I got this very disturbing email recently:
“My husband is bipolar and I can say yes I am embarrassed by him. I wasn’t at first, but years
after his diagnoses, he still doesn’t have a firm understanding of how it affects his family when
he doesn’t follow the “rules”. He still takes painkillers and doesn’t take them as prescribed – he
takes more… He was coaching our son’s t-ball team and during a game, had a complete meltdown on the field (needless to say he can no longer coach). Eight years after that he is now in jail for a DUI (had a bad accident and they found cocaine in his system, yet another manic episode). He received a year sentence.
During all of this he was still taking his meds. and seeing his therapist. I feel for our son who is very active in sports, scouts and music. There is a lot of upcoming scouting events that my son will now do without his father. There have been times,
depending on what mood he is in, I won’t let him go to family events, sporting events, etc. Our son has suffered enough and I won’t allow it anymore. Our son has even said the house is a lot calmer since dad isn’t around! He can also have friends over without having to worry about what his father might say or do.
I have filed for divorce 3 times and each time he promised he would do better or things would improve to no avail. I keep reading about high functioning bipolar people, but I have my doubts that he will be one of them.”
Wow. This was a very upsetting email to receive. Unfortunately, not all the emails I get are happy ones – more often they are tragic, or tell me stories of hardships or about loved ones who
struggle with their bipolar disorder or make it hard on their supporter and family, like this man
does. It is so sad. Especially when she says that all this time, her husband was taking his medication and seeing his therapist.
Yes, I do tell you (your loved one) how important taking medication and seeing a therapist is to
stability with bipolar disorder, but that is not the whole story.
I also talk about all the other things that you need to do for stability with bipolar disorder, like seeing a psychiatrist, having a good strong support system, getting the right amount of sleep, being productive, and being balanced: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, among other things.
It’s not any one thing alone, or any magic pill or just a combination of only one or two things that will make your loved one stable – it takes many things, and it takes a lot of effort to keep those things in place and working to reach and maintain that bipolar stability. If it were that simple, then this woman’s husband would be ok just taking his medication and seeing his therapist, but obviously, he is not.
The name of the game with bipolar disorder is COMPLIANCE.
Your loved one needs to not only be medication compliant, but treatment compliant and compliant to all the things that make up their stability. They also need to be compliant to all the things that make up a good relationship with you, their family, and their children. They need to be compliant to “rules” of conduct at work, as well as in the community and in society.
Too many people with bipolar disorder think they can just do things their own way, and that can lead to damaged relationships, lost jobs, and problems in the community – possibly even legal problems.
This is what it sounds like is happening to this woman’s husband, at least to some degree. And,
unfortunately, if he doesn’t change before it’s too late, it may cost him everything.
Another thing that her husband is doing that is a common problem for people with bipolar disorder is substance abuse. Many times it can start with a manic episode and, before they realize it, they are addicted even after the episode is over. Now they’ve got two problems,
and both need to be treated. In order for his bipolar disorder to get better, his problem with substance abuse will also need to be addressed, or he will never get better. He will need to acknowledge that he does have a problem, however, and be willing to go into treatment.
Too many people with bipolar disorder have had to lose everything (like this man having to go to jail for DUI and his wife threaten to divorce him) before they were willing to admit how bad the problem was and that they needed help.
At the end of her letter, the wife says, “I keep reading about high functioning bipolar people, but
I have my doubts that he will be one of them.” One thing I always tell people is: Never give up hope!
Well, I have to go!