Bipolar: When Enough is Not Enough


Let me ask you something: When is enough not enough? In other words, do you sometimes

feel like you’re giving all you can, but it’s still not enough? Do you sometimes feel like it’s

not fair?

That’s what Mark told me about his wife Dianne one day while I was working out at the gym.

You see, Dianne has bipolar disorder, and Mark is her main supporter. Usually, Dianne is pretty good about taking her medication, going to see her doctor, and doing all the other things to keep her bipolar in check. And usually, she treats Mark pretty good. But sometimes, she gets in these

awful moods, Mark was telling me, and then she takes them out on him.

She doesn’t go into a full-blown episode or anything, but it’s like she just has a “bad day,” and just doesn’t act like herself. Then, no matter what he does, no matter how much compassion he

shows her, it’s just not enough. She gets really angry, for example. Taking it out on him, Mark gets on the defensive, and before you know it, they’re in a fight. He usually doesn’t even know what they’re even fighting about, but there you have it – they certainly are fighting!

And sometimes Mark can’t control his temper, so even though he knows he shouldn’t fight back, he does it anyway, which just makes matters worse, because Dianne just gets madder and the fight just goes on. But then Mark tries to end the fight, even admits he was wrong, and Dianne just keeps fighting. No matter what Mark does, it’s not good enough. She’s just in this bad mood, and she just keeps taking it out on him!

He says that it’s just so frustrating for him. He tries to show love and compassion for her, but it’s like it’s not good enough when she gets like this. He just doesn’t know what to do when she gets like this, so he was asking for my advice.

I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t know what to say. Then I explained to him that sometimes a person with bipolar disorder is going to have a bad bipolar day. That’s just going to happen sometimes.

It’s just really tough when they take it out on you. And, unfortunately, sometimes that will happen as well.

Because when we’re not at our best, we tend to take it out on the person closest to us, and for someone with bipolar disorder, that’s their supporter. I explained to Mark that it doesn’t mean

that Dianne doesn’t love him, or that she is even doing this on purpose, but that it’s part of her disorder.

Sometimes, when someone with bipolar disorder has a “bad bipolar day,” they take it out on those around them. They just aren’t themselves. However, this can leave their supporter

feeling like no matter how much they do, no matter how much compassion they show, that it’s just not enough. What I told Mark is the same thing I’ll tell you: Don’t take it personally. It’s just a bad day. They happen.

Try to keep your loved one separate from their disorder and remember what they’re like when they’re not manifesting symptoms of their disorder, and try to have more patience with them than usual.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. Hi David
    I totally agree that bipolar sufferers do indeed have “bad bipolar days”, in spite of their medication. I know I still have them. Sometimes I just feel like I “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” or something is just “off”. On those particular days, nothing seems to satisfy me or make me happy. Everything is a chore and a challenge. Others seem annoying and grate on my nerves easily. Jokes don’t seem funny. Things that normally bring me comfort, don’t on those days. I only pray that our supporters can understand this. Having a bad day does not always mean an episode!!!!

  2. It is very difficult not to react when one is attacked for no reason, and even more when you try to diffuse the situation just to find that the other party carries on. I even suffered that with my first wife (who was not bipolar), she would have a bad day or someone would annoy her and she would try to take it on me. My present wife is very good at controlling her bipolar, but stress caused by other tends to bring bouts of depression that can manifest themselves via harsh replies to a simple question, or to an innocent comment in our 16 months of marriage we just had 3 bad confrontations, thankfully once the bad mood passes my wife recognizes what she has done and comes and apologies, but as I am sure everyone at the end of that attack, it is very difficult to take and not respond

  3. Dear David,

    It is very hard when you are with someone with bipolar. Especially when they are like jekyl and hyde. Mark is married to her so he has to be with her till death do us part. I would suggest he and his wife seek marriage counselor. When his wife’s mood is shifting towards a fight than he needs to leave the room or the home since he has anger issues as well. I suggest also he prays to God to help him with his wife. There are at times you have to develop a tough skin with your loved one with this disease. However if she becomes physically and mentally abusive to him then another action has to be taken.

  4. My 17 year old son, who I love with all my heart, takes everything out on me. I always try to keep things in perspective and know that this unfair treatment is not my son but his illness. I am learning all I can about his illnes and I will support him as best I can for as long as I can. He is very rude to me; very disrespectful; calls other people to tell them to come get them if I don’t let some of his friends come to our home because I know they are not good influences. Neither of my other 2 kids are supportive of me but seem to line up with my son and against me. I felt hurt by their treatment and I am having to work so hard to take care of my son alone. Practically noone in my family understands how severe this illness is and how much it takes out of the sick person nor how hard it is on the one providing care not always perfect but always there and nearly always alone. There are stigmas everywhere and most people pretend that he would be fine if it weren’t for you which makes you feel completely devastated and even more alone. None of these other people (2 of them children from my first husband) help me in any way. Some of my siblings seem to think that my son can control his behavior but I know better because I use to think the same way but have since been educated (I take the NAMI Family to Family education group) and realize he is even more alone than I am and needs help more than I do. His father has never done anything for him. It is sad that both the sick person and the caregiver are left to fend for themselves as best they can. Thanks for letting me express my feelings and I am praying for the victims of bipolar which is just as much an illnes as diabetes and all the caregivers and pray that God will give me more strength and help me to understand and always be there for my sick child.

  5. True but when the bi polar person is undiagnosed and abuses hard drugs it is even more difficult to be patient with them and to differentiate their disorder from themselves, They must take responsibility fir getting the help they need no matter what their support may be.

  6. Episodes can be epic–in the 5+ years she’s lived with us, Mom’s “personal best” was at least 8-hours straight of raging tirade [with witnesses].
    Others have included her laying her hands on me to either hit or choke me [no witnesses], while raging verbally.
    I called 911 to file a police report last time, and determined to do that again, if needed.
    Further, since she usually avoids acting out if others are present, and considers her violent rages at home part of her personal “rights”, I carry a recorder, to have a “witness”.

    Since she is elderly, I only stood with hands at sides during her episode when she was choking me, and repeatedly told her to “take [her] hands off my neck”. Nothing was working, until a relative entered the house~she heard that, and stopped, to go take care of what she wanted with him.
    Relatives have seen her like that, yet prefer to act like its nothing, or, accused me of imagining it, or commented “paybacks are a bit@&”.

    Her behaviors are worse for chronic/intermittent alcohol use, the depression phases, and her personal losses. Others’ behaviors and words are hot-button triggers, as well: she has been fine, then talked by phone with someone who feeds her triggers, then she has turned on a dime to escalate into episodes of violent rage.

    NOTHING can fix the horrific emotional hurt and slanderous damages she has committed upon me, my spouse and one adult child [who since left, avoiding coming home even briefly, as long as Mom lives with us]. She has my siblings avoiding me and believing the hideously pernicious slanders she has told them.
    OTHER times, though, she is sweet as a lamb…though she frequently drops thinly veiled vituperatives.
    If I try to identify her behaviors to her as she is doing them, to get her to stop them, she immediately accuses me of same~ therefore, I learned that was a bad technique.

    She frequently takes what anyone says as persecutory [zero evidence], and/or will believe [zero evidence] that others think she is terrible, therefore refuses to participate in social visits~ preferring to isolate in her room.

    She and my siblings thrive on using global generalities and manipulative conversation to fish for information, get control of a situation or manipulate others for a better sense of power and control; lying is common, though they usually point at others and accuse them of lying.

    Yes. Long, wide family history of dysfunctional behaviors.
    *Dependent/co-dependent behaviors?
    Yes~we were all taught those from the time we drew a breath.
    *Brain injuries over time?
    Yes~ hers, as well as most of her kids.
    *Is this overwhelmingly crazy-making for me?
    *Is there some other solution for this?
    At a loss for that: All siblings have made statements such as “Mom would be happier with you, since you guys are on the same wavelength”; or, “she is not welcome to stay with us ever again, not in our house nor in a trailer parked behind our house”; “Why would you need to tell her Doc she uses alcohol or acts out? That’s private!”; or, when asked to please be specific [instead of generalities], one sib yelled she “didn’t know why [she] bothered to call–[I] must be really guilty” then hung up in my ear.
    Her own Mother was chronically worried what would become of Mom over time, as she has always been difficult. G’ma mourned that nothing they did for her helped her be happy, that [Mom] often made pretty magical or off-the-wall statements while “up”, but got terribly angry other times; had “such moods”.

    Counselors stated that because Mom:
    –has always avoided medical, dental and psych care like plague [‘fears [she’d] be diagnosed with something’-in her words];
    –is UNreliable taking ANY meds or supplements–even those she chooses;
    –has long history of mega-hoarding and associated mold and creatures inhabiting her piles of junk;
    –has long history using alcohol [& sometimes drugs, including bringing them home from her work in the past; she has demanded to see a Doc here for “pain” but refused many times to see Doc to evaluate her injured foot; she has rifled through the whole house trying to find the morphine left after her hospiced spouse died here 5 years ago];
    –has bipolar-type behavior patterns with epic anger episodes she feels are her “right” to commit, and deserve no apology;
    –Has disappeared about $200,000 in the 2 years following sale of her old place, with no accountability other than to accuse us of stealing it;
    ~~She would likely get kicked out of any elder-care facility she was placed in.

    It is NOT appropriate to allow / encourage her to live “crudely” in the woods as she has tried/wanted [no utilities, use propane / other fuels to cook and heat, carry water from elsewhere, etc.]. She has spent brief times “camping out” during which she drank kerosene, fell and got hurt, and/or was unable to get necessary equipment critical for survival-like heating, etc.
    She lacks driver’s license, has minor vision impairment related to glaucoma, and is a bit unsteady on her feet.
    She is habitually unlikely and/or unable to clean up after herself.
    While she knows keeping food fresh is important, she “doesn’t ‘do’ refrigerators” as one sib stated. Mom chronically leaves food rotting; no matter what system is invented to help her manage her food storage. She demands her own separate food supplies, dishes and pots and pans, yet periodically filches our dishes & utensils and has, on occasion, filched our food, believing they are hers, or that I stole them from her.
    Usually, I ignore it, but have started putting my foot down to get back our dishes and utensils [not without argument–usually until she can locate her own corresponding items].

    Therefore, here she remains, until / unless something more viable materializes.
    I realize how destructive this situation is, as it has nearly killed me with stress several times over.
    I can only get what counseling I can afford, and keep working on correcting my perspectives and behaviors.
    But I cannot let my guard down for a minute, nor open my heart to risk even a tiny bit more of the poison she and they can dish out so well.
    Living “on guard” 24/7 is not living~ not even sure it is “existing”.
    But i am still breathing.

    I am poorly equipped to handle someone chronically cycling in a “bipolar vs. spiritual emergency” crisis, yet also realize, if Mom could get that kind of support, it might help, even at her late age.
    Meanwhile, I am still breathing.

  7. ya this all sounds so easier then done. I have put up with so much in the past 6 years from my 27 year old son that still lives at home, that need guidance in everything that he does. I get call the names, I get the threats. I am up all nights and I am now missing work to be a supporter. I’m stress, losing weight like mad. What do you do when me myself is falling apart, I am areally senitive person, and a supporter that could talk to my son and he just won’t listen to me anymore, its like its his way in my house or leave. I don’t know how much longer I can be a supporter, because these bad days are turning into more and more days I am very fraustrated. Amd very hurt so how do you not take it personal, I use to not but after 7 years of struggle I don’t know what to do anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *