Bipolar? Consider the Source


I hope you’re having a good day.

I was recently talking to a woman whose mother was in a bipolar episode.

At first I felt real sorry for this woman, because I know what she was up against.

But then she started being real critical of her mom.

Then I felt sorry for her mom!

I mean, I remember when my mom was in her really bad, like her worst ever, episode in 2004…

I would get so mad at her because she would scream and yell at me and call me names and everything.

My mom was critical of me, too, and would say things she never even remembered saying during

the episode.

Now, that didn’t mean that they would hurt me any less, whether she remembered them or not, or

that they would make me any less mad, but I couldn’t be critical of her, because she was in an episode.

And that’s what I want to talk to you about.

In my courses/systems, I talk about not taking things personally.







Well, this is sort of like that.

It’s called:


Like this woman who I was talking to, when she got critical of her mom in an episode, she wasn’t considering the source.

If she had, maybe she wouldn’t have been so critical.

Her mom probably said some pretty bad things, I’m sure, just like my mom did (probably like

your loved one does when they’re in an episode)…

But you can’t fault them when you consider the source.

Just ask yourself:

Would they ever do or say those things if they WEREN’T in an episode?



When your loved one is complaining…

Ranting and raving at you…

Calling you names…

Accusing you of things…

Saying any other kinds of things that aren’t true…


Because you know they’re in an episode.

You know they aren’t themselves.

You know they wouldn’t normally behave this way…

Or say or do these things.

So you need to (like I say in my courses/systems) NOT take it personally, and…


Consider that these things are coming from a sick person who is in a bipolar episode.

If they were being said or done by someone else other than your loved one…

With any other kind of illness…

Would you take it this personally?

Would you be as hurt?

Would you be as critical?

Would you be as unsympathetic?

Or would you…


Try to remember these things and to look at your loved one as suffering from an illness they can’t control the next time they go into a bipolar episode.

  1. One difficulty my husband and I come up against is that while I do work hard to “consider the source” (that’s the post I’m responding to) he himself doesn’t forget what he says during manic episodes. He’s sorry afterwards, but I feel two things going on. First, he feels bad and guilty for saying I’m incompetent (etc.) but, second, I feel like he does have a sense of “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” I’m no more perfect than anybody else, so of course I do make mistakes. I feel like this sort of creates a hair trigger for him in the future.

    I think that our deeper problem is that since his manic episodes are fairly “mild,” lasting only a day or so and involving only intense irritation and desire for control, and his psychiatrist (whom he trusts and doesn’t wish to change) says that he is treating him for depression (though one of the medications is Depakote), my husband is still not taking full ownership of his illness. This means that he doesn’t want to think about it or talk about it with me as an illness, so I never get the chance to discuss with him how it affects our relationship. He feels like if he’s taking his medication (usually) and seeing his doctor (sporadically) he’s doing what he needs to do — or rather what the doctor and I tell him he’s supposed to do. I don’t know how to help him get to the next step of taking responsibility for caring for himself, other than trying not to enable him.

  2. This article was good but I am the one suffering from the episodes not the one experiencing them from the other side. How is this supposed to help me?

  3. As a supporter of a loved one with bipolar, I feel that great understanding and compassion must be shown. My loved one did not ask for this disorder, she is battling her way through it with doctors appointments, psycho therapists, and a seemingly endless series of people she sees and programs she is invoved in. She had a great career three years ago, flying all over Canada the U.S, and Europe, working with universities in computers, and then she got “whacked in the back” with this awful wave called bipolar. If we, as supporters, don’t understand where they are coming from, then we must learn more, and be the compassionate person we must be. We must understand where the person is coming from, and use our David Oliver skills in dealing with it. Thank you, David. You are practical and yet very intuitive. I appreciate this immensely.

  4. I just sent a comment, and had a reply that I had already sent it. This I had not done, as I just wrote it a minute ago. And it was sincere and warm and caring. Please retrieve it and submit it for its value to this discussion. Thank you most kindly.

  5. I agree that adults can learn not to take it personally, but children have no understanding when their parent is ranting at them. My mother has had bipolar disorder since I was a child and I didn’t know it until recently. I have so many wounds from her words when I was little. I took the verbal abuse more than my brother, he remembers the fun they had when she was manic, I remember her verbal attacks. Children need to be told what to expect from a parent with bipolar and should be shielded as much as possible from any verbal abuse. My father did his best to protect me, but wasn’t always successful. I would really appreciate it if other children could be protected from this type of verbal abuse. Children will have a difficult time not taking it personally. Thank you so much for your e-mails they help me deal with my mother now. We live next door to my parents with our 7 children and most days are great and I am learning to deal with the bad days.

  6. Yes, as u say, consider the source…but u have a husband that does nothing the Drs. Tell him to do n doesn’t take his meds correctly and we have been in this since 2000, I am critical too! I’m tired, mentally n phycially n every which way in between! When u live with them day in n day out, 24/7 it gets old. I begin to wonder when does he have to accept this and own it n when do I get my life back. I’m angry today, as most days. I’m just so tired!

  7. David,
    What you are saying right now about considering the source is crucial to saving all kinds of relationships.Especially between bipolars and their supporters.
    You speak a lot about your mother’s episodes and forgiving them by having gathered all the info needed to understand. My mother was bipolar – a terrible raging one. When she was OK, she did wonderful things for me – spectacular ones because she was a Medical Doctor : mending my accidents. Sewing clothes, writing letters and more. How I loved her.
    Now, hear this : I too am bipolar and also blessed with a daughter who loves me. I had a husband who is still supportive but I wanted to divorce and leave my daughter with him and his parents.
    All that I had to do to save my daughter from any mistakes I could continue to do in the new community we had moved to. Yet I saw them every month and spent a week every Summer as a family going on vacation. It was all normal.
    Without a supportive man like him, who even told my daughter that mother has to move to get the help she needed for a good life. I was present too. That way our child never felt left out nor that she was at fault. She might be afraid that she too has inherited the trait.
    I am certain that she has minimized any possibility because she takes good care of herself(No coffee,tobacco, alcohol or drugs, plenty of exercise and enough sleep) Ah, yes – she will be a qualified nurse come Christmas this year. So she is all too prepared should … But I have stressed the fact that she is not likely to have this trait.
    Now this was a long story about a supporter who saw THE SOURCE but also a bipolar who desperately wanted to get better and save her daughter’s childhood.
    Now I am happy to say out loud over the tree tops:

  8. Mr. Oliver, I just found your web-site last night. Yesterday and Saturday I went through the worst episode of despair that I have experienced in the last 5 years.
    I was diagnosed with bi-polar 13 years ago. I’ve done my share of reading, therapy, meds, crying, considering suicide, guilt, running away from my own home. I must have run away over 100 times during my marriage. I am now divorced. I’ve had over 22 jobs and it has been an ordeal. Thank you for your research, your devotion to your own mother, and for your program. I intend on purchasing it in the next week. 8 months ago I bought the De Vinci Method Book on bipolar. I’m looking forward to your program. I went walking for an hour this morning. I want to make the most of my life and be strong for my 2 sons. (16 and 20 years old) Once again thank you. Bipolar is hard to understand unless you’ve experienced it, as you know. Keep up the good work. Raul Montoya

  9. All my life, my Mom and I fought like dogs – and I’m the one with bipolar! She took EVERYTHING personally all my life. She never understood that I had a “mental illness” diagnosed as bipolar disorder. No daughter of HERS was a “mani-ac.” (She took the “manic” to mean “mani-ac.”) She was a short, feisty woman, who exerted a LOT of control with me. I TREID to defuse our arguments, but I had no place to run to – after each of my hospitalizatios, she took me in (for which I was grateful), but the CONTROL was still there.

    Eventually, she developed Alzheimer’s, and I took care of her for four years before putting her in a nursing home. I visited her 3-4 days a week (the home was 30 miles away), and felt that I did all I could for her.

    After she died, my neighbor said – “Your Mom treated you like a 3-year-old.” If it was THAT evident to a stranger, how much MORE evident was it to me??

    But – I don’t resent my Mom. She was of a VERY different generation (being old enough to be my grandmother), and had her own instilled ideas of anyone who was “different.” When I knew her personality was taken over by Alzheimer’s, I CONSIDERED THE SOURCE, and cut her a LOT of slack. I only wish I could have communicated with her on a level playing field, and that she COULD have understod my illness.

    BIG HUGS to all bipolar survivors and those who love us. May God bless you real good. I pray for my country.

  10. Dear Dave, your blog serves to jog my memory about the every present insidious nature of Bipolar. My daughter is in recovery right now and has been for the last 3 months( although she still has the ocassional difficult time) I realise that our loved ones afflicted with this awful disease will have it for the rest of their lives.And whilst I can come and go from this disease- take a break every now and then, my daughter can’t.So I just hope and pray that I remember the source when she has another episode and be the useful supporter for her.
    To Alice Carli: I don’t know if this helps but my daughter was a beautiful and loving soul who never walked away from those who needed her help before her episode and it appears that Rachel has retained those essential qualities in her recovery.
    Thank you Dave for your timely reminder.

  11. Hey David, I am really new at your site and am trying to gather info. Maybe you or some of your people can e-mail me some advice. My mother is also having some problems. We never knew that she had any type of mental illness. She has always been the most supportive loving, normal, and really mentally competent person I have ever known. She got injured and had several surgeries and got treated by a pain clinic with opiates for 14 years. She decided to check into a residential reahab clinic and quit taking opiates, This is where the fun began. A few weeks into her treatment she started to show some strange behaviors. The rehab center stopped letting her talk to us because they thought it was withdrawls and said she needed to focus on herself instead of trying to help other people. Then we got the call the she had been taken to a hospital to be checked out for this strange behavior. We called to check on her and she was in a full blown psychotic break. She didn’t know us, she was screaming and crying and scared of being murdered etc. She didn’t know my dad and she was laying on the floor at the hospital. We have all never seen or imagined her acting this way. They put her on anti psychotics and lithium and she is now starting to act fairly normal again. She still displays some strange behavior but knows us all and doesn’t feel like we are all in danger anymore. They are calling it bi-polar or mania or possibly a short term mania or maybe a long term that was covered by the opiates. Do you think she will return to normal after a while. Can we keep this from ever happening again? She is 56 years old and never had anything like this happen before. She is still in the hospital and has been there almost a week. She may get out tomorrow or the next day but she still seems off a little. Do you have any advice? Thanks

  12. Thank you. I really wish I had this about a week ago to share with my boyfriend. Maybe then he could have understood better and things wouldn’t have fallen apart like they did.

  13. David,

    I want to thank you for the tips I received as a bipolar supporter for more than 20 years. We unfotunatley lost the battle with my husband taking his own life. In South Africa it is so hard to have a person diagnosed with bipolar, doctors don’t even follow up after prescribing anti-depressants. If the 2 psychologists had taken time to see beneath the lies they were fed, we might have been able to get help.
    Keep up the good work, maybe one day this will be understood by all doctors and psychologists and many families will be saved the abuse, suffering and heartache.

  14. Hello David, Thank you for all the emails you have sent and are still sending. I had a partner for 16 years who suffered from bipolar 1 for 25 years. Unfortunately he committed suicide and died. It was his first attempt and had been planned unbeknown to me for about two months. The only difference I noticed was that he was much more affectionate towards me. He was due for another high and I thought he was heading towards another. It came as a complete shock as he always vowed he would never do it and never give in. I do think he had stopped taking his medication although he was completely rational. It is very sad. I have bipolar 2 so understood a little. I always thought his biggest danger was in being high but it was the depression which finally got him. Despite all the turmoil those sixteen years were worth everthing.
    Again, thank you for your support.

  15. Yes! I’m actually babysitting my niece and nephew while I am writing this post. I actually dont have children neither have I ever been married.

    My late Aunt, Elna taught me all about those “gold stars” that one would earn when a child in school as she was a very good teacher. She said once you just “got” the lesson, you earned urself the gold!!!! that feeling was just marvelous! This year my niece and nephew had bragging rights about that. For adults it’s a similar feeling of “achievement” especially if an insurmountable “mountainlike” obstacle posed as standing in the way of one’s goal.

    I would imagine dealing daily with such a condition (not necessarily by way of a loved one) but colleagues or just total strangers passing by like ships puts tremendous pressure on one to “be pleasant” and adjust. Daily I have to interact with some with this I look at it as any other type of condition such as being an addict. I was actually speaking to someone to stated every condition has it’s own medication. Someone gentle is needed to gently remind others of the necessary medication.

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