Bipolar Supporter: Is This You


I want to tell you about one of the supporters in the support group I attend: She was afraid she had “caught” her husband’s bipolar disorder because she had started feeling depressed. This really got her worried, which just made her worse, to the point that she went to see a therapist herself.

She thought she would receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, or at least Major Depressive Disorder… But what she was told instead was that she was suffering from what is called Situational Depression. This is when the situation you are in causes you to become depressed. If you get out of the situation, or adapt to the situation (or change the situation so that you can deal with it), you will no longer be depressed over it. That’s why it’s called Situational Depression, because unlike bipolar disorder, it is not a chemical disorder in the brain – there is no physical cause for it.

So after the therapist explained that you can’t catch bipolar disorder like you catch the common

cold and explained more about Situational Depression, this woman understood more about what she was going through. It helped to explain why she was feeling the way she was. But it didn’t help her figure out how she was going to be able to stop being depressed. She had to do that on her own.

First, she had to figure out exactly what was causing her depression. It was too easy to say everything (even though that was the way she felt at first). She felt like if her husband just didn’t have bipolar disorder, then she wouldn’t be depressed. But that wasn’t realistic. He had bipolar disorder, and she had to learn to cope and deal with it in order to stop being so depressed.

Then she started thinking about when her depression started, since he had bipolar disorder for awhile, and she hadn’t been depressed the whole time. She figured out that her own depression had started at her husband’s last episode. He had gotten very depressed and retreated to his bed, sleeping all the time, and stayed there for a month.

Even though she knew it was the bipolar episode, and not her husband, she still felt rejected.

In thinking back on that period of time, she realized that was what started her depression,

that feeling of being rejected by her husband. Eventually he came out of the episode, but

he still remained quiet, and didn’t talk to her much about anything. He never seemed to share his thoughts and feelings with her. It appeared that their communications had simply broken down.

So she realized that if she wanted to get out of her situational depression, she needed to take

steps to restore their communication. One day, when her husband was in a pretty good mood, she sat him down and shared her thoughts and feelings with him. She was sure to tell him how much she loved him and how much she missed the way they used to be. In return, he started sharing his thoughts and feelings with her, and the session was quite enlightening for both of them. It brought them closer together.

After this, and many other close talks, her depression started to lift, since her situation had changed. Her husband began talking to her more, as he had learned that he could trust her with his thoughts and feelings since she had been so understanding that first time.

This story is not an uncommon one. It is easy for communication to break down in a relationship

where one of the people has bipolar disorder. When they suffer from bipolar depression, they

tend to close into themselves, even cutting their supporter off completely.

It is also not unusual for the supporter to fall into their own depression.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. I ofter wonder if I am *catching* his illness. Some days I feel like I am no different than him.Angry,hurt and indifferent. He has also spent months in bed,all alone in his world,and I have felt very rejected and alone. I am married,but single. I don’t trust him with the real me, as some day that info will be used against me in a hurtful manner.When they show you who they really are with this bi-polar – believe them.

  2. Yes,

    I know how my wife feels when I withdraw just like I am doing now. It takes everything I have in me to just get outside the door. I sleep a lot and just do not have much energy. My wife is understanding as we have gone through this a number of times.

    This situation is worse as I am 66 and not working and really need to be working. I just have not found anything, and a little afraid of not being able to perform.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.


  3. Hi
    my name is loretta and after reading this article i felt so much better about everything almost two years agao my husband had a brain tumor and of course he had to have brain surgery and the side affets from the surgery left him like this and i guess that i was suffering with situational depression it was like i was that had the surgery and it has been so hard to deal with all of this and especailly it is hard on our eleven year old daughter but thank to the news leter that you send and the comments from other people
    thanks so much

  4. I’m the supporter of a son that has bipolar. It is very difficult when he does not want to talk and shuts me out. I cope by doing a lot of self talk telling myself not to take it personal, it is the disease not him talk (or not talking). I’m so afraid that he will feel alone with his problems and I want him to know that I am here to help him cope with the problems. I try to keep the lines of communication open and let him know what my feelings are taking care not to blame him in any way for what I’m feeling. When I feel like I’m catching his illness and not coming across as a loving, caring person I call him back and apoligize for my behavior and just let him know that I love and support him no matter what.

  5. David-
    This is me some of the time. My daughter has Bipolar disorder and completely cut me out of her life almost 2 years ago. We use to be so close, my heart is broken over all of this. She is 27 and doesn’t live with me. I use to send her a text message now and then, just to tell her I loved her and missed her, but, she has blocked me from her cell, now, too. Believe me when I tell you I did nothing to deserve this. No big fight that caused it. I did nothing but love my two girls from the day they were born. Anyway, the only way I have found to deal with this, instead of making myself sick over it, is to put it in God’s hands, and pray he keeps her safe, and one day brings her back to me. I have another daughter that depends on me, so I can’t allow myself to be depressed all of the time. With the holidays approaching, once again, it is more difficult, and I find myself depressed at times thinking about her and not being able to share the holidays with her. But, I try to remind myself that this disorder is really not about me, or anything I did. And I try to focus on things and people at hand rather than something that is completely out of my control. Hoping your holidays are special.

  6. Hi Dave,
    It is difficult not feeling at times depressed when someone you know is bipolar. But you cannot let their mood determine what mood you will be in for that day or the rest of your life. There are times that person may not want to exhibit joyfulness or even love towards you. Yet you cannot blame yourself for what he or she may be feeling or acting towards you. I suggest you pray to God for that person and yourself for peace, forgiveness,patience,compassion and love.

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