- Bipolar Disorder and Relationships
- My Bipolar Boyfriend Is Pushing Me Away
- Managing Close Relationships When Moods Pull Them Apart
- Self-awareness and healthy boundaries are key to maintaining strong relationships with your significant others, family and friends when mood swings threaten to pull you apart.
- 5 Ways To Avoid Saying Goodbye To The Girl With Bipolar Disorder
- 1. Don’t assume that my emotions are some kind of “bipolar thing”.
- 2. Don’t feel like you have to “fix” me.
- 3. Take my condition seriously.
- 4. Give me space.
- 5. Be honest.
- Bipolar boyfriend pushing me away, but i love him!!
- How can bipolar disorder affect relationships?
- Using Bipolar To Push People Away
Bipolar Disorder and Relationships
When you’re in a relationship and have bipolar disorder, both you and your partner are affected by your bipolar symptoms. To help your relationship not just survive, but thrive, you need to work together on managing your condition and addressing the challenges it can present.
“During an episode of bipolar disorder, whether manic or depressed, the individual has a harder time communicating with others,” says George Tesar, MD, chairman of the department of psychiatry and psychology at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “Both mania and depression interfere with your ability to pay attention, listen to what’s going on around you, and recognize subtle forms of communication, such as body language and emotional expression.”
When you try to communicate with your partner during a bipolar episode, you may come across as illogical, unreasonable, self-centered, or irritable. Whether you mean to or not, you may be hurting your partner and doing damage to your relationship. Your partner may feel lonely, isolated, ignored, or even rejected as a result of your behaviors during manic and depressive episodes, says Dr. Tesar.
Understanding Depressive and Manic Episodes
Being in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder can be confusing for the other partner — an up-and-down roller-coaster ride. You may be laughing and loving one day, and the next day depression may set in. Suddenly, you’re isolating yourself and pushing your partner away. You may complain or be very easily irritated, says Tesar — in short, you may not always be pleasant to be around.
During manic episodes when you’re feeling elated and on a high, you may be engagingly funny or you may feel more romantic. Your good mood and energy may be infectious, says Tesar. “As the episode intensifies, however, the manic individual may become annoying, obnoxious, reckless, and sometimes aggressive, even destructive.”
What’s interesting, adds Tesar, is that the more intense the episode, the easier it might be for your partner to forgive you and blame the illness. When you experience a milder episode of bipolar symptoms, your relationship may be faced with the sort of conflict any couple experiences.
When these manic and depressive episodes occur over and over again, your bipolar symptoms can hurt the trust and commitment in your relationship. “Scientific studies show that 90 percent of those with bipolar disorder go through divorce,” says Tesar.
Rebuilding Your Bond: Finding Support for Bipolar
Good communication is essential in any relationship. A breakdown in communication is often the beginning of the end, especially if that breakdown continues, says Tesar. Keeping up communication can be an even bigger struggle when bipolar symptoms threaten to damage your bond.
But that doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. “A strong relationship, deep commitment to one another, and an understanding of bipolar disorder reduce the risk of relationship breakdown,” says Tesar.
Here are some ways that you can strengthen your relationship and repair some of the damage that can be caused by bipolar symptoms:
- Fix what was broken. During the stable periods when bipolar symptoms aren’t present, work on repairing and resolving issues that came up during a bipolar episode. “Resolve conflict and feelings that were hurt,” Tesar says.
- Work with a therapist. You and your partner both need support for bipolar disorder. When you start to talk things out, consider couples sessions with a therapist. “Healing communication can be facilitated by a therapist who understands bipolar disorder or by the treating psychiatrist,” says Tesar. With the support from a therapist, you can learn how to communicate with each other in ways that are clear and positive, and better understand each others’ feelings.
- Schedule appointments together. Visits with your psychiatrist shouldn’t be for you alone — it’s helpful for you, your partner, and your relationship if your partner is an active participant in your treatment plan. “Psychiatrists who treat bipolar disorder should routinely encourage the patient to invite the spouse, partner, family member, or close friend to team up with the doctor and patient,” says Tesar.
- Tell your partner how to help. Maybe you simply need to hear your partner ask how you’re doing each day and provide a sympathetic ear. You might ask your loved one to plan a fun activity or outing so you can enjoy each other without dealing with bipolar disorder. Perhaps all it takes is for your partner to be supportive and positive, to remind you that you can get better.
An important part of maintaining relationships when you have bipolar disorder is “learning to anticipate and cope with the inevitable communication breakdowns that accompany episodes,” says Tesar. Keeping the lines of communication open, no matter how challenging, will give you and your relationship the reinforcement needed to thrive.
My Bipolar Boyfriend Is Pushing Me Away
I started dating the most wonderful man 4 months ago. We hit it off instantly. He was so excited for our first date he told his parents and his family in England about me. Being with this man made me feel things that I never thought could even exist. I have so much love for him. He was so attentive and loving with me. He always wanted to spend time with me. Then one day he went on a trip with a friend and returned very depressed. He called me on his way home crying. His depression lasted about a month. He wasn’t talking to anyone except his parents and me. The entire time in his depression he would tell me that he was glad I was there for him and I was very helpful in getting him through this. This was when I learned he was taking medication for anxiety and depression. After the month of depression he finally started to feel up for seeing people. He decided to go out with his friends to just relax and drink. I was worried this would set him back but I didn’t try to stop him. The next day we had plans and he canceled on me saying that he wasn’t feeling well and just wanted to stay back and sleep. I just said ok but was feeling upset because I knew this would happen. I didn’t try talking to him for 2 days. He didn’t try talking to me either. After the 2 days I text him asking how he was doing. He seemed cheerful and was talkative with me. Then I just got upset (because he was feeling fine and I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t try to talk to me). I questioned him about why he hadn’t talked me and he couldn’t really answer me. Later that week we were supposed to hang out for the weekend and he started acting distant with me. The following week he came out and told me he needed space and thinks we should go on a break. He couldn’t give me any reason for this sudden decision. The next day he contacted me saying he was sorry and didn’t want to break up. He said he really loved me and wanted to make up. We made plans for that weekend to get together. The weekend came and he tried to say he just wanted to be by himself. I started questioning him and made him feel guilty by saying that he broke my heart the past week when he said we needed a break and I just wanted some alone time with him before we went off to a party the next day. He did end up coming out and we had a good time. He even made plans to see me in a few days. When that day came he totally blew me off. He didn’t even call. He just went to a bar with some friends. I confronted him about how it was rude and disrespectful to just not even notify someone if their plans change. I was worried about him. He broke up with me that night again over text. He didn’t contact me the next day this time but something inside of me told me to check on him that night. I found him crying in his bed having a panic attack over the things he said to me. He said he didn’t mean what he said and didn’t know how to talk to me. He told me that I shouldn’t believe him when he talks like that and that he just doesn’t really know what he wants right now. The following week was pretty good. The only issue we had was that he didn’t want to be intimate. But the second week after the last break was bad. The week before we had agreed to take a week off and plan a date night for the next time we saw each other just to get back in touch with ourselves. Date night came and he forgot about it. I showed up at his house and ended up having to wait over an hour for him to get there because he met up with some coworkers for dinner after work. We seemed to have a pleasant evening. It was just his roommate/cousin and a girl the cousin brought over. We stayed in listening to music and drinking some beers. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere my boyfriend blurts out that we should break up. I told him we weren’t going to discuss this when we were both drunk. So we ended up going to bed. He started going on about how he was a bad person and I should see other people. I tried to console him which turned into him being intimate with me. We cuddled all night and in the morning were intimate again. He continued to cuddle with me. The next morning I asked if we could talk about the night before. So we talked and he said he wanted to still go out with me, attend events together, have me spend the night but do it all without the label of being a boyfriend. He then said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to sleep with other people. He asked me to leave then and I did. He has talked to me a little bit since then. Most of the time it was me initiating. I would say simple things like have a good night, hope your day is going well, I told him I missed him once. One day I left an encouraging note on his car at work just saying “you are a wonderful person. I want to always be by your side to be there for you. We can get through anything together”. He thanked me for that note and said it was very sweet and went on to say that he was glad I was still talking to him because he missed me too. So later on that week I decided to ask him if he would meet up with me to go for a walk, lunch, or movie. He said he had plans with family. I asked him about another day. He said he was going to have too much homework (which later found out he went out with other friends). So I asked if he would like to meet up for lunch through the week before work. He said yes and to let him know what worked. I responded back the next day giving him days I was free. He never responded. I sent him a message after not getting a reply for a day that he didn’t have to meet up with me and that I would understand but just wanted to let him know that I am there for him. I didn’t want to add pressure to him. He thanked me for being understanding and said I was so nice and that he wished he could have been there for me more. We’ve had a few text conversations since then. The other day I surprised him with his favorite meal for his lunch break. He let me stay and eat it with him. He kept thanking me for coming by and said he wanted to do something nice for me in return. The next day I thanked him for letting me stay and eat with him and that it was nice to see him. He replied that it was good to see me too. I just asked if he wanted to get together this coming week and he hasn’t responded. His mother and I have been in touch. She can see that he isn’t doing well either but he refuses to see a psychiatrist to get diagnosed for what we think is bipolar or to get his medication changed (even though he admits his medication makes his depression worse). His mother is very supportive of me being in his life and really wants us to be able to work this out as well. Will my boyfriend come back to me after he has cycled out? Is there something I could to do help him through this?
My Bipolar Boyfriend Is Pushing Me Away
Linda is a 42-year-old woman who has been in a committed relationship with her boyfriend for over six years. She often complains about her boyfriend’s mood swings, and over the last few weeks, her boyfriend is withdrawing from the relationship, he appears to be indifferent, sad, and basically shut down. They usually stay in touch via email, phone messages, or even phone calls, but now, she barely hears from him during the day. Linda thought he might have become uninterested but was surprised to find out the next day that he was planning to propose marriage!
Day after day, Linda gets more confused as she tries to find an explanation for her boyfriend’s behavior. Most of the time, he is not angry or violent, but rather, just pushes people away and caves into his own skin. He spends so many hours asleep that he misses work. Then he becomes irritable and upset over silly things. On their good days, however, he is nice, loving, and has a very charming personality.
Linda does not know how to manage the situation; whether to leave or to continue, and if she chooses to continue, how to best handle his mood swings. She also isn’t sure if her boyfriend’s behavior is due to a difficult personality or if he might be suffering from an undiagnosed mood disorder.
In fact, Linda’s story is a typical scenario for dealing with a partner’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder. According to Treatment Advocacy Center Fact Sheet, “Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) is a neurobiological disorder that severely affects approximately 5.5 million Americans age 18 or older, or 2.6 percent of the adult population.” An estimated 51 percent of individuals with this condition are untreated in any given year. Moreover, “Generally people with bipolar disorder consult three to four doctors and spend more than eight years seeking treatment before they receive a correct diagnosis.” This is because bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed for other psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression due to their common symptoms.
So…What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder happens when a person dramatically alternates between two moods, sometimes even three. One is considered emotionally high (happy mood) and is called mania, the other is emotionally low (sad) and defined as depression, and the third, which happens only sometimes, is hypomanic episode, which is a milder type of mania. Sometimes, a person with bipolar disorder might also experience mixed episodes of mania and depression at the same time.
Depression episodes typically last at least two weeks and are characterized by feeling sad for no apparent reason, having no or little energy, not showing interest in things that used to be enjoyable, changes in appetite, weight and sometimes, sleep patterns. Depression episodes might also accompany suicidal thoughts.
Manic episodes can be triggered by life stressors or can happen suddenly. They can last for at least one week and are characterized by an unusually high mood or the so-called euphoria, irritable behavior, rapid speech, decreased periods of sleep or lack of it, inappropriate social behavior and spending sprees. During hypomanic episodes, mood is elevated, accompanied by feelings of overconfidence and increased production.
Depending on the type of bipolar disorder a person has, a person might experience different episodes. Bipolar 1, for example, is characterized by recurrent episodes of mania and depression, whereas Bipolar II is characterized by severe mania episodes. A person with this type of bipolar disorder may keep alternating between both hypomania and depression.
Some people with this disorder might sink into a denial cycle and refuse to seek treatment. The problem, however, is that left untreated, bipolar can worsen at later stages in life, and sometimes even require hospitalization. According to Elements Behavioral Health in its online issue in August 19, 2010, “A new study sponsored by National Institute of Mental Health has found that almost 40 percent of adults with a history of major depressive disorder also experience a subthreshold hypomania.” It goes on to claim, “Without recognition of hypomania behavior, symptoms of bipolar disorder may go undiagnosed among a large proportion of individuals suffering from major depression.”
How to Deal with an Undiagnosed Bipolar Partner?
Understand the illness
The best way to understand your partner’s behavior is to educate yourself more about his or her condition. The more you read about it, the better you are going to be able to handle the ups and downs.
Don’t blame yourself; it is not your fault
Don’t feel guilty that when your partner is down, you don’t feel the same way. In fact, the more positive you stay, the better you are going to be able to help your partner to feel better.
Try to convince them to seek treatment
The only way a person with a bipolar disorder is going to feel better about their lives and symptoms is if they decide to seek treatment and get the medication and psychotherapy required to monitor their moods.
Set boundaries and expectations
It’s a good idea to talk to your partner and explain how you feel. Although an individual suffering from bipolar disorder might not be able to control how they feel, they are in control of their actions and words.
Offer your support and show your love
Even though a person who suffers a depression episode from bipolar disorder may seem uninterested in you, the fact is he/she might be in the most need of your love and support. Reassure your partner of your love for them and that you are going to be there for support.
Give your partner the space he/she needs when asked
If you feel your partner is withdrawing from your daily contact, don’t get offended, and don’t take it personally. Just give him/her the space needed while keeping yourself busy with some other activities.
Create your own social circle
In order for you to be able to survive the emotional ups and downs of your partner, you have to be mentally strong enough to handle this situation. The best way to do this is by surrounding yourself with a circle of family and friends who know the situation and are going to be able to help you when needed.
Take a break… Relax!
Finally…Perhaps the best way to handle an undiagnosed bipolar partner is by keeping a cool and level head yourself. Try to participate in activities that you enjoy and that help you relax for at least 30 minutes every day. Set aside time daily to go for a walk, listen to music, or read a book!
Managing Close Relationships When Moods Pull Them Apart
By Robin L. Flanigan
- Post Views: 58,933 Views
Self-awareness and healthy boundaries are key to maintaining strong relationships with your significant others, family and friends when mood swings threaten to pull you apart.
All relationships ebb and flow. It comes with the territory because, well, we’re human.
But when bipolar is part of the equation, the dynamics of relationships–with partners, family members and friends–are more complicated.
Julie K. had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar II when she said her wedding vows 22 years ago. But she felt broken and admits that her irritability, unpredictability and self-loathing put her husband, Chris, “through the wringer with a lot of hurt and heartache.”
She would act defensive when Chris urged her to get help, and she forbade him from reaching out for support, worried about anyone finding out about her darkest moments.
“I always say that our worst behaviors are often reserved for the people who love us the most,” says Julie, of Vancouver. “Behind closed doors was the only place I felt I could be me, that I didn’t have to hide behind a mask. So I would unleash and unload all my pent-up frustrations on my husband, and I assumed he would be my punching bag.”
When she walked into his home office one day and saw his computer opened to an online support group for spouses of people with bipolar, she felt betrayed. He gave her an ultimatum—either she see a professional or he was taking himself and their three children to one.
In 2010, at age 36, Julie got a diagnosis, along with help.
“Too many times partners and kids have to tiptoe on eggshells around people with bipolar,” she says. “I actually wish in hindsight that I’d been given an ultimatum sooner.”
Extreme mood fluctuations, poor judgment, frenetic behavior, and other symptoms can make intimate partners, friends, and relatives feel overwhelmed, distrustful, and ultimately disconnected. For those without bipolar, it can be difficult to have patience and resilience and to not take things personally—to understand that the behavior is a result of the illness and not genuine feelings.
Even when someone isn’t in the throes of mania or depression, the specter of another episode may loom, causing doubt and anxiety that can affect day-to-day interactions and can result in relationship burnout.
Knowing how to manage and nurture important bonds, despite the challenges, can make all the difference. Being able to cultivate greater self-awareness and to set healthy boundaries is key—and can lead to a new level of understanding in your relationships.
“The more self-aware and insightful someone is into what’s happening, the better,” says Helen M. Farrell, MD, a psychiatrist and instructor at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “It can be a little painful to recognize, but on the positive side, it can be an impetus for change.”
Withdrawal and reconnection
Two studies offering insight into the link between bipolar and emotional bonds shed light on why supportive, meaningful relationships—while unequivocally possible—can take a lot of work to sustain.
In findings published in May 2017 in Molecular Psychiatry, the largest MRI study to date on patients with bipolar found there is a thinning of gray matter in regions of the brain responsible for inhibition and emotion.
Meanwhile, research at the University of Michigan has shown that those with bipolar incorrectly perceive emotions at a higher rate than those without it.
“People with feel things very intensely, and that can be amplified in a relationship,” says Farrell. “They’re very attuned to how others are responding or not responding to them, and that can carry an air of sensitivity that other people don’t have to deal with.”
Depending on the interaction, and whether symptoms are present, a typical response might be to feel easily overwhelmed, guarded, even paranoid. A next step may be to withdraw, which often gets interpreted as cold and distant behavior, a combination that can push people away.
Despite writing a mental health blog in which she speaks openly about her bipolar II, Hannah B. admits she “struggles to discuss it in my personal life, which causes me to isolate and reject every form of my friends and family reaching out.”
In particular, add Hannah, who lives in North Carolina, “I’ve lost the depth of connection that I used to have with a lot of friends.”
One of them has been more like a sister over the past 14 years, since the women were juniors in high school. Despite living five miles apart, they stop hanging out when Hannah goes through periods of rapid cycling, which has been happening “constantly” over the past year.
Too many times partners and kids have to tiptoe on eggshells around people with bipolar.
“I would get simple texts such as ‘I miss you’ and ‘Hope you’re well’ and ‘I’ve been thinking of you,’ and while those are great, never followed through with anything,” Courtney J. recalls. “I would always think that if she missed us hanging out so much, wouldn’t she make more of an effort to actually see me?”
Feeling that it was a constant battle to get together, and that Hannah’s surface-level interactions were unfair to their friendship, Courtney pulled back and decided to let Hannah reach out when she was ready. Three months later, in early 2018, she did. They met up and Courtney got the chance to talk in detail about how Hannah’s self-isolation makes her feel.
“We are very honest and open with one another, which is key in a friendship like this,” Courtney says.
Hannah says she needs to become more self-aware when it comes to how her behavior has affected those around her.
Julie can relate. She has been working hard to make amends on another relationship front: parenthood.
In the past, she said, her bipolar left her “little time to be a mom” to her three daughters, ages 20, 17 and 10. Her insecurities about socializing with other parents meant she tried to avoid playdates, birthday parties and sports. And she routinely justified hyper-focusing on projects during hypomania by convincing herself that what she was working on was “a positive, life-changing, world-revolutionizing project … What I failed to realize was that the consequences of all my actions could be devastating and have long-term negative effects on my children.”
But her daughters have been “so forgiving and resilient” since her diagnosis, now that the family members talk openly about bipolar. They remind Julie when she’s obsessing over a certain project, for example, or when a trip to the grocery store is long overdue. Her youngest recently wrote a post on Instagram that applauded her mom’s strength and creativity, and encouraged parents to talk to their children about their symptoms. “If children have feelings they want to get out, they’ll know they aren’t alone,” she wrote.
“I’m still playing catch-up and trying to turn around something that has been so painful for my family,” says Julie, who is on medication and attends a bi-weekly mental health support group. “This isn’t only my story, it’s their story.”
Chris K. focuses on what he loves about his wife—her wit, her infectious joy and energy when she is happy, her natural talent for writing and drawing.
To other spouses, he advises: “Never keep score. You need to understand that you will be in a place where you will be giving more than you will be receiving potentially for your entire marriage. It is better to face that early and develop a system to weather the storms. Traditional 50/50 mentality towards a relationship will guarantee failure.”
The importance of empathy
Empathy is critical in any relationship, and perhaps more so when a loved one has bipolar. That said, empathy fatigue is a very real thing.
“Even though a parent, sibling or significant other recognizes it’s a biological illness that’s significantly out of an individual’s control, they don’t feel as much empathy over time,” says Eric Morse, MD, a psychiatrist in North Carolina. “The feeling can be, ‘Well, you should’ve seen a psychiatrist more often,’ or ‘You should’ve seen the next episode coming,’ or ‘You should’ve had more medication adjustments.’ They feel like they’ve been there, done that, and they don’t want to listen as much anymore.”
Empathy fatigue can go both ways. The most common complaint Morse hears from clients is that loved ones often take any minor irritability or short-tempered statement as a sign of another manic episode—or reason for an increase in medication dosage.
“That can make an individual who’s suffering more upset, more angry, and not want to maintain a loving relationship,” Morse explains. “They don’t want every comment to be evaluated through the lens of, ‘This is your illness talking and not you as a person.’”
Ghadeer Okayli, a psychiatrist from Texas, tells clients to work with loved ones on ways to ease stress during an episode before the symptoms present themselves. Prep and freeze a few meals, perhaps, or designate a trustworthy and willing family member or friend to help out at a moment’s notice.
We are very honest and open with one another, which is key in a friendship like this.
Steven D., also from Texas, says his wife of 43 years has come to terms with the fact that she wakes up each day not knowing how he is going to behave. His bipolar brings with it a lot of angst and anger.
“Twenty years ago she took great offense, thought that I didn’t love her anymore,” he says.
While their interactions still often bring tension, particularly when Steven’s racing thoughts require him to ask his wife to repeat herself multiple times, they continue to find their way.
“I tell her, ‘I’m not doing this to irritate you, I’m doing this because I can’t focus on what you’ve said,” he says. “I can’t necessarily keep up with her. The last thing I want is to be a burden on anyone, especially her.”
For the last 15 years he has, almost daily, recorded in a journal what happened the previous day. Was it a good day for him? Was it what he envisions as tolerable for his wife?
“On my bad days she gives me a lot of space,” he says.
Because bipolar can take a long time to diagnose—there is an average six-year delay between onset and diagnosis, according to a 2016 study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry—a lot of damage can be done to a relationship before proper help is found. That’s why Julie K. says she is thrilled there is increasing awareness about the disorder, and that people who are diagnosed in their teens and early 20s are able to enter into relationships much more educated about themselves and their behaviors than she was.
“Thank goodness they can save themselves so much pain and heartache,” she says.
* * * * *
Keeping bonds strong
Set boundaries early. “Have a conversation about boundaries during a calm period,” suggests Sharon Barrett, a clinical social worker and therapist from Toronto. Communicate clearly which values and behaviors are non-negotiable, such as verbal abuse or overspending, and spell out the consequences. “Without this, follow through, or boundary setting will be ineffective,” Barrett says.
Know your limits. Once Julie K. from Vancouver stopped accepting most invitations that came her way, even small ones, life became so much easier. “My schedule looks empty to anyone else,” she says, “but I’m self-aware enough to know that one coffee date a week is my max.”
Rebuild connection. Finding an activity to do together, like going to the gym or taking a language class, can help two people rediscover each other without pressure, notes Boston psychiatrist Helen M. Farrell, MD.
Encourage partners to seek support. “They can’t do everything on their own,” says Texas psychiatrist Ghadeer Okayli, MD. Enlist help from others. If needed during an episode, try to arrange for a relative or friend to drive the kids to school. Hire an occasional housecleaner. Help loved ones take breaks to decompress with friends or on their own.
Printed as “The Ties That Bind” Summer 2018
5 Ways To Avoid Saying Goodbye To The Girl With Bipolar Disorder
I didn’t start seriously dating until halfway through college, after my first bipolar episode. So, I have never dated someone without having to address my bipolar disorder at some point. With my first relationship, for the first few months, I tried to hide my depression. When it was eventually brought up, I made it seem like it was just a part of my past, not something I would be battling again and again. I was in denial and not open to discussing it. I think that not being open to depression actually made it much harder for us. Now, my bipolar disorder diagnosis is not something I try to hide from who I date.
Through my experiences these past few years, I’ve created a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to my mood disorder and dating:
1. Don’t assume that my emotions are some kind of “bipolar thing”.
I have a right to have a wide range of emotions without them being assessed as some feature of a mood disorder. I can be excited without being manic. I can be down without being depressed. I can be angry without it being due to the “irritability” feature of bipolar disorder. “Do you think you are manic? Are you depressed? Are you having an episode?” These questions can feel like attacks and make it seem like, despite my efforts, I’m not doing a good enough job at being “normal”. If you constantly assume that my emotional states are due to an illness, you are dismissing my feelings. I am a person, not a condition.
2. Don’t feel like you have to “fix” me.
I know that it can be hard to see someone you love struggle. However, it is not your job to “fix” me. I am not broken. I’ve been in a relationship before in which the boyfriend felt like he was failing me by not lifting me out of my depression. That’s not how it works. The perfect boyfriend or relationship does not cure depression. There is no cure. Instead, you can be supportive. You can listen when I need to talk, but don’t pressure me into explaining myself or my depression.
3. Take my condition seriously.
No, it is not the same as that one week you were sad after your dog died. Depression is not sadness. For me, depression is a terrifying condition, because it is an illness that may not seem like an illness at all, just a part of myself. It felt like I had been living in some happy, fake bubble all of my life and all of a sudden, I saw the world as it really was: dangerous, cruel, and terrifying. It’s not simply lack of happiness. It is lack of energy, motivation, sleep, passion, concentration, and will to live. As much as I wish that having access to therapy and medicine was an “easy fix”, it is not. Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness, not some phase that lasts a few weeks. If you ask me if I see a future with you, I’ll say no, because depression doesn’t allow me to even see a future for myself. If I don’t seem enthusiastic when I’m with you, please don’t take it personally. It’s exhausting to try to look and act normal or even happy in such a state.
4. Give me space.
Sometimes, I need space. It is that simple. That does not mean that I am mad at you or that we are on the verge of a breakup. When anxiety and depression feel suffocating, sometimes I need time and space. I don’t need constant messaging of “What’s wrong?”, “Let’s talk”, or “Are you mad at me? What did I do?”. That’s not helpful, even if it has good intentions. When I want to talk, I will. Don’t push me. However, if I keep pushing you away as a result of depression, don’t abandon me. Be patient, supportive, and kind.
5. Be honest.
If you see a problem, let me know. Sometimes, bipolar disorder comes with lowered self-awareness. I may not notice that my speech is pressured, my thoughts are going a little too fast, my goals are a bit unrealistic, and my self-esteem is through the roof. Hypomania or even mania can feel great, so I may not see the situation in the same way that others see it. However, mania is an emergency situation that can become suicidal or even psychotic. If you are someone I am dating, you may notice manic or depressive changes. Be sensitive in how you address your concerns.
Yes, mental illness adds another factor to the relationship, but it does not have to ruin it. Happiness in the relationship is possible. It takes sensitivity, patience, and love.
Bipolar boyfriend pushing me away, but i love him!!
so me and my boyfriend have been dating me 2 years, we are both 18 and are first loves. Till about 4 months in, he showed very few signs of anger, he would sometimes get irritated easily, but nothing that was upsetting. when he did show his anger, he would cause me, my friends and family a lot of stress, he stopped me seeing my friends and doesnt like my family because they dont like how he treats me when hes angry.
so for about a year he was horrible to me, nearly breaking up with me every week and i had no freedom, but when he was kind, he was amazing and thats when i would love him and be happy and i know i should love him and be happy all time! however i stayed with him! about 3 months ago, he told me he just found out he had bipolar and that he felt we needed a break for him to go sort himself out, get some counselling and stuff, i respected this and during that time, i sadly was not scared anymore, i felt free, i felt like i wasnt being watched all the time and i wasnt as sad as i thought i would have been. so we didnt see or talk to eachother for about 2 weeks, he called me up and said he missed me and loved and wanted to get back together, he had calmed down and wasnt the angry person he was before, foolishly in love, we got back together and true enough he had calmed down, occasionally he would get aggitated! but way less than he used to, up until about 3 weeks ago, when he found out his a level results and he didnt do all that well, so naturally he has been upset about them and i understand that! however he has become angry and rude to me again!! over little things, like one time i had no signal and once i got my signal back, i got all these texts from him because i hadnt replied straight back to him, (this was while i was on a shopping trip with my sister) and he was being very angry and rude to me and kept calling me and texting me and i was scared, it was happening all over again and i said i dont deserve this, i do so much for you, you cant talk to me like this when i havent done anything and so i said i you can call me when you calmed down and so i didnt look at my phone until he had!
another example was yesterday, now i very rarely am able to go out with my friends, he has slowly been letting me, yesterday was one of my best friends birthday party and hes not allowed to come, because my friends dont like him. but during the party, i made sure to check my phone if he texted, because otherwise he would get made if i didnt! i was having a good time tho and didnt wanna be on my phone the whole time! i was dancing and having fun ( i wasnt drinking tho, he doesnt allow me too) anyway, at one point i didnt look at my phone for about 10 mins and when i looked at it, he had texted me asked what i was doing and i hadnt seen the text and so he had called me, texted me loads and was getting very angry that i hadnt replied. he of course thught i was cheating!! which i havent! whenever hes angry he always calls me a liar and a cheat, when im not, i havent done anything to make him think i am! and i was so upset, he was being horrible and angry and i had to get my best!! friend to help me deal with it, becaue i didnt wanna go through this anger again on my own and he eventually calmed down, but then he got angry about 3 more times during the night and i ended up crying and wasnt looking at my phone again, because i was too scared to talk to him!!
when i got home i finally texted him and he said sorry, and then he went on to say he was depressed, addicted to weed (which he has like everyday to help calm him and i’ve said he shouldn’t rely on it for relaxation) and wanted to kill himself (he has said this a lot to me, to threatened me btw) and i said he needs to go see a doctor and that this isn’t an excuse to treat me badly. he went to the doctor today and they are gonna give him anti depressants and ritalin. he then got angry at me again and he always blames me for his anger, but i literally do nothing wrong and if i ever do anything i take responsibility for it! but i’m not ever doing anything wrong!! and he keeps blaming me and getting angry at me and pushing me away! i don’t want to be pushed away tho, i love him so much!!! i suggested we take a break, so he can like sort himself out, but he said he wouldn’t sort himself out if we did that, because he would be too upset! we had a long phone conversation and sorted some things out, even though i know he is still blaming me for his anger (which is really upsetting) im a good person, im not an angry person, i dont do things to make him angry or upset, i do as he tells me, which is unheathy, because i do it because im scared of him! he knows this! he knows he doesnt deserve me and he said i can find a better man that will treat me as i should be tearted and truthfully i know i can too! and im leaning towards it, because i cannot be continued to be treated so badly! but then i love him so much and dont want to lose him, but im afradi i may have to, because im not going through that year of anger that i did!!!! it took a toll on me!!! and ive only just come out of it!
please give me some advice, i dont know what to do, i dont know how to deal with bipolar, im afraid hes gonna kill himself!!
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How can bipolar disorder affect relationships?
All relationships take work, and being in a relationship with a person with bipolar disorder is no different. A healthy partnership requires empathy, communication, and self-awareness.
There are many ways to build a strong relationship with a partner who has bipolar disorder, including by:
Learning about the condition
Learning about bipolar disorder can help a person understand what their partner is experiencing.
Reading reputable, well-sourced health information websites can help give a balanced view of the condition.
Asking about triggers
Share on PinterestWorkplace stress and a lack of sleep can trigger the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Triggers are events or circumstances that could disrupt the mood state of a person with bipolar disorder. This could increase their risk of experiencing a manic or depressive episode.
Triggers could include dealing with a stressful work scenario, not getting enough sleep, or missing doses of medication.
Not everyone with bipolar disorder will have triggers, but if they do, they may have learned about them through their own experience with the condition.
Asking about personal triggers can help someone support their partner when those events or circumstances arise or help them avoid triggers. However, many mood changes can occur without triggers.
Asking about behaviors
Asking what behaviors are typical for a person with bipolar disorder during high or low periods can help someone recognize their partner’s shifts in mood.
Some behaviors may be a warning sign for one person but not for another. For example, for a person with a high sex drive, wanting to have sex often may be normal. For others, however, it could be a sign of a manic episode.
Likewise, for those whose libido is usually low, showing little interest in sex may not coincide with a low mood. However, for someone whose sex drive is usually high, losing interest in sex may indicate a depressive episode.
Learning which behaviors are normal for a loved one and which can indicate a shift in mood can be very helpful. This enables the partner of a person with bipolar disorder to distinguish usual behaviors from symptoms of bipolar disorder.
To support a person’s treatment plan, start by discussing what the plan involves. This may help reduce any anxiety in the relationship.
While some people appreciate being asked about how their treatment is going, others may find it intrusive or paternalistic. It is crucial to talk about how best to support treatment and whether there are aspects of treatment that a person does not want to discuss.
Creating a support plan
Creating a support plan is a useful way for someone to learn how to help their partner with bipolar disorder. This might include planning activities, making a list of useful contacts — such as a trusted relative or a therapist — and making adjustments to daily routine.
Having a support plan in place reassures both partners that they will know how to respond to a very high or low period.
High or low periods may be emotional for both partners. For this reason, open communication is crucial. A partner should explain how the behavior of a person with bipolar disorder makes them feel, without judging them or stigmatizing the condition.
Talking openly can be a powerful way to reduce the negative impact that certain behaviors may have.
It is vital for the partner of a person with bipolar disorder to support their own mental health by practicing self-care.
Through self-care, a person can strengthen the relationship. It can also improve their ability to care for their partner.
Some ways a person can practice self-care when their partner has bipolar disorder include:
- talking to a friend or family member about relationship issues
- practicing a hobby
- getting regular exercise
- seeing a therapist
- not being the partner’s only support
- practicing stress-relieving techniques such as mindfulness or meditation
Using Bipolar To Push People Away
For 2016, I promised myself a number of things, not the least of which was getting a better handle on my bipolar disorder. I’ve resolved to have a healthier mind in the hopes that it would lead to healthier relationships with everyone in my life. Sadly, I’ve already broken my resolution and I’ve realized that I have a habit of using bipolar to push people away.
The first test of my new found relationship health came during a visit to my family in Massachusetts. My dad and I had planned to see my uncle and cousin in Boston, a trip that I’d been looking forward to for a few weeks. A little history here: I hadn’t seen my uncle and cousin — my father’s family — for about five years, since a family funeral. My dad wasn’t very close to his brother when I was growing up, so I wasn’t close to him either, nor his daughter, my cousin.
Recently, my dad and his brother renewed their relationship, and with it the desire for me to reconnect with the family. This is hard for me because my uncle and I disagree on many things. He’s a minister and conservatively religious to the point of being impractical. So whenever we talk I get a lecture about wearing pants and watching rated R movies and riding in cars with strange men that aren’t my husband — otherwise known as “going on a date.” I’m 43. I don’t need or like anyone passing judgement on my life, even if they are family. Needless to say, seeing my uncle is exhausting and stressful.
So, I actually decided to pass on the trip to Boston. After various holiday gatherings and a 10-day visit from my dad, I was exhausted. I told my dad I wasn’t feeling well, which wasn’t a lie. No amount of pleading or guilt could make me change my mind. My rationale was that some people might be able to power through several weeks without spending any time alone; I wasn’t one of those people. I have bipolar, and I’m an introvert, both of which make it hard for me to deal with an onslaught of personalities for too long at a time. Sounds good, right? Well it isn’t, because I was using bipolar to push people away. This time it was my family.
Part of having a mental illness is knowing that you have the right medications to buffer against emotional volatility or extremity. But the medication doesn’t — or shouldn’t — take away regular feelings. If my meds are working properly, I should be annoyed when people annoy me and sad when sad things happen. I should also be able to handle situations when the annoyance or sadness becomes overwhelming. But the meds don’t handle those situations for me, I’m supposed to handle them myself.
Going to my uncle’s house when I was already feeling volatile, and when I expected to experience some discomfort based on his views, I would have had the perfect opportunity to test my resolution for better relationships and a healthier mind by regulating my emotions. But I hid at home instead and missed an opportunity to bond with my family.
Don’t get me wrong. Staying at home works sometimes, and perhaps this was one of those instances when being at home by myself was the best option for me. But I won’t ever know if I should have pushed through my discomfort to see what would’ve happened.
I’m sure I’ll have other chances to use my coping skills to push through my uneasiness instead of using bipolar to push people away. In the meantime, I’ll firm up my resolutions for the year, talk to my therapist about how to power through the difficult times, and hope for health and growth in 2016.
Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.
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I have a little secret to share. When I battled depression and PTSD I was not a wonderful person to be around. I was an expert at pushing people away and at times that included not being nice to those around me. I was confused. I was lost. I was in pain. I did not feel I deserved love. In fact I would often search for relationships with people I knew were not so nice and that would eventually hurt me. Now I sit on the other side of the table, as my daughter battles depression and anxiety. It is one of the reasons I choose to be transparent about my past battles. Today I wanted to write to those who support the ones who are fighting. Whether it is depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or any of the many mental health disorders there is much to be learned. So if you are a solid rock by the side of someone who is fighting then I pass on these words of advice to you. I speak from the perspective of a person who has fought the battle and the person who now helps someone else fight it.
The first thing to remember is that the person you love and care for is not defined by their disease. Inside there is an amazing spirit who understands the complexity of what is happening to them and does not always like it. Many times they wish they could get rid of the medicine, put on a smile, and feel like they recognized themselves. There were so many times in my past that I would look in the mirror and wonder who was looking back at me. My hair disheveled, cloudy eyes, and streak marks from crying so much that day. I would wonder when the old me would return or if I would always be stuck in this body. Two of my suicide attempts in my college days were actually not, in my distorted mind, attempts; but was me thinking if I took a bunch of my anti-depressants then I could be happy again. I just wanted the version of me stuck inside to be released. Inside I could hear the little voice screaming, but it was never allowed out. I was not my disease, but it was a part of me.
Secondly, there are times the person you care for may try to push you away. Do not take this personally. It is not meant that way. Simply speaking there are times that a mental illness can overwhelm those who are battling it and they do not want to take others on the journey with them. For me I had a fear of hurting those I loved. I had such a difficult time seeing past my pain and the feeling of hopelessness, that I did not want others to feel those emotions too. I wanted them to live their life fully when I felt I could not. So I would push and at times that meant bringing others lots of pain.
Thirdly, sometimes you may feel like walking away because the one you care for pushes so hard or you may not recognize them. If you need to take a walk do so, but please return. We all need space to breath at times and that will be understood, but if you return it allows those you love to see that even in the darkness there is someone who cares about them. Those who have mental health disorders do not push people away because they hate them. They often push because they love them and fear hurting them by taking them along on the journey.
Fourthly, educate yourself. If your loved one, or the practice they visit, will allow you to attend appointments with them then please do so. Research their diagnosis and understand it. The key to decreasing the stigma that exists and being a knowledgeable support person is education. As a support person you may not ever understand what it is like to live in your loved ones shoes, but by educating yourself you can come to understand how best to work beside the one you love. Educate yourself on the medication they take and the various aspects of their mental health disorder. This may help you to recognize any triggers that may increase symptoms or various side effects of the treatment they take.
As a support person to someone battling a mental health disorder you will be one of the most important people by their side. During the darkest of days or the toughest moments you will be the one that makes the difference. You may not always get a thank-you spoken to you, but I can guarantee that you are very much appreciated. Be transparent. Be honest. Believe. Thank-you.
This post is dedicated to my husband and my family whose support was often pushed away, but whose belief in me allowed me to win my battle and be where I am today.