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When Do You Say Enough is Enough?

When your partner's bipolar disorder is out of control

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Updated June 18, 2014

I received an email from a reader with a question I wish I'd known how to answer. Her husband, who has Bipolar I Disorder with psychotic features, was unstable in spite of medication therapy and she felt entirely drained. Here's what she had to say:

My alcoholic husband was diagnosed bipolar 1 with psychotic features a year ago. He began secretly placing recording devices in our house and thought he could "hear" me on the tape having sex with someone else inside our house during the night. I was devastated and took him to the psychiatrist. I told him the only way this would work was if he stopped drinking, stayed on his medicine and went to the doctor, and kept an open mind about any changes I noticed in his disorder. He agreed.

He hasn't been stable for over a week since that time. The medicines have been changed frequently and ALL of that I can handle. What I cannot handle is that he has started drinking again. I wanted to wait and confront him about our marriage until he went back to the pdoc since the medicine wasn't working. He said he was drinking because of his fibro pain and to "feel better." The doctor told him he was proud of him, kept him on Depakote and Paxil, and added Abilify. John came home and started drinking.

I asked him the next day since he'd had a new doctor's appointment and new medicine whether he was going to stop drinking. He got frustrated and said, "I'm going to do whatever I want to do."

Please understand I completely have sympathy with anyone having a mental illness, but not when they take such a huge risk physically, mentally and at the expense of damaging an already fragile family life. When do you know it's time to say enough is enough?

This particular situation ended in divorce, so the writer found her own solution to the question I couldn't answer - and still can't. Instead, I'm asking you, my readers, what you think, not just about a situation where a marriage or partnership is seriously disrupted by bipolar disorder, but when it's any family member. When is it time to break the connection? When do you say, "Enough is enough"?
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