Bipolar: Be a Part of This


I have a friend who goes to a 12-Step program, and he said that they have a saying: “Be a part of your own life.” I think that’s cool. But I can definitely relate it to bipolar disorder, because I’ve run across people who aren’t a part of their own life.

For example, here’s an email I received from a supporter:


I am fed up. I know it’s probably wrong to say that, and it may make me be a bad supporter, but I’m sick and tired of doing everything for my wife. I mean, she doesn’t work or anything, so I’m talking about things like keeping the house clean, doing laundry, cooking, and stuff like that. Stuff she can do. I shouldn’t have to do these things for her. Bipolar disorder can’t be that bad, can it? I’m just finding out about it, but I can’t believe that it’s ok for someone with bipolar disorder to not do things for themselves, even if they do get depressed once in a while. I want a partner, who will give her opinion. That’s what she was like before, when we first got married. It was one of the things I liked about her. Now I have to make all the decisions by myself. She just doesn’t care. I want my wife to get better. I can’t keep going on like this.”


You wouldn’t believe how often I hear this same complaint. Inactivity can lead to depression, and depression lead to a bipolar depressive episode, and before you know it, things are out of control.

I’m not judging this man as a good or bad supporter. But, in my opinion, he is doing something wrong. I believe he is enabling his wife. Oh, I’m not saying that she doesn’t have a responsibility for the way things are, because she does, bipolar or not. But he is also doing those things for her that she can do for herself, and that’s enabling.

What would happen if he started making her do some of those things? It might just bring her out of her depression. Understandably, from her point of view, the bipolar disorder makes you feel so bad during a depression that it’s hard enough to get from the bed to the couch, much less clean up the whole house!

So what’s the answer for this man? Well, for one thing…Like I said, he needs to stop enabling his wife. Another thing is that he needs to communicate his thoughts and feelings to her. She may not even be aware of the things that she’s doing, or how upset she is making her husband.

He really needs to talk to her and tell her how he’s feeling. He also needs to understand that she can’t read his mind, so nothing is going to change unless he talks to her about it.

But as far as the wife goes, here’s what I suggest:


1. Be present in your own life.


2. Don’t expect others to do everything for you – do those things for yourself that you can.


3. Be an independent thinker. Express your opinions, thoughts, and feelings.


4. Don’t expect your supporter to be a mind-reader.


5. Don’t expect your doctor, psychiatrist, and/or therapist to be mind-readers, either. They only know what you tell them.


6. Be a team player with your support system – like a football player shows up for the game, whether he is 1st string or 2nd string – he is prepared.


7. Be prepared for mood swings – have a plan for when they happen (especially if it means you have to go to the hospital).


8. Be productive – even if you can’t work outside the home, start a home business, or do volunteer work. At least do those things around the house that you can do.


9. Use your skills and gifts to benefit others. This is the best way to keep from feeling

sorry for yourself.


10. Be a part of your own recovery. Be your own watchdog – look for mood shifts,

patterns, and signs and symptoms of an episode).


Well, I have to go!


Your Friend,





  2. Sounds Better already!

    My fiancee is no longer straining herself to sneeze, cough or regurgitate. She is “taking responsibility” for every sight and sound and motion of her own life!!!

    yippie, I am a free man at last!

  3. I understand that husband’s complaint–but I wonder if he has yet lived through a really extreme manic episode. I don’t think there is an awful lot any supporter can do to ameliorate its characteristics except dive for what little cover may be available behind a locked door (for the supporter, not the BPD patient) while the house gets torn down around them. Pdocs always say, “Call the police.” I don’t think I’ll ever do that again because the result is always very negative. Compared to such an episode, a swing to depression is terrible for the patient but a relief for the supporter.

  4. Wow, this subject is very thought provoking. As a supporter, I understand the frustrations of having the bulk of responsibilities to handle, as well as apparent lack of motivation on the part of the BPD person. Being supportive vs. being an enabler is a fine line. While not taking over things that the BPD person could do, for the supporter there is pressure to keep moving forward. For example, household duties must be tended to, social and financial decisions must be made, and someone needs to do it. Waiting for the BPD person to decide if and when s/he feels like taking responsibility is aggravating, and sometimes it seems like the attitude is ‘s/he can do it, so I won’t concern myself with it’. Being taken advantage of and manipulated causes resentment. I understand that BPD is a medical problem, but I cannot empathize when s/he uses their issues to excuse them self from doing what they can to improve things. Diabetics or asthmatics who skip meds or purposefully expose themselves to triggers do not generate much sympathy,and neither should BPD patients. Sorry if that sounds judgmental, but I believe that we are here to help each other through this life, and that includes those afflicted with BPD. I suppose that is what David is saying about being present.
    On a side note, Jack’s comment about a manic episode of ‘having the house torn down’ has me wondering if violent temper tantrums are a component of BPD. I am still learning about BPDs manifestations.

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