Bipolar Supporter, Are You Sane or Insane?


How are you today?

I hope you’re having a great day!

I was thinking about this saying I’ve heard before, though I don’t know who originally said it.

It says:

“Insanity is doing the same thing

over and over again expecting

different results.”

I want you to think about that.

Because I want you to answer:

Are you sane or insane?

In other words, do you keep doing the same things over and over again, thinking that maybe

this time they’ll work?

Do you keep making the same mistakes over and over again?

And each time expect your loved one to respond differently.

If you are doing that, then technically you follow the expression, and you are insane!

The good news is, you can change things!

If you’re doing something for your loved one and no matter how many times you’ve done

it, it hasn’t worked, you need to try something new.

For example, if during their manic episodes, they blow all the money in the checking


And each time you “forgive and forget,” you may be enabling them to keep on with the same


On the other hand, what would happen if you sit them down between episodes and show them what they do/have done with the finances…

Then propose something different, like you having control of the finances.

What if you showed them the credit card statement and suggested that they don’t carry credit cards around with them?

That’s doing something different.

I talk about alternative ways to handle your loved one’s behavior in my courses/systems:







Many supporters don’t do this because they are afraid…

Or they don’t think they have the power…

Or they are intimidated by their loved one and/or their disorder.

Or maybe they haven’t even seen it as a problem…

Or maybe they don’t see any other way to do things.

Well, let me tell you –

There is always another way to do things.

Have you tried everything you can?

As a supporter, have you tried everything you can think of to help your loved one?

If you really believe you have done EVERYTHING…

Then your loved one should be stable.

But if they are still not stable right now, there are still things you can do to help them.

What you need to do is take out a sheet of paper and brainstorm ideas of how to do things that

aren’t working, differently.

Say your loved one is not taking their medication (which is a very common problem).

You usually get into a fight over it, because you want them to take it.

The next time, instead of arguing, try something different.

For example, you can use the statistics from the National Institute on Mental Health to sway them.

Show them an outside opinion on what happens with people who have bipolar disorder and go off their medications.

If you can’t find it on the Internet, I will just tell you:

According to NIMH, 20% (1 in 5) people with untreated bipolar disorder will kill themselves.

Maybe your loved one will respond to that and other statistics that you can find on the NIMH


Maybe just telling them how concerned you are about them and them not taking their medications will be enough for them to take it.

But fighting is not the way to do it, especially if that’s the way you always do it.

You need to break the cycle, whatever the behavior.


Try to come up with new things to try, or different ways to do the things you do.

  1. Thank you Dave, this is exactly what I needed to hear today..your knowledge is fantastic, a great support.

  2. This thought is applicable to both the patient and supporter. My problem as supporter is getting my patient (son) to listen and discuss with me anything logical like this.

  3. Dave,
    The quote is from Albert Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

  4. David,
    My love John has been laid off from work and is having a really hard time dealing with this event in his life. Before this he had become somewhat stable, now he has been in complete depression for three weeks now. No matter what I try to do or say to encourage him his mood has not changed…This change I know is very difficult for him but in some ways it has been a real blessing for us, if he could only see it that way. The job that he was in was VERY STRESSFUL and away from home. Now that he is laid off he can be home everyday and have more time to spend with me and his son. This has not put a burden on our finances at all and I look at the situation as being better for all of us. How do I get him to realize this also? Everything I have tried has not worked at all, maybe “insanity” has finally set in?? Any advice??

  5. Hi Dave,
    I just read your message about sane or insane. I have a son with severe bipolar he has had since he was 18. He has been in out of hospitals for the past 17 years.He is back in the hospital now and has been since the October first. He will do fine for awhile when he is discharged from the hospital and swears he isn’t ever going back there but then something goes wrong like he will run out of his meds or he just won’t take it. I have tried everything you have mentioned about being his caregiver and follow your directions but it still happens and every time it happens he gets hostile with me and the episodes seem to get a little worse each time and last a little longer. I have been mentally, physically and verbally abused by him for years. How much more should I take? I try to explain to him he has to be responsible for his actions but it gets me nowhere. He has promised me over and over again he is going to take his meds and then it happens again. When he has these delusions and grand dios he is waaaaaay out of touch with reality. I have learned from experience when he is like this not to try to rationalize with him because it just makes him agitated and argumentive. He seems to have a cycle with the episodes, they happen every 10-12 months almost to the day, and for some reason it seems like it falls on the first day of a month.
    I am at a loss. It seems like everything falls on me because I am his mother. What do I do? I just learned today since I have his Power of Attorney that I am resposnsible for his bills. Is this true? The disability check he gets every month goes toward his living expenses, sometimes he doesn’t have enough money to buy food for the month. Now he is going to have another hospital bill that I will be responsible for. I thought Medicare took care of this. The hospital said they didn’t since he was over 21.

    Any suggestions? Please let me know.

    Thanks, Ann

  6. I have come home from work six times in the last five
    years to find my wife has left with the dog. The past five times I have taken her back. I have learned to not
    contact her when she leaves. Many people tell me I am
    enabling her because I keep taking her back. I have done
    so much reading and tried so many different approaches and feel lost. It usually happens in October but can
    be triggered by other events. I will probably hear from
    her but I am not sure what to do next.

  7. Dear Dave, you always seem to post opinion on the very things I am thinking about: 3 years ago I had to be the worst enabler of my daughter – and it was just to keep the peace and because I thought my daughter would miraculously get better without drugs and pyschiatrist intervention.Boy was I ever wrong!!!
    Arguing with my daughter didnt alter a thing and meanwhile she became suicidal. SO I HAD to change the way I did things.
    To cut a long story short: I changed form an enabler to a supporter – I support Rachel so that when she has a bad day and won’t go to work , I reflect on what it was before she went to work, how miserable she was, and how she felt useless and the scary reality of going back to that space and compare it with what sort of freedom she has presently , then …. I left her to make up her own mind.
    When I got back from my walk she had got up dressed and gone to work- in the past I would have made up excuses to her employer then fed her up on hot chocolate and yummy food.
    Recently I broached the subject of her huge weight gain not from a negative point of view but from a “everyone has different ways of handling their health” point of view and suggested she look at 2 sites: your site Dave and another by Gabriel because different folks different strokes I also told her that her battle with BP had been monumental and courageous and she had been victorious and she was every day, so she had her medication under control her visits to her mental health team under control her work and her daily living- the one thing she needed to focus on now was her weight- and I wondered if perhaps now was the time to engage with her weight.
    I said the good thing is that Rachel was a svelt,healthy young woman with great eating habits and exercise regime, before her BP, there was no reason why she could not aspire to have the healthy body again like she has for her mental health and stability.
    anyway she consented to look at the websites and that’s a start
    Anyway thanks for all yhour help Dave I never miss reading any of your emails there are pearls of wisdom in all of them

  8. As an American with a disability (my five-axis DSM diagnosis starts with Bipolar2), I really appreciate David’s messages. It’s always helpful to remember that not one of us is really alone in the battle for mental health.

    Two reactions, however.

    First, David’s religion piece was great. It’s a hot issue, but the anti-religionists (some of whom may consider themselves “spiritual but not religious”) don’t have a monopoly any more than do the Bible-banging Baptist bigots and Bible-thumping Jesus Nazis (fundies, tonguies, etc.). For many people, the inspiration, encouragement, hope, social support and Bandurian social modeling and reinforcement can be powerful sources of recovery and sustained health (e.g. those periods during which one has fewer or far fewer symptoms than in their worst times). That matters. If the mental health community makes the lifestyle choice to exclude any segment of our community (other than the way I did above, of course), then we’re all poorer. (For justification for excluding religious bigots including those who call mental illness “demonic” and symptoms “sins,” see some future piece of mine.)

    Second, I wish David had taken today’s message just a bit further. “Sane” and “insane” are actually legal terms. What do they mean? How do they fit in his argument today? What other terms are available, and how are they more or less clear or more or less effective? (You may open your blue books. You have one hour.)

  9. To ANN: Since your son is over 21, is the Medicare in HIS name or your’s? If he is on Disability, Medicare should cover his hospitalization expenses. Just because you have Power of Attorney does NOT mean you are responsible for his bills; just the ones he can possibly pay off. If I were you, I’d talk to the Administrator at the hospital about accepting Medicare from your son. There MUST be a solution to this somewhere. The last time I was hospitalized for mania (1977), my Blue Cross/Blue Shield covered ALL the expenses.

    To LARRY: It is obvious from your post that you truly LOVE your wife. Has she been diagnosed with bipolar? Is she on medications? Does she have a therapist she can see when her “mood” is triggered in October (or other times)? No, you are NOT foolish to take her back. However, she EXPECTS you to, and therefore, when she comes back, she thinks her behavior is “normal.” When she is NOT in one of her “moods,” sit down and tell her that you will NOT accept her disappearance (with the dog), and ask her WHY she feels these actions are necessary. You may be surprised at her answers. Meanwhile, I HOPE she comes back, because you sound like a WONDERFUL Supporter; there should be MORE of you!!

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

  10. To Suzanne: Thank you for your comments, my wife has not really been diagnosed, her GP told her she suffers
    from sad but she will not allow me to talk to him.
    I know from all my research it is more than that. She
    was on medication, goes off and on, when she comes back
    she will tell me that I am her anchor and the best thing
    that has happened to her that it will not happen again.
    When she has an episode everything changes and is my
    fault and I know that I cannot trust her. Sad???

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