I am regularly asked about a particular situation that involves the perspective and decision making of a Bipolar person. In this situation, the Bipolar person appears to be doing reasonably well, but they eventually swing into mania or depression. If they swing into mania, they can do a number of different things that are damaging to the relationship. If they swing into depression, they may feel they have no emotions at all for their partner or they are not worth loving.
I find this situation comes most often from people who are diagnosed but do not understand the Disorder, the undiagnosed who clearly need to speak to a doctor about what they experience, and older folks (40+) who are used to making decisions a certain way. That statement being based on the one or two emails a week I get asking about some variation of this situation. Your mileage may vary.
So let me address the common points.
1. Does my Bipolar loved one love me?
Supporter: The closest point a Bipolar person comes to their true emotions is when they are at a point of stability. Chances are pretty good you can identify the ups and the downs even if you don’t know how to put a name on it. There are likely to be other times of relative peace and harmony. Those are the periods you want to use to gauge their true emotions. Some civil strife is normal in relationships. The over-the-top and abnormal are what indicate unwell periods. During those periods the Disorder is lying to your loved one and warping their perception.
Bipolar: You MUST learn that you cannot trust your brain while you are unwell. You MUST learn to hear your loved ones and trust them when you are unwell. If you learn to identify when you are in an unwell cycle, you can stop yourself from making important decisions. An example. “I was fine last week, I feel miserable and numb now. I feel nothing for my wife; so it must be her fault.” Feeling numb and apathetic are depressive symptoms. It has nothing to do with the wife and everything to do with the fact that YOU HAVE A MOOD DISORDER.
And I hear you asking- “But Dennis, what if I really don’t love my wife anymore?” This is where you have to start realizing that what you experience while you are unstable is not real emotion. It absolutely feels real but it’s manufactured by the Disorder. That is why I beat the drum so loud to not make life-altering decisions while you’re in an unwell cycle; or if you have to, involve people you trust to help you figure things out.
What do you do? You call your doctor and tell them what’s going on. You do NOT make major decisions while you are in an unwell cycle. If the loved one is the actual problem, you’ll still feel that way when you come out of the cycle. If your relationship was loving and good while you were balanced, your moods and emotions should return to that baseline after the unwell cycle.
2. You cannot take a Bipolar person’s words at face value during an unwell cycle.
Supporter: Learn your Bipolar loved one’s unwell symptoms so you can identify when they are getting sick. Once you are able to do so, you must then learn to let their unwell words slide off of your shoulders. That does NOT mean you should put up with abusive or destructive behavior. It does mean accepting that the person is probably going to make bad, foolish decisions they normally would not make while they are balanced and well. Accepting that and not being emotionally invested in their unwell decisions will save you a lot of stress.
Bipolar: Use your loved one as a filter. They spend more time with you than anyone. They likely know your moods and mentality better than you do because they are a third party whose perspective is not skewed by the Disorder. If you’re unwell, run your thoughts and ideas through people that you can trust to see whether it is actually a good idea or if it’s the Disorder fucking with you. Don’t embrace and act on your thoughts while you are unwell. Talk about them and get outside perspectives on them. If you can’t do it with family, look into local or online support groups that provide a safe place to communicate. Outside perspective is invaluable.
3. Ending the cycles of destruction.
Apologies, loved ones; but I have to finish this piece with the mentally ill because this is on us.
Each of us is engaged in a personal war- and that’s not a metaphor. What else do you call an entity that deprives you of happiness, well-being, stability, and peace of mind? What else do you call an entity that strips you of relationships, careers, and friendships? You call it an enemy as only an enemy would do that to you. So you have to fight it like an enemy until you’re standing with your foot on its throat.
Look at everything you’ve lost to it in your life! Your life story is your own road, but our roads run parallel. And I’m 100% sure your road is just as littered with the burnt out husks of what used to be your hopes and dreams as mine is.
You want to beat this shit? You have to learn to stop following the decision making processes that have been fucking you since you started cycling. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 50. I don’t give a shit if you feel “too old to change”. Better to continue on the cycle of destruction and being perpetually fucked?
No. You’re strong and resilient enough to have made it this far in life with mental illness. You are definitely strong and resilient enough to face some changes that will ONLY benefit you.
Take control. Educate yourself. Work on communication with the people you trust. Identify your depressive and manic symptoms so you and your loved ones can spot your unwell cycles with ease. Once you do- stop making life-altering decisions during an unwell cycle!
You can do it.
Subscribe to have blog posts and news delivered straight to your Inbox!