Asking Yourself Tough Questions


I’m going to ask you a question. A hard question, but one you need to ask yourself. What about YOU? Have you ever asked yourself that? “What about ME?”

Sometimes bipolar disorder can take over your lives to such a degree that you really can get to the point that you ask yourself that question. If you have, you need to know that it is NORMAL!
You’re not alone – many supporters ask themselves that question.

Do you sometimes feel as if you have a child instead of a partner? That’s a normal feeling, too.
You may sometimes wonder why you are in the relationship at all if it only means taking care of
someone who is ill more times than they are not. And this may be harder on you than you thought it would be.

Maybe the bipolar disorder cast you in a role you have no desire to play, but you see no way out because there is no one else to do it if you don’t. Maybe you’re just plain burnt out. That happens

So what about you? If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of your loved one. Remember that. You may be asking yourself, “What about me and what I want from life?” Well, what about you? What do you want and need?

Now that you have the tools to manage the disorder, it’s time for you to become clear about the role you want to play in your relationship. You may feel that the bipolar disorder has taken the choice away from you. This, too, is a normal feeling.

When your loved one is in an episode, you may feel that you HAVE to play the role of the loving
supporter. That you have to hold things together. But you don’t. Everything you do is a choice.

Whether it’s going to the hospital when your loved one is in an episode, helping your loved one take their medication, or putting up with constant mood swings, there is a choice. It may not be an easy choice, or you may feel like you have no choice, but it is all a choice.

If you choose to stay in a relationship where your loved one is often sick (in an episode), it’s important that you at least know who you are and why you do what you do.

Many of the people who write to me who are married to a loved one with bipolar disorder say that if they knew ahead of time what they would be getting into, they wouldn’t have married that person. Is this you? Do you feel this way?

It’s ok if you do, because others do, but not if you let this feeling turn into a resentment against your loved one, or you stuff it and it bubbles up inside you and reflects how you feel about your loved one. You need to deal with it.

If it’s your choice to stay with your loved one, no matter what (and remember, you do have a choice), then feeling like that is something that you just have to get over, as it will get in the way of being a good supporter.

I know, because I am a supporter myself, that sometimes it’s just not good enough to know that you’re not alone in your struggle against bipolar disorder – that you’re not the only one who feels the way you do…that so much is expected of you, especially when your loved one goes into an episode, because even though you’re the one who does all the work, your loved one is probably the one who gets all the attention.

“In sickness and in health” can be hard to take when it seems sometimes that there just isn’t any “health”! Your role gets so complicated sometimes that you wonder who you really are any more:

You often have to be a financial planner, a confidant, a therapist, a nurse, a parent, a provider, a supporter, and any number of roles that maybe you didn’t sign on for. This is a lot to ask of you. And many times it is a thankless job.

And, again, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you may burn out from it. Don’t despair if it’s wearing you out. It wears everyone out. Again, ask yourself the tough questions: What about ME? Who am I? What do I want out of life? How much longer can I continue on like this? Can I continue on like this? Is this all worth it? Because you need to know the answers.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. Dear David:
    First I must say thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing about bipolar disorder and all of its many effects on caregivers of those who are afflicted. Without it I believe I would
    completely lose it.
    Those who know nothing about any mental illness, and specifically bipolar, have no idea what a toll it takes on those who surround the loved one with the illness. It can so take over your life that you begin to think of yourself as having the illness. Taking care of “self” all but disappears since you are consumed with taking care of the someone else.
    Soon you can become numb, shutdown, indifferent and care becomes going through the motions. This is definitely not the way to live. Yet, leaving your loved one is often not an option, as is my case, since it is my adult child, living at home, with the disorder.
    You, through your numerous articles giving coping strategies, support and very useful advice, remind me that I am not alone; that there are literally thousands in the same position.
    In answer to “what about me”? I realize more and more that in order to continue, I MUST have alone time and space which I now force myself to take. I encourage ALL caregivers to do the same because otherwise you will find yourself getting sick and, as you point out, if you burn out you can’t help anyone. I am learning to give my “self” the same encouragement, support and acceptance that I give to my child. And, I am learning more and more not to feel guilty when I take alone time and do something for me. In so doing, it allows me to answer with more confidence that I can continue.
    Thank you, again, David, for sharing your experiences and insights which have been so very helpful to me.

  2. My son was bi-polar and many times used substances to manage his illness and many times I resented that I had to take care of him of help him because of his illness. He passed away in 2010 and I would give anything to have him with me and be able to help him and help take care of him when he was in an episode and visit him when he was in a recovery center. For those with adult children that are bi-polar, love them, get them help when they need it regardless of what your loved one thinks at the time as when they are better they will be grateful. Without a doubt, my Son loved me dearly and would have done anything for me. Had I filed a Marchman Act on my son again, he may be alive today but I was afraid he would resent me because he would lose his girlfriend who would have immediately moved on to someone else.

  3. I am breaking down fast, and know I want out, yet still love my husband and care for him. Further more I have 2 young children that feel the same way. My husband has not been diagnosed of bipolar yet, although suffers from 8 plus difficult years of depression, the last 2 years tramatic. I finally have him in therapy, a srtuggle in it’s own. And have an apt for mental assesment next month. My fingers are crossed he will follow through!! The entire family seeks theropy and greatly affects us all. I am torn to stay and see him through or get the kids and I out so we can live with out the tramma and pain it causes us all. Yet my husband has nobody except us and very dependent on me. How do you take his family away from him? Is it better to keep the family together or get the kids out of this environment? They are still young and don’t want this or divorce to mold there future. What is best for the kids, my husband and myself???? I ask myself this every day! and only conclude there is NO SIMPLE ANSWER!!! Suggestions????

  4. My dear David,
    Many, many thanks for caring all of us, supporters of loved bipolars. My wife Angelica (51), has had bipolar behaviour probably since she was 10 or 14. We married
    in 1995, after she left her mate (Dan, who passed away a year ago, at 51). Daniel (23), the son of Dan and Angelica, has been my son ever since, he lives with me, together with his brother Emilio (16) from Angelica and myself (74). Angelica lives by herself in an apartment 2 minutes away, she does not work evan if she has a Masters in psychology, and a remarkable intelligence. I have 4 other children 49,46,41 and 40 from 1st marriage,
    all married, successful, they gave me 9 grandchildren.
    I am a physicist/chemist, love my work (research and teaching). My priorities are: 1) Emilio and Daniel, 2) work, 3) myself (since one week ago), 4) my wife Ang.
    In 2010 Ang. underwent uterus removal, after that she
    went additionally depressed, developing Parkinson-like
    symptoms attributed to being given benzodiazepines, this is the MAIN PURPOSE of my letter, to prevent you about the use of this POISON to counter depression.
    After being a “sportman” until 50, a car accident dusrupted my right leg when I was 45. After two surgeries I now walk with crutches. This past september Angelica received 4 electrodes, 3 inches under her skull, with a subcutaneous cable behind her ear and on to a terminal right above her right breast. Her Parkinson tremors are now essentially controlled. So, from now on, money and time will be dedicated to improve my legs, which are strong (rehabilitation 3 times/week),
    but need some extra care. So YES, I am now taking care of myself, and thanks for giving me an extra push!!!
    I need cartilage on the left leg, etc. I am consulting
    with several doctors, etc. Keep on with your unique crusade and beware from BENZODIAZEPINES.
    With my infinite appreciation and much love, Carlos

  5. Hello Earth Friends!

    I never feel as if I have a child instead of a Partner in life fortunately but being that I work in the field of childcare and eldercare nursing – some parents have mentioned to me that The child in the relationship is usually their Parent/Grandparent. They become dependent on us to help them not parent them though.

    We even turn ourselves into the God just to ensure they get everything they missed out on when they were children, young adults and even older adults and I think that’s cute but it could be draining as well.

    I feel blessed to have only the priviledge of reading this about people in the sense that my partners usually come in a form of partner! My parents have always been the adults in that particular relationship so as i Praise the two wonderful blessings that a Pastor helped me to see when “showing” me how Rich I am here, I also continue attract Friends and Colleagues who are not the Children in the relationship but rather are those that come to give instead of take as well. That’s the secret to my success in working with others I would imagine you have your own tool.

    but no, i would not want to be stressed or burdened by other’s situations.

    Good question we should daily ask ourselves, What about You?

  6. Yes it’s all about them and you try to get on with it,but keep asking yourself what about me? My life is wasting away and I want to do things but can’t – like going on holiday,which he can’t when in this ever-lasting depression and sleeps all day.I can’t go away on my own cos he’ll have no-one looking after him.It’s ridiculously hard.

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