house, the ball evidently landed on his xbox and now there is no sound. I said “that’s a bummer” and she was shocked at my response that I didn’t immediately offer to have it fixed (which I have been in the habit of doing all of the time so that my grandson wouldn’t suffer the disappointment.) She then put my grandson on the phone to make it more difficult for me…more manipulation. Thing is, my grandson isn’t the only one who benefits from the xbox. My daughter plays these games as well. She is 40, was on SSI for several years, got a teaching job for a few months, wigged out in front of her students, lost her job and is now applying again for SSI.
    I swear she has more of a prescription drug problem than a mental illness. She is currently going for her Masters Degree on line. She seems to have ‘selective’ mental illness. She achieves A’s an B’s in class but she can’t hold down a job. Now she says that it’s not a MI it’s PST from all the people who were trying to harrass her. (I want to scream right now.) I can’t tell if she really has a MI or if she is lazy, and manipulating the system. It’s so frustrating. I don’t want my grandson to suffer as a result of my drawing greater boundaries. In the summer she got very nice and spent a lot of time with us saying that she didnt feel mentally stable. We obliged. later we found out that she was out of money. We think that that is the reason she let us in on her dr.s visits…to get money. I have managed to draw the boundary about a year ago with her that I would not tolerate anymore abuse or i would no longer be a part of her life…she obliged. i have had enough with her. I just don’t want it to affect my grandson. I feel like I am losing MY mind. 20 years of this bullshit! Thanks for this site Dennis. Advice?

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for the kind words on my website and work!

      In regards to your daughter, from your description it sounds pretty clear that she is mentally ill and not just lazy. The thing is, there are plenty of mentally ill people out there who do their best to try to minimize the damage to the people they care about. And then there are toxic mentally ill people who do shit like your daughter does. The simple truth is, so long as she is willing to use her son as leverage to manipulate you, any boundaries you erect are going to trickle down and affect him. Even still, they need to be erected. A toxic person like your daughter will bleed you dry if you let allow it. And she is most likely not going to change. I mean, there’s always a remote chance but it usually requires the person to fall pretty far and hard before they hit the rock bottom and realize they can’t conduct themselves how they do.

      Controlling knowledge and access of doctor visits is a very common way for toxic mentally ill people to manipulate their loved ones. It gives them the freedom to say “oh I went”, “I hate this doctor, they don’t get me”, “the doctor says I’m fine!”, and so on. So yeah, if she kept you away before and is letting you in now, it’s probably to get money out of you.

      Typically, in situations like this, you would just cut out the toxic party. But based on your post and relationship with your grandson, I can see that isn’t going to be an option for you. Here are my thoughts.

      1. Accept that your daughter probably isn’t going to get well. I mean, there’s always a chance. But people typically don’t recover until they can fully accept and understand that the way they conduct their life does not work. From your description, I doubt she was ever going to the doctors to try to get better. She was probably just going to appease you/whoever else she was manipulating (like her ex-hubby maybe). Her keeping you out of the loop on the process basically gave her the freedom to do whatever she wanted with that. The suggestion is not meant to be an engaging point with your daughter. It’s more for your own peace of mind. Don’t bother expecting anything out of her going to the doctor or whatever she says she’s doing to get better until she actually demonstrates some real, long-term recovery.

      2. Having accepted that point, dealing with her manipulation gets much easier. There’s no way that your grandson is going to remain untouched by her mental illness or your needing to erect boundaries. That just can’t happen. What you can do is try to shore things up in other ways. For example, give your grandson experiences more than stuff. She can’t really take/use/manipulate going to dinner, a movie, a trip with the grandparents; whatever’s within your means. You’ll get quality time, grandson will get some experiences and get to do some stuff, and there won’t be as much material objects involved.

      3. Don’t take your daughter into account on your decisions on how to spend your money when she comes calling. For example, the xbox situation. Do you want this for your grandson? Can you afford to do this for your grandson? Yeah, daughter is going to use it and be shitty. But daughter has been manipulative and been shitty for decades now. That’s not going to change. Base those decisions on 1. whether you can afford it and 2. what you want for your grandson. Does that means she’s still manipulating you? Technically, not really. You’re choosing to play her game but you’re playing it on your terms instead of hers. She will undoubtedly benefit from it, but you just need to weigh whether the benefit is greater for doing it for your grandson.

      4. In curb her bleeding you, your new favorite phrase should be, “I don’t have the money for that.” Say it resolutely, repeat it as much as necessary when she comes calling.

      I’m sure you were a great mother and person. Mental illness can strike people of any class, wealth, and background – good and bad. Some people just come out broken. Some people can and will recover. Some people cannot and will not. In my experience, shitty parents don’t tend to care too much about the way their actions would impact their grandchildren.

      A final point of consideration. Get all of your end of life, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and will documentation taken care of immediately and finalized with the help of an appropriate attorney. You DO NOT want your daughter making decisions for you if you should be come incapacitated or lose your mental faculties. I would also recommend asking about a “no contest” clause for your will. Meaning, anyone that contests the contents of your will is immediately removed from it. That will prevent your daughter from trying to manipulate the people involved to get her own way. Thoroughly define how everything should be handled, how your property should be handled, and I would go so far as to say state that she is never to be allowed to be your/your husband’s (if you have one) caretaker. I regularly see people like her “volunteer” to take care of sick mom and dad in their home so they can get access to the finances or manipulate them into changing their will. Believe me, your quality of life would be better in assisted living and you don’t want to count on any other of your children (if any) being able to effectively go to bat against her.

      If you want to leave your grandson money, look into putting any inheritance into a trust that he can access at like 25 or so without her name on it. Hopefully, that will give him enough time to realize how toxic and damaging his mother can be so she doesn’t manipulate anything you leave out of him before he has enough maturity to understand the severity of what’s going on.

      Get your end of life stuff taken care of immediately and without informing her of any of it. The less she knows, the better.

  43. Louelle says:

    Thank you so much Dennis. You are spot on. You said everything I have always thought but had a hard time initiating and following through with because I always thought that it was something I did to make her be like this and that I should do everything possible to turn it around. What’s interesting , and what I have just realized after reading your reply, I am the one with all of the self help books about mental illness, went to support groups and (as I am here), still searching the internet for answers. She has not one book about it. It’s clear. She is not proactive in her recovery.
    Thank you so much for your help Dennis. (By the way, all of the end of life advice you gave has already been put in place. )

    Please continue your work here. You are truly making a difference. You have for me and my family going forward.

    • Dennis says:

      You’re very welcome.

      No, you did not do anything to make her this way. She probably inherited a severe mental illness from somewhere in the family history. There are many mentally ill people who cannot see that the way they experience life isn’t correct. They may make bad decisions; or they may just be selfish and not give a fuck either way. That has absolutely nothing to do with you or her father. You can do everything perfect and things still may not turn out well.

      The simple truth is – you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to help themselves. That can be a very frustrating thing to watch. It is what it is. The fact that you have books, are here talking to a stranger about the situation, and trying to find ways to make things right tells me a lot about your character and your desire to help your daughter. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a ton. Wellness and recovery is like 95% personal work, 5% doctors/meds/others.

      And again, I’m happy to have helped. Glad to hear that you have end of life arrangements in order. That can get really nasty with a manipulator involved.

      I certainly intend to stay on my path. If you’d like to help me out, considering grabbing a copy of my ebook, making a contribution, or just sharing my work with people you think may benefit from it. Everything helps me reach more people and I appreciate it greatly.

  44. Louelle says:

    Downloaded your book Dennis and anxious to dive in! Thanks so much! You are a gift.

  45. Jenny says:

    Hello, I really do not know what to do or where to turn! to cut a very long story short. My brother married a girl 22 years ago who we found out quite quickly had mental health issues. They have had a difficult journey ie miss-carriages then a baby who died of spinal muscular atrophy at 10 months (traumatic for years for all of us) then eventually two beautiful healthy girls. My sister-in-law was then diagnosed with bipolar, multiple personality disorder, narsistic behaviour amongst other things (one thing – can’t remember the name but she picks out someone in the family then is aggressive towards them). She has had 3 lots of electric shock therapy and did for years see a psychiatrist (until she signed herself off believing she is well). She is now on lithium and that’s all. She goes around upsetting people all the time (usually family members and has emotionally abused my brother for most of their life together and over the last 5 years it turned physical – he has had thick lips, sore jaws numerous times).

    Me – I am very quiet, sensitive, spiritual and have never stood up to her (until recently). For years and years I have tried to fix or help the situation, always forgiving and taking on suppressed emotions as I was never allowed to use my voice and stand up for myself, I have always kept the piece for my brother. There has been upset after upset on every birthday, easter, Christmas and I have had to persuade my family members (husband and 2 now grown up children) to join in on family gatherings. I had an incredible spiritual awakening 10 years ago as I kept asking for help in praying for them (how can I help them I used to say all the time) as I couldn’t cope with mainly my brother’s pain but also just wanting them to be happy. My spiritual awaking took me to EFT (emotional freedom technique, Ho’opopono, the Sedona method, meditation etc etc) basically I feel as though what came back to me was ‘how can we help you to heal’.

    My brother – his life is hell with her but he will never leave her because of his girls (now 15 and 13). On times when the aggression is towards me or my mum and dad and life becomes unbearable for us my brother would say to us things like this. If you cause trouble I will be in the gutter, or you have to come and be normal (to a family function) or otherwise my life will be even worse etc, etc. So bribary from him and over the last couple of years he can be aggressive to me and mum and dad because of alcohol.

    The crunch came back in February of this year when she verbally attacked me in a coffee shop and left me shaking to the core, this was to do with her relationship with my mum and dad (one of her issues) I said nothing to provoke this reaction and it was just terrible. After a few weeks I texted her and for the first time ever I wanting to let her know how she made me feel with the intention of hopefully sorting out some ‘issues’ and to be able to move on and for me for the first time to say please do not every treat me like that ever again. The reason why I texted her was I was going to see her at a cousins family invite but I really felt as though I could not face her at all, I felt fearful of what her reaction would be like towards me. The texts back to me were dreadful, aggressive and blame blame blame – I was the one who has caused the trouble over the last 22 years.

    So where I am now is I seem to of lost my brother as he is angry that I sent the text to his wife back in February saying how I felt. My anguish and guilt is that my mum and dad are suffering and can’t cope with me and my brother not speaking. They are on my side as to not seing sister in law anymore as they totally understand I do not want her in my life anymore, they are only seing her because of brother and the girls. I spoke to my brother today hence this message and it didn’t go well because I told him that there will never be a resolution with his wife because it will go back to exactly how it was before. and I also had to tell him that my son 22 does not want them at his wedding (coming up in a couple of years). I can’t persuade my adult son to see them, my daughter wants nothing to do with them also as well as my husband.

    The only resolution I can think of which would work for me is that what I intended with my text in February actually happened and we could write or e-mail our problems and get them aired out in the open and possibly healed and that my family are out of the equation. Unfortunately my sister in law would never be able to do this as she is right all the time and everyone else is wrong you know the story with mentally ill persons. I would say to her that if she ever spoke to me like that again or put me down I am gone!

    So what do I do? do I try to make peace and resolve and see them again for my mum and dads health and happiness or do I cut them out of my life completely?

    Sorry everyone will be totally put off with reading this as it is too long but it has actually put things into a little bit of perspective writing my thoughts down, so that’s been helpful to me.

    Best wishes to everyone on here and I hope you all find your peace, much love x

    • Dennis says:

      Realistically, your Sister-in-Law is probably never going to change. Not with that kind of list of mental illnesses behind her. The only thing you can really do in a situation like that, where your brother refuses to rock the boat and do anything to help himself, is simply minimize the damage they can do to you and your life. Some people cannot be helped. Some people absolutely refuse to be helped in any way shape or form. And some people just can’t realize how different or abnormal they actually are.

      In my eyes, there is really nothing more to do at this point. It’s unfortunate that your parents have to suffer through all of this, but that is the choice of your brother and no one else. I don’t blame your son or daughter at all. Were I in their position, knowing what I know about mental illness, I wouldn’t have anything to do with her either.

      As to whether you should cut them off or try and make peace; well that depends on what you want to deal with. Sister-in-Law is not going to change. Your brother is going to continue to enable that. Do you want to continue being a punching bag and viewed as the bad guy when you stand up for yourself? Or do you want to be done with it yourself? Your brother made his decision already. You’re under no obligation to get sucked under with him.

      • Jenny says:

        Thankyou so much Dennis that is really good sensible advise. All this is helping me to become a stronger person with stronger boundaries I have done all the healing I can do for myself and the situation and your so right the rest is up to them.

        I am so grateful there are people around like you who put themselves out helping people caught up in these very difficult situations, your a very caring man Thankyou so much and I wish you very well x

  46. danny says:

    I have heard alot of comments that game me hope.I have been with a person with mental illness for four years I have been used and abused without any real remorse from the other person.I needed to hear I can’t help or change the other person the most loving thing to do in this very toxic relationship is prayer putting them in Gods hands loving them from a distance.

  47. Anonymous2849 says:

    I am so tired. I don’t know what to do any more. I’m 68 my son is 40. He has bipolar, avoidance personality disorder and addiction. He has been constantly texting me for two days wanting a rifle that was given to him when he was a child by his grandfather. My son is so angry. He is paranoid and delusional in that he feels he must have a weapon to defend himself. I knew he was starting to get into trouble several weeks ago. I’m pretty sure he’s gotten more benzodiazepines from his doctor because he gets horrible like this when he’s using them. I suspect he does not use them as directed. He’s fired every psychiatrist I’ve gotten for him, won’t see counselors because he says he feels they enjoy watching his suffering, take suboxone but sometimes too much and runs out early, says the most hateful things to me. My husband died suddenly almost five years ago so it’s just me that my son badgers. He doesn’t have a single friend. I’m his only connection in the world. I’ve suggested he participate in groups, volunteer, get exercise, on and on which he won’t do. I feel so beaten down by him that what really sounds good is to just move…run away. But then why should I have to leave my friends, my home, my other child and grandchildren? Why? I don’t know what to do anymore. I just feel so defeated. My son is on disability for mental illness/addiction and lives in an apt in town that I subsidize. I help him in ways that seem appropriate like driving him to the grocery store or to pick up his meds or go out for a cup of coffee. I just never thought I’d reach this place where I want to throw in the towel but, I have. Any thoughts?

    • Dennis says:

      Note: I have changed your display name because it would be fairly easy to identify if your son happened to do any googling for the last name or anything.

      The unfortunate truth is that some people simply cannot be helped. We mentally ill people are the only ones that can truly help ourselves. We are the ones that need to do all of the tedious work, go to appointments, take the meds as required, and go through all of the shit that is required to be well. Unfortunately, in situations like your son’s, you actually do more damage in the situation by accepting and tolerating the abusiveness and bad decisions. This is counter-intuitive to what any parent would want to do to try to help their child. That isn’t your fault and you shouldn’t blame yourself at all.

      Simply put; if he’s not willing to help himself, then there’s nothing more you can do to help him. Given the sensitivity of the overall situation, I would highly, highly recommend that you go speak to a therapist yourself to see how you should handle the situation. Given his volatility, you want to ensure you are doing it in as safe of a way as possible so he doesn’t hurt himself and or someone else.

      Do not, under any circumstances, give him that firearm. That’s a recipe for disaster.

      If, after you speak to a therapist of your own, you decide that you must cut him from your life; understand that you are not the only parent that has been faced with that decision. There are many others as well. A toxic mentally ill person can turn your life inside out and destroy everything if you allow them to. So you can’t let them, even if it is a son.

      Speak to a therapist about the situation. They can help you go over this situation and develop a safer course of action.

  48. Alicia says:

    Dear Dennis,

    Thanks for being a voice of reason in all this craziness. I’m 50, my parents are in their 70s. My mother is a highly functioning bipolar and also a narcisist. Growing up, all I can remember are my mother’s outbursts, my parents yelling and many bad memories. 25 years ago, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder because of a manic episode where she went through much of the family savings. My father finally had her examined, against her will but to this day, she refused to admit she had a problem, blamed everyone around her and to this day will not see a doctor or take any medication.

    At that time, I was a single mother raising my 2 sons ( I married a sociopath whom I divorced) and I could not deal with her abusive behavior anymore, it was so stressful. I had very little to do with her and kept our relationship very superficial, but I didn’t cut her out completely because, for some reason, she was always a great grandmother to my sons. I always thought she was just mean spirited toward me and my father.

    For the past 25 years, my father has taken the brunt of her anger and it has taken a toll on his health as he has pre-diabetes and also depression but he won’t do anything about it and he continues to engage in yelling matches with her.

    At the moment, I find myself living with my parents temporarily for a few months. Now that my sons are grown, I’m realizing some of my dreams to live part time in another country. For my own financial reasons, I accepted their offer to move into their home for a few months while I sort out the logistics of moving to another country. I was hesitant, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to spend some time with them and hopefully get closer than I have been in the past 25 years, and of course save money. Things were fine for a couple weeks, until my mother had a manic episode. She has been on spending sprees, has emotional outbursts and is paranoid of spies, which she reports to the police.

    I feel like it is on me to make this family right before I leave in the Spring, but I am at a loss of what to do. I got my father and my sister to agree to go to counseling to come up with a plan but without my mother’s cooperation and my father’s follow through, I don’t see how things will improve. I think I made the mistake of calling my mother out on her abusive behavior but I’m in her house so I don’t have much leverage. I could move out but then I’m worried about my father and especially how he will cope when I am out of the country.

    I was doing so well on my own, I raised 2 wonderful sons who are now in medical school, they are well adjusted and in good relationships. I was on my way to living my dreams that now feel like a nightmare.

    I appreciate any words of wisdom you might have for me.
    Thank you.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Alicia. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      Simply put, you cannot fix your parents. Other people cannot fix mentally ill people. The only person that can fix a mentally ill person is themselves. They have to want it. They have to do all of the tedious work that goes into being well. They have to know that the way they conduct their lives does not work, that they have to reach for something more. That’s most likely not going to happen with your mother. Why? Because your father enables it. And unless your father is willing to actually stand up, say enough is enough, and enforce some harsh boundaries; it’s not going to change for him either.

      It’s not your responsibility, even if it feels that way. It can’t be your responsibility. It is not a thing that is possible for you to fix, period.

      I’d say pursue your dreams and follow through on your plans. You can’t own the decisions of your mom and dad. They’re not for you to own. Unless your dad is willing to enforce some serious boundaries and potentially leave your mother; she’s most likely not going to change. Given that she is paranoid and disconnecting from reality enough to warrant calls to the cops, it’s not a minor thing they are dealing with.

      Honestly, I would suggest having your father go to therapy to discuss this shit and a healthier way to deal with your mother. But even if he does have an epiphany of his own on all of this, it’s going to take a long while to unmake the decades of conditioning and beliefs he has.

      Go. Travel. See what you want to see. Who knows if you’ll ever have that opportunity again.

  49. Nell says:

    Hi, thanks this is a great help but I am still not exactly sure what to say to my brother. He is bipolar, he believes he is ill with heart problems, and ever since our aunt died, he lived with her, he has driven me insane with constant phone calls, demands, and lately he has managed to stay round here for weeks on end purely because he is ‘Dying’! He won’t admit he is mentally ill, just puts it down to being ‘Right and others are ares””les’! He even phoned me and said, where are you? I said out with my son, he said, ”I need someone to talk too, just to let you know that I am alive, not that you care! since then I have been so stressed I want to scream! Help please? I noticed this was an older artice, hope you are still responding, thanks.

    • Dennis says:

      Note: I changed your display name to something less specific. You don’t want to use an easy to identify name that could be turned up by someone googling your name or nickname when discussing this sort of thing.

      Typically, the way you need to manage this is to set down a hard boundary and enforce it. My go to answer to everything would start being “I’m not your counselor. If you need one, get one.” And then ignore any follow up questions to it. You’ll probably have to be an asshole about it to actually get him to realize it.

      When you’re dealing with someone who is a taker, you have to establish limits, boundaries, and enforce them. You can’t count on a person like that to honor or respect your limits. So, as an example, if I was dealing with a person like that who wouldn’t leave. I’d ask nicely once. I’d more forcefully tell them and inform them if they did not leave, I’d have them removed for trespassing. And if they still wouldn’t leave, I’d call the cops and get their help.

      Hard limits is all folks like that generally understand. Especially when they’ve been allowed to get their way on everything for a long time.

  50. Sasha says:

    I read this article with some amount of cynicism, regrettably so! My sister, like me, was diagnosed with BP. However, her symptoms and behaviors are drastically different from mine. She wasn’t “diagnosed” until troubling moods in early college, whereas I was diagnosed in adolescence. She never finished school, never followed a traditional route, and has gone from a quiet sweet girl as a kid to an explosive unhappy manipulator.

    After she got pregnant she was encouraged to marry her long time significant other, while he did not agree wholeheartedly, he did to appease the families. Now, less than two years later, he is proceeding into a divorce, while she is hanging on desperately. Having no where else to go, she had returned to live w my parents in our family home, and she brought her child with her.

    My parents tell me she yells and screams and is starting to push my mom. She also tells back at my dad, and as she has a child, they simply feel like they cannot step in and ask her to leave. It’s so upsetting to me because my parents seem like they have to hide from her and hide a lot so she doesn’t get upset. She is jealous, possessive, controlling, angry, explosive, and highly emotional when she is upset.

    What we all fear most is the way the divorce will go, if she will be denied custody of her mental health is brought into question.

    The position I am in is one of helplessness. I don’t live with them, and all I can do or try to us reach out and have some semblance of routine conversation w my sister. I feel like a mediator and a problem solver, and I’m exhausted. No therapist or psychiatrist has ever been able to treat her, and most have abandoned working with her or of frustration.

    I’m so lost and scared.

    • Dennis says:

      Unfortunately, there’s no real good way to address that situation that isn’t going to cause someone to suffer a lot. Really, the way to handle that situation is for your parents to remove her and notify authorities if she starts putting her hands on them. If she is willing to put her hands on her mother, then there’s no reason to assume that she will not or has not done to the same to her child. It will probably be better for the child if she doesn’t have custody.

      I would encourage you to talk to your parents and encourage YOUR PARENTS to go to a therapist to discuss your sister and how to deal with her in a safe way. A therapist should be able to help them develop a strategy for dealing with her.

      The unfortunate reality is that you can’t help someone that won’t help themselves. As for the doctors and therapists “giving up on her,” is that their words or hers? One time, yeah I could maybe see that happening. Multiple times? Sounds more like manipulation on her behalf.

      It’s very possible that your sister may end up committing suicide or doing something similarly irrational. That’s just an unfortunate reality when it comes to dealing with the Disorder. All you can really do is try to minimize the damage she can do to herself and other people really.

      Insist your parents visit a professional and talk to them about the situation. The combination of factors you’re describing and her general behavior are very much red flag behavior. And if you suspect she is doing harm to her child, which is not outside of the realm of possibility, do report it. That child cannot protect themselves.

  51. jay says:

    The world has gone full stupid, and put the dangerous and mentally ill in control of things, and taken all power and safety away from their families or other targets. Just do a google search on “living with a violent mentally ill person” and you get 50 articles telling you how mentally ill people are not violent and the poor mentally ill are just victims of mean people. Be nice to them. It’s how YOU deal with them that makes them violent or not. Essentially their behavior has a pass, as it’s everyone else’s fault they are insane.

    There is no help, sympathy for the people who have to deal with these sick people, disdain even if those who are their victims dare to speak out against their behavior. You can’t commit these people anymore, apparently that’s against their rights or some new-age garbage excuse we’ve been force fed, so you’re told to kick them out of your house and onto the street if you can’t care for them. Oh well that’s great. So they can come back and burn our house down or retaliate in some other way? To have to choose between living with an insane dangerous person destroying your life or kicking them out into a life of homelessness? That’s an awesome reality for the families to deal with.

    They threaten to kill people, and it means nothing because the law won’t do anything until they actually commit a crime. There’s nothing you can do, but bunker up in your own house, and just pray they will leave on their own before killing you in your sleep. That’s the reality of living with the mentally ill. If rich liberal idiots would stop wanting to be damaged and diseased and putting their anxiety disorders or depression in the same category as actually sick people, maybe mental illness would actually get treated and crazy people could get help and be locked up where they are not a danger to anyone or themselves or living on our streets cruelly.

    Mental illness has become a joke, what is and what is not mentally ill has no boundaries anymore so every whiny person who is actually normal just with some emotional issues thinks he’s the same as the guy screaming at the garbage can at the bus stop. Ironically making the issues all about the emotional whiners, leaving the real sick with no help, their families with no lives or safety or help; oh but we don’t commit those poor homeless people anymore. We don’t force medications. We don’t force them to do anything! What glorious progressive society we live in. Leaving people to freezing to death in a park, or leaving their families at their homicidal mercy is far more modern and humane.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Jay. A lot of anger and frustration in your comment. Based on what is alluding to, I would say it’s pretty well justified.

      I’m not going to debate your point of view or try and change it. The spirit behind several of your points I would agree with. It is frustrating and maddening. There isn’t very good support for family members of dangerously mentally ill people out there. But it has little to do with liberal or conservative and is more about money. Mental health programs are often the first to get slashed when it comes to budgeting. No one wants to pay for it and the government just can’t seem to find the money to deal with the problem.

      One thing I will point out; threatening to hurt or kill someone is illegal and may be able to be used as a means of forced removal or institutionalization. It’s Assault in the US; you’d have to check your local laws depending on where you are.

      Unfortunately, most decisions regarding situations like the one you’re alluding to requires picking the least shitty option as opposed to a good option. What you’re dealing with is very severe and extreme, from the sounds of things. You’re probably going to have make some terrible, potentially dangerous decisions to get your family away from that.

      It’s shit and I sympathize greatly with your situation. You may want to further explore the Assault angle to see if that can be leveraged in any way to effect some meaningful change. Severe mental illness doesn’t care about love, gentleness, care, or what we want. You may want to consult with a psych or counselor, any abused oriented non-profit orgs, and law enforcement to get a feel of the scope of any options and try to find the safest route out.

      Simple truth is, in many places being homeless opens up access to many more programs for the severely mentally ill. Again, it’s not a GREAT situation but it’s not an entirely hopeless one either.

      I would also point out that what you’re describing and alluding to is on the very serious, extreme end of the spectrum. The crap that you’re finding on the internet isn’t relevant because a majority of us do not experience mental illness that way.

      If you need help in trying to locate local providers, inquire with whatever your “Job and Family Services” organization is for your location. They can usually provide a print out with all the 800 numbers of organizations that serve your area.

      If you can’t find anything useful, email me at and I will see if I can help you locate any local services that may be able to help.

  52. Vicky says:

    Our bipolar daughter has a husband and three children. She had a melt down last evening and is still nurturing that break down. She has said a lot of mean and thought less things the last two days (we’ve done this in the past). Once again the spouse and I continued to tell her to stop, we were done ~ and once again we were stalked on text and phone calls ~ so that she could continue to sing her woes. She was forewarned several times to stop or be hung up on. We were told that we would be disowned and never see her children again if we hung up. A viscous circle ensued in conversations and we hung up, she called back, we hung up… I don’t want her to call, to text, we want space and quiet that I wonder if we shall ever achieve ~ and there is the guilt trip as she thinks we don’t nor ever have loved her, a lot of other accusations that hurt ~ does this ever end? Will she ever get a grip on meds and disease so that life can be somewhat normal?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Vicky. Thank you for taking the time to write.

      Unfortunately, there’s no way to actually answer your questions because there is no answer that is universal. Some recover, some don’t, some can’t. Sometimes parents need to make the choice to cut a toxic adult child out of their life because their behavior is just too damaging and they cannot handle it anymore. Sometimes spouses leave because of the damage it is doing to themselves and their kids. I am not suggesting this is how things will turn out for you and your family. I am saying that it does happen. You can only give so much of yourself until there’s nothing left to give. And you simply cannot rely on a mentally and emotionally unstable person to make sound decisions in their relationships.

      The only answer to your question is – maybe. It can get better or it can get worse. Real recovery is rooted in acceptance of one’s problems. If she can’t comprehend or doesn’t care how toxic and shitty her behavior is, it is very likely to continue on. You’re probably not going to get anywhere while she’s unstable. Once she levels off, the family and her spouse should urge her to visit professionals to confront and deal with her mental illness. If she refuses, I think I would start looking for ways to minimize any potential damage she can do to you; even if that means reduced or no contact.

      As it stands, her using the kids as leverage is an ultra-manipulative thing to do. I don’t know if that is the result of the unwell cycle or just part of her general personality. If she is generally a selfish or manipulative person, chances are much greater that she will just continue to blame others for her problems until she reaches a point where she can see that the way she conducts her life does not work. Usually, that means losing a hell of a lot and hitting rock bottom.

  53. Louelle says:

    Dennis, you never fail to offer a brilliant, honest and compassionate reply. Again, thank you for your website.

    Also, to anyone out there needing some clarity about MI, I read Dennis’ book “What They Don’t Tell You About Bipolar Disorder” and have never understood MI as much as I have through Dennis’ writing. I found it very helpful and believe me, I think I have more books on mental illness than the local book store!!

    Thank you for your continued help Dennis!

  54. Kathy says:

    Dear Dennis,
    Every Mental Health Association across the country should have a copy of your manifesto Dennis! I deal with a sister who has bipolar disorder, and I frequently have to do good self talk not to get sucked in and allow way too much ranting and raging via text message; it only serves to escalate her racing thoughts and mood. I know it works not to take the bait(text back) yet remain loving from a distance! We enjoy lovely times at a favorite coffee shop etc. when she does the right thing. Thank you for the reinforcement… my resolve was waning!

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Kathy! A note – I edited your display name to remove your last name. You should never use your full name when discussing this stuff online so search engines don’t turn it up if someone were to Google your name.

      It sounds like you have a reasonably healthy way of interacting with your sister. It is a very good thing to have lines and boundaries; and enforce them well. It can be a difficult thing to do but it is absolutely necessary.

  55. Kaitlyn says:

    My 45 year old sister is mentally ill & is getting progressively worse. She has 2 boys, ages 8& 10. Her ex-husband has been giving her $2000 a month after the divorce was final& has continued to make the house payment. She has been posting things on Facebook about me, my parent’s & her ex-husband that are completely untrue. Her ex-husband told her about 3 months ago that he was going to stop giving her extra money, because he needs money for himself as well. He will continue to send $600 for child support & make the house payment but that was it. So when her ex-husband started sending less money she started asking my parent’s for money. They gave her money on a few occasions. But instead of using it for bills, food, etc. she would buy things on the internet & who knows what else. Her ex-husbAnd never made enough money to cover expenses that she had incurred & then expected my parent’s to give her the money that her ex-husband was no longer going to send her.on Facebook she would say how much she hates my parent’s, among other things & then call them & ask for money like nothing had happened. My parent’s finally would go buy groceries for her & drop them off at her house. My father also went & paid her electric & water bills. If they said no, she would use every explicitive to them & say “I hope you die” the next time they talked it was like nothing ever happened. She drinks wine everyday. She has yelled at my mom & kicked her out of her house if mom says the wrong thing. She has not gotten a job since the last one she was fired from & has no source of income, Will not try to look for a job or apply for assistance. My dad took her over some paperwork to apply for welfare & medical for the kids. She said she would never go on welfare & kicked my dad out of her house. She called my dad a few days after throwing him out & asked if she could have one of his pistols for protection because her exhusband had taken all of his. My dad said no & of course she threw a fit again. She thinks she has several illnesses & says she nearly died twice. She has said that she has heard voices in the past, but denies it now. She called my mom two weeks ago & asked her why she hadn’t deposited $5000 into her account. My mom told her that they didn’t have that kind of money. My mom asked her why she thought they would deposit $5000 into her account she would say that “they” told her she would. My mom asked her who “they” were & she just said you know who they are. She has stopped going to her boys school conferences, won’t go to Chritmas plays & tells them they can’t go either. She & her boys were going to meet at a restaraunt for Thankfiving dinner. My parent’s waited for about 20 minutes & then my mom called my sister. She had her 8 year old son ask the phone. He said “what do you want?” My mom said aren’t you guys going to meet us for dinner? He said no because she had told the boys that my mom was sick so they weren’t going. The 10 year old called mom from in his room & asked why his mom lied. Mom said she didn’t know. He started crying because he really wanted to go. He asked if he & his brother could go over to my parent’s house & spend the night. She said ask your mom. She said no. About half an hour later my sister said they could go, so my dad went & picked them up. Friday night my parent’s took them to dinner so that they could have a Thanksgiving meal. They spent the night again. My sister’s last post on Facebook claimed that my parent’s neighbor had tried to beat her up & tape her & that he was holding his wife hostage in their home & had choked her several times. She said that she had filed a restraining order against him & that “they” were watching him & asked people to call the police if they see him near her house, but that she would know if he came around her neighborhood “they” would let her know. Two weeks ago my nephew went in to the principals office & asked to use the phone to call his dad because my sister told her boys that he was not coming & that my parents wouldn’t see them on Christmas Day either. He was crying. The principal had the school counselor come in & asked my nephew if he was ok & was there anything at home that he was worried about. He ran out of the room, crying. They then called in my youngest nephew if anything was bothering him & how things were going at home. He said he just wished that his mom would quit yelling at everybody & saying that she was going to kill someone. They immediately called my sister’s ex-husband & told him what was going on & that they would be contacting CPS. My sister’s ex-husband called my parent’s and asked them if they would go over to the school & find out what was going on. My parent’s keep the boys every Friday & return them home at 4:00 on Saturday. My sister’s ex-husband called his attorney & told her what was happening. The judge signed an order saying that my sister’s ex-husband had emergency custody & they were not to go back home. CPS came over to my parent’s house & met the boys & gave them her card if they needed anything. The boy’s father arrived that SAturday about 10:00 pm & explained to the boys that they would be going back home with him because their mom is sick. Neither one of them were upset about not being able to go home, they were worried about moving to a new state, attending a new school & if they would be able to make new friends. The boy’s father went over to my sister’s house to tell her that he was going to keep the boys. He had called to ask a police officer to go with him because she has physically assaulted him in the past. They said they would not, but if something happened to call them & they would respond. My sister started freaking out, yelling at him & looked like she was ready to start hitting him so he left without any of the boys things. They had to go to court on Monday & meet with a judge. The attorney had a stack of documentation & asked that the judge sign the steps that my sister has to go through before she can get her kids back. My parent’s & the boy’s father signed the document. A copy of allegations & reasons why she couldn’t have contact with the boys & that emergency custody had been given to their father. The attorneys office put the paperwork in the mail to her the same day. No one had heard from my sister since the boy’s father had gone over, so my dad went to check on her. They talked a bit & then my dad asked her if she had gotten the mail & she said no because the key wouldn’t work. Dad asked her to give him the key to see if he could get it to work. Dad said the key worked fine, that it looked like she hadn’t gotten her mail from her mailbox for a couple of weeks. The letter from the attorney was in there, so when he gave her her mail he put that letter on top. She then asked my dad “where are the boy’s?” He told my sister that they were with their father in a different state. She started freaking out again & became verbally abusive & said I looked like she was going to hit him, so he left. The letter from the attorney says that she has 14 days to meet with the father’s attorney & decide what doctor would give her a psychiatric evaluation (ordered by the court). She also believes it was her ex-husbands mom who started the court proceedings & that because his mom works at a bank in an eastern state that she closed all of my sister’s bank account, has embezzled her money & that she was talking about her at work, calling her names & trying to ruin her life. I asked my sister how she knew that her ex-husbands mom was talking about her at work & again she said “they told her. She then said she wanted to kill her ex-husbands mom & that she wished our parents would die. She said there is a conspiracy going on. My parent’s are completely exhausted & all my mom can do is cry. I am very worried about them. What happen’s if she doesn’t meet with her ex-husbands attorney? The paralegal in the attorney’s office said they would go & get her & her ex-husband told me she would be in contempt of court. If the paralegal is right, would it be the police who get her & would they take her to jail or the attorney’s office? If her ex-husband is right & she is in contempt of court what does that mean & what will happen then? Thank you for your help.

    • Dennis says:

      That is a very unfortunate and painful story. My heart hurts for your family and her sons.

      Unfortunately, the questions that you asked are beyond my ability to answer. The answers are going to be based on a number of variables including the judge involved. Those questions should be directed to the ex-husband’s attorney. Contempt of court can vary depending on the situation. I’m sorry I’ve got nothing useful for you on that; it’s not really a thing you’re going to find an answer to on the internet though.

      • Kaitlyn says:

        Dennis, thank you so much for your quick response. I guess I will speak with her ex-husband & ask him to contact his attorney to explain what will happen in the different scenarios. My Dad went to her ex-husbands attorney’s office to see if she had responded yet & what was going on. The attorney told my Dad that she has 14 days (another week) to meet with her. Again what the processes will be in the different scenarios are unclear. My Mom & Dad are heartbroken about the kids leaving, because the boys stayed with my parent’s every weekend for years, but they knew this had to be done. My Dad has driven by her house to look & possibly see that she is there. Or whether she has gone anywhere. He didn’t see her, but knows she hasn’t gone anywhere because there are no tracks or tire marks in the snow. She told me that she is not leaving the house for 21 days because that is when the boys will be home. My parent’s, ex-husband nor I know why the 21 days is stuck in her head. In her mind she thinks that once the boys are returned on day 21, everything will go back to normal. I am very concerned about my parent’s (who are in their 70’s because of everything they have had to go through. Not oNly that, but the fact that she asked my Dad for a pistol. Again, thank you Dennis for your response & I will proceed by my sister’s ex-husband or my Dad clarifying next steps from her ex-husbands attorney! You do an amazing job. I feel so blessed to have come across your website!

        • Dennis says:

          You’re very welcome on the quick response.

          I think I would also let the attorney know that she has asked for a weapon, however you can. It may be nothing, it may be something; but it definitely doesn’t hurt for relevant people to be aware of that situation. Make sure your dad understands, in no uncertain terms, that he not give her access to a firearm. There are a lot of serious red flags in her behavior and she may even need to be involuntarily committed before she can hurt herself or someone else. The attorney should be able to provide more insight on that.

          As for the 21 days, it’s hard telling. There isn’t always rhyme or reason in a mentally ill mind.

          Thank you for the kind words on my website and work. I do appreciate it.

          Have your dad talk to the attorney about your sister’s request immediately!

  56. Jim says:

    Thank God for this article. I have a huge problem with a sister who rages and it’s sad and horrible at the same time. This is what it’s like to have a mentally ill person who will not get treatment, and who was never made to get help. I’m scared, I’m frustrated. My 53 year old sister WILL NOT get diagnosed or get any kind of treatment. I tried to bring her into our lives again after 20 years of not seeing her and now it’s gone terribly wrong. She lives at home with my 82 year old Dad in his home and what he goes through with her 35% of the time is horrible, the other 65% she is lucid and nice. But, he won’t throw her out because he says it’s his daughter and says he’s afraid she’ll turn to drugs or worse. He suggested that he sell the house and give her money for an apartment of her own, but she told him she’d BURN THE HOUSE DOWN. I have suggested she’ll never get help this way and his response is that he’s in his 80’s and what can he do now? She was fired from her job about 10 years ago and she has spent all of her retirement money on little toy bears, and computers, and crap. Soon she will be MY financial problem. He enables her by paying her car insurance and giving her a little money and she is NOT going to get a job. About 20 years ago I remarried, and my sister was brutal to my wonderful new wife so we have both stayed away from my sister. I have known she has no friends, and soon my Dad won’t be there so I wanted to try bringing my sister slowly back in to the fold. All was fine for a few visits at the weddings of my 2 daughters (although she got smashed at both weddings). My wife of 20 years has been especially kind to her emailing back and forth about recipes and small talk. All of a sudden I got the following email from my sister: “You wife is a F*ing whore, I know what she;s plotting. We all know and she’s not fooling us! We are not stupid. F U and same to your wife, we are so done!” Even though I know I’m dealing with a sick person, it’s hard to deal with receiving that for no reason. MY wife could not be a nicer caring person and has been bending over backwards to engage her in nice things. WORST of all, my sister sits at home on all the social media sites complaining and blaming my father, me, all of us for her situation. She has been emailing all our distant relatives for years blaming us what she says “we’re doing to her”. It’s a terrible situation and I and angry, I cry about it, and am horribly embarrassed about it, I wish I could help her. I wish I could shut off the social media “transmitter” in her hands every day that makes my family look like idiots. Since my daughter’s wedding my sister thinks she’s found all good friends in my former wife’s family. This won’t last long before they kick her to the curb. They know she is ill. But for now my former wife (who I was married to 20 years ago) is enjoying my sister blaming us for her problems. This is what it’s like to have a mentally ill person who will not get treatment, and who was never made to get help. I’m scared for me, for her, I’m frustrated. I’m tired of a lifetime of this.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Jim. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      It may be a difficult sell, but I would readily encourage you to have your father speak to a counselor or a doctor about your sister. Generally speaking, the only way to really push back a toxic person like your sister is to establish hard limits and enforce them very harshly. That can mean a lot of things. I’ve met a lot of parents like your dad who are stuck in an impossible place of wanting to do the right thing for their clearly mentally ill child, while their mentally ill child just chews them up and spits them out.

      Perhaps if he hears it from a professional, he will be better able to come to terms with that path.

      You may also want to talk to your dad about getting every last bit of his End of Life preparations taken care of, including medical power of attorney, estate, and will. He should ABSOLUTELY have all of that done and legally cut and dry so your sister can’t use it as ammunition or try to manipulate the family or him out of anything.

      There isn’t a whole lot that can be done for people like your sister. People like her often need to fall very far before they can start to recover. A lot of people in her position don’t recover. Sometimes all you can do is mitigate the damage and step away from the situation. It’s an unfortunate reality of mental illness.

  57. Bemily says:


    Thank you for your straight forward words of wisdom.

    Sorry this is so long; hard to put years of mental health torture into a few sentences.

    My husband and I have been dealing with my 20 year old son’s mental illness for 4 1/2 years. Not sure of the exact diagnosis; not bipolar, something like schizophrenia w/ delusions. He is angry at us and does not think he needs help; everything is our fault and everyone is stupid. He won’t take meds or go to therapy( been through a dozen, kicking and screaming, over the years). We have done everything we can to help but he doesn’t stick with anything. We have tried providing him with a low stress comfortable environment. He has been hospitalized a few short times over the years; we called the police when he was breaking things etc, on and on…

    The last hospitalization was 1 1/2 hrs ago. We were about to have him live at an independent living place after, but let him come home instead. He was accustomed to a comfortable life with all his needs met. When he came home we had rules; take meds (he is strongly against them but took them to get out of the hospital. I must admit that I am concerned about long term health effects of meds as well), see a therapist, not breaking anything, not act aggressively; if he gets angry he has to go outside and calm down etc. otherwise he couldn’t live here. Immediately, he stopped meds. Soon after he stopped therapy. It went ok for awhile. We made life very comfortable for him, but after awhile he got delusional and didn’t want wi-if on, which progressed to unplugging all electrical items and more, all the while being angry at any little thing. We felt like we were not free in our own home and decided he couldn’t live at home. When presented with living choices (I wanted him to participate in looking at various living situations with us and have a say), he ignored it and wouldn’t engage in conversation which eventually escalated into aggression and him getting locked out overnight; this never happened before.

    He made his way over to his elderly grandparents house 1/2 hr away and has been there for a few months now and is very angry. He feels like we kicked him out for no reason; because ‘we are shallow and care more about the stupid computer than about him’ and his suffering. He doesn’t recognize all the damage he has done over the years. We try to keep him involved in family events, and he has use of a car. Recently he doesn’t want the car but won’t tell me why. He expects to be picked up and driven instead of taking the bus. I refuse and he thinks I don’t care about him because of this, which makes him even more angry. I am sure we made things too comfortable for him; but he was only 16 when this happened. I told him grandmas is a temporary situation and we will find him a place. An apartment where we will help him get settled, learn how to shop, cook etc, someplace comfortable. We won’t just stick him somewhere.

    So now I found a place and he is unwilling to discuss it or leave grandparents house. I am not even sure that he could function in his own apartment; no friends since this first started, or connection other than us. Plus he was only 16 when it started, so kind of stunted in that area. There is another option of a small, very comfortable (and very expensive) group home situation, but he doesn’t want to have anything to do with places associated with mental health, and who even knows if spending a fortune on that place would really help anyway? I am in great pain because I know inside he us a sweet, scared person and I love him and I don’t want him to suffer, and also resentful for him taking over my existence & at the thought of going broke supporting him for the rest of my life, without him recognizing his part in any of this. My husband and I are each in therapy and we had many sessions with his therapists over the years, even after he stopped going.

    At this point I am willing to do the tough love approach but I don’t know how to get him out if the grandparents house. They are very old and shouldn’t have to deal with this; she does his laundry and makes food at 90 yrs old.

    Any advice is appreciated and sorry so long winded. Thank you.

    • Dennis says:

      That is a very difficult situation but ultimately is going to rely on the grandparents saying that enough is enough. I would talk to them and get them onboard with getting him out of their house.

      A lot of people in your son’s position are never able to truly see how their mental illness affects them. That’s because their reality and perception are so drastically skewed from being on the inside looking out. It’s easy for everyone else to tell that there is something severely wrong. But a lot of times the mental illness convinces us that we are fine, that it’s everyone else that is mentally ill or the problem. Cracking through that difference in perception is a point of major difficulty and, in my opinion, the biggest hurdle in recovery.

      The only way I know of to counter that is to let the person experience the repercussions of their actions and choices. Some people realize the problem and are able to recover; others do not. And it’s rarely a pretty scenario either way.

      You have to be harder than the mental illness; which I know is a very difficult thing for a parent to do to their child. But honestly, if I hadn’t fallen so far myself, I never would have been able to recover. I’d probably be sitting on a dirty mattress somewhere, getting high or drinking.

      I’m sure you realize this by now, but I feel it’s worth stating. You can’t give half an inch to a mentally ill person like your son. If you do, he’ll just steamroll over you. And I mean zero flexibility. “Don’t want to take your meds? Find another place to sleep.” No debate, no discussion. These are the rules, follow them or you’re out.

      Believe me, if you enable it, you’ll be doing this for decades. There are plenty of comments on my blog to attest to that fact.

      I know you’re trying to do the best you can. I hope you understand that this is not the fault of you or your husband. It’s an unfortunately shitty circumstance that happens to a lot of people.

      I know there are a lot of people that are concerned with long-term affects of psych meds. They aren’t mild. But the reality is, neither is untreated mental illness. Bipolar Disorder has a 20-30% suicide rate in the untreated. I would honestly rather rot out my insides and have a few good decades than live to 80, constantly destroying my life over and over. Like many choices in mental health; it often boils down to picking which shit sandwich you want to take a bite out of. There are few truly “good” and perfect answers for anyone.

      • Bemily says:

        A sincere thank you.

      • Bemily says:

        Do you have any recommendations for finding a “good” therapist? I have come across therapists that are downright scary, in my opinion. I was thinking it might be a start; we might have leverage Getting him to commit to going to a therapist regularly, without meds (for now) in exchange for being able to come back home (with strict rules). Are you familiar with Madness Radio? The archive list has really great interviews.

        • Dennis says:

          I have not heard of Madness Radio. I will give them a look when I get some time.

          As for the therapist question, the only way to really to know is to be involved with the person for a bit. You can’t really tell how good they are until you’ve dealt with them.

          If you’re going to let him come with strict rules, make sure you follow through on the repercussions if he chooses to test the waters. You’ll also want to be wary of “I don’t like this professional.” Sometimes it’s legitimate complaint, sometimes it’s just a means for the person to get out of doing it. I’ve talked to other people whose loved one has been through a dozen or more professionals. They never had any intention of really using it.

          • Bemily says:

            I am interested in hearing your thoughts after exploring madness radio.

          • Dennis says:

            Hey there. I’ve listened to a few things. Seems like a pretty well put together show. I’m sure I’ll end up listening to the archive sooner or later.

            It’s pretty easy to look around my website and find me making solid claims about certain things. What a lot of people don’t understand is that I’m not adverse to hearing about alternative ideas in addition to traditional ones. It’s just that I don’t necessarily trust or agree with things unless there is good reason to do so.

            A good example is controlling Bipolar Disorder “naturally.” It may be possible for people who are very mild, but for most it’s not. I have yet to meet a single Type 1 Bipolar person who controlled their Disorder naturally and had a decent quality of life. The ones that claimed to were clearly manic as hell. If ever there comes a time where that is possible or a thing, then I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong and change my opinion.

    • Bemily says:

      We decided to present my son with a choice. He can come live back at home if he agrees to 3 rules:
      1) no aggression, breaking anything
      2) leave things alone; no messing with the wifi, unplugging things etc
      3) go to therapy & follow what they recommend, participate in a program

      We gave him a choice to either agree to these rules or if not then we will not help him and he will be on his own and not be able to live at the grandparents house either. We had a conversation for several hours yesterday and left him to think about it.

      I know he wants to come home. He says he is willing to go to therapy (he will go but not because he thinks he needs help). Meds was not discussed; I know he strongly hates the idea very strongly. But here is the big issue. He is convinced that the wifi is harming him. So to him it feels like he has to make a choice between being on the street without any support or living with something harming him. What a terrible choice. Not sure what to do now.

      I am empathetic to what this feels like to him. I could change the wifi over to cable and have him live at home agreeing to the other rules. Would that be supporting his delusion? We wouldn’t use our iPads at home and change other items related to this. Is it a reasonable thing to do?

      We could find an apartment that didn’t have wifi and put him there. This would involve paying all his living expenses and helping him to cook, shop, etc. All this started when he was 16 so he is somewhat stunted in his social growth. I am concerned that he would not do well being isolated plus it will be hard to enforce participation in therapy/programs from a distance.

      I am not sure how well he could do with therapy and programs without taking meds anyway. Any thoughts and advice appreciated.

      • Dennis says:

        Those are good rules and the kind of thing I would expect for a situation like yours.

        Here’s the overall problem. Most therapy types are not designed to directly help a person. They are designed to enable a person to help themselves. So, forcing a person into therapy usually doesn’t get good results because they don’t want to be there, they don’t want to do the work, and they don’t actually care. Now, if the therapist is good, they can often get things out of the person and try to nudge them in the right direction if they can get the person to open up at all. But, that’s assuming the therapist is good.

        I’m honestly not sure what you should do about the wifi situation. Bipolar people don’t really have persistent delusions. They tend to end when the person’s unwell cycle ends. From your description in your posts, he’s been all over the map. So the persistence of that particular delusion seems more like a schizophrenic symptom, in my purely unprofessional, unqualified opinion.

        I think what I would do, in your shoes, is either go to a therapist yourself to get a professional opinion on it or look into schizophrenic support groups, go to one of their meetings, and ask those folks. Many mental health support groups also have a mental health professional available for such questions and immediate emergencies.

        I don’t feel comfortable answering that question because I have a firm understanding on Bipolar delusions but Schizophrenia functions differently. So I’m not sure if it would be the same.

        I know the typical “advice” is to not cater to delusions, to stick to what reality and facts are to try and help the person see what’s real and what isn’t. But, as I understand it, that can severely agitate an unstable schizophrenic person. I don’t think putting him up in an apartment is a solution either. That’s going to be an intense drain on your resources. It could be years before he makes any kind of meaningful recovery or even accepts that he actually has a problem that needs addressed.

        You don’t want to break yourself trying to prop him up. Believe me, it can happen. I hear from those folks on a regular basis.

        You may also want to require him to apply for social services to try and mitigate some of the expenses.

  58. James D. says:

    My wife has a sister that has tried to kill herself and then admitted she did it to gain symphony and attention she constantly ttys to get everyone to feel sorry for her and steals small worthless objects and hides them she has large posters hanging on her bedroom wall of verses from the bible there are many other things she does that worry me I’m afraid she could be a danger to the rest of the family members like munchousen syndrome by proxy please tell me what I can do and could she be dangerous to other family members

    • Dennis says:

      All you can really do in a situation like that is to limit the amount of damage the mentally ill person can do to you and your life. Unless her family is willing to establish hard limits or she is willing to get help; there’s nothing you really can do. If she threatens suicide around you, just notify authorities and let them deal with it.

      As for if she is a danger to other people; that’s not really something that can be gleaned from a one paragraph, third party observation; nor am I qualified to make such a statement. If anything, you should talk to a professional about the situation for better information.

  59. Faye says:


    I have a mature son with bipolar who regularly goes on drinking benders of 7 – 10 days. He shares custody of a young child who is very quick to call for help if these occur when he is present. The bipolar patient does a lot to address his condition. He seeks medical/psychiatric help. Takes his medication and monitors his moods.

    During the benders he becomes nasty and aggressive to me. Later when sober he apologises profusely and is good for a couple of weeks. Mine and my husband’s life is being effected detrimentally. I have some boundaries in place which include no alcohol with us.

    • Dennis says:

      Alcoholism takes a great toll on a number of families. All you can really do is enforce your boundaries, suggest that he may have a problem, and see how he responds to that; particularly after one of his benders. If you can get him to realize he has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, he may be able to turn the corner and push towards recovery. But that could take awhile.

  60. Stephan C. says:

    My GF of two years have abused me physically add mentally and I have been assaulted by her 4 times.

    I am 6ft 2 so I just fend her off and try not to get her hurt.

    What triggers this is her father, as soon as she gets off the phone with him It all comes down on me.

    She has been diagnosed with a schizoid personality disorder.

    There is a very beautiful side to her and she does have a beautiful heart, loves animals, loves working in her little garden and I see her deteriorate every day.

    Every day there is a little bit less of her left.

    I cannot desert her or just leave her, I love her.

    I do not think me going to any kind of councillor will heal my heart , its like seeing someone with cancer slowly dying.

    Yes her illness has brought the police to my house, my family has an restraining order against her , I am very angry with them for treating a sick human being like a criminal.

    When they did that I felt betrayed by them and lost my will to continue with my life.

    I am not suicidal , I just do not care what happens to me anymore.

    They did this to us on Christmas day , we were still preparing to put up the Christmas tree when my ex brother just handed me the restraining order against her , we did not have a Christmas , I just wanted to give her one last good Christmas’s before she total was not herself anymore.

    Honestly if he should stand in front of me now I will end him

    Where is their humanity and compassion for the suffering of another human ?

    She is still a beautiful human being regardless of her illness.

    I will stand by her even if it kills me, that’s it.

    She is currently on medication and we are not together ,she is at her families house and her father is abusive towards her and she was abused by him before and I can do nothing.

    I lost my home, my furniture , basically everything I have.

    I have my job car and TV left that’s it , what do I do, where do I go, who will heal my heart ???????

    Do not tell me to take some pills , that is the easy way to supress a problem and it never heals anything.

    The most important part of my life has simply been ripped away.

    • Dennis says:

      Please note I have edited your display name to remove your last name. Do not use your full name when discussing mental illness on the internet, so search engines do not ever link to your posts about it. You don’t want these posts coming up if she or a potential employer happens to Google your name.

      You’re not going to heal, Stephan. You’re not going to heal until you realize how naive your perspective on the situation is.

      Kindness and compassion are not universal constants that can be doled out to whoever in the same way. Giving unfettered kindness and compassion to a toxic, abusive person just gives them ammunition to hurt you with. Everyone deserves to be treated humanely. Not everyone deserves to be treated with the traditional views of kindness and compassion. You view your sacrifices as noble. They’re not. You did damage to her as she did to you; because not holding her responsible for her behavior reinforces that it’s okay for her to act that way in her mind. It reinforces that you are a perfect victim.

      A lot of mental illnesses only get worse and do not get better. Considering your comment about her father, that toxic behavior is likely deeply ingrained and not likely to change unless she wanted to put the work into changing it. Assuming she could change it with the complications from her mental illness. Many people can’t and don’t.

      The romanticized garbage in your comment is just that; garbage. No one person in this world is 100% awful. Hell, even Hitler loved his dog. Everyone has a thing or two that is positive or good about them. But those few good things cannot be used to wipe out the awful things those people do. That is just making excuses for terrible behavior.

      To answer your final question – who will heal your heart?

      You will. No one else can.

      1. You’re going to want to see a therapist. Contrary to popular opinion, therapists do not fix people. They are a tool to help you fix yourself. Which you are going to need to correct the damage your ex has done, learn how to have healthy relationships, how to set and enforce boundaries.

      2. Your post heavily suggests that you have an unhealthy reliance on the partner in your relationship. You should research codependency and speak to the therapist about it.

      3. You need to learn how to draw and enforce effective boundaries. The fact that you willing put up with so much abuse, lost so much, and are still making excuses for her behavior suggests that there is work to do in therapy on those matters. You need to learn how healthy relationships work and work on repairing the damage of the abuse you suffered.

      4. Homeless shelter. You still have a job and a car. That’s good. Can’t drive a house to work. Look into area homeless shelters and see if you can get into one for a little while while you get back on your feet. Also look into homeless services for the area. Your area’s social services offices should be able to help you with that. (Not sure what country you’re in.)

      5. You need to learn that feeling sorry for and blindly supporting someone like your ex only hurts you. Nothing positive ever comes from it. I can tell from your writing that you view your sacrifices as noble; they’re not noble. They’re pointless. Severe mental illness and a toxic personality will take everything from anyone that allows it – as you well know. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s painful to watch. Yes, everything about it is hurtful. That’s severe mental illness.

      6. You owe your family an apology. They’re not wrong. You are. Repair that rift as best as you can.

      7. Distance yourself from her. You’re never going to heal while you stay invested in that relationship and make excuses for her shitty behavior; mental illness or not. I know you view this as a bad thing now, but ultimately it’s what has to happen if you want things to get better. Therapist will most likely tell you the same.

      From what you described, medication isn’t going to be your solution. Your solution is going to be a hell of a lot of personal work, growth, pulling your views of relationships into a more healthy space, and healing from the abuse that your ex did to you. You’ll need a therapist for that because it’s a huge undertaking, assuming that you are able to realize that your choices in the relationship were likely bad from the start.

      I sympathize with the pain you’ve experienced through your abusive relationship, losses, and watching someone you love deteriorate so drastically.

      But, your assertion to stand beside her even if it kills you is pointless. You won’t “win.” The mental illness and whatever developmental damage she has as a result of her years of being abused is going to win.

  61. Kaitlyn says:

    I wrote to you initially on December 21st explaining the scenario of what was going on with my 45 year old sister. Her ex-husband was given emergency custody of her two boys & he took them to another state (I’m not sure if you can access my original e-mail) it has specifics on what has been going on. Yesterday was the first day of school after winter break. My sister had it in her head that they would be home when school started again, even though she will not only not be getting them back, but also has to complete court ordered mental help before it would even be considered that the boys could see her. Yesterday around 10 am my sister went over to my parent’s house (she hasn’t seen or talked to them for about 2 weeks) was mad as all get out & pushed the front door open, pushing my mom. She asked “where are the boys?” & started looking around the house. My dad just happened to walk in the room while she was freaking out & wanting to know where the boys were. My dad said “They are in Denver” She charged at my dad & started punching him. My dad restrained her as best as he could. My mom said she was going to call the cops, so my sister turned & tried to punch my mom in the face. My sister missed & her hand/arm went through their front door glass. My mom ran to the phone & called 911. In the meantime my sister looked at her arm, saw all of the blood & took off in her Jeep. While letting 911 know what happened a dispatcher got another call saying she had just seen a woman driving down a busy street with her arm hanging out of the window & that she had blood dripping from it. The police located my sister from the other caller & took her to the hospital. In the meantime, other police had responded to my parent’s house & they explained what had happened. The officer said my parents had 2 choices. Press charges or get her help. My parents told them they wanted to get her help. My mom finally called the non-emergency sherries office this morning because they had no idea what had happened after they went to the hospital. We were all hoping she would be involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility, but the police took her home when she was done at the hospital, because she told them she would get help voluntarily. Major concerns for my parent’s safety, but my main question is that her phone was shut off for not paying the bills, so she nor my parents have the ability to get ahold of someone or check on her. My parents are now worried that she may be suicidal & she won’t talk to them & they don’t have anyway to even call & check on her (not that she would answer the door or phone anyway) but my mom was wondering if they should get her a trac phone so that she can contact someone if she needs to or so that my parent’s can at least try to call & check on her. Do you think that they should purchase a phone for her or would that be enabling her?

    • Dennis says:

      I wouldn’t bother just because your sister is just going to use it as a means of manipulation; like she already did with the cops. Once you’re familiar with the system, it’s very easy to manipulate the mental health industry. People like your sister do it on a regular basis. Given her track record, it’s highly unlikely that her stating she is willing to get voluntary help is true. It’s probably just another lie.

      Realistically, your parents are probably going to need to press charges sooner or later and get legal protection before she seriously hurts someone or herself. You’ll want to call the boy’s dad and let him know what’s transpired as well. I would also suggest that he speak to the boys’ school to appraise them of the situation so they are aware of the situation in case your sister decides to try and pick them up from the school/kidnap them. It’d be the easiest place for her to do so if she concludes that’s the only way she’s going to get her kids back. He should also keep a close eye out. I wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up at his house or work.

      Personally, I feel like that would be the thing to worry about as opposed to being suicidal right now.

      Frankly; were I in your parents position, knowing what I know about mental illness and the way the system works, I’d just press charges at this point. We are far past the point of trying to be rational or reasonable with her. The system we have sucks, but unfortunately that’s all we have to work with.

      Do you mind if I send you an email? I’d like to write a letter for you to hand off or forward to your parents about the situation. And if so, please send me an email at so we can touch base there and I know which email to send to.

      • Jeannie says:

        Dennis, in reading through the very concerned, well-thought out emails you are sending, I am really impressed. I hope that you realize just how valuable you are to people who truly don’t know where to go for help.

        • Dennis says:

          Hello, Jeannie. Thank you for taking the time to leave the kind words. I do appreciate it.

          I do, in fact, understand that what I do is very unique and has helped many people. But, it’s not something I boast, gloat, or even call attention to about. For a couple reasons. 1. I like to think I’m not an asshole. And 2. Arrogance is a manic symptom I experience. When I’m manic, I’m an unbearable ass. It’s really easy to tell when I am manic when I start getting full of myself.

          So I strive for humility in what I do. On the one hand, because I try to do good work and leave people better than I found them. But on the other hand, it’s another facet of controlling my mental illness.

          That does not mean I do not greatly appreciate your perspective and words. I do, very much. It is nice to hear from people who like and even dislike my work.

          I was very much alone in dealing with my mental illness when I was at my worst. That’s because of my failure to communicate. I’ve always been lucky to be surrounded by people that love me. Unfortunately, not everyone has that. So if I can be a friend and help alleviate that loneliness in dealing with this chaotic mess that is mental illness; then I’m happy to do so.

          Thank you for reading my work and my words. Thank you for following me. Thank you for your kind words.

      • Kaitlyn says:

        By all means Dennis. It would be wonderful if you would write me a letter that I can pass off to my parent’s. Your response about her manipulating the system never even really crossed my mind. I was thinking getting her a phone would be another way to enable her, but I guess that is one in the same. After reading your response, it really makes me see how she did manipulate that whole situation & will continue to do so. I even said to my mom that even though she said she would voluntarily get help, she probably has no intention of it. My sister’s ex-husband has the boys 900 miles away from her in another state. Do you still advise that he let their school what is happening? She has threatened to go & get them a couple of times, but I don’t know where she would get the money to do it, although her ex-husband still sent her $600 for child support this last month. I guess if she decides to do it, she will find a way. She has with everything else. Thank you so much for your response & advice. I will be waiting for an e-mail from you.

        • Dennis says:

          I sent you the email, Kaitlyn. Check your spam folder if it does not arrive in your inbox. It’s a bit lengthy so might be false tagged as spam. I answered your questions here in the email as well.

          • Kaitlyn says:

            Dennis, I received your e-mail & have forwarded it to my parent’s. I cannot express my gratitude enough! What you are doing is amazing & I feel like myself & my parent’s will benefit greatly from your responses. It, as you know so well, has been & continues to be tearing us all apart. Your advice gives us all some direction in this whirlwind of hell. Thank you so much for taking the time to write the letter to my parent’s.

          • Dennis says:

            You’re very welcome. I hope it helps you and your family on your path. Feel free to reach out whenever.

          • Kaitlyn says:

            Dennis. I am e-mailing you again for some additional advice/thoughts on my 45 year old sister. I came to my home state on Thursday, hoping I could get through to her a little bit, because she hates my parents at this time. I don’t know if you remember but her boys were taken from her by CPS & their father took them back with him to another state. It was obvious when I got there that she has no clue what is happening. I told her I wanted to get her in the direction towards getting her boys back. I asked her why she didn’t respond to a court order to have a mental evaluation & she said “they” told her not to. “They also told her not to get a job or apply for social security. My parents had been taking food over for her when the boys were there because they wanted to make sure they had food. On December 15th, her ex-husband gave my dad $600 for child support, which he gave to her in cash. Because “they” have told her not to do anything to help herself she is now completely out of money. She believes my parents neighbors husband has tried to attack her 2ce & rape her once. My sister said she knows why the school counselor thinks her boys told them that they were afraid of her. Brad, my parent’s neighbor had told her he was going to kill her, so she yelled back at him the same things. I asked her how she & Brad were even having any communication & she says he speaks to her subliminally. She also said that she was told that either my dad or Susan, my parents neighbor Brads wife had her mailbox key, so she was unable to get her mail. My dad had warned me before I went over that she would say her mailbox key doesn’t work, so to ask her to give it to me & that I would try. She said well it won’t work, but here you go. I went to the row of mailboxes & the key worked just fine. So I brought in her mail & handed her back her key. She then said “they are f$(king with me! After all of that & much more that made me realize how delusional she was, I said ok I am going to tell you what you need to do to start moving forward to get your kids back. She is very angry, confused & has become violent, so I prefaced it with Kari, I know you are not going to like what I have to say, but do not get angry & just hear me out. I told her she needs to go in and get a mental evaluation, per the judge before she can even think about seeing or talking to her kids She said “why? I’m not crazy. You’ll see this is all a conspiracy in the end. At that time I just came out & said “You are not communicating with Brad subliminally, it’s not possible. You are hearing voices & need to agree to get some help. I will take you to the ER right now & have them do an evaluation on you. By this time she was clenching her jaw & making fists. She said “I don’t need you to take me anywhere. I’ll tell you what needs to happen, my parents need to give me money & get my prescription of Paxil for me. I decided it was time to leave because I didn’t know how much longer she could control herself I told her I would go over to her house on Friday after she calmed down. She just basically slammed the door. On Friday my daughter, who had also come with me, went over to her house alone because she didn’t think Kari would let me in again after all of that. She attempted to get her to answer the door 2 different times that day, but she never would answer. A friend of mine (who is a paralegal & bulldog) said she would follow my daughter over to my sister’s house & see if Kari would let her in. No response, so my friend went up to the door & just continued banging on it & calling my sister’s name until she answered. She asked if she could come in, my sister said yes, so my friend & daughter went in. Whithin 10 minutes of getting there they thought they had convinced her to go to the ER. They all stood up & then Kari hadn’t taken her Paxil for 7 days, so if my dad bought her groceries & picked up her prescription, she would take it for 7 days, so that she could have a clear head when she went in. My friend said no deal. You go & get the evaluation first & then will get groceries & your prescription. My sister tried to throw my friend out several times & she said on the 4th time Kari was so enraged that she left. My mom crystal day & night & can barely get out of bed. My dad has to put on a tough front, but he is really stressed, worried & exhausted as well. My daughter went back to our state today & I will probably stay another week to provide my parents some support & move things along in any way I can. My dad wanted to take her some groceries this morning because she doesn’t starve to death & have people think that he knew his daughter was over there with no food & starved to death. I told him we have plenty of documentation showing how hard we have been trying to get her help & getting her groceries would just prolong it even more. My biggest concern is her running out of Paxil. I have heard the withdrawal symptoms getting off of it are terrible tapering it down. She just stopped cold turkey. I guess I am just hoping she gets hungry or sick enough from withdrawal that she will agree to go to the ER to be evaluated. Obviously Paxil was not the right medication for her illness anyway I would really appreciate your thoughts & suggestions. Oh, by the way, she told me right before I left on Thursday night that keeping Susan & herself safe from Brad was her top priority right now. She said he is a masochist. Another huge concern, where are her boys listed in her priority list? I am getting so angry: is she really going to have to kill someone or herself before action is taken?

          • Dennis says:

            At this point, you need to go to the cops, explain everything to them and what legal avenues are available for getting her forcibly institutionalized before she does end up assaulting or killing Brad. I know you’re concerned for her boys and all; but realistically she may never get them back. Schizophrenia is a hard mental illness to control and the person has to want to control it. Getting a person to go from the mental state she’s in to wanting to be well and in control is such a hard road for many people. And many people can’t walk it.

            The state of her delusion, her lack of self-control and use of violence, and fixation on feeling that she needs to defend herself from Brad is a tragedy in the making. Make sure he knows what’s going on, to stay away from her as much as possible, and call the cops if she shows up on his property.

            The delusions are real to her. You’re most likely not going to convince her to willingly seek help. Whether she’s in jail or institutionalized, she needs to be some place where she can be monitored. It’s a crappy system but unfortunately, it’s all we really have to work with. You NEED to talk to the cops whether or not your parents agree. She is a threat to other people and that should give them legal grounds to act.

          • Kaitlyn says:

            Dennis, thank you again for your response. We have called the cops right after a violent outburst & again after we hadn’t heard from her for a week. The police said their hands are tied. I called the deputy prosecuting attorney & she said there is not enough information there (my dad presented her with a timeline of events) to do anything at this point ?! My parent’s have had three welfare checks done on her. She didn’t answer to one & the other 2 said that she answered & said she was fine, so the officer left. She is very good at disguising her illness, but has never been off of her Paxil for this amount of time. My understanding is that Paxil withdrawal can be very severe. I am afraid she is goinggoing to get to the point where she is so sick that she can’t get help. From what I’ve read you definitely should be under doctor’s supervision when tapering off of it. Like I said she just stopped cold turkey because she ran out of her prescription. If she gets sick enough she may not be able to answer the door. Brad, the neighbor she is so obsessed over is in Alaska. My friend asked her why don’t you go the the ER now then? You & Susan are safe if he is in Alaska. She just responded that he would still be able to get to them. The police & prosecuting attorney’s office have been & will not be involved until tragedy strikes! HELP PLEASE!!

          • Dennis says:

            A lot of psych meds can have really bad effects on a person when they need to come off of them. That’s why it’s always advised to do it with professional supervision. Paxil definitely ranks among them.

            I honestly don’t know what else you can do at this point except wait and hope that she doesn’t do anything extreme. I’ve been thinking about it all morning, but sometimes there just isn’t a good answer. If I can come up with something, I’ll be sure to let you know.

          • Kaitlyn says:

            Dennis, I went over to my sisters house today & she would not answer the door, so I started pounding on it & yelling for her to open the door. I yelled that I wasn’t leaving until she let me in. After about 5 minutes she opened the door & looked even worse than when I had seen her last Thursday. She has definitely not showered. I asked her how she was doing & she said terrible, she was feeling so sick from the Paxil withdrawal. Once again I told her she needs to go to the ER or refuse & continue to get worse. She yelled “No, what I need is food and my medication.” She then said you are supposed to be my family & help me. I told her we were trying to help her, but she would not accept our help of getting her to the ER. She said “I can’t even get to the ER because I am too sick.” I told her that my dad & I would take her. (My dad had been standing outside because he didn’t want me to go over to her house alone) She then stood up, was clenching her teeth, cocked her fist & told me to get out of her house. She had been yelling through our entire conversation but became much more enraged when she told me to leave. I had psyched myself up for a physical confrontation, so I was as ready as I could be at that time. My dad came in & pulled on me & said “let’s go” at that moment. So I walked out & she slammed the door. My dad was just going to get into the Jeep & leave. I said nope, I’m calling 911. I told them we needed officers to get there because she was so angry & physically sick that she couldn’t take care of herself & was a threat to herself at that point. It took the police 25 minutes to get there. When they first arrived she wouldn’t answer the door, after more knocking & letting her know it was the police she let them in. 2 officers went inside & one stayed outside with me & my dad. One of the officers came out a few minutes later & said she was unwilling to go. I refused to give up & told the officer that it was only a very short matter of time before something tragic happened. I also stressed that she was unable to take care of herself at this point which I considered to be a danger to herself. I went on saying a few more things. The officer said she would be right back & went back in to my sisters house. In the meantime I again told the officer that Judge Larson had signed an order for her to get a mental evaluation & she had not complied. He radioed someone to check on that.Right at that time the officer that had gone back into the house let us know that she would willingly go to the hospital. The police took her to the ER. I was very concerned that she was going to tell them that she was so sick because she hadn’t taken her Paxil for 7 days & just needed to get back on the medication & they would give her a week of pills & release her, telling her she needed to see a doctor to get more. I asked the cop if we would be notified if she was seen & released, if they were going to keep her there to help monitor her withdrawal symptoms or be given the information that a judge had ordered a manditory evaluation to the doctor. The cop said no that once they got her to the ER we would not be notified about what was happening. I called the hospital & asked to speak with a social worker to see if they could fill the doctor in on some of the things that had been going on & hopefully do an evaluation on her. She told me that she was just trying to gather information at this time, but would let the doctor know. She did say she hadn’t talked to my sister yet though, so that told me she was still in the hospital. About an hour later another social worker called & asked me if I had my dad’s phone number. She contacted him about five minutes later & gave her information on my sister. The social worker also asked if he had our neighbors phone number. He gave it to her. She then stated that they were going to try & get her help with food & other resources that are available, but the doctor would make the decision on whether she needs to be hospitalized or not. And, since she went voluntarily, she is free to leave at any time. What I am really hoping for now is that a doctor WILL give her an evaluation & suggest that she remains in the hospital so that she can get a true diagnosis & put on proper medication. If after he suggests that she stay so that she can get stabilized & she refuses, that the doctor will feel it necessary to keep her involuntarily. Because of privacy laws we will have no idea what the outcome of all of this will be. So frustrating, but I do feel like some progress was made. I absolutely agree with you when you say that she may never be able to control her illness & this is just the way it will be. I do feel more comfortable tonight, because I can’t imagine them not keeping her overnight for observation at this point. The saga continues. Thank you again for your help in dealing with this & if you have any other suggestions or comments, please let me know!

          • Jeannie says:

            Kaitlyn, you are doing everything possible to help your sister. Be careful that you are not enabling her further. She will have to suffer the consequences of her actions before she will change. I have seen this several times with family members and friends who have different mental disorders, and even medical disorders. They have to hate the consequences of not changing before they will take the steps to change.

          • Kaitlyn says:

            Jeannie, I guess I thought this was the best option because she has no meds, no food & is going through withdrawal. She voluntarily went, I am hoping, because she realized that we would not enable her anymore by giving her food & buying her meds. I thought that she would get sick enough that she knew she needed to go in order to get meds & then they will hopefully give her a mental evaluation & voluntarily stay for a few days & if the doctor says that it would be against his medical advice for her to leave, they would commit her involuntarily.

          • Dennis says:

            Thank you for the update. Schizophrenia is a different ballgame in the way it functions than with Bipolar Disorder because oftentimes, the delusion prevents the person from ever realizing they need help, no matter how bad it gets. So it’s a fine balancing act between not enabling and trying to get the person into a place where they can actually be helped. There is an extremely high number of homeless schizophrenics compared to other mentally ill out there as a result.

            Please keep me updated on how things go. Hopefully she didn’t just manipulate her way through it again, but don’t be surprised if she does.

  62. Kerri says:

    Hello and thank you for this information! I have a group of amazing friends and all 6 of us have been friends for more that 20 years. We have put up with A LOT from our bipolar/alcoholic friend over the years but 3 nights ago it was the last straw. She tried to kill one of our friends and broke into her home while her children were there. An incident at her own home earlier about an hour befor had set her off. My question is, how can we even begin to mend this beautiful friendship we’ve all cherished when the bipolar friend refuses to get help and the friend that was a victim and her children are severely traumatized by the situation. I’m concerned the bi polar friend will kill herself or someone else!

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Kerri.

      The short answer is – you can’t mend that friendship. That friendship won’t mend until your Bipolar friend starts taking responsibility for and fighting for their own wellness. If she broke into a place and was threatening violence, she really should have charges pressed against her. Boundaries need to be enforced with severely toxic and damaging people otherwise they will just continue to overrun them.

      Is it possible your friend may hurt herself or someone else? Yes. That’s why this egregious action just can’t be forgiven or overlooked. She needs to know that she cannot do this shit and no one’s going to hold her responsible for it. Bipolar Disorder is a very severe mental illness. The common mainstream perception is that it’s just drastic mood swings between the two poles. The reality is that it is instability and drastic mood swings THAT INCLUDES DELUSION. The Delusion part is the most important, overlooked part. Delusion feeds your mind with falsehoods and convinces them that they are true. In a severely unwell mind, breaking into someone else’s house and threatening them can seem like a perfectly rational thing to do.

      But clearly, it’s not.

      Were I in your friend’s position, I would be pressing charges, getting a restraining order, and enforcing it harshly. Given that you’ve been friends for 20 years and the tone of your post suggesting that she hasn’t done anything this severe before; chances are pretty good she’s in a severe unwell cycle. Bipolar Disorder only gets worse with age when left untreated. Hopefully, holding her responsible for these actions will make her realize she needs to do something. Or she may deny she has a problem and blame everyone else. Or she may kill herself or hurt someone else.

      Unfortunately, that’s just reality with a severe mental illness. She may be a great person who wouldn’t hurt a fly while she’s balanced, but you can’t really trust that when a Bipolar person is in an unwell cycle like your words indicate.

      • Kerri says:


        Charges were pressed but unfortunately a psych eval was not ordered, also and her child has been removed from her custody for 30 days. (Thankfully the child has a good father.) None of us had heard from her since the incident last week as we are heeding advice from her brother/lawyer. We found out today that she was involved in a hit and run accident last night and the police are searching for her. This tells me she has not been getting the help that her brother says she is and she is still a danger to us all and herself.

        • Dennis says:

          Yeah that certainly seems to be the case.

          The thing about “getting help” is that the person who is “getting help” needs to actually want to be helped. Manipulative types will go to the doctor, lie their asses off, and then come back and tell people whatever they want to hear that gets them off their back. Doctors and therapists do not make us well. We make ourselves well with their assistance. Mental wellness is about 95% personal work. If she’s not passionate about wanting to be well, then she’s not going to be. So it’s perfectly possible that she lied to her brother about it as well.

  63. Robby says:

    Hello I would like some feedback for my situation my dad is schizophrenic but believes he is perfectly fine he gets angry if we try to talk to him about any illness or disability . He stopped taking his meds and stopped his disability payments because he says the doctors and social workers don’t have his best interest in mind . He is convinced he is fine and he blames all that goes wrong on others around him and his environment circumstances etc, never blaming himself . We live in canada where he was living too but now he has left because i bought him and old car and he drove to the states and refuses to return because he says canada is a horrible place and that i should get out of there as fast as possible . I help him as much as i can financially i told him if he returns to canada i will get an apartment for me and him to live together and he wont have to worry about money or anything he just gets to live stress free as i will be working everyday i have a good paying job fortunatley but i cant keep sending him money all the time , he refused the offer saying it will be too much stress and unfair for me . My mom tells me to stop giving him money because it enables him to become worse and i am starting to see that but i dont want to abandon him as well so how much help is too much help and how can i get this under control? Any feedback appreciated if you need more details let me know

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Robby. Your mom is right. Your dad is able to make those bad decisions because your support is enabling him to do so. It’s easy for him to rationalize that nothing is wrong with him when everyone else is picking up the tab for his mistakes and problems. The fact that he is so commonly letting you as well does not bode well for him being willing to take responsibility for his own well-being. Were I in your position, knowing what I know about mental illness, I would stop giving my father the money and start focusing on yourself. Don’t volunteer to get an apartment with him and take care of him. Let him feel the repercussions of his choices. People in his position tend to need to fall far and hit rock bottom before they can really come to terms with their mental illness and the way it affects their lives. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to turn that corner. Until he’s passionate about wanting to be stable and sane himself, he’s going to keep doing things like he’s doing.

      I know it’s incredibly painful and you don’t want to see your dad suffer. But if you want to help him, you can’t enable him.

      If, after you cut off funding, he wants to come back to Canada; have demands and hold them to him. He must get back on social services. He must get back to the doctor. And if he doesn’t want to, let him stay at a homeless shelter. If he asks for money, just say you don’t have it to give anymore. Don’t bother arguing with him about it. Use that line and hold to it, regardless of what you have in your bank account.

      Schizophrenia is an incredibly difficult mental illness to live and deal with. You need to ensure you have good boundaries with your father so his mental illness doesn’t destroy your life.

  64. T. S. says:

    My sister has mental illness – specific diagnoses include major depression, anxiety/panic disorder, PTSD, history of being abused, etc. My main concern with her is that she wants to abuse alcohol on top of all the medications she takes and when she gets drunk she likes to fight and I’ve had enough. All she does is complain about $, she is on disability, but can afford to buy a case of beer every couple of days and cigarettes. I have avoided saying anything to her because I never know how she will react it can range from rage and verbal abuse to suicidal threats. I’m done. I’m the only family she has left other than her adult children that will even deal with her and I don’t know how much more I can tolerate. I love her but she is making me have anxiety. I just carry alot of guilt associated with this relationship.

    • Jim says:

      T.S., I know this isn’t an answer and probably won’t help. But I feel the same guilt about my sister. It’s a dark cloud in me every day that she won’t get help and I’m also fed up with her crap. But guilt is still what I feel. It might help to know someone else has it a little worse with their bi-polar sister: Mine sits on the computer all day and sends out email to our relatives about how we all mistreat her, and she’s transmitting on social media all day about it. Embarrassing doesn’t begin to describe it. And she won’t acknowledge she has a problem and gets violent if you calmly suggest help.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, T.S. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      First of all, her mental illness and well being is not your responsibility. It’s her responsibility. And frankly, there are many mentally ill people in the world who will not take responsibility for their mental health or general well-being. You can’t own that. You can only own your own choices and actions.

      Frankly, the only real way to get through to toxic, abusive personalities is to ensure you have strong boundaries and enforce them harshly. For this, I would highly recommend that you speak to a therapist yourself who can analyze the situation more in-depth and help you come up with a course of action to interact with your sister; or put more distance between the two of you.

      You can’t help someone that won’t help themselves. This is a reality of dealing with many things like addiction and other mental illnesses. Many times, the person has to hit the complete rock bottom before they can turn a corner and really start to recover. It’s not something you can directly help with.

      What you do need to do is take care of yourself and keep yourself healthy. I’ve known far too many people in your position who wind up with anxiety disorders, depression, and even a couple with PTSD because of toxic mentally ill family members they have been trying to support and help. It’s just not that simple really. Traditional nicneess doesn’t work with people like her.

      Talk to a therapist about it, how to establish and enforce boundaries, and how to manage her toxic behavior. They should be able to give you some decent advice on how to best handle it and help with your growing anxiety.

  65. Deb says:

    Dear Dennis,
    My MIL is bipolar/manic. I’m not really sure how to deal with it and does it mean that her rude and hurtful comments to my husband should he ignored? For example, I had a baby last year and didn’t call them to come until I confirmed my.contractions were “real” . She wrote a horrible text to my husband because he didn’t let her know about my contractions when they started. My in laws live 6 hours away. She said now she knows where we stand…and went on and on. It turned out I was having false labor and they ended up staying with us for 2 weeks…and I wasn’t able to labor naturally. I was stressed. After the birth, she laughed off her long and hurtful text.
    Then she did the same thing with my second child.
    She has made many rude comments to my husband. He says it’s been this way his whole life. His brother, sisters, and dad just ignore it and allow her to behave this way…even apologize to her for things she makes up.
    Recently, she accused me of asking for extravagant gifts for my children and said she has the text message to prove it. She neglects to admit that she repeatedly asked me for lists of gift ideas.
    I don’t know what to do…how to deal with this. My husband has stopped her fits and guilt trips when they talk on the phone. But she always ends up telling him off and crying. Then he calms her down, explains what is really going on…the situations are usually blown out of proportion…and then she says okay are we good. This happens every few weeks.
    I’m sorry if this is all over the place…
    I know that she sees her Dr periodically. But she told me that she only takes half.of her pill. I asked my husband if she sees a therapist and he said yes. The problem is, I don’t think she reports everything to her. And my FIL is obviously not saying anything.
    I don’t know what to do or how to deal with it.
    I’ve been told by my husband and one of his sisters not to take things personally and to just apologize to her when she asks.
    This does not solve anything. I’m very frustrated.

    • Dennis says:

      The short answer is: there really isn’t anything you can do in that situation. I would agree that she is probably is lying to her professionals. The fact that her family allows her to do these things means she’s not likely to ever change them. People tend to choose the path of least resistance, appeasing her keeps her “happy” so they choose to appease. You’re not likely to get the family onboard with pushing back against her. You’ll most likely just end up vilified as trying to break the family apart.

      All you really can do is limit your contact with her as much as possible to preserve your own mental health. You’ll want to discuss that with your husband. Chances are pretty good he will take that news badly because the family has mostly been conditioned to just deal with the abuse. So you’ll want to find a way to diplomatically broach the subject of your limiting contact with her. Don’t try and force him to as well, because he will most likely side with her and you’ll get nowhere.

  66. Willie M says:

    Hello. I have an aunt who makes my life and the people in the house a living hell. She’ll be okay an normal one second but as soon as you tell her something she doesnt like, she EXPLODES without stop uncontrolably. My family has taken her to see therapists but she beggs them to not say the truth or anything. She has history of depression,she doeant have kids, she married very late in her life just because all her sisters got married, an shes the oldest by the way, her marrige is horrible an tjey are separated, but she works as a 1st grade teacher an when shes around strangers or family members who are hardly around she wears her other face, especially in church she acts like a saint! Shes been through alot i know this, but my mother has also been through alot too but she knows how to cope. My grandma pasted away last year an it was hard for all of us. When she was alive i would mainly take care of her because she had cancer an i have experience as a CNA. Me an my grandma never gpt along until she got sick. She used to say i was adopted an im a disgrace to the family an she even told me dads mom after he died that the reason my grandma always hated me was because i was my dada son. I always hated my grandma but shes family an i love her. So The nurses always told us what to do an what to not do but the thing my aunt would always do is go in her room an scream an cry about her problems an worry my grandma big time! So we would tell her to stop but no matter what we did or say she wouldnt listen plus grandma was always very forgiving. So on her final hours we all were around her bed an my aunt was asleep on the couch. We tried to wake her up but she just shrugged us off. My grandma passed away an my aunt was asleep. I bothered me that she did that but what bothered me more was at the funeral she was crying all like she cared an made everyone belive she was the saddest an hurt one out of all of us. Plus now that my grandma is gone my aunt took her room, its the masterbed room of the house. She has the garage all the way up to the ceiling with her stuff plus the room shes in you cant barely walk around with all the stuff in there. She also has a storage in a diffrent place full to the top with her stuff. She has all this stuff because her blind husband left herbto go back to conneticutt because they would fight 24/7 or well not in there sleep. Her husband has been to jail alot of times because of the way they fight. So he left her with all thw stuff in there apartment with a week to move out. My aunt asked me for help an i helped her. Anytime she would ask forbhelp im right there. Im not going to say im all innocent because im not but im a strong young man who is always there for my family. Me an my aunt would fight like yelling arguements but she would always rush me an all i could do is block her blows. My mom doesnt like violence so she doesnt get involved. Her way of attacking me an some of my other aunts has been going on for more than 12 years. It even gotbto the point were one time we got into a very loud arguement an she tried to hit me an my mom got in the way an she started telling my girlfriend all kinds of things an telling my mom bad things an involving my dad who is deceased an i just flipped out an i didnt care anymore an i told her something i didnt mean an she took it an made it something bigger than it was an told all my family all kinds of stuff overexaggerated stuff an had one of my family members call CPS. So CPS came an did there investigation an looked at everything that was supposebly all bad an aftwr her investigation saw nothing wrong. Everything that that person said waswrong an she explained to me whats going on an in the middle of telling her she wants to check thw garage for fire hazards. Whem we went inside there wasnt any fire hazards that was claimed but instead she saw alll my aunts stuff an that wasnt in the report. So she said that it was my AUNTS studf that was the fire hazard not mine. An when we leave the garage my aunt comes home an goes into her room. Now were in the living room talking an out of nowhere my aunt comes in an starts making a seen of a crazy woman. I can say this because the look on thw CPS ladies face was making it obvious an telling her to calm down. She finaly does because my mom comes home an before the CPS lady leaves she lets me know that im ok an thers no concern for CPS to get involved an that my aunt an whoever called was just doing thisbto get at me an not to let it phase me. So i listen an since thwn my aunt acts the same an always tries to say that were all wrong an we need god an that we are to be ashemed of ourselfs an triea to tell me how to raise my kids an live my life. I honestly cant stand her but i help my mom with the bills here an clean up the house inside an out an going through my own stuff so i got to stay here with my mom an aunt. Im an only child for my mom an shes a widow who doesnt have her parents an her sisters treat her very bad. Me an my aunt had a bad arguement last night an today when we were gone she calls my other aunt to come over just to tell her how much she hates me an other things they dont want to tell me. She told me shes going to give me war an she knows what to do an say to ruin me. I know im supposed to just ask a quick question but i guess i also needed to vent. All my life i been raised to be strong, dont cry, dont talk about your feelings, an be a family man so its hard for me to say what i feel. Well when i get really drunk ill unwind but its been awhile since an there hasnt been a reason to get that drunk lately so im sorry for taking up anybody time i just want to know that if nobody wants to do anything about her what can i do? Calling the cops already has happend an doesnt work.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Willie. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I know you mentioned being raised to bury anything, but honestly that’s not healthy at all. Sometimes we need to vent and talk about difficult situations we’re dealing with; if for no other reason than to get perspective from another person.

      Simply put, there isn’t much you can do about your Aunt’s behavior. In a typical situation like this, the course of action would be to cut that kind of person out of your life. Not a doctor, but her actions sound more consistent with Narcissism, which is a very deeply seated personality disorder in which everything must rotate around the person with it. That person is usually unable to feel any real empathy or understanding for other people. Given that even calling the cops on her doesn’t work, it seems that whatever is driving her is very deeply ingrained in her.

      You may want to do some research on Narcissism and look for information that may be relevant to your situation there.

      I know a lot of people who were raised that you don’t turn your back on family; but the reality is that some people do not want and cannot be helped. Trying to do so virtually guarantees your own emotional destruction through their actions. Sometimes all you can do is walk away.

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  68. Needasafeplace says:

    Dennis, first and foremost I want to thank you for your website, advice and strength it takes for you to talk openly about the illness and what it has taken you to get and remain stable. I sincerely thank you for this post especially as though I will still struggle with guilt, this post gave me the answers and confirmation that I have needed to know I am doing the right thing.

    My husband of ten years(together 12 years) was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 3 years ago after a major manic episode with psychotic features that left me and the children near broke, scared and very lost. Initially, he was accepting of his illness, but only committed to medication and the psychiatrist. After two hospitalization, and ECT treatment, I thought he was finally stabilized. Until last summer he became convinced he had fibromyalgia and had to smoke marijuana. His first manic episode started this same way… He was convinced he had MS and had to smoke mass amounts of weed for treatment. He had after two years of asking, finally started counselling. However, he was prescribed “medical” marijuana by a doctor that is now jobless for charging people under the table to lie and get them medical marijuana licences. This resulted in much resentment(I do not agree with pot use medical or otherwise unless you are dying of cancer or have a severe illness and as a last resort and he was aware of this when we started dating) . He has previous marijuana addiction issues and I don’t care what anyone else says, it makes his symptoms worse and throws him into psychosis.

    So he left me in November 2014, left me with the kids, mortgage, his truck and credit card payments and still expected full access to our account (he wasn’t working, spending between 200 and 300 a month on pot. I made many mistakes during this time he was gone. I called almost daily to try and salvage our marriage and his relationships with our children. I should’ve given him space.

    I had finally started to let go come January, in February I let him spend the weekend with the kids and by March, he had called to ask to come home to the kids NOT me. It was wrong of me to let him come back to help with managing the home as we agreed to sell it, I wanted him to help with the kids, and eventually hoped we could salvage our marriage. He refused to try to work on things, but still wanted to eat my food, have me pay his mortgage and truck payments, and continue to smoke weed while racking up his credit card. He refused to listen to reason. So after arguing and realizing there was no hope for our marriage I told him it was time for him to move out. He called friends and they all said no to his staying with them and trying to make an arrangement with an old employer to let him complete renovations on their apartment for free and let him live there for the cost of renovations, and being turned down he asked if we could work on the marriage. I don’t know what I was thinking. Clearly this was manipulation. He had no other choice or he’d be homeless. His family said they would not take him back.

    We went to marriage counselling who was a total fail because the counsellor had no idea about bipolar disorder, and wouldn’t call him on his verbal abuse and emotional abuse. He found part time work, but did not help with the bills at all. Only continued to spend his money on weed smoking the highest form of THC and when he’s smoke what should’ve lasted him two weeks in three days he would go downtown or out and find someone to support his habit for him. By April, he had completely gone off all his meds, including his lithium, and the abuse continued. He told me the problem was me. I had separated our finances and wouldn’t give him money for his “medicine” so I was financially abusive. When we’d talk he’s stand over me or when he’d discipline our teen he would put his hands above his head over the door way and lean forward so as to physically intimidate our son. He started staying out late and not telling us where he was. He would project onto me that I was crazy. Abusive, a liar and even went as far as to tell me that my perception was not reality. The marriage counsellor told him she would smoke pot if it were legal!!!!! I should’ve walked out in that first session but by then, with convincing of him and his family, I believed thoroughly that I was the problem.

    In June I was stressed finacially and needed to get the tires on my car changed. I called to ask him to help cover the cost which would mean he would have to skip an order of pot. He asked me for a divorce.

    I had already been calling his family in tears asking for help because I knew he was in the throws of an episode. They didn’t believe me. I refused to leave the house because it was where my children were stable and felt safe. But he would sleep for two hours a day, leave the house and not come home til two or three in the morning only to be tinkering around in the shed. He left our daughter unattended while I was at work while my son slept upstairs for five hours. He didn’t know his father had left. By then he had sold his truck for something he’d never drive, quit his job( apparently he quit long before as he quit showing up for his shifts) lie and say he was too sore from fibromyalgia to work then spend all night getting drunk at local pubs. He finally left the house to live downtime in his truck. He missed our daughters first day of school and broke her heart. He became completely I recognizable. Finally the last straw came at thanksgiving when I went home with the kids for a weekend. His family told him I was away and he brought three homeless people to our house, slept in my children’s beds, and they took the money out of our daughters piggy banks. I was powerless because the house was in his name only. The police were terrified for me. The kids and I spent the next week in a hotel, I found a place to rent and we moved the following weekend. It’s been four months of delusional behaviour, breaking boundaries and complete craziness since. He has stabbed steak knives into the walls of the house, destroyed it, broke all the windows in the home and believes he’s dating Jennifer Lawrence, that I have reported him to fraud service, am the cause of the house forclosing, etc. I got a family court order with full custody and an enforcement clause as I became concerned he would try to take my daughter from school.

    His family have called me a dictator and tyrant for keeping my kids from him!!! I have arranged safe visitation and will not allow him to have supervised visits by anyone else. I do not trust his family anymore. He was abusive to animals(though I’m sure he was thinking he was helping) and saying things like he had been to Iraq on secret missions. My thirteen year old niece was brought to the house by his sister and she witnessed the steakknives stabbed in the wall. She failed to protect her own daughter from this, so how can I trust her to protect mine? There is so so so much more, but I’ll stop there.

    I have been ridden with feelings of guilt, shame, and am constantly questioning myself. I know I am doing the right thing by protecting my children. He’s become so delusional and narcissistic while in this episode, and I will never trust him again. It’s been 7 months of hell. My fear is his family. They have pulled stunts before that compromised ME and MY children. One time, when I said it was too soon to release him from the hospital, his dad switched his next of kin to him and released him to me!! He came home that night, packed a bag and went to the bar after the kids waited for him to come home! He was still manic. The week before his sister called and asked to see my daughter so she took her home for the week only while her dad released him on a day pass and they secretly let him spend those few days with our daughter while he was still very very ill because she was four at the time and I did not want to bring her into the psych ward, plus she had just had an operation. . His perception is the one that is skewed, not mine and apparently his family’s is too.

    I know I am doing the right thing. I’ve drawn a line and am going to stick to it this time. I guess I am just looking for some confirmation and support that I am doing the right thing. I do love him, and miss him dearly, but he almost destroyed me this time, and I can not take anymore. He asked me to supervise the visits, I said no. I know the house is forclosing, and he’ll be homeless again. So he’s probably panicked.

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Poor decisions and mental illness can easily cut a swath of destruction like you’ve experienced. His reaction to pot is peculiar for a Bipolar person though. On the other hand, marijuana drastically worsens delusions and the symptoms of schizophrenia. I’m not a doctor, but it’s very possible that he could have been misdiagnosed. Severe mania can look a lot like schizophrenia and vice versa.

      In fact, I can’t think of any Bipolar people who have had that kind of reaction to marijuana. I’ve met/known many who smoke to mellow out the extremes though. The few recovering schizophrenics I’ve known all had very poor opinions on what it does to them. Here’s a short article on it.

      And his behavior certainly sounds consistent with addiction. I find it hard to believe that he suffered a specific delusion that would enable him to reindulge his addiction. I’d be more willing to bet that he was hanging out with questionable people, and someone pointed out “here’s how you can get a marijuana card” with the shady doctor. The “medical need” would give him ammunition to let him make you feel bad about not supporting him “getting well” and shift the blame off.

      Consider this a confirmation that you’re doing the right thing. It’s a hard path, but it sounds like it is an absolutely necessary one. Families like his wind up enabling drastically damaging behavior. Particularly if they don’t believe in or give a shit about mental illness. And frankly, there are a lot of people who appear fine that are very much not. So it’s perfectly possible that there is a lot of underlying problems in his other family members that are fueling their decision making processes. You certainly shouldn’t trust them or him with the safety of the kids. Stick to whatever legal avenues you can possibly follow.

      The system sucks in many ways. There is no arguing that. And I know you’re looking for a place to project your pain and confusion; but I would caution about leaving the blame on the system. The system can’t force us to want to manage an addiction or other mental illness. It can’t force us to make the right decisions. When it tries, the person will usually just lie their way around the system and do what they want to anyways. I point this out because your husband’s decisions were his own; and you all suffered for it. This is his responsibility, not the system’s or yours. He’s the one that chose to go back to his addiction (and I suspect lying to do so). He’s the one that refused therapy and his medications.

      But at the same time, I also understand how confusing it is to live in that kind of mind. To be convinced that actions like these are not only normal, but exactly what needs to happen because the mental illness is telling us that is the case. It doesn’t excuse his behavior or choices. I know it doesn’t lessen the pain of you or your children. But – that is the face of severe mental illness. It’s not his fault he’s mentally ill; but his decisions in how to handle it are.

      Why does it matter? Well, I’m pointing it specifically out so you don’t lose sight of whose responsibility it is. You say in your post that you’ve finally had enough, I hope that to be the case. But I’ve also heard that several times and then months later, “I decided to take him back after he promised XYZ.” Don’t lose sight of whose responsibility it actually is, so you don’t convince yourself on flimsy promises that things will be different. Chances are pretty good things are going to get much worse for him before they get better, if they ever do get better. Given your description of the situation, it wouldn’t surprise me if he has years of chaos ahead of him. If he is Schizophrenic and not Bipolar, and the pot is fueling his delusional behavior, the only way that will have a chance to change is if he gives up his addiction and gets clean. That is damned difficult on top of having a second, severe mental illness.

      I sympathize greatly with the pain you and your family have experienced because of his mental illness and choices. It’s a tragic, destructive thing. I hope tomorrow will bring better days for you and your children. Stick to your decisions. No one can help your husband but himself.

      • needasafeplace says:

        Thank you Dennis, I read your post a while ago, and I really appreciate your response. It’s been a hell of a year.

        Now, more recently his sister has messaged me telling me he is ‘all better’ and is doing really good while they sell the rest of our belongings online(the stuff I left when he brought the homeless people there) and it spun me for a loop. But I know I am doing the right thing. He needs to commit to stability before he becomes involved in the children’s lives full time again, and I will not stray from safe visitation until he can prove he is well and committed staying this way.

        Thank you again.

        • Dennis says:

          It sounds like it’s been a rough one. Hopefully things will smooth out as you move forward. I think your plan for moving forward is going to be a good one, given the situation and circumstances.

          You’re very welcome.

  69. A nonaymous 223 says:

    I am stuck staying with my parents and it is a nightmare. My mother lies about me and makes herself seem like a saint. She doesn’t love because she came from a family where there “supposedly” no love. I feel enslaved by her constant abuse of putting me down and hurting me in every way she can. I am strong and I am better than her that I should not let the negativity rub off on me. I believe she is bipolar and does not realize that. I see a dr. And I am definitely not bipolar. I take so much until I can’t take anymore. She watches inappropriate movies in front of my son who is almost 8 . I need to move away but my mother and well trained step dad’s negative energy keeps me unable to get a job and move. They belittle me and went to college and graduate with high honors. I do not understand. I know who I am and I am a good person but they have put so much guilt on me that it keeps me down to serve my mothers own selfish needs. I can’t even have a social life because of the burden of her bipolar personality. Please give me advice. I have got to remove her bonds of slavery so to speak. Her bipolar disorder and her madness is hurting me and keeping me as a slave. She likes it when I am down and out because I have to be stuck to the house. I can not take this anymore. I will not give in to her negative and verbally and physically abusive self anymore. I wish to emancipate myself from her but then my sense of duty and guilt keeps me loyal. People don’t understand because she lies to them for attention. She also suffers from munchousem disease. Help!!!

    • Dennis says:

      You should find a way to get in to see a therapist. The kind of help you need isn’t going to come from a random resource online. And from the sounds of things, it is a very severe situation.

      Simply put – you have to be the one to help yourself. No one else can do that for you. A therapist will be able to help you confront the damage your mother and step-father have done and hopefully help you get on your feet. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to take the steps to get yourself there; whether it’s pushing yourself to get a job and get moving, apply for social services, or do whatever it is you need to do.

      No one can do that for you. You have to do that for yourself. And you can do that! Even if it’s just a single step at a time, forward progress is forward progress.

  70. Sarah says:

    I’ve just ended my relationship with my boyfriend we were together for just over a year (I’m 40, he’s 42). We didn’t live together. I have 2 sons who live with me and my now ex boyfriend has 2 sons who live with their mum, but who he sees regularly. He suffers with depression on a varying scale, I say varying as it is bipolar depression as he has Bipolar type 2. He was diagnosed Bipolar 4 years ago and prior to that had been diagnosed with depression. He takes his prescribed meds daily.

    In the first few months of meeting, we datind regularly. We laughed, chatted, had fun though he seemed shy and bit snappy. He told me of his Bipolar/depression in the first month and that his depression can get quite bad. I accepted this. I’ve suffered depression in the past so I appreciate to a degree how it feels, though I appreciate too that everyone’s feelings, emotions, and experiences are all different.

    I helped where I could when he was feeling low, he asked me to come to his psychiatrist appts and I offered him support where possible. In the following 4 months together when he was low, he took things out on me (angry outbursts) but it was the nasty texts and demands from him that really began to chip away and hurt. We never did much except sit in front of the TV watching films/progs, if I chose not to watch them, he’d get frustrated with me so I’d sit with him and watch. Conversation was next to nothing despite my trying. We barely went out except to visit his cousin and his friends where it was like seeing a totally different person with him chatting away. Anyway, I decided to calmly sit down with him and tell him how I was feeling and invite him to do the same. I said I appreciate its not easy when you feel low but I felt like we needed to try to go out more, even if its just a walk together (when we met he’d said he enjoyed sport and loves to cycle and go for walks). I said that I’d prefer if he didn’t text unkind things, and it would be nice to share the cooking or cook meals together. (I was doing all the cooking both at his house and mine and paying for takeaways). I said it’d feel great if he could give me a massage once in a while (I would massage his head and shoulders now and then, but then he would ask me to every time I saw him and would get cross if I said I didn’t want to). I tried my best to put a positive twist on everything. We chatted for a few hours. He said he gets bored easily and doesn’t want to do things because he doesn’t feel motivated, he apologised for the nasty texts, he said it would be nice to cook together and go for walks etc but that I would need to encourage and motivate him even if he says he doesn’t want to do it. So we continued to see each other..

    8 months down the line.. Nothing much has changed.. He’s had numerous anger outbursts, the first upon dealing with our children’s behaviour (our boys get on well but they have their moments as all kids do). This particular weekend we’d gone to my boyfriends for a sleepover. An incident happened whereby my boyfriends youngest was annoying the others so they left him out of their game. My boyfriend asked why his boys was on his own, I said its boys being boys, and the next minute my boyfriend stormed up to my boys and his eldest and started ranting, swearing and shouting at them, he totally lost it. Then he stormed off and came back when the boys had gone outside to play. He then turned his anger on me and then ignored everyone for the rest of the eve leaving me to care for everyone. My youngest was distraught but still wanted to sleepover. So we did despite my wanting to leave. The next day, my boyfriend ignored me all day and chatted to the boys. His cousin then came over in the evening and he was nattering away all animated ten to the dozen.
    Another occasion he lost it whilst we were in the park with our boys and my dad, he started shouting and swearing at his youngest before turning on me then storming off and leaving him in tears by my side. He did eventually apologise saying it was because he was in his overdraft and skint. On these occasions I did stand up to him and told him it was unacceptable.
    There have been other occasions where he has got cross with me in person or via text and has blanked or ignored me.

    I visited him as much as I could, and held hope each time that we’d do something together, hold a conversation and have fun.. On the odd occasion we did. I appreciate he has Bipolar and that the depression can be debilitating and I was trying to be there for him. But the last four months I have been feeling low myself and unsure of how much more I could take, even though I do love him, it began to really hurt. An another outburst, last weekend, which led to him ignoring me for the remainder of the day was the last straw for me. I think more so because my boys were fed up with his behaviour and both told me that I deserve better than this, and they’re only 11 and 12.
    Is this how depression/bipolar is? Is this anger, these behaviours part of depression/Bipolar? Is this normal? Or is this emotional abuse? He says he can’t help it that his emotions are so strong and he says he loves me so much and doesn’t want to lose me. I thought long and hard before I chose to end the relationship, I guess all I’m seeking is to know I’ve done the right thing and haven’t walked away from perhaps trying harder?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Sarah. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I think you made the right call. It’s one thing to stand beside someone who is trying and fighting to be well. It’s another to step away from someone who isn’t really trying to be better. The fact that he’s taking his medication doesn’t mean much if it’s not doing anything for him; if he’s actually taking it. People don’t realize that psych medication isn’t like aspirin. You can’t just pop a few and forget about it, waiting for the problem to go away. A lot of people are incorrectly medicated because they think that just because they take the medication that it’s actually doing something for them. The correct medication will eliminate the drastic mood swings, the mania, and the depression. It smooths out the mind and allows us to function in an almost normal way. The fact that he’s still so unstable after such a long time infers that he either doesn’t understand or is not communicating what’s going on to his doctor effectively.

      Yes, this is quite often how Bipolar Disorder is in someone who is poorly or not managing the mental illness well. It’s not normal. It is emotional abuse. He probably doesn’t have a good control over his emotions. A lot of your narrative suggests the impulsiveness and lack of filter that is common with the escalation side of the Disorder.

      In my mind, words are hollow. If he really loved you that much and didn’t want to lose you, he would have been looking to try and change or curtail the negative behavior that he’s been exhibiting towards you. Given his overly volatile nature, there is probably a serious problem with his medication that he really should be discussing with his doctor.

      Yes, you did the right thing. You HAVE to take care of your own mental health first. And unstable mentally ill person can easily destabilize you from all the stress, chaos, and pain that they introduce. If his instability was rekindling in your depression, then there’s really nothing you can do there. You have to take care of yourself, ensure you don’t get lost in your own problems.

  71. Mel says:

    Thank you for writing this. It’s just what I needed to read at this time. I’m nearly 42 & have a sister with bipolar. I’m a single mum of 4 & battle my own depression & anxiety, hearing loss etc as well as looking after my children. I love my sister but have had enough of the way she treats me (& others too, including our mum who has been through soooo much with her). For most of my life I’ve felt I had to keep my thoughts & feelings to myself when she was nasty to me or anyone else, cos of her illness but no more. She put herself into private hospital afew months ago for therapy then goes around talking about me behind my back because I didn’t visit her then sends me a huge message saying if I was in hospital she wd visit me etc ect. As well as all I do (&gym etc to keep myself well) I was working daily, doing school run & living an hour’s drive from where she was!!! Now she’s doing it again…back in hospital, texted me accusing me of child abuse then posting on fb about how there’s no support in hospital and she wants people to visit her etc. I’m now running a business and have a daughter with depression, another who needs extra help&soooo busy as well as that I don’t feel like going to see her cos of her selfishness. One of my daughters lost her pop last week & my eldest girls’ dad nearly died in a serious accident so we have bn visiting him in hospital where he will be for months. I feel she needs to respect me and my responsibilities & understand that my children come first and I can no longer be there for her like the old days. Feeling hurt and frustrated:(

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Mel.

      The simple truth is that she probably isn’t going to respect your own challenges and responsibilities. If she hasn’t historically, then she’s not likely to moving forward. I’m assuming that you tried to explain your situation to her on why you weren’t able to visit? If she won’t see that with rationality and understanding then I wouldn’t expect her to see the rest with it.

      Quite likely, you’ll probably need to end up cutting her out of your life. People rarely like hearing that, but sometimes all you can do is minimize the damage a toxic loved one can do to you. Sometimes that means cutting them out of your life completely.

      • Mel says:

        Hi there
        Thank you for your reply. Yes I’ve explained to her the reasons but it’s like she doesn’t hear! I understand what you are saying and have been distancing myself from her in order to protect myself. Sometimes I feel guilty but in the past I’ve allowed her to put that on me, to the detriment of my own health. I can’t afford to do that as I must be well so that I can be there for my children. I realise she won’t understand this and I guess she will call me more names & talk about me to others but if they know me, they’ll know I’m a very caring, giving person with challenges of my own. Sad though ay. I’m glad I found this as writing my thoughts down helped a lot & when it comes to mental illness it cN be difficult to find the right person to talk to. Thanks again:) Mel

  72. Ann says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve never left a response on one of these blogs but am feeling the urge to get this out. I’m the step-mother of an 18 year old bipolar, ADHD, methamphetamine addict. I’ve been with the family since my son was age 4. His birth mom was bipolar and meth/polysubstance addict who committed suicide and was neglectful of my son and daughter when they were very young. My husband and I have tried to help our son as he has always been a difficult child. Once he became a teenager he became impossible. Terrible meth use has been going on for years now and to make a long story shorter we ended up calling the police on our son the summer of 2014 for out of control psychosis and meth possession. He has now been in dual diagnosis rehabs 3 times, court ordered. Our son has had about every opportunity to be helped by counselors and has been seen by inpatient psychiatrists and prescribed multiple meds. He was kicked out of the last rehab for bringing meth back into the place while on a home visit. The juvenile court apparently has had enough of him, and just sent him to adult county jail for one night then handed him back to us with no plan, no consequences, and on top of it all by taking the insurance away. The kid has now been home for a month. He’s been on several meth binges. He’s off his meds (what’s the point when he’s on meth and he has no insurance and we cant afford the meds-$1200 a month). His dad is a codependent enabling wreck and keeps letting the kid back into our house. He stole precious family heirlooms despite the fact that we have a lock on our bedroom and closet (that we need to carry keys on our person around the house–feels like being in prison in our own house) because if you forget for one instant to lock your things up, they will be gone. This kid has no consequences. When my precious and irreplaceable things were stolen I finally cracked and told my husband of 13 years that I am moving out. I have never been this angry in my life. The bipolar meth addict doesn’t care that he’s tearing our family apart and I think there is no end to my husband being a life long enabler, allowing the kid to live at our house as a total drugged out loser because my husband can’t bear the thought of the kid dying. This whole thing feels impossible. I love my husband and my daughter, other people will probably think I’m mean for saying this but I am having trouble finding any love or compassion in my heart for my son anymore. I’m going to alanon. I’m trying to find a counselor. I’m a lost mess. Please help.
    With a breaking heart:,(

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ann. My soul hurts for you and your family.

      First, let me say that you should continue looking for a counselor. They should be able to help you navigate this emotional mine field more effectively.

      There is really no good answer for your situation. The son most likely isn’t going to change until he hits a real rock bottom. Your husband is wrong in enabling him; but I can’t fault your husband too much. I know you’ve put up with a lot from your son as well. Some people are just incapable of being that “cruel” to a toxic, mentally ill loved one because they are firmly seated in the traditional views of kindness and compassion. The problem is that those traditional views of kindness and compassion are just an open door to abusive, toxic people to take advantage.

      Addiction and Bipolar Disorder do horrible things to people. You were right to leave, because your son is not going to get better until he finally realizes he cannot conduct his life the way he does and wants to change. Rehab, therapy, none of that crap matters if the person doesn’t actually want to get well, because attaining and maintaining wellness is a difficult, hard struggle.

      All you can really do is take care of yourself, get yourself mentally well, and able to cope with everything that is going on. If that means being away from your husband who can’t let go, well, that’s just what you have to do. There aren’t any good or easy answers, that I know of, for your family’s situation, unfortunately.

  73. Pam says:

    I have a brother in law whose 18 years old and has bipolar, he was diagnosed as a young teen and was extremely violent and even physically assaulted law enforcement and teacher’s as a young teen. For the last year he seemed to be doing a lot better and doesn’t have too many angry outbursts but just last Monday at work (burger king) he punched his older brother whose 20 in the face repeatedly and nobody did anything about it. His mother, my mother in law had nothing to say besides “it was a long time coming” and she baby’s him and blames his actions on his illness, I understand it’s hard for him and I do sympathize but he’s 18 and I don’t agree that it’s ever okay to blame your illness for your actions when it comes to physically hurting someone. He doesn’t have any responsibility for his actions, they always fall back on well your bipolar so it’s okay. My husband and I and our 2 year old son live with them, I’m just worried about the next time he has a bad day and what happens if it’s my son and I who get his wrath? I will not hesitate to call the cops if he does anything to my son at all but I know his family will be angry and his mom will turn everyone against me, she is a manipulative person and if you go against her even if it’s for safety reasons she will make you feel guilty and threaten you in a passive aggressive way

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Pam. There isn’t a whole lot you can do in that situation except work on getting moved back out and away from them. I also definitely would not leave your son around him alone at all. The enabling family is and has been reinforcing that his actions are okay; and that means he is less likely to realize that he can’t just do what he wants as he sees fit.

      I think I would be conferring with the husband and work on a plan to get moved out as soon as possible. There really isn’t much else you can do.

  74. Pam says:

    Thank you for your feedback!
    I also would like to add that my husband is also an enabler to his brother, so far his brother has never laid a hand on my son and until something like that happens my husband isn’t worried even though I have expressed concerns about the situation. We also cannot afford to get our own place at the moment and like I said his mother is a manipulative person and every time I talk to him about anything he agrees until he talks to his mom and then stands by her, all 4 of her sons stand by her against their spouses and I feel like I’m completely alone here. I think my husbands mother has some type of bipolar or other type of mental illness just from what I have seen, heard and witnessed and been at the brunt end of with her in the last 5 years. Nobody stands up to her not even her husband or other family members who have come to me personally about her and told me to be careful because she will control me or turn everyone against me if I disagree with her

    • Dennis says:

      The only thing I can really suggest is also working to find a way to get back to work yourself, if possible. I know with childcare and expenses and all, that is easier said than done. But it would be a very good idea for you to not be entirely dependent on your husband, who in turn is more likely to side with his mother than you.

      You may also want to do some research into narcissism. The kind of behavior you’re describing out of mom is common among narcissists. Educating yourself on that and seeing if it fits may help you deal with the situation in a more effective way. If you suspect her to be as such, do NOT bother confronting her. You will not win and she will likely turn your husband against you. If at all possible, you should consider talking to a counselor about the situation if you can.

      What you’re describing has a lot of very negative markers pointing towards a very emotionally unhealthy situation that is not likely to change. It will take a drastic toll on you, the longer you stay embroiled in it. The mother has had her relationship and all of her sons’ lives to condition her immediate family. A narcissist will often respond the way the family members warned you about. If they can’t control you, they will attempt to control other peoples’ perception about you. It’s really a no-win situation.

  75. Zane says:

    I read what you said about boundaries and agreements.

    I just wanted to tell you my specific example.

    My sister is 52 and diagnosed with bipolar disease.

    My dad is 84 and I am 47 year old male.

    My sister spends all our time telling us how to be better human beings while she does what she wants.

    She screams right into my father’s face all day.

    She has cluttered up the whole house.

    We can’t have visitors unless they are willing to put a chair on the clutter and not move around.

    There is more but we can get to that if possible.

    Thanks for allowing me to share.

    Talking to my sister doesn’t work. She is using whatever her “friends” teach her to take advantage of us.

    Thanks again,


    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Zane. When it comes to people who behave that way, the only real way to handle them is to create boundaries, enforce them, and let them deal with the consequences of their actions. You and your dad may want to consider visiting with a counselor to form a strategy for dealing with your sister and getting your lives back. Toxic, abusive people can’t really be handled with kid gloves with anything positive coming from it. It’s not really a situation where a random internet stranger not familiar with your personal situation should be giving “advice” really. Seek out a professional and run the situation by them, they should be able to help you find a way to handle it.

  76. David says:

    Hello Dennis; I just stumbled across your website as we are looking for help and advise with our on going situation [ 15 years now] a little history as follows;
    We have 4 sons the 2 middle sons now 30 & 34 , the younger one who was finally longer term hospitalized [ 8 weeks] and diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder and the older one who has had short term hospitalization [ 2 times 5-8 days ] diagnosed as bipolar. Feel like I need to go back a bit further. We lived in California and raised our family there, when the boys became in their late teens [17-19] they were having problems we thought they were just rebelling or doing drugs and never even thought of mental illness, but the younger one was becoming very abusive and confrontational to the point where we were afraid of him, the other one was acting strange but we were so busy dealing with the one we didn’t even think the other one had a problem at the time. Long story short we finally found a doctor that said he thought there was a mental illness problem and sent us to a physciatrist , ended up the younger one was hospitalized short term and we were told he was schizophrenic. During that time period he was in trouble and in jail at times for his actions and we were trying to find help. Needless to say the hospitalization and doctors were financially ruining us never mind the stress in our family and marriage , I was told after many communications with mental health that California used the prison system to deal with mental health.

    I was appalled and did not feel that was right and could not live with myself thinking that my son would end up in prison and be mentally ill also. Since I was Canadian I was able to get the boys all Canadian citizenship and we moved to Canada , it was a tough go of it here also but we finally got help and that’s when they were hospitalized and the diagnoses changed. The younger one was court ordered basically to take his meds or else and is doing very well since and stays on his meds , holds down a job, has his ups and downs but a changed person. The other one they say although only bipolar is a much more severe illness and we are dealing with his episodes and have tried to get him hospitalized for a longer term for treatment as he quits his meds all the time but the mental health system is overloaded here also. My wife and I disagree a bit on the tough love thing but after reading your above replies to situation’s they make sense to us. I don’t even know if I have a question or where this is going maybe just needed to vent, but we love our kids and want to help them but it has weighed on us and affected our marriage , our finances , our mental and I believe our physical health.
    We cant believe we have been dealing with this for 15 years and will it ever end ? Upon reading your website and others I know we are not alone in this situation , we just want to make sure we do the right things and are about at the end of our rope so to speak . Don’t mean to ramble as I could go on with more specifics but would take too much time .
    Thank you

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, David (and your wife!) Thank you for taking the time to comment. Mental health care leaves a lot to be desired in many locations. The reason, ultimately, is that there just isn’t much money in it like other branches of medicine. It sucks, but that’s pretty much how it is.

      I get asked a lot if I am a fan of “tough love” because of many of my responses. I’m not. I’m a fan of what I think will work for that person in that particular situation. Sometimes one needs to be soft, sometimes one needs to be hard. It’s just that most of the people that reach out to me here are usually dealing with very difficult circumstances where you can’t really afford to be soft. On the other hand, I have other people I deal with, largely in quiet, who are/were suffering and needed compassion and encouragement to fight through the difficulty.

      Everyone deserves to be treated humanely, but that doesn’t necessarily mean with softness, a smile, or kindness.

      In reading your post, one could argue that your youngest son recovered because of being hard, of no longer having a choice. Either do it or go to jail. Period. He had a solid anchor into reality with repercussions for his choices. The problem with getting through to many mentally ill people is cracking through the different way in which they experience reality. It sounds ridiculous saying it now, but for many years I believed that everyone dealt with severe depression and suicidal thoughts on a regular basis, they just did it better than I did. For many years, I thought that the destructive path I caused in my life was because I was irresponsible and immature. It wasn’t until I was 29, when I was diagnosed, that I finally began to see what was Bipolar Disorder and what was actually me.

      Your eldest son needs that kind of check and balance. He chooses to quit managing his mental illness, quit medication, not address it because he’s allowed to. It’s easy for the unwell mind to say “fuck this it’s all hopeless, I’m not going to fucking do it.” And boom, quit. It’s a lot harder to do that when the people who have propped you up for 15 years finally say, “I’m not doing this anymore. You need to deal with the repercussions of your choices.” It’s painful to do. It’s painful to watch. And I can’t imagine any well-adjusted, loving parent coming to that conclusion out of anything but sheer desperation. But the simple truth of the matter is – it will grind on and on until he chooses to do something about it. Bipolar Disorder is for life. You either fight it or it wins. There is no in-between.

      In many situations with people like your older son, they will develop a few house rules and severe consequences for them. Things like “If you’re not taking your medication and seeing your professionals, you can’t stay here.” It will absolutely piss him off. He will probably complain and try to weasel out of it. But softness in that kind of situation just means you’ll need to continue dealing with it until you just can’t anymore. Mental illness will take, take, take and destroy.

      I would suggest that you and your wife visit a therapist to discuss setting fair and healthy boundaries for your son. They will likely want to know far more detail than I have available and can help you navigate that difficult area and work through the emotions that will inevitably come up because of it. It is perfectly possible that your son will make bad or incorrect choices throughout the whole thing. But it’s one of those things where there isn’t really a choice, because the outcome isn’t going to be good either. No one else is going to care or love him like you two do, and sooner or later the two of you won’t be around to prop him up.

      I know it seems unkind right now, but if he continues to not be held accountable for his choices and not trying to get well, he may very well end up alone on the streets 20 years down the road. Or when you reach your ultimate breaking point and have to cut him from your life for good to protect your own health and well-being. Which happens.

      Talk to a therapist about boundaries and the situation, you and your wife. If you want to help your son, you have to find a way to make him realize that he has to help himself. No one else can do this for us. No one else can make me want to take my meds, manage my moods and triggers, and do all of the work that goes into being well. It has be something I want for myself, just as it has to be something your son wants for himself. Your youngest has the benefit of having experienced significant improvement because of his choices, but your older son likely has a lot more road to go.

      And if you haven’t recently, hug the youngest and remind him you’re proud of him for recovering. It’s a hard, hard thing to do and that reminder can help him stay on the right path when doubts like “Do I really need this medication?” start to creep in.

  77. Christy says:

    I am a mother of a seven-teen-year-old daughter who says that she blacks out. She has been in crisis centers and a behavioral center as an inpatient. The insurance has approved 30 more days in one. She has progressed to hitting me. She has threatened to kill me in my sleep. I didn’t believe her until she hit me so hard that it left a bruise for two weeks. I am 64 weighing 76 pounds. She is 17 weighing 230. I am afraid for my life upon her release. The DCF says that if we don’t figure out another place for her, we will be charged with abandoning her. Does anyone know what my rights are? I love this girl but I have three other children living here, and I don’t want them to be enfluenced with this kind of behavior or see somenone get hurt here.

    • Dennis says:

      To my knowledge, there isn’t a whole lot you can do in that situation. You should definitely talk to any social services or non-profits in the area that may deal with abusive situations, they may be able to provide some insight for you. You may also want to inquire with local churches. A lot of times they have knowledge of social services that may exist to potentially help.

      Given that she is only 17, it’s very likely that the only recourse you’re going to have is to press charges for assault to get her out and away from you. This is, unfortunately, one of the many gray areas and cracks that exist in the system where I’m not sure if there even is an available solution.

  78. Sarah says:

    Hello Dennis,
    I first want to say that I am so touched that you take the time to respond thoughtfully and thoroughly to every person who shares their story! It takes a big heart to do that and I’m sure is helpful to many people that may be too shy or afraid to post their own situation.

    My father is severely bipolar.

    I was lucky to get to know him as a loving father when I was a child, but as I became a teen his bipolar started spinning out of control. At first (being a teenager) I thought nothing of his behavioural changes – I actually thought it was really cool that he wanted to teach me to drive his fast sports car at 4am and sneak me into night clubs when I was 16. So what if he forgot to buy groceries or clothes for us? I didn’t realize then that he was showing signs of mania.

    When my dad fell into depressive states, I was lucky enough to be able to live with my mother. They had split when I was around 12 as my dad suddenly fell in love with another woman he met at a “massage parlour.”

    His erratic behaviour intensified throughout my teen years – he would buy businesses and be convinced he was on the brink of being a millionaire. He even had me involved in running some of these businesses until I found out he had opened a “massage parlour” of his own when I was 19 and cut all ties with him. I would not be involved with the proceeds of exploiting women.

    I lost contact with him for several years at that point. Every once in a while he would try to entice me back into his world. As with a lot of bipolar people, he can be really charming and persuasive while he is manic. During this time he missed my university graduation and both my sister’s high school grads. He also wound up in hospital at least a handful of times -for trying to hurt himself or hurt others. I’m sure he was arrested a handful of times too, although my grandma tries to hide the truth from me.

    I eventually moved to a different city and have made a good and successful life for myself. Every time I try to start a relationship with him again, something crazy happens. He will inevitably turn on me and has threatened to hurt me a few times (thankfully he does not have my home address). Mostly he just really hurts my feelings and calls me stupid when I get upset or ask for an apology. I personally deal with anxiety (managed through counselling and meds) and his erratic behaviour doesn’t help me at all. He will flip/flop on and off meds – stopping them when he starts to feel better or because he doesn’t like the side effects.

    This last year I really REALLY tried to make things work. I got married last May and really wanted him to be there. I thought if I could just keep the peace and have him at my wedding then we could have a new start. Everything was going ok – I was talking to him every 2 weeks and he was on an injectable type of med that the doctor administered (so he couldn’t choose to stop taking it) until about 3 months before my wedding he disappeared. My grandma and family had no idea where he was for a week. I found out about a month later (my family hid the info from me to try and not stress me out) that my dad had been shot twice in the abdomen, recovered in hospital and then rented out a car in my grandma’s name before crashing it and then going incommunicado again. My dad called me to tell me all this and then didn’t contact me again (or answer any calls, texts or emails from me) until 3 days before my wedding to tell me he was coming with his girlfriend (who has substance abuse issues). He ended up coming to the wedding and nothing too dramatic happened, thank god, but I was so fed up!

    How can someone be so ignorant of their child’s feelings? It has been 9 months since the wedding and the only time he contacted me was to ask for my sister’s number (because he bothers her for money). I love him and remember the dad I used to have, but he has become so consumed by his illness it is almost like another person! Before the wedding I tried reasoning with him as he prides himself on being very logical – but he doesn’t seem to see the consequences of his actions.

    How can he live everyday without a care in the world for his three daughters??? My husband and I are thinking about having children in the next few years and he would never be able to meet them at this rate. Even though I tried pointing this out to him he doesn’t seem to care. I guess I feel unresolved and upset about his role in my life – I want him to be a dad that he can’t (or maybe won’t) be. Everyday I worry about receiving a call telling me is dead. Is there any way to develop closure over this issue – especially since I hold out hope that one day I will get my real dad back?

    I know that I would only accept a relationship with him if he was going back into treatment and working on becoming better, but it is difficult to know what is really happening (and what he is just saying to placate me) with him as I’m in a different city and my grandma and other family tries to cover for him.

    Sorry for such a long winded story – I guess there is no short version when it comes to telling you about the last 16 years of my life (I’m 29 now). Even writing my story out has been helpful – thank you for the opportunity and inspiration.
    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
    Take care,

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Sarah. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Thank you very much for the kind words, regarding my work. A big part of the reason of why I do what I do is because I didn’t really have anyone knowledgeable about my problems to talk to for many years. So I try to do that for others with difficult situations.

      Given your description of your father, and your own comment, it sounds like he is on the extreme end of the spectrum in the way Bipolar Disorder works. When left untreated, Bipolar Disorder only gets worse with age because it causes advanced degeneration in the parts of the brain it affects. So our memories of him being relatively normal and getting worse with age is pretty normal stuff.

      I can’t know for sure because I can’t see the future, but it is very unlikely that he is going to recover. Generally speaking, we Bipolar tend to recovery when we finally hit a point where the circumstances in our lives are unattainable. If multiple business losses, lost relationships with his kids, and getting shot didn’t do it; it’s hard telling what actually will. It’s very possible that he may never be able to understand how severely his mental illness affects him given that he refuses to commit to medication and what it takes to be well. You won’t be able to have a normal relationship with him until he does finally make that commitment, so it is a good idea to draw that boundary and not let him around your kids and family.

      It should actually be pretty easy to tell if he chooses to push towards and fight for recovery. He seems like a different person than what you remember because it’s been the mental illness driving the whole time. The correct medication will push the mental illness back and keep it at bay, allowing who he actually is to come through. I’m an entirely different person when I’m not medicated. Bitter, angry, depressed, antisocial. It is a night and day difference. It will be for him too, given how severe he is hit by it.

      As for closure; you’re probably not going to get it until you can look at the situation, think “mental illness,” and let it go. For a lot of people in situations like yours, there is no real closure because your brain doesn’t function this way. I can look at and identify with your father’s situation because I understand it, because I’ve lived it. I know how the euphoria of “everything is fucking great and everyone is fucking stupid for trying to tear me down” mania feels and how easy it is to get lost in it. It can feel glorious. And the mental illness just overwrites and minimizes everything that is potentially damaging about it until something finally cracks through the warped perception.

      Everything you’re describing in your post is typical of extreme mania. Some Bipolar people have a very high functionality level until you really start digging beneath the surface to see how their relationships and personal life is. That includes the lack of perspective in being able to understand how their actions are affecting other people. This all feels “normal” to him and he likely feels very good. So any attempts to say “hey, this isn’t a good thing” are automatically going to fall by the wayside because the mental illness is continually reinforcing how fucking great everything is! This person is just a drag! Fuck them!

      There is a very good chance, assuming there’s no other problems at work, that the perspective will clear once he’s actually on a medication that works for him. Given your description of his continued behavior, it doesn’t sound like whatever he’s doing works for him.

      • Sarah says:

        Thank you for such a thoughtful and informative response.
        I have talked to some individuals (other than my dad ) with bipolar before, but never in such a candid manner. I can relate what you are saying is probably going on in my Dad’s head to a lot of his actions. As far as I know he is not taking any meds now and instead maybe is using drugs/alcohol/marijuana to self medicate.
        Thanks again for taking the time to share with me – this is my first time reaching out online to someone about my Dad and I really feel like I gained some insight.

        • Dennis says:

          You’re very welcome. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to best explain and show people who are not Bipolar the reality that we live in. I feel like a majority of mental health stigma stems from people simply not being able to grasp or express what is going on properly. And then you have people like your dad who are just riding the insanity, probably unaware of how toxic and damaging his behavior is because the mental illness convinces him otherwise. It’s at the root of something I say on a nearly constant basis, that everyone deserves to be treated humanely, not necessarily kindly.

          Feel free to ask any other questions you may have, now or when they occur to you.

  79. Anon says:

    I have a sister that suffers from depression and is bipolar. She has a lot of negativity and brings it into every aspect and relationship of her life. I had to separate from her a period of time (the last 2 years) after letting her walk all over me and my mental well being for decades. Within the past 2 years, she suffered a serious back injury for which she was required to undergo major surgery and major pain, was diagnosed with a mild form or leukemia (for which she has been getting treatment and has a good prognosis) and now her husband asked her for a divorce. I learned over the weekend she was admitted into a mental health center for a suicide watch. My mother and I are the only two that are around to support her and my mother struggles with her own mental illness and recently went through a divorce herself. I feel the two of them together in a small apartment will equate to a disaster (I could be wrong though). My sister has no job (due to her injury) and little money. I feel going back to her home in the middle of her divorce is not good for her and am trying to figure out the best way to be loving and supportive. My husband thinks I should offer for her to stay with us to get back on her feet. I am afraid as we have barely spoken in two years and I don’t think she has changed. I am at a much better place mentally to be able to put up some boundaries with her. What are your thoughts on this? Would you recommend putting the boundaries out there when I visit her at the mental health center so she can make an informed decision when she chooses whom to stay with or would that put to much pressure on her at such a vulnerable mental state? I also have two young children at home work full time and have a somewhat tumultuous, yet stable marriage myself.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Thanks for taking the time to write. Given the history that you mention with your sister, it would be a good idea to get reacquainted with her and see where her mind is at now on her life. Even though she’s been through all this pain, turmoil, and had to go in-patient, it’s not a guarantee that she finally realizes something is wrong that she really needs to fight and push against. So before opening your home or making any offers, I would very much recommend spending some time talking to her and probing what she thinks about all of this, what she intends to do about it.

      It is very possible that her instability could also destabilize your mother, especially if your sister is still a toxic and damaging person. Given the severity of your sister’s situation, she should definitely be applying for social services and disability to see what she may qualify for.

      I think you should talk to your mother about boundaries as well. She really needs to have them and be able to enforce them as well if she is going to welcome your sister back into her home. But prior to that, you really need to gauge where your sister is at mentally about her life, mental illness, and so on.

      It may be bad for your sister to go back to her “home” with everything that is going on, but you or your mom getting caught up in any toxic, destructive, or abusive behavior is also not going to end well. Your sister is the only person that can help herself. She has to want to confront these problems, deal with them, and defeat them. Letting her fall in a controlled way to experience the ramifications of her choices and behavior may be harder, but has a better chance of helping her realize that she cannot conduct her life the way she has been.

      So yeah, get out and talk to her ahead of time. Ask the following questions. (Write ’em down if you need to.)

      1. What do you think about dealing with your mental health at this point?
      2. Do you think you’ll go on meds and keep up with going to the doctor?
      3. Have you considered counseling to help you get through this?

      Generally, what you’re looking for, is a drastic departure from the toxic person she used to be. A person who is in a good position to get well, when they’ve hit the bottom, will often be clawing at any potential avenue to get better and be better.

      If she winds up getting angry, insists she’s fine and doesn’t need help, or just brushes it all off; then you’ll want to stay on your guard because it is likely that she hasn’t realized the severity of the problem.

      Bear in mind I am not a professional of any type; this is just largely how I’ve perceived it to work with other people I’ve dealt with in similar positions. It takes a lot to crack through the warped distortion that a mental illness causes in a person. It takes a lot to actually work towards wellness and recovery. It’s not something that can be forced on another person because of how tedious and frustrating it can be. So you want to be reasonably sure you’re not going to end up dumping out a ton of resources on a battle you have little hope of winning at that point.

      After you’ve had a chance to talk to her, drop me an email at and let me know how things went. I can most likely help you interpret the situation better and can give you suggestions on boundaries for you or your mother to minimize the damage she can potentially do.

    • Crystal says:

      Your situation is almost identical to mine with my sister. She and I were separated with no contact for about 4 or 5 years . She found herself in an abusive relationship as well. She is on her third marriage and umpteenth boyfriend. The current boyfriend was beating her up and she was being laughed about by other family members who were keeping in contact with her. I felt for her, and invited her to come and live with myself, my daughter, and her adult daughter whom she had put out of her home previously. Needless to say, things went ok for a time. But, then she began her acting out again. We ended up having too leave the apartments andstayed with our father food a few months until I could find another place. My father passed while we were there. Well, she snuck and moved in her abusive boyfriend and took over. They verbally abused us at every given moment. She got my vehicle repossessed. She had me thrown on hall for past tickets. She called the police on me at least twice a week for being jealous of her. In all she made life a living Hell for us. Even after all we did for her, she is still indifferent and hateful towards us. I wish I had never contacted her. With her self medicating and untreated mental illness, I just believe that it is best to leave it to God. Simply because it seems that this type of behavior is characteristic of passions with this type of mental illness, I would advise though to leave it to the professionals when it comes to your sister. That’s my opinion, but I believe out is the only thing you can do at this point. Unless, you are willing to sacrifice all of the progress that you have made up to this point.

  80. Dennis says:

    I’m happy you found the information helpful and useful, Marie. It’s a great epiphany to have when it comes to dealing with the chaos and destruction that Bipolar Disorder can create. Particularly if the mentally ill people in your life are abusive or damaging.

  81. AnonymousJD says:


    Me/Mother: 58 year old women who was raised by grandmother due to mother’s Paranoia Schizophrenia. Very structured and successful in my career. No alcohol or drug issues.
    My Husband: Step Father since Daughter was 4: 62 year hard working and kind man who has been diagnosed with MS and is now on disability. No alcohol or drug issues.

    My Daughter: Only Child…3 Prior Miscarriages…Dual Diagnosis: Bipolar I with addiction…Drug of choice Alcohol but will take anything to numb herself so she does not have to think…No friends and will not go to AA or to Bipolar Support Group

    My Brother: 56 year old Schizoid Affective and Anti-Social Personality living in the VA Psych Ward
    My Mother: Only child, Paranoia Schizophrenia and Depression lived to be 81 years old and broke my grandmother’s heart. She was very mean spirited.
    My Father: Aerospace engineer who divorced my mother and allowed my grandparents to adopt me and my brother. Started new family and never had any thing to do with us

    Daughter’s Father: BPD, Bipolar 2 with addiction…Drug of choice Alcohol and Marijuana

    I need insight before I lose it so here is some of the history which has some large gaps especially during her teenage years, it is just too much to go into all of the details:

    I divorced my daughter’s father when she was 3 due to his irresponsibility, anger and addiction issues. He would quit a job at any conflict and was selling marijuana and would not get help. Both his parents were alcoholics, but his two sister were not and high functioning. When my daughter began entering puberty she became more and more hard to parent. Did not want to go to school and sometimes became confrontational with peers as well as me. It scared me so much that I reached out for help. We started into counseling when she was 12. The counselor then felt that K anger issued were stemming from depression and suggested we see a Psychiatrist which we did when she was 13 and was diagnosed ODD without remorse. He Rx her Prosaic which elevated her anger and she became very manic and did some things that got her into more trouble. Taking the farm truck and picking up her best friend. At that point, she tried to commit suicide by taking a hunting rifle and then telling me she had taken a bottle of Tylenol. They pumped her stomach and she had not taken anything.

    The Psychiatrist had us to commit K to juvenile hospital for two months (this would be the first of many) and put her on different Rx that never seemed to really work. She was also seeing a therapist and I felt life was getting better, but then her best friend committed suicide and K spiraled down. K began refusing to go to school and since she was very smart the school supported her dropping out and getting her GED. We realized K was now self-medicating with alcohol when she took off for the beach and was arrest for public intoxication and hitting a police officer. We bailed her out and then she would not come home so we pulled the bail and she stayed in the jail for 30 days until she went before the judge. The more we tried to make her face the consequences the more she would up the ante on us. She had to do community service and pay a fine. Her community service was at the animal shelter where she met people who had issues too and at the shelter’s benefit dinner she showed up drunk with one of the other workers. I kept thinking if I could get her in to college she would grow up as she was always wanting to go to college. I let her enroll at the university and without a vehicle and she lived in the dorms. She got drunk with a few of her fellow students who could not handle her and brought her back to the dorm and duped her on the lawn. She lived on the second floor of the dorm and it had outside balcony. Well she was so drunk when she climb the stairs to the second floor that fell over the balcony and landed on face. She had a concussion and a frontal lobe lacerations on her face that required a plastic surgeon to repair. All this to say that she has been a hand full.

    Once she recovered I brought her back home and started to taking her to class at night. She met a boy and within 2 months was pregnant. During her pregnancy she was so even keeled that I was like who is this person, not K. She then had her first son and then started showing signs of stress. But instead of slowing down she decided she needed to have another child because she could not let her son be an only child like she was. During the second pregnancy she again seemed to be level keeled. So when she had her son, she decided she had to go back to school we ask her not to but she thought she could do it all. Her stepfather was at home and did watch her sons so she could go to school and study. Little did we know she had the doctor to prescribe her Adderall telling him she was ADD which she was never diagnosed with.

    She became more and more out of control and then she started drinking and running around with some of the other nursing students. She had come home drunk with her sons in the back seat. She was not drunk but she locked her sons in the van while she went into the bank to activate her debit card, locking her keys in the car with her sons. She was reported to Child Protective Services. This was while her husband was in training to become a State Trooper. She also decided she had to work at the hospital so that she understood her classes better because she would be applying some of it as a nursing assistance. We could not stop her and neither could her husband. She then had an affair with the Head Nurse and ask for a divorce. At which point I felt I had to protect her sons from her destruction by aligning myself with her husband. I thought she would realize she could not keep going like she was, but she imploded. The Head Nurse put her up in an apartment and she proceeded to take advantage of him brining in other men and he finally had enough. At this point she is the middle of the divorce and loses her job at the hospital and wrecks the car that night with a guy in the vehicle who ends up in the hospital.

    She continues to go further down and I detach from her completely and she moves in with her father and then on to other drugs. She is in and out or rehabs only staying two months at the most. I tried to support her from afar listening Al Anon but nothing is working. She slashes her arms to ribbons one time. She tries to slit her throat. She tattoos a large question mark on the back of her neck. She tries to cut the large veins in her legs up at the torso. She tries to open a credit card in her ex-husband name. She is at the Casino and tries to steal from another person. She now has two misdemeanors for theft. She has two DUIs. I start going to NAMI and tried to get her help with Mental Health but there is not a lot out there but they put her in a facility that she is able to stay in for about 4 months before she goes off on everyone and she is then admitted again to hospital which removes her from most of the meds she was on but cannot find her a rehab for her dual diagnosis. She ends up in a place that is basically a flop house for $600 a month. She stays for a month and then tries to slice her wrist. I then get her into a private facility which she stays for two months and then gets angry at them and gets a taxi to take her to my house. She has been at my home for one year now and I have had to commit her once which is her third commitment. They finally put her on a shot called Invega which has put a lot of weight on her and she will tell you she feels like she is cement. She is now becoming more manic and wanting off of the shot. I told her that she had to leave the Rx alone and that it is not all going to be in a pill.

    She will not accept she is Bipolar but will agree she has depression. She has already had the doctor to change her antidepressant from Cymbalta to Effexor. She is on SSI $723 and I want her to pay $300 for living with us but she wants to save up for a vehicle. She has also said she wants to buy a gun to kill herself because she going to do it right this time. She will then say if we will just give her a car she will leave and we want hear from her anymore. To top it off her husband was able to terminate of parental rights and he told me it was either Kristen or my grandsons. I chose my grandsons but she won’t or can’t pull out of the abyss she is now in . I am struggling on what I need to do now. Neither my husband or I can keep living like this but we feel a moral responsibility since we know she will be back living on the street.

    How do I detach from some one who is so broken. I can’t live with her and I am not sure I can let her go. I love her, but I hate her illness.

    • Dennis says:

      Note: I edited your display name to remove your last name since you mention your daughter’s name in the description. Don’t want search engines associating your name with this post just in case.

      The unfortunate reality is that there a lot of mentally ill people in this world that cannot or will not be helped. Her refusal to accept the idea that she might have a different illness is completely preventing her from getting meaningful help. The other treatments and substance abuse make things even more complicated because they can just wind up contributing to the problem or giving a false sense of progress.

      You can’t help someone that won’t try to help themselves.

      Not to put too fine of a point on it, but mental illness does not care about your morals. It doesn’t care about love, intelligence, compassion, wealth, or belief. It is a destructive force that can run rampant when it is allowed to. You’re going to have to find a balance between what you feel your moral obligation is and what you’re willing to deal with for her. She may never make a good recovery. She may end up finally succeeding in one of her multiple suicide attempts and acts of self-harm.

      Simply put, you have to swallow your pain and do what you need to do. If you can’t live with her and she won’t help herself, tell her she needs to find some place else to stay or go to a homeless shelter. This isn’t your choice to make. It is only hers. You cannot expect for a person who is that mentally and emotionally unstable to understand and respect your boundaries without your enforcing them harshly.

      If you can’t find the strength to let her go and deal with the consequences of her own choices, you and your husband will get sucked under with her.

      Arguably, one of the hardest parts of getting involved in advocacy and outreach work was learning that I couldn’t actually “help” anyone, in the traditional sense. All I can do is enable people to help themselves. Sometimes, that means watching a person make the same mistakes that you’ve already made and learned from, that absolutely refuses to listen to you or make better decisions. It’s like you’re standing there, watching the person drown in knee-deep water. You tell them, “Stand up. If you stand up, you’ll be okay.” But they refuse to stand up. They don’t want to listen to you. They think you’re lying to them or don’t care about them. But they just refuse to help themselves by standing up and saving themselves.

      And all you can really do is watch them continue to drown.

      My soul hurts for every parent that finds themselves in a position like yours. In all likelihood, you’ll probably never fully detach from your daughter or the pain. To love someone is to hurt when they hurt. At the end of the day, all you can really do is take care of yourself.

      • J Darnell says:

        Thank you for your insight. After reading your response I felt like you had put an oxygen mask on me. Your analogy of my daughter drowning in knee deep water resonated with me. You understand my plight as a parent and to be understood means so much. I am blessed to have found your site. I listened to your YouTube video last night and wish you much success in being my “Bipolar Friend”. I know you can make a success of it. I am sure there will be services you can offer that will help me to take care of myself and in doing that I can take care of those that I love. Again thank you for your compassion to help us all find our way.

        • Dennis says:

          You’re very welcome. Thank you for your kind words and support. I always do my best to put myself in the shoes of other people, to try and understand things from their perspective. It’s good to know that I hit that target with people like yourself.

          Given your family history, it definitely sounds like you need a serious break!

  82. Ila says:

    Thank-GOD! I was led to this article.
    There is no excuse for bad behavior.
    It’s abusive.
    Boundaries offer peace and boundaries ( hopefully :)* help the mentally ill person self correct too.
    And I totally agree it is like dealing with a child.
    My new mantra is ” boundaries”

  83. Marie says:

    Dennis, I am relieved by your blog but am so sorry so many people have heartbreak because of these illnesses. On a large spectrum we can see that we are not isolated cases. I know my loved one who is very dear to my heart works hard and works well in the work field to support them self, and we can see that I really needed to move forward and separate from them and try to get some quality time of my own. It makes me feel bad that they blame relatives when it is not relatives at all. They have to come to terms with their own issues. Relatives gave up precious years of their own time to help them. We never fought with them. Tough love is hard to put in place but as long as we know they are safe it helps to move forward. I like other comments here that help me also to see that my relative will eventually click in their brain the right perspective without me suffering their anger too close by. I put in many years and got nowhere and got exhausted and felt very unloved and I saw this person was detached from reality of how close relationship normally should be. I was treated like a stranger. That was not normal. I also saw they could not see what they were doing with actions towards their loved ones. I realized I cannot fix it. This person is the only one that can fix their relationships. I hope my comments can help others here as well.
    Thank you again, Dennis. I wish you grand happiness.

    • Dennis says:

      I very much agree with your sentiment. I don’t have much to add or comment on it, I just wanted to acknowledge that you were heard on it.

      Definitely time to take care of yourself! Mental illness is a long, hard grind and you’re right, it sucks up and destroys a lot.

  84. Terri says:

    Hi I found the questions and responses here so helpful. I have a partner (20 years) and we have a child aged 11. My partner has been diagnosed with pts and possible BPD. She is currently in MH hospital as is suicidal. Has been there for over 5 weeks voluntarily attempts to return home have failed. Each time there are arguments manipulated by her as far as I can work out she likes it there. This is hurting me and our daughter. I see she us becoming reliant on the hospital, enjoying helping staff and other people there, saying she is more like staff. I am so worried. She constantly lies and I feel will never be able to return to normal life with responsiblity. Once she is back there each time she then demands our attention wanting constant visits, and items brought to her. We are exhusted and I am becoming ill. Please can you advise me ?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Terri. Thank you for taking the time to comment. About the acronyms you used, do you mean PTSD as in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? And for BPD, do you mean Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder? BPD is the acronym for Borderline Personality Disorder. Bipolar Disorder does not have one. I realize it may seem like a minor nitpick, but if you say BPD you may be communicating wrong information to a listener, particularly if you talk to a counselor who will likely assume you mean Borderline.

      The unfortunate reality is that your worries may be correct, she may never be able to return to a normal life. It really depends on a number of factors, including her willingness to address and combat her problems. But, given that she is using the hospital services to essentially cater to herself, that is simply going to end up reinforcing that being broken like she is is a good thing because people pay her all the attention she wants.

      The only way to really deal with this type of situation is to establish boundaries. You cannot cater to her whims. Set down a visitation point and stick to it. Were I in that situation, I would aim for one day a week and only bring her essentials that she needs, minor items, or things that weren’t inconvenient. Such as, “will you drive an hour to pick up a pie from that restaurant I like?” My answer would be no. We can go when you get out.

      The thing is, the behavior you’re describing is incredibly manipulative. So you don’t want to get involved in arguments or discussion over why you’re not doing things past stating the reason. If you get sucked into an argument, you’re going to lose. You have to harshly enforce your boundaries and ensure they stay solid. “But I want to see you guys tomorrow!” “I told you, we’ll be in on Thursday.” And then stick to it. No argument, no discussion; unless she has a very real reason for it.

      I would very much recommend that you and your child visit a counselor as well to discuss what’s going on with her. While it is possible that your partner can recover, given the way she is acting and manipulating, it suggests that she does not have a good grasp on that her mental illness is a bad thing and needs to be constantly worked against to get it under control. If she buys into that thinking, it’s very possible she will just continue milking it and using it as an excuse to control your family until everything breaks down.

      Realistically, it could take years for her to make a meaningful recovery. Doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen. But given what you’re talking about now, it’s not likely to be anytime soon, in my experience. So your priority needs to be on keeping yourself and your child healthy; even if that means the potential end of your relationship.

      I’m very sorry for the pain you’re going through with all of this. It’s a tough thing to deal with. Mental illness destroys so much, not only for mentally ill people but for the people that love us. Talk to a counselor. They should be able to help you with things like boundary setting and it will give you a professional source of information.

      • Terri says:

        Hi Dennis I am so pleased you were able to reply. My abbreviations were wrong sorry I’m new to all of this! I did mean Bipolar and I did mean post traumatic distress. Your reply is so helpful it has given me the courage to stand up to her and put boundaries in place. I will stop crying and start living ! Also I’m going to arrange to see a counselor too. Thank you so so much

        • Dennis says:

          You’re very welcome, Terri! I read and respond to everything that everyone takes the time to write to me. Glad to hear you’re going to talk to a counselor as well. This is a situation where you should benefit greatly from it.

  85. Dani says:

    Hi Dennis , thank you so much for all the information you have written here over the years. Usually I hide in the shadows , reading. Getting the little bit of information that I need to cure the hurt , before dealing with the next episode from my bipolar parent.

    I’m 25 yrs old , living back at home with my dad who recently told myself and my siblings that he has been struggling with bipolar disorder for many years. On reflection to my childhood , he was always the parent that we feared. He would lose his temper easily and was a dramatic emontional person. However on the other hand he is the most loving and neurting person you’d ever meet and often outsiders won’t know that there is anything going on at home.

    I also work with my dad , so a lot of hours are spent together. I have found myself looking for answers … A lot of information online provides tips on how to Help your loved one .. Yet what I’m looking for is help for me.. I find myself forever exhausted , constantly fighting the urge to go crazy at my old Man for his verbal attacks, unthoughtful, selfish and spineless comments .

    I find that he has two personalities .. The bipolar that really gets him down and depressed yet gets his high and manic and the other personality that I feel uses bipolar as an excuse to be a complete a” hole !

    I find his mania fun to be around .. He’s happy smiling laughing and a pleasure to be around. However short lived.

    His lows are exhausting , the whole world is on his shoulders , he constantly moans about every little detail. As i am at work with him and home .. I often feel trapped and that the negativity is projected towards me . However I have noticed that nothing anyone says or does is right for him. Work doesn’t know that he has bipolar which often leaves our colleges feeling unsure of his words and actions. You can see people on egg shells and not particularly liking him very much. This is because he goes from grumpy to happy in a matter of moments hours days weeks or months.

    I find that I feel these negative flowing comments are my problems and he’s expressing his frustration in the hope that I will change it … Which in turn leaves me feeling helpless , emotional , tired and fed up. I find my patience becomes thin , having such negativity around really brings me down. In turn I’m trying to help him out of his Lows aswell as bringing myself back up too.

    If I take time away I feel I’ve done wrong , that I should be there supporting .. I worry that he thinks badly Of me for abandoning him in his time Of need. A lot of time time we argue because he will be aggressive and verbally abusive throwing insults and personal attacks my way. He says comments like ” your leaving me all on my own ” ” are you really going to eat that much ( which is a massive emotional button for me discussing my weight ) “which sparks the argument. Other things will be his continous flow of comments that don’t make sense , ie sat down at the dinner table after what sometimes can be 12 hr shifts for me and he works only 4hrs a day… , he will real off comments about the war / politics / facts that he has made up / did you know this happened back in this year / He doesn’t understand that I’m tired and I don’t want to be talked at, sometimes I don’t want to engage in conversation. I’m happy to sit quietly. Yet his mania tends to come late at night. This frustration with me normally starts an argument. Where I try to have my say … Yet I’m never allowed the last word. I try defending myself, yet most of the time I leave the situation after backing down and feeling like I’ve let him win again. So I announce that I’m going to spend time with my friends.

    He is very much a loner and doesn’t keep friends or relationships. people that offer friendship again and again .. He turns down and forever finds reasons to not socialise. He doesn’t participate in much at all . He has the odd swim , goes to the doctor at least once a week and does the food shop. I try to make him feel useful, dad I need lifts, I need you to collect this for me( yet all these things I’d be happy to do myself) I give his little things as it also makes me feel that ‘at least he’s getting out the house and having some fresh air’.

    I try to explain that he should attend his help groups . Meeting others going through the same disorder at him. when he goes he is a nicer person for it .. When he doesn’t go you really see the difference. Yet this sparks arguments , where he tells me I don’t understand bipolar and I can’t tell him how to deal with it. Yet he doesn’t know the hours of research I’ve done nor does he know the different things I’ve been through that provide me with a good understanding.

    He will have spells where Sometimes he takes the medication other times he won’t. He always says that the tablets make him feel numb , he isn’t happy or sad .. They just block the pain, in turn he becomes unaware of his actions and how they effect others. Therefore he would rather not take them and deal with the episodes himself.

    However he never apologises for the effects of bipolar ( he always says I shouldn’t have to say sorry for my illness) but I want him to understand is not apologises for being bipolar .. It’s apologising for hurting people around you when your broken bipolar on. For the hurt that is caused when you are not with us. When you have tunnel vision.

    I’m just letting off steam … I don’t have anywhere to vent and I don’t have anyone that understands how hurt I feel a lot of the time .

    Yet this site has giving me glimpse that someone out there understands how it feels to live with a parent that has personality changes every couple of hours .. To live with someone that isn’t predictable .. That doesn’t offer stability … That personally attacks you and you don’t even get as much as a small sorry…. To watch my siblings hurt from his nasty words and to have to try and explain that he is ill and doesn’t mean what he says … When escaping him , feels like I’m letting him down. Leaving him in his miserable dank dark hole to self loath and Pitts, with no one to hold his hand as say it’s all going to be okay.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Dani. Thank you for taking the time to come out of the shadows and comment. As a fellow lurker in other online forums, I totally understand the desire to observe.

      There’s a lot of things I’m seeing in your post. The first and foremost is it definitely reads as though you may be suffering from depression, which isn’t that strange or out of the ordinary when you’re dealing with a situation like you’re in with your dad. I’ve met people who have developed depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in extreme cases. If it is within your capability, I would highly suggest you speak to a counselor yourself about your own mental and emotional health; and about the weight/eating trigger if you haven’t already explored that any. I know that even with work on it, the scars from eating disorders often remain for a long time.

      Okay, you need to understand that you are not responsible for your father’s choices and actions. You say in your post that you feel it is your responsibility, and you mention cleaning up his messes on a regular basis with other people, coworkers, siblings, etc. A person like your dad, who doesn’t understand his mental illness or it’s management very well, needs hard boundaries and limits to keep them from overrunning you. Now, as you’ve pointed out and have undoubtedly learned, you can’t win an argument with a Bipolar person. Any argument, no matter how on point, truthful, or powerful; can be taken by the Disorder, twisted, and thrown back at you. You can’t win those arguments. So what do you do? You stop having them. Just refuse to engage, let him say whatever he wants and just go do whatever you need to do.

      In your post, you mention his desire to have the last word and winning; mental illness is not about winning. In many situations, it’s about surviving and trying to minimize damage. Were it me, I would just do whatever it was I needed to do and let him ramble/rant about whatever it is he wanted to do. Sort of like tuning out a screaming child who is screaming for no reason.

      The only person that can truly help your dad is himself. He’s the one that needs to commit to taking his medication, working on minimizing the damage he does to other people; but he may never have the perspective to understand that if you don’t set aside the responsibility you feel to sweep up his messes. You simply cannot do it and expect to continue on long-term.

      In a moment of peace and clarity for him, tell him. Tell him everything you’ve been doing for him behind his back. Tell him you’ve been sweeping up his messes, patching up his relationships, and trying to help him stay on the right path. Tell him you’ve researched Bipolar Disorder extensively to understand the Disorder, to better understand him, and help him.

      Tell him that you’re not asking him to apologize for being Bipolar, but he can at least attempt to understand how his actions affect the people around him before the people that love him reach their own breaking point and can’t deal with it anymore. An apology for actions done while unwell is not an apology for being Bipolar, it’s an acknowledgement that we made someone we care about hurt and suffer due to our actions and mental illness.

      Tell him if the medication he’s been put on him makes him feel numb, to try something else. They don’t all function the same and he may be able to find a medication that works for him and lets him have clarity of thought. In an ideal situation, the medication isn’t supposed to make you numb; it’s supposed to push back the Disorder to allow you to function in what would be a normal range; but you have to take it consistently even after you start feeling better. Tell him there are other medications to true if he’s not happy with what that one does.

      At the most basic point, he needs to be made to understand that his inaction on meaningfully trying to control his Disorder is doing incredible damage to the people around him.

      You need to learn to ignore that “I’m not taking care of him” and “I’m abandoning him” feelings. You may still feel them, but you cannot allow them to define your course of action, because what we feel is often not what is best for us, especially if you’re suffering from depression. If you’re suffering from depression, everything is going to feel darker, heavier, and more difficult as a result. But the reality is, it’s not your responsibility. You can’t force him to make better decisions or manage his mental illness. Only he can.

      I would really encourage you to speak to counselor about what you’re going through. And honestly, if nothing seems like it is going to change, I would also start working towards moving out, even if you have to get a roommate or something. Because if he doesn’t do anything to meaningfully change the way he does things, he’s just going to suck you under with you being in such close proximity on such a regular basis.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Dani.

      • Dani says:

        I just wanted to say a huge thank you for your reply. So many things you have said make so much sense.

        For eg: An apology for actions done while unwell is not an apology for being Bipolar, it’s an acknowledgement that we made someone we care about hurt and suffer due to our actions and mental illness.

        I am going to head back to the borders for now , however there is no doubt that I will be back to update and find answers once again.

        Dennis you are a spectacular !!

        • Dennis says:

          You’re welcome, Dani! I appreciate the kind words.

          I’m happy my words helped provide you some clarity with your situation.

  86. Jackie says:

    Hello Dennis, thanks for your words of wisdom. I haven’t read them all, but what I have read helps.
    I just want to share some experiences froma former friend. I doubt if I’ve dealt with it completely well, but I’ve tried.
    For many years I wondered if she was a bit paranoid, but set such thoughts aside.
    In 1999 she said she no longer had time for me due to an excuse. I thought I must have been too much burden on her as I was having a hard time of my own and talked to her a lot about it. I was sad but resigned to it. We didn’t meet or talk very much for a while.
    In 2002 she came back into my life with the shocking “news” that her husband was having an affair and refusing to break up with her (my friend). Never mind that she’d let me down, I felt terribly for what she said she was going through and put rather alot of emotional energy into “helping and supporting” her. She didn’t seem bothered that it was making me feel shaky since I’d been through a seemingly good man turning nasty and playing games with me. I tried to put my own feelings on the back-burner.
    I was doing more and more to try and help her, yet none of it seemed good enough and by 2005 I got to the point where I was almost completely drained. I spoke with my counsellor about this and she helped me see that my friend’s problems were probably in her head, and that unless I removed myself from the situation I was likely to be pulled under by it all.
    I told my friend, nicely, most of the truth – that I was feeling drained and empty and didn’t have enough emotional energy left for myself so I couldn’t be there for anyone else, including her, until I’d recharged my own batteries and felt better in myself. She seemed to accept this, but she didn’t really. I didn’t know how to tell her I’d stopped believing her.
    A few months and incidents later, I got a text just before 4am heavily implying that I’d been lying to her and betraying her. These nasty texts went on for another 12 hours and then when she’d finished calling me every nasty thing she could think of I heard nothing at all from her till Christmas 2015. She made a friend request on Facebook, which I hesitantly accepted. I thought I’d give her a chance to apologize.
    She told me she’d had a severe mental breakdown, had been hospitalized, medicated, had therapy and was fully recovered. She said she regretted hurt she may have caused anyone but was perfectly confident that none of it was her fault. She enthused about how wonderful her husband had been through all of this. And she gave me her phone number and asked if I’d be back in London anytime soon.
    I didn’t really know what I thought. She seemed reticent in apologizing so I was very wary and reluctant to trust her. I told her that as we seemed to have big trust issued between us I didn’t know how we could reunite or reconcile with each other. After much thought I sent her a letter saying that I might wish to reunite with her if I felt she was genuinely sorry for the hurt she’d caused. I also said I had a problem with her completely distancing herself from all responsibility for her actions.
    It took about 10 days for her to reply, and she was “deeply shocked” that I should expect her “to be ashamed of her illness”, and said she’d shown my letter to people who were also “deeply shocked”. She called me discriminatory, condemnatory, judgemental and unkind. She said I was the only person around her who wasn’t being wonderful and kind.
    That all leaves me genuinely deeply shocked. It shouldn’t shock me as remember how sharp her insults can be. I’m none of those things, certainly not on purpose.
    Once I’d calmed down I tried to email her with the assurance that I wasn’t suggesting she should feel shame for her medical history, and I certainly wasn’t trying to upset her, just being clear about my own boundaries. Well that email pinged back eventually with the news that I’d been blocked and blacklisted. I don’t know what effect that could have on me. It implies I’ve been sending malicious messages I think. It’s hard to deal with.
    What does my head in about her is her self-righteous moral high-ground woe-is-me attitude. I can’t get across to her that she’s upset and angry with me for the wrong reasons, and that I didn’t mean it as she took it. If I try to contact her in any way at all I’ll then get accused of harassment on top of everything else, and I know from how she’s behaved in the past that she’s quite happy to use the law against anyone who doesn’t dance to her tune.
    On the bright side, I now know after all those years that at least she’s ok, sort of. And she’s well and truly answered my question about whether or not to try and reunite with her.
    Thanks for giving me a way of saying what I need to say. It helps just to offload some of it. I just wish I’d handled the situation better.

    • Dennis says:

      Hey there. Thank you for taking the time to share it. It’s a difficult area to navigate your way through, but from the sounds of things, I wouldn’t be surprised if she flat out lied to you about showing your message to others and “everyone” thinking that you were being unkind or judgmental. If she had been striving to avoid responsibility, then her claims would certainly be consistent with manipulative behavior.

      Frankly, you’re better off not being involved with her. If she feels she is above beyond reproach and responsibility because of her mental illness, that’s going to be real bad times for the people around her and that are closest to her. She probably did you a favor in removing you from her life, honestly. Especially with how she so willingly just tapped you dry without a second thought.

      Chances are very good she’s going to have to hit rock bottom, fall hard and far before she realizes how awful her behavior is to the people around her. Or, she may never have that realization. A lot of people do not. But regardless, you are certainly better off without her in your life. And if she comes back around, and she most likely will, don’t let her sink her hooks back in. Were I in your position, I would just let the friendship go completely and continue working on myself.

  87. Jackie says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. It helps me feel better about how I’ve dealt with the situation, or at least tried to. It’s a sad thing; she used to be such a lovely person, that’s why we were friends for so long, but I don’t know who she is anymore. Sad, but I can’t be so dragged down by it all. I just hope for the best for her life. And I thank God I had the wit to let her only know the bare minimum contact details for me, and that we now live 120 miles apart. Thanks Dennis, it’s a great thing you’re doing.

    • Dennis says:

      You’re welcome, Jackie. And I appreciate the kind words.

      It is unfortunate but the progression of mental illness can definitely do that to a person. All you can really do is limit the amount of damage the person can do to you in a situation like that. Definitely a good thing you kept contact information to a minimum. It is an unfortunate reality of dealing with mental illness.

  88. Marie says:

    Hello. I am one of the people who my life was introduced to bipolar from birth forward. No, I am not suffering this myself but had suffered relationships that needed that close bond from my birth through the rest of my life. I love my parents and miss all their good, lovely sides. They are deceased from old age. They worked really hard to take care of their lovely family. They were good parents.
    This disorder had no meds then as people have available today. I only remember the word valium.
    One of my gorgeous children inherited this disorder. I have spent my whole life trying to see through off behavior, help my child, and figure it all out with no help from medical decades ago. It is possible that my child inherited this from the father’s side also.
    This whole life cycle has been hurtful, treated poorly, and seeing this person suffer. Your blog is so helpful and bringing closure to all the hurt and am better able to understand.
    I have not seen one comment about you, Dennis, prescribing to anyone. You refer people to the medical field. This blog is only for helping others understand what happened with their loved one. It is helping. It helps clear the confusion. That is highly important as they still have concern for them.
    Thank You, Dennis, for sharing and allowing me to clear my head with understanding what happened and see I was loved by them.
    I hope this helps you, Dennis.

  89. Jackie says:

    I briefly saw that troll comment. I could hardly believe my eyes so it didn’t register much. I think he said you were setting yourself up as if you were a professional. I want to say loud and clear that I’ve never thought that. You clearly state who you are and where you’re coming from. I’ve found you and this whole blog to be very helpful to me in a difficult time, and I thank you for giving freely of your time and energy to help. I very much hope that ignorant remarks like that don’t discourage you in any way.

    • Marie says:

      I agree with you, Jackie. I thank you, Dennis, for your time. Please keep up your kind work. I appreciate it and many do. It has helped me see and have closure on the while life experience. I also have hope. Thank you, Dennis.

      • Dennis says:

        You’re welcome, Marie. I’m happy to have contributed on your path. I fully intend to keep doing what I do!

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for the support, Jackie. I’m glad to hear my presentation comes across loud and clear to people.

      Dealing with trolls and critics is just part of doing anything really. When I get stuff like that from people, I will give it some thought to see if they have any legitimate complaints that should be addressed. If not, I trash them.

      Doesn’t matter what you do in this world; someone will always have a problem with it.

  90. AnonymousNM says:

    Boy this article was very helpful for me tonight. My daughter is now 40 yrs and I have notice symptoms from her since she was around 6 yrs old. Up until about 5 years ago or so she had me believing that all the problems she has now or had in the past have resulted from the way from her father, her stepfather also ex and now deceased, her father’s wife and myself have raised her. Recently I baby sat a young boy with autism and I could not believe how much she had in common as a child with his behavior. She does not have autism and actually for many years she was always somehow been able to manipulate every counselor and mental health professional she ever saw to believe that the problem was caused by everyone else and not her. Finally I was able to get her to agree to go to the counties head of Psychiatry, she agreed however she would only do it if she was able to attend my doctor’s visit. She asked her doctor is she had any of the following mental disorders, he answered no to Biopolar, no to depression and when she asked him about Borderline Personality disorder, he asked her if she though she had it. He told her answer 25 questions and we will see. She answered almost every question yes that is what she told me. However when the written diagnoses was given to her she said he was a quack and she does not have BPD and the doctor got her answer confused with some other person. Then after she came into my doctors office and took over the whole session before he threw her out of the room after I started to cry. He told me he was sorry and he never should have let her attend, he was also the head of Psychiatry for private healthcare. About 4 years ago she was fired from her job as a live-in nanny, so she did not have any income or a place to live so I told her once again she could stay with me as long as she got a part time job and attend college to get her decree. Prior to working as a nanny she had a good paying corporate job making good money but she decided to quit and filed for unemployment. She collected for 2 1/2 yrs. I have never seen anyone quit and receive employment in my whole lifetime and thought that was impossible. So she moved in never got a job and quit college after the first month. By the third month of her laying around and talking to her friends or visiting her dysfunctional boyfriend I had to kick her out. It got to the point where I was ready to take a restraining order out as she had been previous physically abusive to me in the past. I was not going to let it do that far again and she refused to move and that I would have to bring her to court to evict her. Since about five years ago when my family and her other relatives decided she was not the innocent young lady that she looks like or portrays to be stop saving her from all times of trouble, financially, relationship, unplanned pregnancy etc. she has had to get her shit together on her own. Once again she stood me up for Thanksgiving and Christmas last year which really threw me off because she seemed happy then. We did not talk for awhile, she explained why she was mad at me once again and I thought things were getting better again. This last week things went from great and sweet caring conversations to calling me Satanic again. I am going to see a new counselor tomorrow and show her all the hateful text messages I have received in the past couple of days. Reading this really helped me to once again pull myself together and realize I am not the cause of her behavior. However since she is no longer speaking to any other members of the families on both sides I seemed to get the brunt of all her anger. Years ago I was diagnosed with depression and I do all the necessary things to have a even calm life, meds, mediation, classes but my daughter refuses and probably will never change her mind to take medication. She only uses different 12 step programs to help her and ones I feel that do not deal with the real issues she encounters. Her father self-medicates and from what I know the rest of our families on both sides are in denial of any mental health issues. This is a very hard thing to deal with since I have Fibromyalgia and this stress makes my condition worse with accelerated pain days were I barely want to get out of bed. It is so great to have this platform to vent because my close friends have heard about these problems for years and I feel that I really do not have anyone that will listen or care enough to stop their busy lives and lend an ear. I really cannot blame them because they have families with young children and I remember at that time I barely had time to breathe when I was in their shoes lol Sorry about the rambling on I did not get any sleep last!!

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Please note, don’t use your full name when talking about mental health on the internet. You don’t want google associating your name with your posts. I edited it for you.

      It’s really unfortunate to hear about the situation your facing. The reality is that you’re probably going to have to make the decision to cut her out of your life, sooner or later. She knows she can manipulate people and does so regularly. She refuses to accept responsibility for herself or her actions. It has absolutely nothing to do with you as a parent and everything to do with what goes on in your mind. If you try and keep supporting her, you’re going to get dragged to the bottom with her. The only person that can truly help your daughter is herself. And she has to do that by stop making excuses for all of the shit that goes on in her life and confront her own problems in a real way.

      I know how much that kind of thing hurts to hear, but that’s mental illness. A lot of times, kindness and compassion without heavy armor to deal with the toxicity will just get you victimized.

      It’s not your fault. But it’s also not likely to change anytime soon, either.


  91. Collin says:

    I’m someone who’s suffered from mental illness pretty much my whole life.

    It’s too much of a long story to write what the hell happened, too much has happened. Anyway, I can tell you that when it’s serious, it will 100% destroy or take your life. That’s what’s happening to me and to be honest, you could be reading a post written by someone who’s currently dead because I’m not sure how much longer I can take this.

    I’ve suffered for years. I don’t drink or use drugs, I exercise every day, I sleep right, I eat well, I eliminate unnecessary stress, etc. yet absolutely NOTHING has gotten rid of my problem so really the only option I have left is death.

    I’m about to end up on the street because my lease is up and I haven’t been able to hold down a job because of my mental issues. I’m choking up as I’m writing this because I’m thinking about my life the past several years and there hasn’t been a day or a second that went by where I’m not affected. This sucks and it’s not fair.

    It’s destroyed my relationships and friendships with many people. It’s permanently damaged my friendship with my parents and sister, even though they often remind me that they love me. I just can’t handle this any more. I’ve gotten help and have some right now, yet it’s not working. Nothing works. I’ve tried everything and nothing makes this torture go away I feel like I’m going crazy. Scratch that, I KNOW I’ve gone crazy. I’m aware of everything that’s happening around me and my own behavior, yet I feel like I have no control. I have sporadic and extreme behavior which I regret later all the time. I have explainable, random and extreme emotions. Extreme constant paranoia, jumpiness, hypervigilence, rage and outbursts, constant feeling of pressure in my left side of the head, shortness of breath because of intense anxiety, panic attacks in my sleep which cause me bodily harm, general erratic behavior etc.

    No one will ever understand what I’m going through and strangers don’t care anyway.

    I hope my next life is better then this one.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Collin. Thank you for taking the time to write. I know it’s hard to find hope in dark places. I’ve been in the position you’re facing. That was one of the driving factors in my launching this website and doing advocacy work. You’re right in that a lot of people don’t care, but there are those of us out there who do care, but do not necessarily understand specifically what you are dealing with. Many of us look for understanding from others; but they can’t understand because mental illness is an incredibly personal experience, even if we are bound together by symptoms. Asking other people to understand our specific problems is a very tall order, one that cannot be reasonably filled for many people.

      It sounds like you’ve put a lot of work in trying to be well and maintain stability. But you don’t mention much at all about your interactions with the mental health industry. Are you seeing a professional? Have you tried psych meds? If so, have you tried different psych meds? A lot of people will try one or two and then decide that none of them will work for them. That’s not how it works. Your brain chemistry is unique to you. Finding working psych meds with reasonable, manageable side effects can be very difficult as a result.

      In regards to your living situation, have you applied for any social services? If your mental illness prevents you from holding a job, you may be able to apply for assistance depending on your physical location. A big challenge in getting approved for such things is proving how your mental illness affects your daily life. That’s where the paper trail from interactions with professionals comes in.

      I would encourage you to reach out to a local crisis line to discuss your situation. They are likely to be able to provide you more meaningful help than I can. You may also want to try to discuss what’s going on with people trained for it. I know how it feels when suicide seems like the only reasonable option left, I’ve been there myself. But there is a lot more to life and there are likely things that you can try that you might not be aware of. Contact a crisis line or provider.

  92. Christian says:

    Hello and thank you for an informative article, I am dealing with a relationship with a bipolar individual and am just about at my wits’ end. She likes to punish me with rage and then silent treatments. Right now it is silent treatment, I almost would prefer rage. She stops her meds when she feels like it and then all goes to hell. In between the awful times are the best times of my life. I feel addicted. Where do I go from here?

    • Dennis says:

      Simply put, Christian, if she is just quitting her medication arbitrarily and doing what she wants; you’re probably going to need to take care of yourself, first and foremost. The big mistake people make is thinking that abusive situations are always 100% awful. They’re not. If they were, then no one would ever be abused because they’d just go “oh, that person is a toxic person” and be on their way. But they’re not.

      I would really advise you discuss the situation with a therapist. But given your brief description of the situation and her actions, things aren’t likely to get better anytime soon, if at all. So if you’re getting worn out by her behavior towards you, it’s probably going to come down to choosing to walk away from the relationship to ensure you can stay sane and healthy yourself.

  93. Natalie says:


    Thank you for writing this article. My boyfriend is currently in a bi polar 1 psychosis for the past few weeks. When we first met he told ma he was diagnosed bi-polar but he didn’t believe he was. He has also had one prior major episodea couple years earlier.
    As I knew nothing of bi-polar before him, I accepted his feelings on this as he seemed so balanced. Anway, he had changed his meds back in Sep ’14, and that messed him up a little (crying spells, nausea and hypo-mania) so he went off all his meds altogether in Jan ’15. Now in retrospect I can see it was since the med change and then off all meds that he began to change by way of being more argumentative and needing much less sleep.

    We are in a long distance relationship for past 3 yrs, but we have not seen each other for a couple months now (this is now our longest time apart in 3 years), and after many months of what I now realise where hypo-manic behaviours, I broke up with him about 6 weeks ago due to him always picking fights with me, not listening to anything I said, etc.
    This devastated him (and me too).

    Within 2 weeks of our recent break up, he was in full blown mania, with psychotic features including extremely delusional thinking and grandiosity. He began writing to me and we somewhat were re-connecting, although I was very worried for him.
    Now he is homeless as he was living with his family. He was put into psych ward about 2 weeks ago involuntarily, but after 3 days was released and his family will not let him back unless he takes his meds; which he refuses to as he believes they numb his creativity. I am sensitive to this and understand his concern.

    Prior to this episode he was extremely loving, only wanted me, always wanting more commitment from me. In fact it was always him fighting more for us. He used to tell me he couldn’t live without me and I am his first true love. (he is 32). I feel the same of him.

    But now he is out of his mind. And flirtatious online when this is very unlike him. I angrily confronted him about my fears of him cheating on me and he kept telling me “I am celibate” and “my body is yours” and to just trust him a bit longer bc he has cracked the source code for humanity and we will be able to retire together very soon on his fame. He also thinks he is God and certain dead famous people depending on his mood.

    A few days ago he has accused me of being with some random person we mutually know but haven’t seen in a year. Not true of course. He verbally abused me then blocked me on his phone before I could reply. He has also cut his family off.

    Immediately after this accusation, he began posting sexually charged things online and he is posting screen shots of the porn sites he is visiting making comments attached to the image that he needs to go to Vegas, playboy suite etc.
    He is also posting various private text and message screen shots from conversations with friends, his therapist and one from me.

    I have been doing extensive reading on bi-polar 1 and what i gather is that left untreated this mixed episode psychosis (mood-congruent) can average about 3 months. I can’t imagine him going 8 more weeks of this without something giving and doing more damage than already done.
    I am struggling bc I suspect he may have, or already has been sexual with randoms. I am certain he has “interacted sexually” online but also concerned about real life. This is so unlike him and hard to reconcile in my head.

    Anyway, he may as I write this be back in the hospital. I am not sure I want to answer his phone call this time. Last time he called after the second day full of remorse and emotional but this time he has done so much more I am filled with deeper pain and anger that I am not sure I want to talk to him. Yet I know psychosis means he is not in control and that to ignore him in such a fragile state may not be the best time to..I love him very much and he loves me very much. And I wonder if he will remember all of this? He is naturally a person to feel guilt very easy…

    Any advice or any words at all will help! Thank you.

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do in the situation you’re facing other than be patient and see how things go. What you’re describing is very typical manic behavior; including refusing to take his meds for whatever reason. Yeah, they can impact a person’s creativity. On the other hand, creativity doesn’t mean much when you’ve torched your relationship and are homeless because your mood swings are so erratic and instability is knocking you all over the place.

      All you can really do is wait and decide if you’ll be able to forgive him if he did happen to be unfaithful while unstable; because it is certainly possible with the overtones of hypersexuality that your post is alluding to (being more flirty than normal and sexual posting.) It wouldn’t be all that shocking if he did have an affair or tried to arrange one via online dating or something.

      I’m sorry I don’t really don’t have any comforting words for you. This is Bipolar Disorder for many people. It destroys lives and relationships on a regular basis. Until your guy is willing to get medicated and stay compliant, then cycles like this are always going to be a threat. Also; there really is no “average” for unwell cycles. Rapid cyclers can shift in the span of a day. And I’ve known people to have had years long unwellness, driven by drugs or alcohol abuse. So, don’t assume it’ll be over any time soon. It may or may not be. There’s really no way to know.

      The best thing you can do is work to take care of yourself, for now. Figure out if you’re going to be able to forgive him if he crossed any boundaries that you might have. Everyone has different limits. Only you can decide that. But I would most certainly not get involved in another relationship with him while he refuses to be med compliant. It’s clear by your description that he needs it.

  94. Natalie says:

    Thank you Dennis. This is such a raging storm I never knew had existed before and your dedication to helping all those dealing with Bi polar, as going through it personally or as a loved one, is something I am really grateful to have found. SO grateful.

    Since I last wrote there has been more development, but then I guess that is the nature of the wild beast..I am sorry I go into so much detail, I think a part of it is venting…

    He did not end up in hospital and is still homeless and seemingly ‘desperate’.But then again everything seems to be dependent on his moods. He has been posting things on- line since (I think bc he has driven away so many ppl, online is the place for him to express his mania). Most of what he posts is poetry or music but also the grandiose speak, incoherent sentences at times and ranting and swearing about his family for not supporting him and stealing his savings and car. That no one loves him.

    For the sexual stuff, it has been only a couple things: the single screen shot of a porn site search and a post in which he shared saying “I love women “. That post of loving women seems obvious at some point he has thought to look for women or will if this doesn’t end. The flirting is not so much flirting but more attentive to say a female’s comment whereby in his normal state his is more aloof..that said, he is also more attentive to males-to everyone bc he is so manic.

    Bc he has shared screen shots of his text conversations, I have been privy to see that interaction where his therapist who is trying to calm him down via text. At one point he threatened to rip his therapist’s throat out as he said he was the Son of Sam.

    A query I have though re his therapist, whom I know and is a great man, and has a more of an Eastern leaning perspective to his work: I saw in one text that he was telling my ex that he is NOT Bi polar, but his ego is. Not him, his ego that is manic?? I am not sure that was helpful at all! In fact, my ex replied to that text with “thank you for the reinforcement” and so on.

    From all I have seen and gathered, he is mostly aggressive and angry that people are slowly dropping off. I contacted his brother who said they have dealt with this two times before and each time he fully recovers. And that he will get through this.

    My ex does have the will power of an Ox but I know all those things are thrown out the window in mania…so yes I know I have to work through this and decide when he is recovered if I can get past infidelity…I fear I cannot…I feel like this whole episode is making me feel a little mentally unwell to be honest!!

    Last night, he was posting that he loves me, and that him and I are moving to Canada ASAP (this is where I grew up and he used to always tell me he would get me back there one day). Shortly after, he started posting about unconditional love and if you can’t trust your partner, what use is being in a relationship. If you have to be a detective in your relationship, it’s time to move on (i assume bc he thinks I have cheated on him as per accusation).

    Then he listed himself as “widowed” and made his page non-public. Thank God I cannot see anymore I have to say, as it was hard not to look but hurt me so much. I felt if I could see a little, I could at the least be more aware of if he was crossing any lines or himself harmed. But we have mutual friends and he is concerning everyone.

    I have blocked him via multiple means except email. I receive emails every couple of days which are grouped emails with his family and close friends. He seems to just re-cycle the same bunch of photos. I have not been in any contact with him at all, but he sent another email last night as well, a copy of a private message he had sent me at the outset of this mania, with a poem he wrote for me in it. So I replied saying I am with him in silence. My stupid way of letting him know I still love him but have to be away from him. I was just feeling such empathy he was feeling alone.

    Now today he replies to that begging for me to call him as his family are teaming up against him.

    I have decided not to call him or have any contact whatsoever with him unless he is in recovery.I do know he feels desperate and his situation will worsen as he has barely any money to survive. His family are forcing his hand and I agree with them.

    Do you think the ‘tough love’ approach is best to help him see?

    I felt scared for him when you said this could go on for much longer, or end any day. Could the durations of his last 2 episodes give any indication about the duration of this one though?????

    He doesn’t drink alcohol but smokes marijuana but unsure if he even has the money to afford marijuana right now. Can marijuana make him go worse?

    Thanks again Dennis.

    • Dennis says:

      No, his “ego” is not Bipolar. Bipolar Disorder is rooted in physical differences in the structure of our brain which causes the misuse of mood balancing chemicals in different ways. That kind of statement out of a mental health professional I was seeing would make me drop them and find a new professional. That kind of thinking is both incorrect and dangerous.

      Given that his family has dealt with this two times before, I would highly recommend you communicate tightly with them and take their lead. Yes, in many cases, forcing the unwell person to live with the repercussions of their actions is the best way to get through to them. It can take a hell of a lot to break through the incorrect thinking that Bipolar Disorder can create. I think maintaining your distance and taking care of yourself is probably the best idea right now. It is very common for people in your position to develop depression or anxiety disorders from dealing with the chaos of this kind of unwellness; so you want to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. If you can’t get past his infidelity, then you can’t. Some people can, some people can’t. There’s nothing wrong with either.

      The past duration of his unwell cycles really doesn’t tell you anything about this one. Many mental illness get worse with age, so it’s not uncommon for such things to last longer or be more intense when the person is untreated.

      As for the pot, it really depends on the person. Most Bipolar I know don’t have bad reactions to it, but it’s impossible to know in his case specifically.

  95. Diane says:

    I am currently having a difficult time establishing boundaries with my adult son who was diagnosed with bipolar schizo disorder when he was 24, he is now 28. He is not compliant with medication therapy. He does not like how it makes him feel and wants to be as organic as he can be. Eating organic was his lifestyle prior to his break. He will not participate in personal or family counseling. He was and is still is extremely intelligent which is not helping with his treatment because he knows everything “he” wants to know. My husband is able to detach more effectively than I can. All I can envision is my handsome intelligent son who had so much promise after he graduated from college with a 3.9 average becoming homeless and lonely. He knows how to push my emotional buttons. I can accept guilt very easily. He constantly tries to berate me and make me feel responsible for his condition. I know better but it still gets the best of me. He is strong and has been trying to deal with his issues holistically through better nutrition however this can only go so far and my son needs to be on medication therapy to stabilize his thought processes and begin to take responsibility for his actions and in-actions. I have told him this multiple times but it just comes back as that I don’t care and don’t love him. We have been to family counseling and it has helped us a family to accept our youngest son’s condition and establish some boundaries, however, other boundaries are still difficult. He went briefly to family counseling until he knew he could not manipulate the counselor with his intelligence. He stopped going. I need direction, buzz words, something that I can say to my son when we have conversations to protect myself and still be kind and loving to my son. At this point we are all he has. He has alienated all of his friends and some family since he is so difficult to have a conversation with. It is if he no longer has a filter to stop himself of going on and on and on and on about a subject he is interested in. There are no transition sentences that work for us to stop his ranting. He is very good at blaming. Sometimes his advice to us is perfect advice for him. Phone calls can last hours. They start out great and then deteriorate rapidly when he isn’t making progress with his intentions…making us a miserable as he is. My husband was successful in getting him on SSDI and medicaid. We are currently allowing him live in our NY home with my older son living there to maintaining the property. This is stressful for my oldest and cannot go on forever. I call my youngest son the absent minded professor. He is very forgetful and will move on to another activity rapidly which sometimes can be dangerous especially when cooking. We have asked him to contribute nominal amount for room and board to maintain the property. This is not going very well for us. This whole situation is extremely difficult for us as a family and tough love is not easy. We are coming to an impasse and a decision will have to be made as to whether he can remain living in our house if he is not accepting treatment. This is easier said then done. I do not want to see my son become homeless, lonely, and abused. I guess I have really let go don’t I?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Diane. It’s difficult to imagine the kind of heart ache that this kind of situation puts parents through. Everything that you would consider to be good parenting, to be kind and loving gets turned upside down on it’s head when dealing with a severe mental illness like schizoaffective disorder. But, the reality is that he’s not going to get better until he accepts his mental illness and what is required to actually be mentally well. And for that to occur, it is very likely that he will need to hit the bottom. A lot of times, it’s the only way for those of us who are mentally ill to gain the perspective we need to actually change our lives.

      The perspective you need to carry is that you are not making these harsh decisions to hurt your son, but rather to combat the very difficult nature of the mental illness that contributes to his erratic demeanor and behavior. Mental illness is not soft and gentle. Kindness when dealing with unstable people rarely involves hugs or gentleness. At times, the greatest kindness can be, “If you’re not going to seek help, you’re going to have to find some place else to live. You can’t stay here.”

      It’s not your fault, Diane. I know you genuinely care and love your son, otherwise you wouldn’t have bothered to read my words or write me a message. Hopefully, by taking harsher actions, your son will see that he cannot keep doing what he’s been doing. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for yourself and your family, because his mental illness can and will destroy whatever it is allowed to, so long as he allows it.

  96. Terry says:

    I want to thank you for your blog it was very very informative. It help me to understand what my wife and myself are going through. Answ I want to thank you for your blog it was very very informative. It help me to understand what my wife and myself are going through.

    Here are the terms and I gave my wife.
    If you want to be back in my life please read these terms carefully.

    1. Take all medications that the doctor prescribed to you.

    2. Stop all drinking because it affects your medication and causes hallucinations.

    3. Seek therapy for Sexual accusations and anger issues.

    If you agree to these terms then I will come home.

    If you are unable to comply with these terms, you have 30 days to move.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Terry. I’m happy to hear you found my work useful and insightful. I think your terms are more than fair from the perspective of wanting her to work hard on her wellness, but given that you need to set them down, you’ll want to be prepared for her to reject them. It takes a pretty drastic shift in perspective to not only want to be well but to address substance abuse issues. It’s a really tall, difficult order. But if they are necessary, then they are. I hope it works out for you and your family.

  97. Anonymous says:

    I am in need of advice. I am a single mother with two beautiful children I have no other family except the fathers family which has chosen to be apart of our lives and help me anyway they can which means watching them until I get off of work or giving loving advice to help me get through a stressful situation. On the other hand the mother of the kids father is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and she still has her 33 year old son is girlfriend her ex son in law and her niece living with her. She got fired from a job a few months ago because she got admitted into psychiatric ward of a local hospital. She has just recently found a job. She continuously drinks I don’t know if she is taking her medicine . She always send some me texts asking for money. If I don’t give it to her she goes on a rampage and talks about anything bad that anyone could judge myself for. She makes threats on how I shouldn’t ” mess ” with her or I’ll be sorry. I am so stressed out all the time . I am an evening nurse and am currently looking for a day job so I came remove myself from this situation . But it is hard because she knows she can be in control because I don’t have other resources to help me with my kids at this point in time. . I don’t want her to drive me to a breaking point . She is very vindictive and very persuasive in many ways. She knows she can get anyone to believe her about anything to make me look bad. I don’t know what to do . I just ignore her texts but there are times where I’m actually not able to sleep at night because I don’t know what else she is capable of doing because of her mental illness. Please in need of your help thank you

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there, a couple questions before I dive into this.

      1. Do you live with the mother as well? It’s not clear in your post.
      2. Where is the kids’ father in all of this? Are you getting child support?

  98. Can you help me says:

    I have a coworker. Who i found out had been molested and has 10 brother and sisters by different men. The following has been going on for 6 yrs. She followed me and ease drops on my conversation. I even caught her going through my desk and even found some things thrown under my desk.
    She repeats and mimic me from my voice to my actions words and responses.
    She makes her main goal to destroy me every day. If I’m talking to someone she jumps in the conversation to get attention. She told lives about her sick mother whose not sick to get attention. I was offered overtime on the weekend and she’s calling the dept all day to see if I’m answering the phone and then hangs up but I never answered the phone. She’s attempted destroy my character with other coworkers but it didn’t work. Whom ever I’m friends with she tries to be friends with. She started going to my manicurist and to my accountant to get person information about me that two and two together and shut down all interactions with her
    I don’t and won’t respond to her. I act like she not in the room. She would walk down the same side of the hallway to get my attention but I would cross over to the other side. I don’t give her eye contact. And she has everybody sacred because her husband works in a law firm. She hid 50 patients req forms behind a panel in the office for 3 weeks and management did nothing.
    She does things in the office so there’s no witness. My parking had to be relocated because of her action. Now she’s in the same security parking lot I am.
    She would drive around the complex to see where I was parking. She doesn’t leave the office for lunch because she needs to know what I’m doing and saying. If I try to go to the printer in the office she will either block my way or push her chair out.
    I’ve complained to management they are telling me she hasn’t crossed line so we can’t do anything.
    The regional manager says I can talk her but it might not change her behavior
    And if we do have a meeting with you and her you have to stay because she going to come in with charges against you and my main objective is to protect you. What the heck.

    • Dennis says:

      Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do in that situation short of finding a new job or consulting with a workplace attorney on the matter. I have no idea where you live, what your means are, or what the local laws are. But it seems like that kind of behavior should fall within the scope of harassment or creating a hostile work environment. I feel like your only real recourse is going to be through the legal system, if there any actionable grounds there.

      Make sure you document everything as much as you can. Keep anything that could be construed as proof, just as case. And I think I would get a legal opinion from a workplace attorney on the matter. But, that’s also a catch-22 because if an employer wants you gone, they can usually find a way to make it happen.

      And I don’t trust your manager either. They have a vested interest in keeping the situation quiet and preventing harm to the company. You’re going to need third party help from someone who knows the systems you’re dealing with, assuming anything can actually be done. Because your manager is right in that there are lines that prevent them from taking action as well.

      You may also want to consult with a therapist or psych as well to discuss the situation. See if they can offer any meaningful insight or a course of action.

      I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you might have also been wondering about anything you could say to her that could help the situation. The answer to that question is no. You’re better off maintaining your distance as much as you can and minimizing your contact with her. You usually can’t reason with people like her and it’ll probably just make the situation worse.

      • Can You help says:

        Thanks Dennis.
        And no I have no conversation with her period at all unless its work. So there’s no conversation going on period. She did the same thing to another employee in another dept. They ended up calling the police because the women literally had her hands around her neck and pinned to the wall with her feet tangling.
        This has been an ongoing problem with this women for the past 10 years and no in management hasn’t anything about it.
        So Thank you and yesss I’m looking for work in another company.

  99. Nancy M. says:

    so glad to see support for the one trying to help the person with mental illness. there is so much support for them. but none for us, it seems. I think this could be because, if there were more support for the caregivers, and they were told to take better care of themselves…including setting boundaries and stepping back, etc. going ahead and living THEIR lives…and if, in the meant time, the person with a mental illness commits suicide or something terrible, then the caregiver could say BUT YOU TOLD ME to set boundaries, now look what happened. However, we caregivers are ONLY human, we have our own issues, we aren’t Sherman Tanks, or is that German Tanks, anyhow….we have our OWN nervous system to deal with, our own feelings, our own needs. Good grief. So, it’s WONDERFUL to have some support. Another thing that happens (I have a sig other bipolar, didn’t know it when I got with him, and his kids are, and our daughter is…now all grown, but our daughter still leans on me, then abuses me, everything is my fault, I’m called names, etc.) anyhow, as the caregiver, I have felt ALL ALONE with NO ONE to talk to, I’ve even been BLAMED for it all.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Nancy.

      I don’t think it’s that complicated. I think it’s more of a matter of resources. There’s already crap all for resources for mentally ill people compared to the actual need for it. So, most people don’t view support for people like yourself as necessary. As a supporter, you need to take good care of yourself. You need to keep yourself healthy, erect boundaries, and ensure you don’t get dragged under and drown by the mental illnesses of the people around.

      And yes, your mentally ill loved one may do something horrible or end up committing suicide. That’s reality with mental illness. You can do everything that you perceive to be right, everything that any professional suggests to you, and the person still ends up destroying themselves. Why? Because it’s mental illness. It’s not rational or logical for the most part. You can’t own the choices and actions of a mentally ill person. Only they can. Otherwise you’ll just end up driving yourself insane, trying to keep up with it all.

      You do have your own issues, and you have to take care of yourself first and foremost.

      You can’t allow yourself to be blamed. I would very much suggest that you visit a therapist yourself to talk about your family situation, learn how to establish and enforce boundaries with them. Therapists and counselors aren’t just there for we mentally ill people; they are also there to help people out who are dealing with difficult situations, like you are with your family. Because you’re right, you’re not a Sherman Tank. You’re a person with feelings and needs of your own. And you cannot trust mentally and emotionally damaged people to always have your best interests in mind.

      • Jackie M. says:

        I just want to support the analogy with being pulled under and drowned. I had an image of my toxic friend trying to swim in turbulent waters, but willing to drag in anyone eg me, to join her. Yet my image of her became someone willing to push me down, drown me and climb on me to try and get out,

    • Dee says:

      I agree with you. This blog is so helpful. Drs. don’t want to talk to us or it would cost us and I love your comments as it is so true.

  100. Amy says:

    I just found this site and found the responses very helpful on this extremely difficult situation. My 28 year old son was diagnosed 7 years ago with BiPolar and like everyone here it’s been a roller coaster for all. Currently he is in jail for DMV violations due to his inability to make rational decisions. I will not bail him out because the last 4 months have gotten worse and worse due to his lack of compliance with medications and seeing professionals. He is so delusional and paranoid. He’s sick and I know he has so much pain and don’t want to add to it but he will be homeless at the end of month. While I want to continue to help, I know that paying for rent and food and things in general are only enabling him to continue his downward spiral. He wants help but gets in his own way and my health is suffering so I really have no choice but tough love. He has attempted suicide 1 1/2 years ago, when I found out he is using drugs. He has tried to get help but on his terms which are ridiculous but he’s an adult and nothing more I can do. It’s killing me that our healthcare systems are so messed up. In the last month, he has been in 2 hospitals, one rehab and now jail. Oh and OD about 2 weeks ago then was out of hospital next day. It’s just such a mess and I’m feeling guilty that I’m giving up although I’m not giving up hope just giving up banging my head against the wall when there is nothing I can do. I hurts so much my heart actually hurts. I do go to a therapist, I go to Naranon and have completed the 12 week family to family course offered by NAMI. A great program but the bottom line is only he can help himself. I guess I’m really just venting because I know there is no answer to this horrible situation. In spite of all this I do feel blessed for the support I have through love of family, friends and the education out there to help me cope. All I wish for all of us struggling family members and those afflicted with this disease that some day there will be better laws to help deal with this situation. In the meantime, peace, faith and hope to all.

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Amy. As you pointed out, it’s largely venting. Just wanted to let you know that you are heard. And you’re right, he’s the only one that can help himself.

  101. Lynn says:

    I understand completely the importance and necessity of establishing boundaries and enforcing them. What about the children of the mentally ill one? Enforcing those boundaries then exposes the innocent children to risk. In my situation, they are a toddler and infant that I can’t turn my back on. I have no legal rights to do anything. The parent knows this and uses the children to continue to get her way.

    • Dennis says:

      That is an unfortunate situation, Lynn. All you can do is the best you can. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an answer when it comes to situations like that. If the parent can function well enough in a gray area, they can skirt around the system; particularly if they are extremely knowledgeable about how social services works. You just have to decide how far you are willing to go and what you are willing to do. And if the children are in an abusive situation, report it to relevant authorities.

      There are a lot of cracks in the system that people regularly fall through. That “bad but not quite bad enough” is quite a big one.

  102. CO says:

    I have an adult younger sister who is a mother to twins. She has never lived on her own and the family is always coddling her, supporting her and giving her cash to get by. Every so often she will take one little thing I say and blow it all out of proportion. She’ll not talk to me for weeks after the perceived injustice I’ve committed against her. However, when she wants something, she’s as sweet as pie. You can never tell her she’s wrong and we always have to tip toe around her or she’ll go off on us. Even when she’s dead wrong. Today I asked her a simple question and she went on and on about how dare I think ill of her as my sister. There was no way to win. I didn’t even engage. It’s exhausting. A friend told me I need to limit my communication with her. Now I think she might be right about that.

    • Dennis says:

      You’re friend is right. I’ve known several people who have had to simply cut family members out of their lives because they were toxic, had no desire to be better or change in any way. All you can truly control is yourself. So if you need to limit your interactions with her for your own mental health, then that’s what you should consider doing. And for that situation to change at all, the rest of your family would have to be onboard with not coddling her as well; which is a pretty tall order and drastic change of perspective for a lot of people, particularly parents because they can’t bring themselves to be “cruel” to their kids.

      • CO says:

        Thank you for your reply Dennis. It’s so hard. There will have to be a complete overhaul for anything to change. My sister has never had to take care of herself because mama was and is always there to bail her out. Now that she has the kids I’m convinced she’ll be like this for the rest of her life. I just hope the kids come out of it ok. There’s only so much I can do. I even have my father calling me periodically urging me to help my sister. He’s ridden with guilt for not being there for us when we were little. We are both in our 40s now. She and I grew up in the same household and I get up every day to earn my living. It’s not fair that I have to fix my own problems while she can always lean on mom and pop. In the meantime she’s rarely nice to me except when she wants something. I’m so sick of it.

        • CO says:

          You did well for yourself. My mother is too invested in her home and city to ever move away. Besides that my sister wouldn’t leave her side. She is to dependent on her.

  103. linda says:

    At some point, after setting limits, having them discarded, years of watching and experiencing mental and physical abuse to our parents, family, friends, wrecked cars, not hers mind you, financial fraud, damaged property, leagal entanglements we’ve been dragged into and empty promises…you just walk away.
    We no longer take my sister in laws phone calls, her letters and cards are returned.
    The last straw came when she became so violent my grandson and other children at our home hid under beds, in closets, under a car…
    We had to make a choice to protect ourselves from her. There isn’t one family member that is willing to reestablish contact with her.
    We have started the process of restraining orders.

    • Dennis says:

      Sometimes that’s all you can do. I’m sorry to hear about the situation your family finds itself in. It’s a complicated thing and there isn’t always good solutions or outcomes. It sounds like your family went as far as they could for her.

  104. Mom says:

    I read your article and can relate to a lot. I have teen that I have done everything for to get help since she was first diagnosed at 3 with ADHD and at 9 with Bipolar disorder. She has been hospitalized 4 times from 2 weeks to 3 months and now facing another trip to the hospital for a psych eval; school sent her home today for threatening to kill herself, me (her mom) and her younger sister. Earlier this week she was suspended and I have never been consistent with punishment until now. I took away all electronics for the week and I believe today was the result of me finally following through with punishment for more than one night. We have been consistently to therapy since she was 3 and until the past few years, we’ve had monthly visits to the Psychiatrist to change/modify medication. The school is telling me this is her manic behavior, I keep telling them she’s just lashing out because I’ve spoiled her and she’s angry, but we should let the Dr. decide. Are there obvious signs to tell if her current behavior is because her medication needs adjusted/changed or because she’s spoiled? Her medication has been the same for the past two years and it’s never been longer than 6 months so I’m sure she needs it adjusted, but I think the outburst are more the ODD and spoiled. I welcome any suggestions or comments. I’m at my end with her and don’t know how much more I can take. I’m a single parent and recently had a massive heart attack and I’m in my early 40’s. The older she gets, the more aggressive she is and I don’t want to live in fear of my daughter or her hurting her sister. I don’t think she’d ever hurt us, but now having her sister lock her door at night to be safe. This is not how I want to live our life.

    • Dennis says:

      There’s not really a simple answer or insight to that kind of question, unfortunately. There definitely does need to be repercussions if she is threatening violence, suicide, or doing anything illegal. It has to be consistent and uniform. But you also casually mention ODD. Which creates a whole slew of other problems on top of the mood disorder and whatever other problems she has.

      How old is she? Your post makes it seems like she is under 18. And if she has been on medication for two years, it very likely does need adjusted because the body goes through such drastic chemical and hormonal changes while the person is growing up and going through puberty. It’s so drastic that this is the most common time for Bipolar Disorder to emerge in a person. So yes, it is perfectly possible that she needs a med adjustment and it is mania. But again, that’s impossible to know for sure until the meds have actually been adjusted and you can see how she responds to it.

      Unfortunately, I don’t really think there is anything you can do past try the adjustments and see how they affect her. Especially if she is a minor.

      • Mom says:

        Thank you! I’m sorry, I thought I had put her current age, she’s almost 15yrs old. She was diagnosed at 9 with Bipolar, after being diagnosed with ADHD at 3, later ODD, Mood Disorder and OCD. She’s been hospitalized 4 times and each time they take her off all the medications and then slowly right back on them. The last time she was in the hospital was two years ago and her Psychiatrist changed them once more a month after we were home. This is the longest time she’s went without a medication change which I have been grateful for. But now her aggression is mostly verbal but she’s threatened me for the first time in her life so it worries me. The older she gets, it seems the more boundaries she’s trying to push. I have still stuck to my guns and it has now been 6 days with no electronics and she’s hasn’t complained at all. Hopefully, I’ve gotten through to her. Thank you!!

  105. Kristy says:

    I’m just wanting to post my story

  106. Kristy says:

    So here it goes: now that I know how.
    I’ve been in a relationship with a guy who’s just started treating his no polar in the past year. Through therapy- lithium and relationship counciling. ( with me ) this is a first for me. ( loving someone who is no polar ) we have a beautiful 11 month old son together. And I brought a 5 year old into our relationship. Most times are very family pleasant. Other times the littlest comments will trigger this person who hates me, tells me I’m ugly, ( which I definitely am not) inside and out I love myself and am happy with who I am. ( until recently when I started questioning all his awful comments)
    He will tell the kids and I to leave. Move out! Go away etc. He will tell me he’s going to sleep with other women. Tells me I’m unattractive and that’s why he doesn’t want to be intimate with me. Then I cry- he never says sorry, holds me or acknowledges that he has said hurtful things. A few days will go by and he acts like it never happened. I just don’t know how normal this is. I do not want to wake up one day and feel as of I’ve totally lost me, In trying to love him. Sorry for any typos. I grabbed my cell phone to send a quick note to you, Dennis. Thank you for being such support to a everyone on here.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Kristy. That is certainly not good or positive behavior at all and not something that can be condoned. Do you ever go to relationship counseling with him? Because you should try to do so to explain what is going on to the counselor and see if he is willing to work towards finding or correcting that behavior. That kind of behavior is not typical for a Bipolar person who is well-medicated and/or stable. It’s not even consistent with Bipolar Disorder in general unless the person is inherently extremely unstable and in an escalated cycle.

      In other words, were I in his position, knowing what I know about Bipolar Disorder, I would be seriously questioning if I didn’t have an additional mental illness or was misdiagnosed. That kind of response is more typical for Borderline Personality Disorder. The two get confused a lot both by people with the mental illness and those trying to get it diagnosed correctly.

      At any rate, if he’s not willing to work on the issue with you and with the therapist, then you and the kids are very likely to suffer a great deal of damage from it in the long-term. You and the kids will end up feeling like you always need to walk on eggshells around him, can’t reasonably communicate, on top of the mental and emotional damage that it will end up doing over an extended period of time. Yes, it will take a very drastic toll on you and the kids. If he won’t work on it, then you’re better off doing what you need to do to protect the health of you and your children.

  107. Dee says:

    Interestingly after having to have family members say mean things my feelings are still learning that those mean things that are said is the bipolar talking. It is so hard to remember that bipolar is demeaning us again.

    • Dennis says:

      There must be limits on these things. It’s not something you should just deal with and put up with on a regular basis. It’s one thing if a person has an unwell cycle and goes off the deep end for a little while. It’s an entirely different scenario if the person has been doing it for years and years and doesn’t care how it affects you at all. Every situation is different though.

  108. Dennis says:

    Hello, Nikki. I didn’t approve your first message because I don’t feel like it should be in a public space yet. Would it be okay if we communicated about it via email? You can email me directly at if that is okay with you.

  109. JV says:

    I just experienced that with a best friend. Like he does not know me anymore. We know for few years and now we barely talk. Nowadays he thinks it’s useless and he has no topics, aöll kind of topics worked last year – now we can’t find a topic and he got annoyed me asking what’s wrong when he treats friends like I am no one. He don’t even answer the call anymore. And never read the messages. Few moments ago he said don’t talk me again, until I come back, if it happens. I think it is really hard to deal with these people, but last year we could manage, but now he changed a way too much.

    Usually these people wants to be alone and they want the other to respect that when they don’t realise how it feels from the view of friend. Also this kind of people can be happy and in hour mad to you as person. You never know. They don’t usually want help, as they believe no one can. They want maybe too much of perfect life and if someone can’t deliver it, they will discard. And they can stop to answer normal friend questions like how are you. Actually all of this happened to me. I did nothing, just mentioned why they are so different. Now the person find me dangerous and quit to talk with me.

    I think they need basically time to recognise what they did wrong, because normal people never will be angry to other, never will find so much of negativity to say about after long time of worked friendship. After all I would never ever say anything about my friends as a bad. And never would transfer my angry to others when they are disturbing me when I want to be alone or something. It’s hard to deal with these people and easier to let go until they come back. Probably one day they bwill recognise how great friend they treated so bad and discarded from their life for a months. I have one friend less, but after all I have music remaining. Maybe these kind of people never will be good friends… because they mind changes so often so one day they think you are awesome friend and other you should be in the junk.

    • Dennis says:

      That’s a very appropriate perspective, JV. At the end of the day, you have to do what is best for you and your health. Some people just can’t function correctly and refuse to do anything to work against it. There’s nothing you can do about that if they refuse to acknowledge or deal with it. You can’t help someone that won’t help themselves.

      • JV says:

        Thank you. I really think so too. I simple need to wait until he changes the mind, usually with this thing, it can change very often. Maybe I will be soon again good friend and he will talk like nothing happened. I think it’s important not to mention then the back, to ask what happened, I think he will be not very well about this question. The reason I even have this, I never had such hard person to deal with in my life. But when he is my friend, he is very good person, and I used to like company of him. I hope he will be back on track, for now it seems I am not only one he is refusing to talk with.

    • Dee says:

      I agree. Be a parent to these adults. I would never ever say hurtful, I would never ever do hurtful, but I am nothing as a mother to one of these. I found myself like a scolded child and none of this is my fault. I found myself wanting to go save them and their children but no response or mean response. Very unfair for me to feel this way when I need to put energy into ones who want me and appreciates me. I am realizing why should I do this to myself? Why do I feel obligated when they continually treat me like I am no one. This sad stuff is ridiculous. I bent over backwards and it is nothing to them.

  110. Cathy K says:

    Hi, Dennis. I enjoyed your article. I have been trying to find some support for me, my brother and my parents in dealing with my sister who is bipolar and suffers from chronic depression (we all live in different cities in the Southeast and she is living four hours away from the closest family member). We are at the end of our ropes and mostly want to know if we are enabling my sister in getting help.

    My sister is 50 years old and quit her job one year ago, has no friends, was fired from multiple professional jobs, and has ruined her credit (she ran up over $180,000 in credit card debt, had a foreclosure, and just got evicted). In October of 2015, she put an elaborate plan into place to kill herself and, luckily, we were able to stop her plans. She had a seven-day lock-up at a local mental health clinic. Since then, we have been trying to support her to find a new apartment and get on disability (which she is applying for now with back problems). She has done nothing to help herself and is very overly dramatic about everything instead of trying to make a difference. In January, she was evicted and has since been in a shelter for a month and living in her car homeless. When we try to talk, email and text her to ask questions and see how things are going she usually just brings up how terrible things are and how she can’t do anything. She does not take medication for her mental illness and we can’t get her to the doctor because she has no health insurance (she let that lapse) and she says she doesn’t know where to go (or doesn’t need it) even though we give her places to call, etc. to help. She can be incredibly manipulative too, which is very draining on the family to constantly be hearing this (i.e., her latest text to my brother was to guilt him by telling him to “forget about her and enjoy his beautiful home and beautiful family.”).

    My brother and I have raised money to help support her until she gets disability and we give that money to our parents to help her. This is where I wonder if we are really enabling her! Does this hurt? We are paying for her car insurance ($200 a half), her back medicine ($200 a month)–which, by the way, she has been on a pain controlling substance for her bad back problems for over seven years and I know she is addicted to this medicine–and then some money for food and gas ($100 a week). We were going to get her up to our $1000 a month goal once she found some housing (which she is doing nothing about!) to get some rent.

    We have heard from friends that giving her money is just enabling her, but I don’t want to see her go hungry or not have her car insurance (especially when she is living in her car), but are we making it worse? I talked to my parents today and they said they gave her the full $1000 for this month, but that it was up to her to manage it. I know she is using some of it to stay in a hotel every third day. I just told my parents that maybe that is a bad idea. Her staying in a hotel every third day isn’t getting her to do what she has to do to find housing and change things. I suggested giving her $600 a month (she can have more IF and WHEN she finds housing) for her $200/month medicine and $100/month food and gas. But is that wrong too? Are we making things worse? What should we do? I’m very worried about my parents. They are older and I’m so worried this will kill them. They are unable to enjoy their retirement and are stressed out of their mind, sick with worry. We could really use some advice about our role and what we should be doing? Nothing seems to change from when this nightmare began in October. Thank you so much!

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Cathy.

      The unfortunate reality of dealing with a mentally ill person like your sister is that you simply cannot help someone that refuses to help themselves. She may be Bipolar and suffer from severe depression, but it is pretty clear in the actions you are describing in your post that she is also manipulative.

      It is an unfortunate situation. The way I describe it to other people is like this. You’re standing there and watching a person drown in knee deep water. You tell the person, “Stand up. All you have to do is stand up and you won’t drown.” But they don’t. They refuse to. They stay stuck in their own negative thoughts, actions, and habits. They fight you every step of the way. You could pave the way in front of them with solid gold and a red carpet to that which has a great deal of potential to help them, and they still decide to wander off the path. All you can do is watch them sputter and drown.

      The hardest thing I had to learn in doing what I do as an advocate, in talking to people like yourself, your sister, and your parents on a regular basis; is to accept that some people simply refuse to help themselves. All you can do is watch them drown and remind them, “hey, you have the power to change this, but you’re not. This is your responsibility.”

      I have a simple rule of thumb that stems from this. The focus of my work is more enabling people to help themselves, rather than “saving” them in any way. I don’t save people. I’ll point to resources, point to the path to walk, offer the person encouragement, pick them up if they stumble; but ONLY if they are trying to better their position. I don’t have the time or emotional energy for people like your sister who refuse to help themselves.

      And yes, I have been criticized heavily for that opinion and approach.

      So, were it me in that position, I would simply start trying to build my own walls between her and myself; and just move towards helping my parents cope with the situation more. Because your sister probably isn’t going to get better unless she has some very serious revelations and changes in her mind. Everyone in the world can advise your parents to just cut off her and let her deal with the repercussions of her choice, but for a parent, I imagine that to be an impossible choice to need to confront, particularly when you know the person is high risk for suicide. On the one hand, it is generally a bad idea to keep feeding resources to a person like your sister. On the other hand, I’d be just as concerned with the long-term affect on your parents if your sister were to commit suicide. That doesn’t mean you or your brother have to let yourselves be dragged through it with them.

      So if they are asking for help and support with your sister, think of it less as trying to help your sister and more as just trying to help your parents deal with what they need to deal with. Don’t act under the assumption that your sister is ever going to get better. A 50 year old, mentally ill, suicidal drug addict is not a combination that a ton of people recover from, unfortunately. Could she? Sure. But she’s not going to until she realizes that she’s the only one that can truly help herself. All of the help in the world means nothing if the person won’t take their meds, keep their doctor appointments, and do what they need to do to stay and be healthy. All you can do is watch them drown.

      Something that may help you with your own sanity that you may want to share with your family, whenever she starts on the “oh poor me” bit, just look at her and remind her, “We’ve given you a load of resources to confront your problems and work towards having something better. It’s your responsibility to make use of it.”

      And basically shut down all of her manipulation with a sentence like that. Manipulators lose a lot of power over your emotions when you refuse to engage them on their terms.

      That’s kind of all over the place, so let me summarize.

      -Your actions should be in support of and to help keep your parents propped up and healthy at this point. Realistically, there is only a slim chance of your sister recovering or living a normal life.

      -The typical advice is to cut a person like your sister off. I feel like that isn’t the best choice for you and your family because of the high probability she will kill herself and the affect that will have on your parents. Basically, let them do what they need to do to feel like they are trying to help. But giving her a thousand dollars and expecting her to be responsible with it is a pretty terrible idea. I don’t think I would be contributing to her financial support anymore, either way. “I just don’t have the money.”

      -Work on building your own walls between yourself and your sister to keep yourself healthy. It would be a good idea if you worked on coming to terms with the fact that she may wind up homeless or killing herself, long-term. I would very much recommend that you and your folks talk to a counselor about all of this as well; ask for help about boundary building and enforcement.

      Given your sister’s tenuous mentality and the potential for addiction, it’s not really an area where you want to rely on random information from the internet. Your parents may benefit greatly from having a place to vent off about her as well.

      • Cathy K says:

        Hi, Dennis! Thank you so much for your advice. I’m sorry it took me a few days to respond back. I came down with the flu a couple of days ago and my dizziness made it difficult to be on the computer, until now. Anyway, your words really hit home and meant a great deal to me, and I plan to share your thoughts with my family and when my parents come through in a couple of weeks. I plan to have us all sit down together for a family meeting to come up with a plan.

        I also wanted to let you know that your analogy of how dealing with someone with these problems is like helping a person who is drowning in knee-deep water was so striking to me. It is so similar to what I have been sharing with others since this all began. For me, when I have told others how it feels to deal with my sister it is like the analogy of “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” I tell them, for me, it feels like my sister is totally dehydrated and super thirsty. I point over to the water and say, “There is some water over there,” but she won’t walk over. So, I walk her over to the water hole, but she won’t bend down to drink. So I take her head and put it just above the water, but she won’t go down the inch or two to grab a drink. Finally, I take her head and put it in the water, but, like a five-year-old who doesn’t want to eat his broccoli, my sister clamps her mouth shut, thrashes about, and refuses to simply open her mouth, take a drink and quench her thirst.

        Gosh, it meant a great deal to just be heard by you and get your advice. I already cut my sister off from communication with me back in December because I had just had enough of being manipulated again and again, for so, so long. I do my best, instead, to provide support behind the scenes, supporting my parents, looking into resources for my sister, etc. It really is the best I can do right now. We just all have to come up with a plan for how we can realistically manage this over the long term. Thanks for all that you do!

        • Dennis says:

          No worries on the delayed reply. I hope you’re feeling better.

          Your analogy is pretty good as well. I get accused of being cruel or insensitive on an irregular basis because I don’t think that anyone should go as far as you’re describing for your sister. Surviving Bipolar Disorder and the damage it does requires boundaries and walls. So, in my case, I will point out the water. I will encourage them to go drink from the water. I’ll pick them up if I see them stumble on their way towards the water. But that’s the end of it. Mental wellness is not something that can just be handed to someone. It is a lot of difficult, tedious work; and people like your sister will just drain you dry of your resources, emotional and physical.

          You’re very welcome on the reply and I’m glad it helped. You’re not wrong in cutting off communication from her and I think behind the scenes support is probably the best way to go about trying to help your family without exposing yourself to her toxicity.

  111. Debbie B. says:

    My 24 year old daughter moved back in with me last year after she broke up with her boyfriend of 6 years. She claims she is depressed and wants to kill herself. My issue is that she uses her depression as an excuse for her bad behavior. She can’t clean the kitchen after she has made a big meal or baked a cake because she is depressed. Her laundry is scattered all over the living room, she flicks her ashes on the floor, leaves trash in her tracks, her room is a dump and when I ask her to clean it up, she says she can’t because she is too depressed but then she gets a phone call from a friend and her attitude changes instantly and she is laughing and happy as a clam. I have asked her to get her own place but she claims I don’t love her if I will kick her out when she is depressed. She has a job but has trouble getting out of bed and is currently on probation if she is late again or misses work. She stays up late at night and then claims it is the depression is why she can not get up in the morning. She loves to argue and blame me for all her problems. She did the same thing with the boyfriend. If I do not agree with her, she throws a tantrum where she screams, yells, calls me names, breaks things and has hit me a few times.. I have suggested family counseling but she is not interested. I have suggested some different herbs that would help her (st. Johns wart, rhodiola) but she tried it for a few days and gave on it. I suggested she contact a counselor on DR on Demand and they told her she is not abusive to me and put her on Celexa. I do not like the prescription meds because of the side effects and when I told her this she flew into a rage telling me that I am not supportive. He father died when she was 5 and I have raised her on my own. Her behavior as been like this since her mid teens. I do not know what to do with her anymore. Any suggestions?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Debbie. A note, I changed your display name to remove your last name. You should not use your full name when discussing mental illness on the internet so that search engines do not associate your name with it in the event someone Googles you, such as an employer or your daughter. What I’m relating here is the common approach for dealing with a toxic, abusive person like your daughter. Given that she has threatened suicide and has been violent towards you, you should absolutely seek out a therapist for yourself to help you navigate and deal with the situation. I do not recommend just trying to swing massive changes without the support and knowledge of a professional so you don’t end up hurt or she ends up dead.

      1. There’s no way a professional would have said the situation is not abusive had she honestly related what was going on to either them. So she either lied to them or you. Probably both.

      2. Mental health management often boils down to choosing which flavor of shit sandwich you want to take a bite of. Yes, the side effects of prescription meds are harsh; but so is what you’re going through now. Also, “natural” substances like St. John’s Wort are not without their own threats because they can create different effects and change the way other substances put into the body can respond. So, for example, St. John’s Wort is known to help with depression in people with Major Depression, but it can rocket a person with Bipolar Disorder into severe instability and insanity. And since most people view stuff like St. John’s Wort as “not as serious as medication,” an unstable person can thoroughly screw up their medication or life by not telling their doctors they are taking it. Which again, you can’t trust your daughter to be honest about.

      3. If she puts her hands on you or threatens suicide, call the cops and have them handle the situation.

      4. It is possible that she is suicidal. It is also possible that she is lying because she knows she can use it as a means to exert leverage and control over you. The only effective way to counter this is to meet any threats of suicide with a call to professionals. She will probably bitch, scream, and throw a temper tantrum (based on your message), the only response you should give is. “I’m not a professional. If you’re suicidal, I’m getting you professional help.”

      5. Before you do anything “against” her, make sure you have things locked down tight in your life. Monitor credit ratings, keep personal documents somewhere she can’t get them, keep irreplaceable valuables somewhere she can’t get to them, that sort of thing. Secure your credit cards, checkbook, etc. Monitor your credit rating in case she decides to do something like identity theft, which is a pretty common thing when it comes to people like her.

      6. Bearing in mind that I am not a professional. Were I in your position, I would kick her out. 30 day notice, no excuses. “I don’t have anywhere to stay.” Give her the address to a local homeless shelter or tell her to stay with one of her friends that makes her so not depressed. If she threatens to kill herself, ask her, “Are you suicidal, yes or no?” If she says yes, call authorities and report it. If she says no, then shrug and say I don’t want to hear it then. Anytime she tries to allude back to it, “Are you suicidal, yes or no?” When she accuses you of not loving her, shrug and say, “Think what you want.”

      The reality is that she’s not going to get better until she can realize that the way she conducts her life is incorrect and unhealthy. That can take years. And given that she can manipulate you, it’s less likely to happen. So you can either hang on to the anchor and drown with her, or you can let her go and fall where she needs to. Yes, that may mean that things don’t go well for her and she fucks up her life inside and out. But she’s an adult, not a little girl. She has to deal with her own bullshit.

      Now, I would really suggest that you discuss the situation with a therapist of your own before you kick her out, just to have professional perspective on the matter. What I’ve related here is the typical approach for dealing with a toxic person like your daughter. Don’t bother trying to convince her of anything anymore. Therapy and counseling mostly only helps people that are ready to help themselves, because recovery from this shit is a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

      You can strip a lot of power from a manipulator by not engaging and ceasing to stop trying to find middle ground. You just have to do what you need to do regardless of how she feels about it. However, given that she has been violent towards you in the past, you have to step carefully to extract yourself from the situation. Seek out a therapist for yourself.

      • Debbie says:

        Thanks Dennis. She has been taking the medication for a few days now and she says she feels a lot better. I suggested that she may be happier if she did not live with me and she agreed. She has been approved for an apartment and plans to move in June 1 and she seems excited to get a place of her own. I don’t believe she is suicidal and she says she could never do that to me even though she feels like it sometimes. I think she worries too much about her future instead of enjoying each day like I do. But then again she is 24 and I am in my 50’s.

        • Dennis says:

          You may want to casually remind her that continuing to take the medication as directed is what is going to help her most. That if she experiences problems with it, to talk to her doctor about it before deciding to just quit taking it or stepping it down at all. Hopefully, the steps she is taking will help her get things sorted out more in the present.

  112. Sam says:

    I have been searching the internet for answers but not many situations seem to have become quite as out of control as mine…
    In the past my father showed signs of bipolar and definite narcissism. He was also verbally abusive towards all my mom, my siblings and I. He was greedy and obsessed with materialistic things.
    My father is 70 years old now. He lived at my house, for a few years, with my mother before I needed to sell. I finally was able to sell and we parted ways. For the first time (since we were born) my father and mother lived together alone.
    During this time my father has become obsessed with me and every aspect of my life. I finally stopped talking to him because I couldn’t take him anymore. I feel like this made him worse. He has found new ways to obsess over me and gain my unprovided attention. He’s attempted to look into all of my finances and has even acquired a lawyer to sue me because, over a year later, he feels entitled to all the equity from my previous home. He has called the government on me for illegal activities. He has gone to all of my relatives homes to slander me. My parents are now separated because my mom can no longer handle his irrational behavior. He continues to harass my mom as well by leaving insane messages on her phone and driving by where she lives/ works.
    I’m worried that when he loses the lawsuit he will completely snap.
    He can function normally otherwise in day to day, feed himself, wash himself, drive, even go to work so I feel like it would be very hard to prove his mental instability! He is also very good at hiding his insanity when other people are around.
    What can I do? I feel like there is nothing I can really do until he does something illegal.

    • Dennis says:

      Unfortunately, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. There is really nothing you can do, that I know of, until he does something illegal other than drastically limit what influence he can have in your life. Lock down your life as much as you can to prevent intrusion. If you haven’t, I would suggest that you and your mom go to a therapist and talk to them about your dad and the situation. The behavior you’re describing is definitely red flag behavior. I would be concerned if he has access to firearms.

      I would very much suggest that you visit a therapist and discuss your situation with them. They may be able to provide you with more meaningful help and insight. The kind of behavior you’re describing definitely sounds consistent with what you’d expect out of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder; but it’s only a sliver of information and I’m not a professional. If he does have NPD, then you’re going to need professional help to deal with and navigate the shit he’s throwing your way. I’ve known quite a few people that had to totally discontinue their relationships with narcissistic relatives exactly for reasons like you’re describing.

      You may also want to bring your work manager into the loop in a limited way about your dad. Just inform them that, “My dad has some serious mental problems. So if you ever receive random complaints about me that seem strange or out of character, it might be him trying to screw with my life.” You don’t have to go into full detail on it, but making them aware could save you a lot of grief.

  113. Nadean says:

    My husband has been suffering from severe depression and hospitalized 3 times in four months for psychotic episodes. As soon as he leaves the hospital he stops taking his Meds and stops eating and drinking water until he gets so Ill I have to cal 911 and he goes back to the hospital. He is almost to that point again. I am completely confused and exhausted. This illness came on literally overnight I went to work one morning and came home to a different man. My loving, fun, wonderful husband was gone replaced with someone who wanted to sell our house get a divorce and move to California to rejoin a religious organization (Tony Alamo cult). Well long story short he is unable to sell the house and knows he can’t survive on his retirement so he wants me to stay and live like roommates as he says he no longer loves me. From that time on his mental health has gotten worse every day. I want to leave as it is painful to live with his hate but I feel guilty about leaving him due to money issues and the fact that he might starve himself to death he also has no one else in his life that cares about him. I don’t know what to do, I feel like I am being dragged down everyday. I also have 2 grown sons from another marriage that need me healthy and happy.

    • Dennis says:

      I would suggest that you get with a counselor to talk more in-depth about your situation and get their advice on how to withdraw if that’s what you need to do and how to best handle the situation with your husband. When the divorce comes, be sure to get a lawyer.

      I understand you feel guilty, but you can’t throw your own mental and emotional health under the bus for someone who is not trying to help or take care of himself at all. If you hold on too tight, you’re just going to drown with him. Find yourself a counselor, Nadean. You may also want to get in touch with charities that assist women in abusive relationships. They may be able to provide you some meaningful support and point you to resources as well. Not all abuse is physical.

      • Stephen says:

        Dennis / Nadean,

        Yes, sounds like the same advice I need from Dennis…. what he has already put in my other posting. I already know my line of thinking is to set myself aside and totally try to help the other person. Back in the late eighties and into the nineties my mother had a bad divorce with my mentally ill father. She still cringes at the thought when they told her that she needed to seek counseling to learn to live with my dad. It frustrated that she had to learn how to live with someone like that. I sort of see what they were saying. But back then she thought she had to give in. She did end up talking to someone that told her that she was not the crazy one. Because my dad had her going to psychiatrist believing that she was actually the crazy one. I guess when my mother told this story, The Amelie told her that she was not the one that was crazy. So I guess we have to keep in mind that we are not going there because we are crazy but we are going there to keep our sanity and not become crazy. But the question still, how do we get THEM to go seek the help when it appears that they are in denial? And then there are the parents of these people that are also in denil.

        • Dennis says:

          That is an important distinction to make, Stephen; and for anyone reading this. I regularly suggest that caregivers may benefit from visiting with a mental health professional because they are going to be in a safe place with a knowledgeable person where they can explore the situation they are in. I would never suggest that someone go to a psych to “learn to deal with it,” as was the advice given to your mother so many years ago. It was one of the more stupid pieces of advice that used to get passed around on a very regular basis.

          And to answer your final question; you don’t get them to go. The only way they are going to go and actually do something to be well is if they WANT it. A person that is in denial is not going to do that. Mental wellness is hard, hard work. It’s tedious, frustrating, annoying, and you get to deal with mental illness the whole time. All you can really do is try to get the person to realize that they have a problem that they need help with.

          They’re not going to be helped until they want to be helped. Mental health professionals do not fix us or make us well. We make ourselves well with their assistance.

  114. Stephen says:

    Oh… and could you briefly tell us the difference between a counselor, the therapist, and a psychiatrist? According to us, the caregivers, for dealing wigh the mentally ill person.

    • Dennis says:

      It depends on the area and how the organization is set up. Generally speaking, in the US, a counselor and therapist are often used interchangeably. They both work towards solving the same goals, just in slightly different ways with different backgrounds. The role of a Counselor is often more of attempting to helping their client with solving immediate and direct problems; like learning how to more effectively communicate in their friendships and relationships. Therapy often focuses around exploring thoughts and feelings around things and finding ways to manage them. That may include things like dealing with Bipolar unwell cycles or a parent dying.

      As for psychs, they are usually prescribers and managers of medication regimens. The first facility I went to, I would see a caseworker for therapy for about an hour every week for awhile. I would see a psych for about 10 minutes a month to discuss my meds, what they were doing. The psych would alter the prescription and appointment over.

      But I know this can differ depending on the organization and location.

  115. Juniper says:

    My best friend suffers from some mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. She also has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum (I believe she has Asperger or something like it?). I believe she also has low self esteem (which may branch from her anxiety, I’m not sure). Whenever I mention something about myself that is good or I am proud of I feel like she has to point out something she has done which is better, or undermine the thing which I like/am proud of. I feel like it is because she has low self-esteem, so usually I let her say it so that she can feel better about herself, but sometimes it gets on my nerves and makes me feel sort of bad about myself. I don’t know if I’m being overdramatic and I should just deal with it & what do say to her.

    She also says some insensitive things at times (which I’ve read can happen because of ADHD), but I don’t think she knows that they’re insensitive. I don’t know how to tell her so without making her feel like she’s a horrible person because she’s really quick to blame herself for mistakes and stuff.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Juniper. It sounds like your friend could definitely benefit from some work with a therapist. Is she seeing any professionals?

      It’s common for people on the autistic spectrum to not “feel” that saying certain things are wrong or insensitive. This is the reason I’ve largely learned to just keep my mouth shut when other people are going through emotional circumstances where my brain is overriding the emotion with appropriate emotion. She may not realize that what she is saying or doing is negative. I know a lot of times I didn’t until someone pointed it out to me.

      If she’s on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum, direct and to the point are the best way to communicate these things to her. We don’t pick up on subtle anything, most of the time. And you may be able to keep her from feeling awful about herself by not letting her get pointed in that direction.

      So as an example, were it me, I would do something like this.

      “Do you realize that every time I bring up something positive or I’m proud of, you immediately counter that your own accomplishment or undermine my feelings? I don’t think you realize you’re doing it.”

      I would expect a number of responses here; ranging from denial, anger, silence, or self-loathing. At which point I would use it as a means to try and push her to get meaningful help. “I’m not saying you’re a bad or a negative person. I’m saying that this thing you do is a problem because you don’t need to earn my friendship. I’m already your friend. But a lot of people may not understand that about you. You know, a therapist who is familiar with autism can help you develop and work on your social skills.”

      General, light conversation. Paint it as a problem with a solution, as opposed to just a problem. Don’t just say, “You need therapy.” Because everyone has a thousand different ideas about therapy. If she’s autistic and knows she is autistic, you can demonstrate this as a logical argument. “You know you’re autistic and autistic people often have difficulty with socialization. These are skills you can learn with the help of a therapist.”

      And additionally, getting her to talk to a therapist may also open the door for her to getting help with her depression and adhd if she isn’t already.

      You’re not being overly dramatic, I don’t think.

      If she falls into self-loathing, I’m so horrible, etc; encourage her to speak to a professional about it. That she can work on and fix these problems with the help of appropriate professionals instead of feeling as negative and awful as she feels.

      And if she happens to start discussing or alluding to suicide, seek professional help.

    • Stephen says:


      I definitely feel what you are feeling. The other version of that, which I mostly get, is when they automatically start telling you you’re doing things wrong, or you’re forgetting to shut off lights, or you did just about anything that was not correct. It’s like they are trying to build up some things wrong with you so they are not like they are doing everything wrong. You can also tell that they are grasping for straws because it’s all a little stupid stuff, which people would normally not say anything at all about. All of as recently, she has started saying that I’m lying to her and that I have anger management problems and that I need help with seeing a counselor. She’s trying to mirror things off of her on to me. I will admit though, she does not have any anger management problems. However, what she does do is that she refers to it as Poker Face. Something that her employeement taught her to learn how to do since she worked in the medical field. I have now learned that this is just an excuse, when really it is now a form of being two-faced and almost like living a double life. She does not want to get any treatment for anything because she also refers to that is not airing out her dirty laundry. Meanwhile, I have to live in the house with her airing out her dirty laundry every day to me.

      I truly think that is why she is getting worse currently. I think other people are starting to see that she is playing each and every person she talks to. She’s trying to beat me down so that when something bad happens like we get a divorce, she can sit on top looking pretty. She knows that I tell if the people in it makes her upset comma causing a dilemma in her looking pretty situation. I’m not trying to paint her in a bad light, but I’m letting people know what’s going on. Even with her previous divorce, she told me all the stories from her point of view. I can clearly now see those stories mean a whole lot different things to me now. She claimed the victim the whole time. So many things match what’s going on now. She told me how her husband filed for divorce and she tried to run down and file for divorce before he did so she would look like on top. She was mad that she didn’t beat him. Then all the story started about how he was such a bad person. Very conflicting stories also. She would tell me how he would control her….then turn around and tell me how he used to call her the “master”…. sarcastically. And she said she was the one that was abused then tells me a story about how he used to press himself against the side passenger glass window of the car and pout. That was scary because I can directly relate to that. I found myself doing the same thing, begging to simply get her to stop. She showed me a dent in the wall of the living room where she said he slammed his head into the wall. She was was trying to show me how he had anger management problems. I can now see that this is the same problem that he had with her. She is a button pusher. She’ll push your buttons until you go totally nuts and then blame you for having anger management problems. She will even admit that she wants the last word is not afraid to tell you that. She will ruin an entire day just to get the last word in even though I am directly pointing out what problem it is causing and I’m willing to stop this conversation. But no, she will relentlessly, continue on. And she will accuse me of telling her to shut up. I never told her to shut up. I told her, let’s just stop talking. Then start to talk about other stuff and completely out of whack and we’re not even talking about the same thing anymore. This is probably when the ex husband slammed his head on the wall and I totally see it.

      Then most will tell me, why didn’t I just walk away. I am actually afraid of what she might do physically to my pets or anything that I personally own. I’m even afraid she might hurt herself. And then you feel it’s not enough to call nine-one-one and look like an idiot for calling the police. Because I know poker face is going to kick in and she’s going to act like nothing’s wrong. And gladly point out how distraught I look…

      She’s extremely smart on how to play this game. She knows exactly what she’s doing. And it’s like she has no fear of ruining a relationship because the control is so very much that strong.

      Okay… I will stop here cuz I’m now rambling on.

  116. Carrie says:


    I read your article as well as many of the various comments since. It has been helpful, but I am needing advice on my specific situation. My ex-husband is bipolar and refuses to take medication other than some herbal remedies. We were married for almost 30 years when the lying and the emotional roller coaster became too much for me. We have been divorced for 2 and a half years, but he is still very much a part of my life as our daughter moved in with me a couple of years ago. Now, I have started meeting guys with the idea of possibly dating. This is not going over well with my ex. In fact, today, he decided to drink heavily and try to talk about “us” will being significantly chemically altered. I’m not sure how to deal with him. I will always love him, but I feel like it might be time to move on. I am sure that some of my struggles have to do with the fact that I have spent the majority of my life in an enabling, codependent role with him. Thank you for your time and your amazing insights.

    • Dennis says:

      I would agree with you that it may be time to move on and establish better boundaries with him in your life. I would actually suggest that you discuss him and the relationship with a counselor, if you haven’t already. 30 years in that kind of relationship takes it’s toll. And breaking the cycle of enabling and codependency is very difficult, particularly when you have a child in the picture that he can use for leverage to let himself back in if you lack the ability to say no to him.

      Since your husband isn’t medicated, and is likely going to make himself more unstable with substance abuse and “herbal remedies,” you’ll want to have a professional to discuss the situation with in the event he starts acting erratically or abusive. It’s not off the table if a person is mentally ill and unstable.

      • Carrie says:

        Dennis ~

        Thank you so much for your reply to my post. I agree with everything you had to say. Sometimes, it takes hearing it from an outside source to comprehend and internalize it. After posting on your site, I actually contacted a counselor and am working to set up a time to meet. I appreciate having a forum like this to go to for advice. God bless you, and keep up the amazing work you do.

        • Dennis says:

          You’re very welcome, Carrie. I’m glad to hear you are looking into counseling. I hope they will be able to provide some better support for you.

  117. Matthew says:

    You have got a good site and I will try to get my questions it order.

    It is a good friend that I have since 1993. He is married to my also good friend that I have know since 1986. I arrived here to go to Grad School. The 1st friend is a woman and we are friend (platonic) and she “followed me” to and agency that she is one on the top personnel for. I have major back surgery and did not go back to the agency and when I was away, she got married and had a kid and I was back and all things fell into place as he being one of my best friends so much that he is in a different field and I was in some basically scientific things that I invited him to going me. We worked an a movie, were a mainstay of a national government field team, etc. etc. I got married and had a kid and soon after I had a Stroke (I nearly died) and I have improved slowly. He was prime on helping me. Meanwhile he in the last 10 years knows that he has Bi-Polar and I have been one that he told. He told me that nobody can know, and I really did not tell anybody (except telling you here, are telling those people that do not know him). He has done good on his own, because that is the only way that he wants it. He takes his RX, in on insurance, does stuff for me even. I have had major medical problems ongoing. But I am cognitive on his having Bi-Polar and I loosened-up on arguing (I do not want to get no arguing because we were known as a pair that at least academically argued all the time). I know what it is like as much as a Bi-Polar person can know without having this disease. I have read countless books and seen all the movies and stated that “bi-polar doesn’t do that, it this, and I have stood-up for mental health (with is not good where we reside) and stick up for those that have mental health issues.

    But in the last two years and increasing status to now, he argues (probably in science where I am trying to get well and go into it again) on this or that, when I really it is a spectrum of beliefs and not dichotomous and I really do not care. It seems every two weeks or so he argues with me on email that I really do not know what he is taking about on some, I agree with him on more that half, I I tell him where I stand on the rest. It doesn’t compute and he still pounds me with statements that I do not even know what he is talking about because the status was a month away and I cannot even remember and then he focuses on one to two issues that I even told him that “I do not care”, are we are both right, or even he is right, and he still comes at me. We move on, they he is right back on it again, doing the same shit that he can look anyway on it. I tried to tell him that it is semantics, that “what is more movement that I see that I can prove” is not where you were “so it in not true for you” and we will have to “get into it” for the statement of fact to be written. I invited him to write with me. I have Aphasia (Stroke) and I will be put in a “hole” that doesn’t have a single sentence done OR take Adderall and it flows like a torrent (AND I am aware of it in writing to you). This is one of my healthy concerns. I have major infections in my leg that I almost died and an just now getting up. He along with my Ex-Wife, a female friend, and him were a major friendships that got me through so I can live for my daughter who will be 14 in a week. I am thankful for that. Meanwhile the friend is getting sick with Bi-Polar. And he is on me for anything. I do not feel like I have changed and talking to my Ex-Wife, I got a little better because I am a Dad and besides the healthy problems that I had all of her life, being a Dad is most important to me.

    He is on me because I chanced MD because an MD would not treat me for pain, and he is out-of-control when he said that I am an addict when I have taken Opiates all my life (and not much) and he is crazy to say that. There are good and bad MDs and I am not taking treatment off of the cuff. He says “I am weak” when he doesn’t know what it is to have this disease. He blamed me for not getting to go to National Institute of Health. I do not know why they would not take me but he goes of like it is me that they are not taking. And the email. He will not talk because all of a sudden he has got something about conflict (that I am aware of and do not put him in the situation), but he has an opinion that he will share and half the time it is out there and not sound by any means.

    Last night he emailed me that (when he went on and on and on about what happened which I really do not care) and by-passed all the things I said about agreeing with him that “he needs a fucking break from me,” I am wrong about whatever he was talking about (that I do not care about and even at some places said he is right), told me that “you will have a tough time writing it” and “feel free to glom at to Dr XXXX coat-tails,” you are “NOT wrong and that is why I hate dealing with you,” and “if you email me, it will go to trash,” and “if you have acute health problems I will try to help,” but “I am done with you.” “You cannot tell you anything” (him to me). I do not go out and broadcast what I know. Even if it is true, so what? It is not your buildings. I thought that you wanted to write with me because you are on SSA Disability and I have been trying hard to get you a job part-time. It seems that the more I do for him, makes him skittish and he can do much for me, but I can only do so much for him?

    I cannot win for losing. I try to not change the way I argue and have become a little better even. I am extremely concerned.
    – I can call he Wife, but we have operated so that I do not talk about he Bi-Polar Disease. But I am sure that I would talk to here and she will not know what to tell me.
    – I can mention to the my Ex-Wife or friend (but she will not know what is going on and is working non-stop).
    – It is shocking the things that he said (half of them is in the email to make a point) and I am moved to explain myself in simple terms and I cannot send him anymore emails (IF you want the emails, I can send them to you if you do not say anything, but I do not know what good it would do to you besides give you a shitload of emails to read).

    I am NOT going to through him away. I do not want to became and enabler though either. I want to step-up and help this guy when he really needs help and I cannot and it is tearing me up because I want to help out in general and I certainly want to help out because he has done so much for me.

    I am struggling to be well. That is besides the point. I guess, what should I do that will help him?

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for taking the time to write.

      Frankly, you shouldn’t do anything to help him at this point. If he refuses to talk to you or really hear what you have to say, there’s nothing you really can do to help him. What you’re experiencing sounds like the kind of instability that comes with mental illness; so he may not be taking his medication or the medication he is taking may not be working as well as it used to. The body can grow accustomed to it and change the way it works in a person. It does need adjusted from time to time.

      I think I would dial back just how much I was doing for him. Take a few step backs and just let him deal with things on his own so he can see what you are contributing to helping him. Maybe that will help jar his perspective back into a better place, maybe it won’t.

      When it comes to Bipolar Disorder, you really can’t help someone unless they want to help themselves. Any help you try to give them will often just be wasted and lost on him in those times when he is unstable or unable to really act on it. So, what you do is just take a step back and quietly watch, encourage him towards a better path when it makes sense; and most importantly, take care of your own health! You can’t do anything for anyone else if you’re not well and have things under control for yourself. It’s not abandoning him. It’s just waiting for an opportune time to act.

  118. Mandy says:

    My Grandma has a mental illness. I’m going to be honest, I really don’t know what it is specifically. She doesn’t talk about it. All I know is she has been diagnosed with something, has been in a mental hospital 2-3 times, and she has medication she doesn’t take because it makes her, “comatose”.

    Believe me, I know non professional diagnosis’ must be everyone’s pet peeve, but we have several people in our lives with Aspergers, so we have all thought maybe she has some of this spectrum? Not asking for a diagnosis, just trying to explain how she is. She doesn’t understand social clues as to what is acceptable and what isn’t. She doesn’t understand that what she’s asking for/demanding is really putting the other person out. Plus it has to be something more, maybe similar to Bipolar. According to my dad she has always talked about suicide and attempted at least once that I know of. According to him she’s always been like this. The seemingly smallest things set her off. She lives in another state with her husband but because of him setting her off, she’s on a 3 month “vacation” with us.

    The problem is, she has never liked my mom, and because of grandmas many verbal attacks on her, my mom doesn’t necessarily want to be around her either. My mom doesn’t appreciate that she doesn’t understand privacy and goes through things of ours and uses it without asking. Personal things. And we have his/put away as much as we can. We have 23 days left of her stay with us. Everything was bearable, and going unexpectedly fast and smoothly. Until tonight. She blew up because my uncle (her other son) told her to be careful not to overstep her boundaries because she got the reputation of going through our things the last time she was here. Oops. She made it clear she was upset, blew up at my mom for saying she was a thief and snoops in our stuff (no one ever said she steals), denied ever going through our things (despite us seeing it with our own eyes) and accused my mom and I of ignoring her on purpose. (We are busy people who couldn’t put our lives on hold for 3 months just because of her surprise visit) There was no point in arguing so finally Dad told her to calm down and take her medication. Besides trying to get her to take her medication, what can we do to help her? Every time we say something about her medication she gets defensive and accuses us of calling her crazy, and says “I am not a crazy person.” We just need to get through the rest of her visit, hopefully to where she can go home on good terms, and be able to go back to her doctor back home. What can we do to make the next few weeks as painless as possible for everyone?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Mandy. The only real option your family in this situation is to grin and bear it as much as you can. Your grandmother has been living this way for decades, and is not likely to change what she is doing. The explosive reactions thing is not really consistent with Bipolar Disorder unless the person is extremely unwell and unbalanced. It is more consistent with mental illnesses like Borderline Personality Disorder; where everything is either alright, or all wrong.

      The lack of understanding about social boundaries and limitations is very much an autistic trait. I have the same problem at times, even though I spend a lot of time actively looking for the boundaries of other people, and intellectually understand why and how folks have them. But for someone like your grandmother who doesn’t understand anything is wrong, refuses to accept anything is wrong, and won’t do anything to rectify it long-term; there really isn’t much you can do to even keep the peace. Because if she has a mental illness that feeds her explosive outbursts, like an anger disorder or borderline personality disorder, it doesn’t matter what you do, because anything and everything can set her off.

      I would strive to just keep everything as low stress as possible. If there’s stuff your family doesn’t want her in or looking through, put it some place she can’t get to it easily or isn’t likely to look for it. Another relative’s house, attic, trunk, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t advise locking it up where she can see/get to the locked item, because if she has those outburst anger problems, she may just destroy the container while trying to get into it.

      Really, the only other option is to not have her for visits. Because even when she goes home and sees her doctor again, your post implies that she’s not going to take her medication anyways. So it’s kind of a moot point and a treadmill your family will be running on forever. At this point, I wouldn’t expect her to change.

      And make sure the people who are bothered the most by her get breaks away from her as well: your mom, for example. She’s going to need them to maintain her own mental health.

  119. Kay says:

    I have a 30 year old son who was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar before his teens. Long story, but he stopped taking Lithium in his early twenties. He refuses to go to doctors and blames me for all of his problems. One minute he’ll thank me for helping him and the next minute he goes off on a rampage. My ex, his father, refuses to set boundaries with him and he enables him. I do exactly as you discussed in your article. I give my son the choice in his behavior. When he gets very verbally abusive with me I cut him off. I find I have to do the same with other family members who incessantly want to make comments about my son. I refuse to allow the negativity. I did everything I could when my son was a minor and what I could legally do to help him. Once they are of legal age you have no options as a parent. He just got fired from a job and it is escalating. The rapid fire verbal abuse started again. I told him he knows that I’m always available to help but not when he acts like that. He made his choice and now he cannot contact me. I have two other children who do not have bipolar and they don’t associate much with him at all. He wants to blame me for all of his problems. He doesn’t see how his behavior is what causes all the turmoil, and his refusal to get help. I’m afraid the only way that he will get help is if he’s forced into it through the justice system. Because at some point something will happen to put him there.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Kay.

      The scenario you’re describing is an all too common one. Unfortunately, many people have to hit rock bottom before they can finally realize that they are the problem and really need help. It’s made all that much more difficult if there are enablers that allow the person to engage in whatever toxic behavior they may be putting out.

      The important thing that I try to stress to all parents, in particular, is that this is not really something you can “help” an adult child with. Mental wellness is not something that can be handed to another. It’s hard, tedious, and difficult to attain and maintain mental wellness for many folks.

      The goal, in a situation like yours, is to attempt to minimize the damage your adult child can do to you and your life while they are on their path. Unfortunately, you can do everything possible for a person and they will still not realize that they have a problem or really need help. All you can do in that situation is survive, really.

      • Kay says:

        Thank you, Dennis, for your reply. I have not spoken to my son. He knows that if he is abusive toward me that I will not respond to him. Over the years I have been called every horrible name in the book, I’ve had chairs thrown at me, etc. I called the police on him more than once. One time he was arrested because someone else had called on him. He was sent to mental health court because he told the arresting officer that he had bipolar. The court psychiatrist had called me and I thought maybe this will be a chance for him to get help without me being directly involved. They did not listen to me and did not make him report back. The judge made a mistake when she did that. He promised her he would follow up and go back to the doctor and he lied of course. I have always told him that I care about him and I love him but I am not going to be abused ever. If he chooses to do that then it’s his choice not to have a relationship with me. His dad is afraid of him and a huge enabler. We aren’t married anymore and most of the reason is because of the chaos my son has caused. Underneath all of this though is a good person. When he was on lithium he was a totally different. I do have some health problems that is probably brought on by the stress. Right now I’m just trying to take care of myself. I have great friends at home and online. I’m recovering from surgery so I do have to watch my stress levels. Lastly, there have been two deaths in our family due to mental illness. One was a suicide and the other one died from a heart attack while in a mental health facility.

        • Dennis says:

          It’s such a tough road and mental illness can just cut a path of chaos and destruction straight through lives. I hope your son eventually has his moment of clarity and realizes that he needs to stick with treatment. It’s really great that you’ve been able to erect and enforce those difficult boundaries. I’m very sorry for your recent losses, and I hope that you recover well from your own health problems.

          • Kay says:

            Thank you 😊 one other thought…. of course when I enforce these boundaries then I become a cold and heartless you know what, and I don’t care about him. My last words to him in abusive situations are always the same…”I will not respond to you when you act abusive. I am not responsible for your choices in life or the consequences. You choose how this relationship will go. This conversation is over” and then I just cut him off. He will come back eventually and apologize and things will be okay for a while. But I always stand at arm’s length with him. Because until he realizes that he needs help it’s not going to change. I am not going to be held prisoner the rest of my life. Thank you for this site and sharing your perspective.

        • Katy says:

          I admire your strength. I left a comment in regard in regards to my soon to be 22 year daughter and how she is entitled and abusive to me and the rest of the family . She does take her meds right now and she has always been good at that however she does manipulate .
          She still lives at home but that is becoming increasingly difficult .
          I have a 13 year that watches her antics and in some ways I think she mimics them.
          So I have decided that I have to concern myself with keeping myself healthy and raising my 13 year old as well as keeping my marriage together.

          However I am still lost at where to draw the line . She wants to join job corp, which I feel will be a disaster . But nevertheless I am looking forward to her leaving ( bad mommy )
          Anyways I commend your strength and hope your son realizes all you do is out of love .

          • Dennis says:

            Hello, Katy! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I covered my thoughts on this post and your other in my first reply. Just acknowledging that I have seen this one!

          • Kay says:

            Oh boy… that brought back memories of the so-called counseling we went through when he was a minor. My son manipulated the heck out of the counselors. They actually babied him and he felt entitled with us. My daughter was also in counseling at the time to learn coping skills. She started acting up and I had both of them calling me every name in the book as soon as we left the sessions! I ended taking them both out of counseling. I demanded their records be sent to me and I had to fight them for it. I reminded them they were both under 18. I was so shocked when I got the records finally. They had my daughter go up to a chalkboard and write down every horrible thing that she could think about me. Not her dad not her brother but just me. My daughter told the counselor that there were things that she admired about me along with other things that we would fight about. The counselor told her you’re not allowed to talk about the good things regarding your mom. I actually saw this in writing. My daughter was afraid to tell me. In my son’s records there was a notation about one of the visits that stuck out in my mind. While we were in the waiting room, my son went off on his dad and I and started cussing and saying horrible names. I told my son that I would not allow him to speak to us that way and he needed to stop immediately. At the time the counselorl did not say anything to him or us. But in the records she stated mom is too hard on patient. He had a horrible day at school and just needed to release tension. He was having sessions without us present. She told him it was okay to release this and never talked to him about appropriate ways. She disregarded my boundaries and was teaching him that it was okay to go off and tell his parents to go f themselves.

            In our case, I think the counseling made things worse. There was only one person in that office that was actually good and he was let go. It was ironic because he shared my views on boundaries.

            I ended up having a written contract with my son that he had to read understand and sign. This was after he turned 18. It spelled out what was acceptable if he were to stay in my home. That included going to the psychiatrist and staying on his medications. And that I would not tolerate abusive behavior. He had the same contract at his dad’s house. He didn’t abide by it so he wasn’t allowed to live with me. His dad didn’t enforce his and allowed him to stay there.

            There’s no easy answer. You have to figure out what you’re willing to accept and not accept in your home. And once you do that you have to try really hard to follow through. The ending may not be a good one but you do the best you can. They will manipulate and tear you up if you let them.

          • Dennis says:

            That is a really unfortunate experience you had with counseling for your kids and undoubtedly made things worse for your family.

            I definitely agree with your process and sentiments, though I really have nothing of substance to add. Just wanted to acknowledge that you were heard.

  120. Tanya says:

    My b/f has a mental illness. Has been diagnosed with bi-polar and PTSD. He had a lot of childhood trauma affect him, and he was homeless for almost a year before I met him. He has been living with me for over a year and just recently has hit rock bottom and agreed to therapy and medication. He is on day 6 of Prozac, and seeing the therapist every other week. He has had 2 breakdowns in the past 2 weeks, one of which I had to call crisis control to come to my house. He calls himself a loser, says he has no confidence and cannot do anything right, and no matter what I say always has a negative attitude. He refuses to try and help himself, he is unclean, doesn’t eat properly and refuses to help around the house or look for a job. I have gotten him 2 jobs so far that he has blown off. I have told him that I cannot support him financially, as I have myself and 3 kids to worry about. Whenever I tell him this he sinks deeper down. He disappears for hours at a time, yesterday he was gone for 10 hours, and doesn’t see a problem with that or understand that I feel disrespected and worried when I don’t know where he is with his frame of mind. He has no regard for my feelings, and selfishly does whatever he pleases with his friends and cannot be counted on for anything anymore. I am at a point where I don’t know if he is just using me and being manipulative, or if he truly is this bad off. I do not want to be the reason he goes back on the streets, but I do not see another course of action if he refuses to even try and help himself at all. What should I do?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Tanya. The kind of behavior you’re describing is consistent with severe depression, an all too common component of Bipolar Disorder, but that also doesn’t mean you should grin and bear it either. Considering you had to call authorities for help with a crisis, I would be inclined to think that yes, he is that bad off.

      Unfortunately, I, nor anyone else really, should be giving you advise about this situation other than to talk to mental health professional about it. Because the kind of behavior you’re describing is suggestive of a near suicidal level of depression, so you’re going to need the perspective and assistance of mental health professional to navigate it. Given your mention of three kids and limited finances, I would suggest that you contact the local social services offices and ask them if they can point you to a low cost counselor or charity that may offer a similar service that can help you navigate the situation in a safe way.

      You may also want to look into local mental health support groups. They can be a valuable source for information and resources as well. They typically accept the friends, family, and loved ones of people with mental illness. Some of them even have a counselor or therapist attend to handle any at-risk situations.

      • Tanya says:

        Thank you. Since I wrote, I have had to call crisis control to come to the house. He has been going for counselling and is on Prozac now, but his behavior is getting worse. He was supposed to start a new job this morning, but I have not seen him or heard from him since 5pm yesterday. I am through with the abuse, and cannot allow him to live in my home any longer.

        • Kay says:

          Hi Tanya, first of all I would like to say I’m sorry you have to deal with this, and you have a good heart. I posted separately about my son in this thread so I do understand your situation. One thing I’d like to mention regarding the Prozac, is that for a person with bipolar, the ssris without the benefit of a mood stabilizer can send someone into severe mania. Mania with severe depression is very dangerous. When my son took those type of medications he would try to jump out of our second-story window, and in front of a moving car. I had to physically sit on him to keep him from jumping. I gave him Benadryl per Dr instructions, and that worked very quickly to calm him down. Lithium and Seroquel worked great when he took it. I wish you well, and hope your boyfriend gets help. All we can really do is take care of ourselves and hope things improve.

  121. Katy says:

    Thank you, it’s nice to know i am not alone. Although I knew I was not. It is hard especially when it is a child. My daughter will be 22 soon and calls my job and cell phone constantlyly demanding an answer from me.(for whatever crisis It maybe at that time )
    She can’t keep or gain a relationship because of this. Also and unfortunately therapy seems to be techimg her to use her mental illness as a crutch. She has been diagnosed with bipolar, depression amd is under the autism spectrum. She is smart and seems to know how to munipalate people.I warned her if she keeps calling my job, that I would turn off her phone. I did , but now she just uses other people phone. She also yells and screams cusses and send mean text.
    Everyday I feel guilty and almost to the point of turning her phone back on. But I know she know i am weak.
    Knowing that it is ok to say enough is enough helps.
    Thanks for the article.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Katy. Have you been to a counselor to discuss the situation with your daughter, yourself? The reason being is that they are more likely to be able to help you establish and cement boundaries in firm place, like helping you find a solution to the cell phone problem. Pushing back against a personality and unwellness like your daughter is difficult, and quite often, it ends in needing to cut the adult child out of one’s life altogether. I feel reasonably certain that as a mother that might be unfathomable, but some people, unfortunately, have to at some point.

      But, before you get to that point, it would be a great idea to talk to a counselor. Given your description of your daughter’s behavior, it wouldn’t shock me if she was lying to and manipulating her professional into thinking the situation is different than it is. Things like calling your work and phone and demanding immediate gratification are manipulative acts, and it’s pretty easy for a manipulator to bend a counselor if the counselor hasn’t picked up on what kind of person they actually are. Counseling really only works if the person is honest and actually wants to be there.

      • Katy says:

        Thank you for the advice. We used to have family counseling periodically but it always ended in a terrible blame game . Now that she is an adult she does not ask me to join anymore.
        I will move forward to get help for myself.

  122. Lynn says:

    My sister has been a heavy drug user for many years. She recently completed 3 months of detox and had a psychotic breakdown while at the rehab center. She was admitted to the emergency room and released where she went back to drugs. My mom took the steps necessary to have her involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital as she is delusional and a potential threat to herself and others.

    She has been in the psych ward now for less than a week. She is calling me and begins to repeat herself multiple times in a row. She is belligerent with me and has threatened to kill my mom, skin me, stating that I should protect my 8 year old son. Additionally, she had said that if I talk to my best friend (who works for the county she lives in) that her life will be in danger. I called the psych ward to report the threats.

    I live in a different state and have so for over 20 years so I feel somewhat protected. I am worried about my mom’s safety as she is in the same town as my sister. Because of patient rights, we have no idea if and when she will be released. My sister would never allow for my mom and me to know her medical diagnosis.

    How do we best protect ourselves and how can we find out how long will they keep her in the psych ward? She is very good and making others believe she is fine. She is and always has been a master manipulator. I want to be made aware of when she is released.

    Any advice is appreciated.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Lynn. I’m very sorry to hear about the situation you’re facing with your sister. Unfortunately, that’s a situation I cannot help you with. It’s going to be the domain of an attorney. An attorney who is familiar with the system may be able to break something loose for you and your family on the information front, but I wouldn’t count on it. The penalties for violating HIPPA are pretty severe and most medical facilities and professionals won’t come within spitting distance of that line.

      Have you tried contacting local chapters of mental health groups like NAMI? They might be able to provide some meaningful information.

      I’m really sorry I can’t be of more help to you. It’s a situation where there really aren’t any good answers that I know of.

  123. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this post. such a difficult topic, but my husband & I have an 18 yo daughter living with us who is out of control. This past year has been spent in several inpatient facilities, hospitals, ER’s, residentials & intensive outpatient.
    Every time there is any step forward, she self sabotages & lies.
    We have been supportive, encouraging, held her accountable, & set boundaries, all to no avail. She embraces therapy for a time, and then loses motivation & does not care.
    I recently came upon information that makes me concerned for not just her safety, but ours as well.
    I am starting to look at our options, as we cannot continue like this.

  124. Theresa says:

    Thank you for this site. I have been searching for a place to seek answers, and if nothing else, I feel less alone in our own struggles with my husbands ex-wife. She was diagnosed bipolar years ago. She self medicates with alcohol, and refuses to treat her disorder mainly because, as she has expressed to others, she does not like the prescribed drugs and enjoys the highs too much to medicate her manias.

    She cheated on my husband through their courtship, and marriage. She married my husband, at the insistence of her father after it was determined she was pregnant. She left my husband and their children the first time after her second child, but she came back because her father, who had been from a high profile family that has long since ceased to be of any significance in our town, insisted she needed to be a mother to her children. The cheating continued, culminating in a third child, (not possibly his, but he willingly accepted) and left for good when this child was 6 months old. This time, after several months, her family made her go back and claim the house and children. Children she was not equipped emotionally to handle. But her family again was concerned about what it looked like for her to walk out on the children. This was 1986, and the courts let her keep them. It was very sad as the kids did not want to go with her. They needed the stability of their father, so he worked around her to care for them as much as possible. She slept till the afternoons so he took them to school, made sure they were fed, and coached their teams to get extra time with them.

    After 8 years she finally screwed up enough for him to get full custody, but they had suffered untold incidents and various abuses by then. My heart breaks even to this day seeing the affects or hearing about things they hadn’t revealed before. Their mothers alcoholism has continued. She has had several DUI’s and run ins with the police, been in a few abusive relationships herself, and would come in and out of their lives fueled by her bipolar. When things would go particularly wrong, she’d show up and want in. When in short order she became bored, she’d move along, blame her kids for not being there for her she’d claim some perceived slight, cuss them out and not contact them, sometimes for months at a time, until she’d hit some new low.

    Ten years after their divorce, my husband and I met. We fell in love and decided to try and make things work. As we each had three children ranging in age from 8-15, we waited 5 years to move in together and get married as the kids adjusted to our new life. In that time, the ex pulled lots of craziness and at one point was told she was not to show up unannounced. To see or spend time with her kids, she had to ask. She was not happy about it, and made many attempts to do what she wanted anyway. The drama situations, and situations she created in an attempt to get back into my husbands life was at times overwhelming, but we remained strong. For the most part she was not around. In the 20 years we have been together her children have grown and have children of their own. Since the first grandchild she has decided to play a role in her kids lives again. She hates my being considered a grandmother to her grandchildren. She has from time to time continued in her delusions to believe that her ex still wants her. She hates me and has expressed this to her children unabashedly and has tried to undermine our lives in various ways. Some overt, some covert.

    We have seen her stalk our house from time to time. She has manipulated her kids on a few occasions to try and exclude me from events. She behaves in very dismissive ways towards me, at the same time tried to be flirty with my husband. We see it for what it is and try to work around her. We have, and sometimes with the add of my husbands kids managed to keep her from intruding wherever and whenever possible, making separate events for our family when celebrating kids milestones. But some occasions, like weddings are unavoidable. Her daughter who is a dancer, invites her to alternate nights performances to keep her from invading our space and allow our attention to be focused where it should be. But ultimately she finds ways to be in our faces when she can.

    A few years ago we made the decision to not take phone calls or respond to texts even about their daughter, who is also bipolar and a heroin addict. She has always used this child’s issues to induce drama with her to have reason to need to talk to my husband. Once she even pretended that the daughter was missing, and that she’d filed a missing persons report. When the daughter called in a few days later, having heard her mother had done this, she was incredulous that she would pull such a stunt, but all her mother does is either deny her motives, or excuses them as reasonable. The incidents go on, but take on different characterization.

    Recently her son wanted to purchase the lot behind our house from us, to build a home for himself, but with his mothers antics we could not afford to give her reason to be that close and add new fuel to her drive to be disruptive and get attention. As a result my husband recently decided to confront her with her ongoing obsession to infuse herself in our lives. She denied that there ever was a problem. That she doesn’t see what he means and holds no annomosity towards me. He left the meeting somewhat derailed, having expected her to merely be pissed off and walk out. But apparently she’d gotten wind from her son that this meeting had to do with his desire to buy the lot and the stipulation that she behave. When my husband got home we discussed it and decide he would text her, to have it in writing, and tell her that as she refused to admit her behavior or motives, problems that are fueled by her untreated bipolar and alcoholism she left him no choice. He told her he wants it to stop. He told her, she leaves him no choice but to cut all communications until she gets sober, treats her bipolar and makes amends to him, his wife and their children. That by refusing to even admit her problems and actions she’s left him no choice but to cut her off completely.

    The kids are all happy he took this step. Ignoring the behavior, trying to avoid her and situations that might include her has gotten nowhere. The kids are tired of dealing with it as well. Now, they feel, they have more voice if she tries to make it out to be anything else than what it is. In learning of this, some of her family wanted to show up at our local pub where we play in a league, and stare us down, be in our faces, for how dare we say such things out loud, but amazingly she refused to participate….for now. I am concerned that in her next manic episode she pull some over the top dramatic event.

    We stay connected with our family counselor to make sure we are doing what we can to be sane and deal with all this in the best possible way. But we really did let it go on without calling her out as we felt any attention was attention. Our Counselor has been a godsend in our lives. My question is, at what point or under what circumstances do we consider a restraining order should she decide to rear her head. Eventually she will find herself in an alcoholic rage, or hyper manic drive to prove her husband wants her, or even pressured by her crazy family to show us we have no control. At times I worry about my safety should she become delusional. So at what point do we involve restraining orders? Her family would flip if it came to this, and they are all still under the delusion that their family name still hold worth.

    Thank you for listening. And thank you again for this space.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Theresa. Thank you for the kind words about my website and work.

      I’m certain there are a lot of details I don’t know regarding the situation, her family, your family, and everything. But personally, knowing what I know about mental illness, the way people recover, and with my own experiences; I would’ve gotten a restraining order a long, long time ago and enforced it harshly. I mean any attempt to brush up against the requirements of the order and I would have called the cops and pressed charges.

      I mean, yes it’s perfectly possible that you suffer blow back from your family; but the situation is not likely going to ever get better. For a person like her to recover, it usually requires them to have some epiphany or realization that the way they behave is wrong, accept that they need to change it, and then put in all the work to change it. And that is a really, really hard thing for someone who sees no problem with what they’re doing. And some people are just too sick to actually see the problem. But from your post, it seems like she is at least somewhat aware and just flat out doesn’t care.

      It’s probably not going to stop until it’s legally forced to stop and he’s followed through on enforcing it by pressing charges. Now, what that means for the son that wants to buy the property, that really depends on the family. On the one hand, it’s unfair to expect the son to not let the mother near the property. On the other hand, it’s also unfair to expect you and your husband to continue to deal with her manipulation and bullshit. That’s really something he’s going to have to come to terms with himself.

      Your husband should discuss the matter with an attorney more in-depth though, to get a legal opinion on that and whatever may be necessary to develop some defense from her family.

      And yes, were I in your situation, I would be concerned for my safety as well. Because she’s not very likely to get better and is much more likely to get worse as time goes on; since many mental illnesses get worse with age (including Bipolar Disorder). I would definitely be thinking of my safety.

      One thing he should definitely look out for, him telling her she needs to “make amends”, that’s a very common thing for the family members to request; but in doing so, you’re also potentially opening a door to be manipulated. So if he decides to pursue the legal angle and she comes trotting back immediately thereafter, be extremely wary of her intentions because she very likely connected those dots.

      And if he does decide to go the restraining order route, he should make very sure that he’s going to be willing to follow through on filing charges or enforcing it; otherwise she’s just going to run back and forth over those boundaries. The threat of legal action doesn’t typically serve as a deterrent for people as unbalanced and mentally ill as she appears to be from your description.

      Were it me in that scenario, again with my limited knowledge of everyone’s lives and all; I probably would have gotten a restraining order with the divorce.

      • Theresa says:

        Thank you very much for your quick and in depth reply. I apologize for writing such a long letter. You have helped me a great deal already, because I don’t feel crazy to feel like I’m at risk. We’ve told her son no to the property, and he understands. I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet…ok not funny.

        We have a meeting with our counselor tomorrow. I am going to talk with a cop friend and a lawyer about what it would take to issue a restraining order and then, as you said, discuss with my husband about being able to follow through when she decides to test those boundaries. I am also going to have cameras installed around my property. Ugh, this is awful, but I am done waiting for the other shoe to drop…potentially on my head.

        I look forward to reading more on your site. I gladly made a donation to your endeavors today. This has to be a very draining project. Take care and thank you so so much.

        • Dennis says:

          You’re welcome, Theresa. Thank you very much for your contribution. I greatly appreciate it.

          Glad to hear you have plans for moving forward on things. Hopefully, with the additional measures you can limit the ex’s intrusion into your lives.

  125. Barbara says:

    I have a 30 year old son who was just recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia after having delusions and thoughts of everyone after him. We were very worried about him and had him taken to a mental hospital. He was in for two weeks and released with a court order to take medication. He refuses to take the meds and doesn’t think there is anything wrong with him. His delusions have gone away and he is much better where that is concerned, however for most of his adult life he has blamed everybody and everything for his destructive behavior, drug abuse, failed relationships, and lack of responsibility for his own life. He has been given many opportunities is his life, but from the time he was 12, was in trouble for one thing or another all the time. I have been an enabler most of his life. He has not worked for over two years and I have been drained of all my financial resources paying his bills. When he doesn’t get his way, he is verbally abusive and rude. My ex husband and daughter have been through the wringer with him, always blaming them for all the troubles in his life. There is no reasoning with him. If you help a little, he expects more. When you get tough with him, he is able to turn nice and get back in your good graces (at least mine). I have now gone the tough love route. No more money and no more taking calls that are non productive and end in arguments. He treats me horrible, manipulates me like no other, and says things to me that are not acceptable. His friends have all turned their back on him and so has most of his family, with the exception of me….until now. It is ruining my relationship with my fiance’, and has turned me into a weeping, depressed, and hopeless person, who I am quite sure is not much fun to be around anymore. He has taken over my life, demanding things of me that I can no longer do. I get angry one minute, and then feel sorry for him the next. I want my life back! I want to be fun to be around again! I want some peace in my life! The guilt I feel for ignoring him is at times unbearable, but the alternative is giving in to him yet again and starting the whole process over again. I have seen a counselor who told me to set boundaries and stick to them. I do this, but when he comes around and is nicer, I let him back in, only to be disappointed once again. I now know that my only option is to cut all ties for a good long while and hopefully he will figure it out on his own. I want to have a relationship with him someday, but until he is able to accept responsibility for himself and stop blaming everybody, it will not be possible for me to handle. The thought of him being homeless is killing me, but he has no concept of what it takes to get along with the people who try to help him. He has no desire to change.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Barbara. The struggle you’re feeling is a very common one for mothers. You have this instinctive need to be there for and take care of your child, but your child is drowning in a mental illness and the damage it has been doing to them for a long time. Your counselor is right, you definitely need to stick to your boundaries.

      But, let me share with you a piece of insight that your counselor may not be aware of.

      “Nice” means very little when it comes to dealing with