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Readers Respond: How Could Family Be Supportive?

Responses: 30

By

Updated June 13, 2011

The support and help of family members can make a big difference to a person with bipolar disorder. Readers share what they wish their families would do to be supportive and help them cope with having BP. You may be able to take some of these ideas back to your own family.

Please do not post questions or rants - they will not be published. To receive advice and support, post your questions in the Family and Relations folder in our About Bipolar Disorder forum.

I want my brother back

My brother was diagnosed not to long ago and our lives have been thru a lot. I try my best to understand and be supportive, most of the time during his mania I just let him be, but sometimes the human in me comes out and I might say something I shouldn't but I am learning and trying my best to understand. A couple days ago he had a seizure. I had never experienced anything like that and thought the worst of, thinking my brother was leaving us in my arms, but his seizure was due to his mania state that he does not sleep and he's very active. If someone is bipolar you know they must sleep. When we put my brother to bed it is a fight and struggle but he gets over it. It's hard for me to comprehend because my brother was a sweet calm non argumentative young man but now all has changed. He's on Seroquel during his mania doesn't seem to work and when hes ok it puts him to sleep all day. I ask god if i can have my bro back but that's selfish. so I pray for patience love understanding.
—Guest Lui

Response of Family and Friends

I have had both great help and some really unsupported help from friends and family. The person that helped the most has always been my mom. Since the beginning of my depression when I was in seventh grade, my mom was constantly there for me. She would sit with me and ask me as many questions as she could. She would call my doctors, and when I needed to go to the hospitals, she would immediately bring me there and help me as much as she could. During my stays in hospitals, she would call me a couple times during the day and bring me things in hospitals that would really comfort me. The most important thing that family and friends can do is ASK QUESTIONS. I can't say that loud enough. When asking questions, you are showing that you care, you are making an honest effort to help. People recognize that and appreciate that effort. The worst thing you can do is decide that you don't know what to do and be content with that. Ask questions and give support whenever you can.
—briana456

A gentle wish

I have been reading all these comments. I have two siblings that suffer with BP and I wish I could find a cure to give all of you peace and comfort in your down moments. I pray for all of you and hope you will all stay strong and please take care of yourselves and please take your medication and keep in contact with your doctor. Please join groups with others that have your dilemmas. Please talk to others like you. I truly hope you can find peace.
—Guest stephanie

Sister

My 27 year old sister was diagnosed ten years ago. My family has tried to be supportive, remind her to take her meds, research, research, research. No matter how much you know about this disease though, you can never fully understand it. Her constant lashing out and pushing everyone away makes being supportive very difficult. Even her long term friends are fed up of being used and then pushed away again. Anything we do to try and help her is taken as interfering in her life. She uses her child as a tool to manipulate us. At this point my forgiveness and understanding is used up. Im tried of being screamed and I will no longer watch my niece be subjected to a constant parade of sex and drugs. I will always support her but at some point my life has to be important too. This roller coaster ride is exhausting.
—Guest Sarah

As a Bipolar Wife

As the wife of a wonderful Bipolar man, reading your posts troubles me terribly. You see, I was that person, when my husband was finally diagnosed 6 years ago. (I am so ashamed to admit that this is true!) However, since then, I have educated myself, and I continue to do so as much as possible. I read books, attend DBSA meetings and doctor's appointments with my husband, and I try each and every day to do what I can to learn about this terrible disease! I hope that some of you can get your loved ones to join a support group of any kind! DBSA, NAMI, or even a group on Facebook (Bipolar & Mental Illness Friends & Family)! They need to learn that it is not the fault of the person, nor is it anyone's fault! My thoughts and prayers are with you all, that you may find peace and happiness! Good Luck!
—Guest CJ

how to help bipolar

Thank you for these responses. It helps me see the needs my husband may not be able to say.
—Guest Ann

1 easy way to explain bipolar disorder

I am 34 years old I have been marred for 15 year I have 3 kids 13g,10g,9boy. I have one easy way to explain bipolar disorder to the non bipolar people. And it goes like this imagine that your body is a very small car and your brain is the motor. But your path is straight up or straight down there is no flat ground in sight. The motor turns so fast going down hill that it almost breaks apart and going up hill you have to hold the gas pedal to the floor. And it feels like the motor is just about to sling apart. O I forgot no brakes in the little car It just up hill or down hill and up hill and down hill. The medications help me very little but with out the medications I no that I will burn the motor up. And then I will be stuck at the bottom again. THATS LIVING WITH BIPOLAR DISORDER
—Guest R B

some people just don't understand

Bipolar is hard 2 deal with especially if u have no support cause if ur lonely enuff ur gonna think no 1 cares & think I mind as well kill myself. Thats how i feel sometimes. My husband thought my bipolar was a joke. Its not. Its very serious & he realizes now cause he researched on it & looked at the symptoms Ive been having. Hes understanding now cause when he didn't I hated him. He luvs me that much & wants 2 support me. My husbands mom on the other hand had the nerve 2 say I should give my kids away & get my head straight. I may not b super mom but I'm doin the best I can & thats wat counts. She doesnt understand my illness. I don't think she understands that bipolar people may not want 2 ask 4 help but when they need it they really need it evn if its a fone call or an email. Whatevr support u can give 2 a person with bipolar do what u can 2 help. If u know sum1 whos bipolar & is not askin 4 help? HELP THEM WHEN THEY REALLY NEED IT MOST cause they need all the support they can get
—Guest Olivia Moon

Tell me something.

I hear so many conflicting things. Make sure someone takes their medication, yet don't ask them if they've taken it if they are becoming manic or acting in a way you don't like. The more I read, the more frustrated I get. My best friend is approaching mania. She scares me with the amount of anger she has towards me, and we also work together. I very gently and as kindly as I could tried to tell her my concern - that her current erratic behavior is associated with mania - but now she is even more furious. I can only be who I am. I cannot completely twist myself into a doormat to tolerate her illness. Am I to blame for her anger? I think not. But she can't see how much I care and there is NOTHING I can do to help. Please advise. Anyone. This is miserable. I just want to be a good friend.
—Guest not-so-smurfy

This saddens me to read

I am 34, and bi-polar. I was fortunate to have an early diagnosis made with the assistance of family history. I have been on and off medication my entire life, starting with good old lithium, then depakote, then lamictal, seroquel, etc etc now back full circle to lithium. I've been "hospitalized" once, for 14 days, and I'm hoping to never have to go there again. It's been a bumpy road, but I've learned a few things along the way. But before that, I'd like to remind everyone the point of this message board is to provide thoughts on how family COULD BE SUPPORTIVE, not to complain about what "life sentences" we've been given. Yes, bi-polar depression is horrible. But how can people help us? Isn't that the point of this? So here's my advice to anyone dealing with someone who is bi-polar: MAKE SURE THEY TAKE THEIR MEDICATION. Don't let us talk ourselves out of it. Ever. BE UNDERSTANDING, BUT DON'T TRY TO FIX US. You can't. It's an illness. Simple as that. AND DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
—Guest okita

Family denial

My family lives in Chicago while I'm in Alaska.I've been married going on 4 yrs to a wonderful woman.I take my lithium daily,see my Dr,and go to a thearapist twice monthly.I've delt with bipolar since the age of 17 and at 45 there isn't to much I havn't seen in dealing with this frustrating illness.I have break through mixed episodes,the worse being in the winter.I live hand and hand with my good friend remorseful shame.My familys attitude is complete denial of the illness to the point that I've given up talking to them about it.My wife's belief is hands on,you can't ignore what you see.She has come with me a couple of times to the Dr. but she has never even once looked up a bp website,no research at all.This all gives me a gnawing lonely feeling many of us with bp must learn to cope with.Having someone whom you love and respect,care enough to take the time to learn with you would certainly make this desease tamer,and ease some fears.Take care
—Alaskan64

My Mother

I have read through all of these and I have to admit I don't agree with all of them. When a person is diagnosed with BP, they have to take some responsibility for their actions, and can't blame them all on the support of their family. Even when your as supportive as possible, bipolar victims can still go into fits and rages. I feel really bad for my mom when she's like this, but sometimes there's just nothing I can do. My dad tries really hard, but there's only so much one person can handle. Please try to remember that family members are human too.
—Guest jubjub

BiPolar Family Interaction

This is a plea to anyone suffering from BP.PLEASE do not hide your illness from family. My lovely 39 yr old daughter committed suicide in 2007. Her suicide not only tragically ended her life but forever devastated ours. I did not learn of her BP until after her death when I read her personal journals she bequeathed me. She never sought help. She self diagnosed her BP and kept it secret. If only I had known about her illness and how, especially when untreated, caused alienation from families due to BP manifested erratic hostile behavior. If only I had known I would have insured she was provided the love and help she needed. I beg anyone who has BP and suffers from alienation from friends and family to tell your loved ones. Knowledge is the best medicine and sharing knowledge of your illness with family will spare everyone unnecessary pain and suffering and the terribly sad, frustrating thoughts of what could have been.
—erikkk

So Angry

Boy, I am so angry at my family, so angry! I have had BP for over 18 years, and they still don't get it.. never have, never will. I have given them papers and books and articles on this illness, even to read some of my own journal w/my feelings and what it is doing to me, and how they can help...I have gotten NO WHERE..I stand alone during my down times..They leave me be. They say to me.. You will snap out of it..you will be fine.. don't worry tomorrow is another day. and on and on..They don't listen, they don't hear, they just don't do anything but leave me be. There are times I am so afraid that I never know what I will do next , or see, or hear, that I try to go to the nearest corner and sit and hide in it, or go lay down in a bed and pray. But no one even checks on me. I'm a strong person, but not in this state of mind, how I get through it I'll never know. one time I won't. Then maybe my family will wish they took the time to read the info I gave them,or be supportive of me..
—Guest witch

Enough is enough

I agree that families should be supportive but there has to be a line that is drawn. Love also says "NO". My brother is BP and he's almost 30. He walks all over my mom. There is no respect there and she attributes everything to the bipolar disease. I feel like, if he is normal enough to have sex in her house, steal her things, and be as direspectful as possible, then he should be normal enough to get a job and move out.
—Guest Betty
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