Bipolar: What’s the Problem?


I was talking to someone the other day, and this person was complaining about her bipolar disorder.

I asked, “What’s the problem?” and she said, “Everything.”

I said, “Do you have alligators in your front yard?”

And she was like, “Huh?”

So I asked again, “Do you have alligators in your front yard?”

She said, “Umm…no. Are you ok?”

I said, “Absolutely. You just said everything was wrong, so I wanted to see if that was one of your problems.”

I asked her numerous questions, all centering around if she had clearly identified her problems and if she was thinking of solutions. She did not. So she really had no clearly defined problems.

She was just complaining about everything in general.

Guess what? If you don’ have clearly defined problems, do you know what happens? You will never have a solution to any of your problems. If you don’t have a clearly defined problem, you can’t have a clearly defined solution. It’s that simple. Not easy, but simple.

In my courses/systems below, I talk about problem-solving

and how to come up with solutions to your problems:

So let’s tackle this one step at a time.

Obviously, you don’t have alligators in your yard (at least I hope you don’t). So let’s stick to bipolar disorder.

What if you’re frustrated with your loved one? Now that’s not a clearly defined problem. That’s just a feeling. Look at it this way — Try to get away from feelings, and be more objective.

What’s the REAL problem? What are you frustrated ABOUT? Then make a list of the things that frustrate you about your loved one.

For example:

1. He won’t take his medication.

2. He keeps missing his appointments.

3. He won’t go to his support group.

4. He doesn’t listen to me.

5. He thinks I’m an idiot.

6. He doesn’t help around the house.

7. He doesn’t help with the children.

8. He feels sorry for himself.

9. He won’t go to family functions.

10. He sleeps too much.

Now you’ve got something to work with. You’ve identified some clear problems. Not all of them are clear problems, though. So then eliminate those things you can’t do anything about

and look at your list again.

For example, look at #5 (“He thinks I’m an idiot.”) How do you know he thinks that? You’re not a mind reader, so you don’t actually know what he’s thinking. This is a feeling, not a real problem. If it were a clearly defined problem, there would be a solution to it. So you eliminate #5.

But look at #4 (“He doesn’t listen to me.”) This is a clearly defined problem, because it indicates a breakdown in communication. Communication is very important in a relationship with your

loved one with bipolar disorder. You may be feeling like they don’t listen to you, but they may

feel like they are. Still, it means that you aren’t communicating, and that indicates a problem.

Clearly defined problems have clearly defined solutions, remember. So once you have found a clearly defined problem, you look for a solution.

What if you were to sit down with your loved one and say that you feel like they don’t listen to what you have to say? Or if you clearly define the problem as they are ignoring you, say that. If

you feel like they don’t turn away from the TV when you talk, say that. If you feel like they don’t respect your thoughts and opinions, say that. But be very clear about what you think the problem is. Remember, the more clearly defined the problem, the better the solution.

Are you getting the idea?

Now here’s a real important one. #1 (“He won’t take his medication.”) First of all, and this is a real important point, you can’t make someone do something they don’t want to do. However, you can express your feelings to them, and you can do other things.

You can remind them how important it is for them to take their medication in order to get better.

You can tell them you’ve read the statistics (1 out of 5 unmedicated people with bipolar disorder will kill themselves). You can tell them that you’re worried about them. You can tell them that you want them to get better. You can call their doctor, psychiatrist, and/or therapist and tell them that your loved one isn’t taking their medication.

You see? These are solutions to a clearly defined problem.

So first, you make a list of your problems. Then you eliminate those things that aren’t clearly defined problems. Take one clearly defined problem at a time and work on solutions for that problem. When you leave out feelings and get to a clearly defined problem (that is, you think with your head instead of your emotions)…You can find real solutions to real problems.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


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