Revealed: The bipolar support group mistake


How’s it going?

I am dead tired. Why? Well last night
I had to volunteer and it went on for
hours and hours and hours.

It ended really late and I didn’t get home
until like 11:30pm and then I had a bunch
of stuff todo.

As I sat listening to last night’s speaker,
I was kind of getting annoyed. Why?

Well the speaker was a person with bipolar
disorder but spent 95% of the time talking
about how much of her was a nightmare.

I didn’t understand it because she is
successful now. She has her own business,
she is a writer, has a family, etc.

BUT, she never spoke about:

-How she started her own business
-Coping strategies for dealing with bipolar disorder
-How she explained bipolar disorder to her kids
-How she works with her doctor
-Ways that she gets to sleep when she can’t
-What were the exact keys to her success
-How often she sees a therapist
-How she was able to raise little kids with bipolar disorder
-How she was able to graduate college and get other post graduate


The entire thing turned into this. It’s like
bipolar took over the room and then people in
the room started telling their bipolar horror
stories oh how bad it is or how bad they
have had it.

There were many bipolar supporters sitting
in the audience looking depressed.

I started to feel depressed. I heard about
horrible depression, gigantic manic episodes
and also how almost there’s not a lot of hope.

After this was presented, several bipolar supporters
raised their hands with questions like:

Can my son/daughter be normal?

Can my son/daughter go to college?

Can my loved one be happy ever?

Is there hope for my loved one

The entire thing really turned so negative
that so many supporters wound up being
worried that there loved one was DOOMED.

I leaned over to a person that also volunteers
and I was like, “Is this really negative or
what?” He was like, “Yea, it is.”

I said, “Why don’t we have at least 50/50? 50%
negative and 50% positive.” He said, “Yea it
should be that way.”

There was really no message of hope delivered.

I noticed that many bipolar supporters were
really uncomfortable and had that “wow,
there’s not a lot of hope, this is a horrible
disorder that will just doom my loved one.”

Here’s the deal. Bipolar support groups
are okay. Some are better than others.
Some are more positive than others. Many however
are just places people go and complain and

I want you to remember this if you are
a bipolar supporter and going to a support
group. The most successful people generally
do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT go to these

They are home making it happen and don’t.

Want to hear something crazy? Well out of
every person that is high functioning
that works for me that has bipolar disorder,
ZERO, go to support groups.

Also, I can only think of one bipolar success
story that I interviewed in the last THREE
years that regularly go to a support group
to give back and teach.

These are just the facts. I know that I will
get some people who are mad that I said this
but these are the facts. There is a book
written by a girl where she goes across the
country looking for successful people with
bipolar disorder. She doesn’t find as many
as she thought. Why? well she is looking
in the wrong spot.

I spend a TON and I mean a TON of money
to find successful people with bipolar
disorder. You don’t find them in support

Bipolar supporters have to realize this
and not go to these meetings and then think
that their loved one is doomed because
they don’t see successful people at
the meetings.

Finally, I am solution and strategy driven.
Many of these groups are not. You just
have to realize that.

A question was asked:

“My son is resistant to treatment and doesn’t
want any. What can we do?”

No one gave this lady who asked the question
an answer. They said things like, “have faith.”

There are things that you can do. There’s
lots of them.

People just don’t know.

In my courses/systems below:




I outline over 22 techniques. How did I come
up with these? Well I invented and used
like about 7 myself. And then I spend about
$50,000 to build a mailing list and then
survey people on the list for the best methods.

I then compiled the results and listed techniques
that were successfully used by at least 5 different

I also interviewed the people who came up with
the technique for further clarification.

That’s why my list is a good one. It was a big
joint effort.

But people last that meeting thinking that there
is no way.

I don’t say a lot at these meetings. I ask some soft
ball questions (ones that are easy to answer).

I don’t feel it’s appropriate to challenge speakers
unless they are doctors or therapists. Even if
they do, I rarely do. I heard one doctor say
basically a person with bipolar disorder can’t
really be in a job that requires responsibility.

I just rolled my eyes. So I guess that means
that all the people that I have working for me
with bipolar disorder shouldn’t be working
for me?

Even though I don’t have bipolar disorder,
I take personal offense when someone says
this kind of thing.

a) because they are insulting people
who are my friends

b) they are insulting me because I hire
people with bipolar disorder

c) they are causing people to think negatively
of people with bipolar disorder

d) they are saying stupid things that cause
people to not reach their full potential. I remember
as a kid one teacher that told me that I would not
amount to anything. That I was dumb and that I would
never do well in school.

I will never forget when she
said it to me. I can tell you exactly where I was
in school, what the day was like, what I was
wearing and what she was wearing. I felt like
a moron.

NOTE-I actually tracked this teacher down, of course,
and reminded her about what she said. She couldn’t
seem to remember and said she always knew that I would
do well. Yea sure.

SECOND NOTE-I had another teacher Mrs. Nesnay
that told me the opposite. She told me
I was super smart and gifted. I now know she
was making it up 🙂 but it sounded good
at the time.

She told me that if I do something to always
do it big and as best I can. Actually I will
say this. It was her that caused me to want
to do well in school and always do well
at everything.

Whenever I do something I seriously have it
programmed to do it big and grand. Just like
this bipolar stuff. This is an extension of
the principles that Mrs. Nesnay the great
teacher instilled in me.

I tracked her down as well and she was
really happy to see me. I told her if she
ever needed anything anytime to call and
I would get it done. She is a great person.

WARNING! You have to be really careful when
you are a bipolar supporter not to destroy or
crush your loved one’s hopes and dreams. You
want them to be stable but you can’t
put so many constraints on them that they
stop learning and progressing.

Some bipolar supporters say, “We are never
going to have an episode like this again
and I am going to micromanage your life
so it doesn’t happen. You’ll never do
this, that and the other thing.” This is
so important that I am going to be talking about
this in upcoming articles and podcasts.

I have met many a bipolar supporter who
does this and many speakers that talk about
doing this.

At these meetings I don’t ever correct
speakers or speak over them so to speak.

For example, I didn’t rattle off 15 to 22
ways to help get a loved one into
treatment. I didn’t feel that would be

A long time ago, I made the decision that
I would not do this and I would just keep
my mouth shut and just volunteer.

So I setup chairs, hand out literature,
answer questions if I am asked them directly,
move tables around in one place.

There’s another support group that is
incredible that is much more upbeat and
way more productive.

Anyway, this one has been like defunded
and there were very few meetings for 2007.
Sad but true.

There isn’t one planned for at least the
next 4 months. They have a super small
get together every week with about 8 people
but that’s it.

I guess they are running out of money. I am
not sure. The other place I volunteer is okay
but it’s a little too negative for me as well.

BUT, I still go and volunteer and have now
for years. Many people who work for me ask
why I go because they think it’s a waste of
my time.

The one good thing it does is it allows me
to talk person to person to see what problems
and issues people have with bipolar disorder and
also not to lose touch with it so then I can
come up with new podcasts, articles, ebooks,
books, guides, courses, manuals, etc.

You know what? I think that I am going to
put on my list of things to do to write a
f.ree guide on how to run a support
group and also how to market it. Don’t even
get me started on the marketing end.

Did I ever tell you about the support group
I volunteered at that had incredible and I mean
incredible speakers AND food but only 18 people
in attendance. Keep in mind there are 9 million
people in New Jersey and millions more in the
states next to Jersey.

They told me that the didn’t have money to
market or know how to do it? I told them
that I would do ALL the marketing for them,
and pay for it. They said, “well let’s see
if we can get approval for that.” That was
three years ago, I guess they are still working
on the approval.

Bottom line is this. If you are a bipolar
supporter, realize what you are getting when
you go to these support groups. Don’t get
discouraged if you don’t see success.

I wanted to send this email so you know
the real deal.

Hey I have to run, I will catch you tomorrow.

Your Friend,


P.S. Want your own copy of these daily bipolar
emails sent to you for F.ree? If so, visit:

P.P.S. Don’t forget to take a look through the
different programs I’ve put together… each one is designed
to help you with a different area of bipolar disorder whether
you have it or you are supporting someone with it.
You can see them all and get the details by visiting:

P.P.P.S. Check out my F.ree blog with copies of emails
that I have sent in the past and lots of great
information for you:

P.P.P.P.S Check out my F.ree podcast. Hear me give
mini seminars designed to teach you information
you can’t learn anywhere else.

  1. I have a best friend who has an almost 18 year daughter who goes into rampages over absolutely NOTHING. She shouts and screams at her mother and sister and tells them she hates them and curses. From the bits and pieces I have witnessed… I have come to the conclusion she has bipolar.

    What I have observed:
    *Her mother telling her that she HAS to sleep more
    *That she takes her daughter to “appointments” all the time- like twice a week
    *That her daughter sleeps through her alarm and often misses school or bangs on her sister’s door to take her to school or she won’t leave her alone to sleep
    *That she will be told food belongs to someone else and she will eat it anyway- ALL OF IT- and leave nothing to the person who cooked it for their own dinner
    *Demanding Mom drop everything to take her here and there
    *Bounced checks- has to pay in cash for many places
    *Demands that the mother let her drive her van. (Mom won’t- it’s all she has to get to work)
    *Plays her stereo super loud
    *over exercises
    *Blames mother for not waking her up on time to go to work
    *Has had many jobs. Keeps quitting and getting another one

    The list goes on. My best friend, the mother of this girl refuses to tell me what medical condition her daughter has… but from even these brief descriptions, wouldn’t you say this is very indicative of bipolar???

    Your opinion???? What can I do to better understand this condition and be part of helping the family and not just being a hindrance to her (judging- condemning the daughter, etc…)
    I have done some research and I realize some of these episodes are not controllable. What a horrible way to live.

    Thank you for any insight. Do you feel that from these descriptions that this girl is bipolar? Why do people try to hide something that is a medical condition???!!!


  2. I don’t especially like support groups because if I have a pressing problem that I really need to talk about I get much more attention in a one on one arrangement. In support groups everyone needs to take a turn. I just don’t have time to listen to all their problems if I’m feeling burdened with my own problems. Interestingly, several years ago I looked for a support group for spouses of bipolar people and found NOTHING in my area.

  3. I’d be interested in learning about how to start a positive support group. There is only one in my city and they are religious, which is fine for them but I’m not religious and for me, believing in God isn’t enough of an answer.

    I’d even buy such a manual 🙂

  4. Hi Dave: I think it is wonderful all you do, but you have to slow down every now and then because I believe you are a workaholic and you will burn out if you do not take some time for yourself. You seem to demand too much of yourself. So take a break and relax, go somewhere, if you have to, so some one else will have to handle your Mother if she has another episode. I can’t imagine what your home life must be like, well actually that is a lie because I used to be the workaholic and when I crashed, I went big time and now I am on disability. And now I am very concerned for you. Now on to what happens at support groups, It has been my experience that whenever people who have the same thing in common get together they are more likely than not to share their bad experiences than the good. My step-son’s step-dad blew his brains out and fell dead on my step-son’s bed and his mother put him in therapy. The therapist thought he should go to a support group. He went one time because he told me that listening to everybody else just made him feel worse because he was trying to deal with his own traumatic experiences and felt bad for every one else who spoke up during the session. While his father was still alive and he visited us I became his support group. We would get up hours earlier than the others and we would just talk about anything he wanted to talk about. After he father passed on he would sometimes call me just to talk. So maybe support groups can be a good thing but I think most people want to talk about the negativity in their lives, unless they have done something that is super fantastic and nobody or just a few others have accomplished it then they will crow about it for a while but when some one plays the poor, poor, pitiful me card, then everyone will join in. Just look at the news for example. A typical news cast is negative except for maybe one in twenty they will have something outstanding to report because people of all types eat up negativity and it seems like a contest sometimes as to who has suffered the most.

  5. HI DAVE.


  6. Oh, that sounds like that was a “get out the razors” kind of meeting, David! Negative with a capital “N”, “E”, “G”, “A”, “T”, “I”, “V”, “E”. I agree, the BP supporters must be aware of the negative stuff because they need to understand what happens, why it happens and what they have to do – if they can – to help the person with BP and, just as important, to help themselves. (I think I hear too much about the suffering some BP supporters put themselves, yes – themselves – through. You BP supporters out there – just remember you too deserve a Life, you need to be as kind, compassionate and thoughtful to yourself at least as much as you are the person you are caring for. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million times again, supporters have to look after themselves, their physical health, mental health and their needs because, if you neglect any of this you can, and probably will, collapse yourself, doing no good to you and least of all to the person you want to support! It is NEVER worth sacrificing your own health for someone with BP. Your mental health is particularly important. I read (I forget where, but you can find the scientific papers just as I did on the Web) that carers of people with a disability, including mental illness, are more suseptable to mental health problems than your average Joe without any caring responsibilities. Don’t let that be you.
    But getting back on track, as I said, it’s important for carere to get a full mpicture of the negative stuff, BUT I thoroughly agree with you, David, they need to hear the posotive stuff, too, especiall examples of people who have got on in spite of the illness, of how they manage to manage it, of how, carers have managed, etc, and may be more than 50% of the time for supporters groups. It is NEVER worth sacrificing your own health for someone with BP.
    As for the people with BP, I think there is a place for both positive supporting and also for allowing negative fests.
    The rationale for the positive stuff is obvious – shows BPs what can be achieved and how some people have done good stuff in spite of their illness, etc. They should also be reminded regularly of the risks they face, THE CONSEQUENCES of their own actions, AND OF WHAT THEY CAN DO TO MINIMISE THEM – e.g. treatment/alarm contracts with their cares.
    However, I think it is also important that BP folk, indeed ANY folk with chronic illness, need to have a place where they can bitch about their illness(es), TO LET OFF STEAM, amongst people who really know what it’s like, who can truly empathise or sympathise. (Sorry carers – unless you have BP you can NEVER really know what it’s like to have BP, or how to react when a BP person wants to talk about how they are feeling, their BP illness and the awful symptoms. (When as a BP you’re feeling totally crap and feel a need to talk about it, you DON’T want the person you are talking to to tell you stuff like:
    “Well, it could be worse …” (Like F##k it could! When you feel you’re at the end of your tether, that IS the worst!) or,
    “You have to think more positively …” [Oh really? Well if I could think more positively, do you think I’d be blabbing like a baby right now?] or
    “I know how you feel…” [Like the F### you do! You CANNOT in a MILLION YEARS know how I feel because a) you probably don’t have BP and b) you are not, nor ever can be ME!]
    “Come on. Things could much worse – pull yourself together!” [Oh, pull myself together… That’s clever. Listen you ######, do you not think I’d pull myself together if I ###### well could?? Being like this is NOT like having the flu, y’know! AND DO YOU KNOW mhow nit makes me feel to be told I SHOILD be able to “pull myself together” when I cant? I feel like I’m a failure … oh, what’s te use …] You get the picture, folks? )
    No, BP folk need to let off steam by talking to other BPs because they really DO know what it’s like, they know how to listen to a fellow BP bitch about the illness and they do it TOTALLY with any judgement. They can offer each other moral support and KEEP EACH OTHER ALIVE BY DOING THIS [I’m sure some well-meaning cares or friends will have said lots of imappropriate stuff to some folk with BP sufficient for them to go over the top and top…], they serve as examples to each other when they get through a bad period, they can compare notes about treatment regimes, dealng with debts, etc, etc.. This blog tries to be all things to all people, folk with BP and carers, but it seems to mostly serve carers. I know of one Yahoo Group that has few, if any carers as members (they could join but seem not to do so) but it’s full of BP Type 1’s and Type 2’s, may of whom are there because they need the support of people who understand them – people with BP. Many of them seem not just close to the edge but at it and staring down into the abys of oblivion. I’d guess not all pull back but I’v seen some that have, possibly because of the encouragement and support they they get from others with BP.

  7. I am physician, a psychiatrist, with bipolar disorder. I have gone to a bipolar support group for years and they have yet to sink into an all negative mode. The group is very supportive and lots of people in it are professionals so they have plenty of success to talk about.

    Nancy K.

  8. I give up ! I’ve tried to comment about this blog but keep getting things like my password doesn’t match. I can’t seem to leave a comment. Is there another way I can contact this site.

    I am a Physician, a psychiatrist, with Bipolar Disorder and would be glad to share some of my insights.

  9. Dave,
    first off, I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to send out all the information, it is a credit to you and your commitment to help with BiPolar people. I first joined your emails because I have been diagnosed with BiPolar disorder along with a borderline personality disorder. I always used to wonder what was wrong with me. but I am type 2…whatever that means. But I do have a brain that also functions lol and have good doctors who have helped me along the way. Your emails have helped me on many levels. The last one just reminded me how much negativity breeds negativity. I used to volunteer for an internet group called silenced angels. ( was for people that had lost loved ones to violent crimes) and it is the same. If the tone of a group is bad…everyone leaves feeling bad even worse then when they came in. I admire you for still volunteering and always keeping the faith for no better way of putting it. Thank you for sharing all of your insights because I hope that they can help me ….more then they do already. Knowledge is strength and the more I learn about what I have the better I can be. sorry to ramble so much about myself…but please take my very serious thank you to heart. your emails, if they help me, must help thousands. take care, Lisa

  10. Dave, I would like to say that I don’t completely agree with your comments today that support groups are full of people who are not successful in dealing with bipolar. It can be that they go negative, ours has at times but if the facilitator is good at what they do they can bring it back.
    I attend a DBSA support group in San Diego for friends and family. They only have one friends and family one and it isn’t close to where I live (30 minute drive) but I go. Sometimes I go because I really need some support but mostly I go to be there so if someone else needs support and I can help I do.
    Our group includes supporters but they ask a couple of those who have the diagnosis to sit in with it so we can hear their take on it. I have told them that right now my husband wants to use bipolar as an excuse for all that he does and never take any responsibility for the things he has said or done (including trying to stangle me to make a point). He does say to me “I am bipolar this is how life will be I am not responsible for what I do and there isn’t anything that you can do about it” I told the group that he blames me for the diagnosis because I forced him into treatment at one point so it’s my fault that he is bipolar.
    The facilitator and one of those with the diagnosis asked me if he was on medication and I told them that yes he is on medication and he is actually very stable at this time. They said that yes those with bipolar can use the diagnosis for doing bad things and that sounded like what my husband was doing. They gave me some comfort then they gave me some ideas about what I could do to help him. They also reminded me that I needed to take care of myself – do things that I enjoyed and it that meant that I did it without my husband he would have to live with that. He is responsible for what he does with his bipolar – not me. I can try to help but I can’t do it for him. They were most correct and it did help.
    I do believe that the facilitator sets the tone for the meeting if they allow it to get only negative then that is what will happen. Ours tries to allow people to vent when they need to but then tries to come up with support ideas and comfort. We have a great facilitator.
    We had a replacement one this past week and she is bipolar but still gave people insights to how she has felt with the illness over the 20 years she has had it. She gave us insight into how her mind messes up what she wants and that yes she feels badly but until her mind allows her to know what she has done she can not feel that way. It was a great help to some of us.
    Anyway, long comment to say that it does depend on the group and the facilitator. There are good ones and bad ones – but a good one can be very helpful. Chris

  11. Something happened to me on December 29th. I turned 65 and decided that, whatever life brings from now on, I am going to be happy. My husband has bi-polar disorder and works as a volunteer coordinator for people who do taxes for lower-income and older adults. He doesn’t make much money–only a small living stipend–but we get by now, with the help of Social Security. Lately, I encourage him every day instead of bawling him out. I ran an errand at his office and heard him yelling at a couple of people. When my husband left the room, I explained that he has a nervous disorder and doesn’t mean it when he yells. I also confirmed that he has great skills and talents to bring to this job, and asked everybody to allow him a little slack. To tell the truth, right before he yelled, he had been trying to remember a computer password, and some idiot co-worker kept saying, “You’ve got to write it down,” and “Do that every time, write it down so you’ll remember it.” He spoke in the most irritating, condescending way to my husband, I wanted to yell at that fellow, myself! Later, when my husband got home, I commiserated with him but reminded him to just walk out of the room for a moment when he feels like yelling. I always try to put a suggestion in his mind that his day will turn out well. This works better than criticism. He seem happier and calmer now. He takes the same medicine, but my better attitude seems to have affected him. Things are not perfect, but better. We don’t have time for support groups, but a single supporter can make a differece.

  12. Hi David

    That does sound very depressing to go to a support group to hear a successful individual speak and to hear most things that she say to be negative. However could that be her illness talking. I don’t think she meant anything negative by it. (I don’t think u will understand me)What I’m trying to say is mabey (just my opinion) she wanted to know that people who are bipolar have great struggles and it did not stop her from being successful. I find bipolar ppl including myself have a hard time expressing there feelings or are trying to express themselves either by doing the wrong way and not knowing that their even doing it. I believe that is a big part of the illness. I think it would have been a good idea for someone to speak to the speaker and say ” look I just want to say your storie is very inspiring but i think it would be great if u could tell these ppl how u did it how u succeed. Tell them the good stuff. I think individuals with bipolar need a reminder. We do tend to forget what the purpose of our doings are and we ramble to much that we skip the important parts of things. A reminder is always good. I believe The difficult part for bipolar supporters are how to approach someone who has bipolar disorder and help them with feedback or, critisizim. I know people who were afraid of my reaction or did not know how I would react ( I’m assuming) and never told me anything about how well i did a job at work, when the most I really wanted was there feedback. I do take blame for myself because I did not take on the responsibilty for asking. I guess i expected them to talk to me. Again another issue that I have which I wont get into. I think your articles are very inspiring and please dont stop writing


  13. Therapists in the past have wanted to put my daughters in group therapy. In addition to bipolar, they both have terrible social anxiety. Group and comparing stories I guess can make you feel less alone, but if it paints a negative picture, what good is it? We are working with a new therapist and it includes family therapy. It’s so hard to change that negative thought process. Being with a group of equally negative people would only make them more sure they are doomed to being sick and unable to function for the rest of their lives. We don’t need that!

  14. Hi Michelle
    Good point, that the lady may have been negative because it was the BP talking. The thought had occured to me, too, but it flew out of mind – glad you raised it. Given that significant possiblity, may be she needs to be cut some slack?

  15. PS
    Sorry about the many typos in the last post. You can tell, I expect, that I’m Dyslexic, which is a wonderful thing to have when you’re a bit of a writer … Yes, I know I shoul have been more careful to check the spellings, but I’m a bit hypo today.

    Up and down,
    The merry go round,
    It’s all great fun at the fair.
    We shout, we weep,
    And then we sleep,
    It’s not really fair at the fair.
    © Graham N, 2008

    Crap poem but it’s from the heart.

    BP, m’buddy!! Thanks again for the jokes! The aeroplane not heard that one before.

  16. I’m with Gra’ on all counts. Damn G’ your words move me! 8-o

    Here are some funnies:

    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way,when you criticize them, you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes.

    Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me!

    Just because God loves you doesn’t mean the rest of us do!

    1,000,000 Sperm And YOU Were The Fastest??

    Later 😎

  17. What do you tell your children about bipolar? My kids father has it and is currently unstable. They see him on the weekends for supervised visits. the supervisors are his parents who do not believe he is ill. My oldest son actually confronted him after one visit in the car which put him and the other children in a dangerous postion since my husband was driving and got angry and began to speed and drive recklessly. I know not to argue with him when he is like this but my son didn’t. Luckily everything turned out ok this time. How much to I tell them and what is apppropriate for their ages? I have bee pretty open about it and told them there is nothing to be ashamed of or anything but there must be things I could teach them on how to be able to speak to him?

  18. Gosh, that meeting sounds like it was a real “pity party”! Isn’t there any group rule that reminds people to “Accentuate the Postive,” no matter how small? Or that members “Share the Air,” and not monoplolize the meeting? Or that “our meetings start and end on time.”

    DBSA is having a Webinar on the subject:

    “Not a Pity Party: Effective Peer Support Groups”
    Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
    Time: 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM CST

    Have you ever attended a support group where everyone sat around trading stories about how terrible their lives are? Did participants end up leaving feeling worse than they did when they arrived? In this session we’ll explore ways peer specialists can turn group conversation around to focus the group on hope and recovery. Specific topics will include: person-first language, comfort contracts, beginning and ending groups with recovery in mind, and more.

    Go to the DBSA website and see it among the “Peer Specialist Continuing Education Courses.”

  19. Dave – why HAVE you found these bipolar support groups to be so NEGATIVE? The woman you wrote about (the speaker) sounds like a successful businessperson; she SHOULD have expounded on the questions you mentioned and told the people there that there WAS hope for people with bipolar disorder. I guess “negativity” sells, more than “getting down to business.”

    I know, as a person with bipolar, that it is much more interesting to the hearers to listen to the ugly details of a manic, or depressive, episode. The successful – or highly functional- bipolars are NOT interesting, because they appear “normal” and uninteresting. Maybe THAT’S why the bipolar people who work for you DON’T go to support groups; they don’t NEED the negative “vibes.”

    We had a Lithium Group at the local Community Mental Health center, that ran for 11 years. All the people in it were outpatients. But – there was terrible attrition. The size of the group went from 18 to about 7 when it ended. For awhile, it was a great way to vent and tell about our successes as well. It was a great group of supporters. However, as clients appeared to get better, they would stop coming. I was one of the last members standing!

    I don’t have any answers as to why support groups don’t succeed. It appears that even the busiest person can find time to go and learn – as well as teach – in a group setting.

    I suggest that if there is a support group in your area that you check it out – be part of the solution, instead of the problem.

    BIG HUGS to all bipolar survivors and those who love them. Be kind to yourself, and God bless you real good.

  20. A positive support group needs to be well organised. It should include professional counsellors and people with a sense of humour. Someone like BPSERENITY would be great at running a support group.

    I wonder who came up with “Deep thoughts for those who take life far too seriously” – surely more than one person. Some of these are quoted on a lot of people’s websites. I could only find up to 27, though. Two of my favourites:

    “What happens if you get scared half to death twice?”

    “Change is inevitable – except from vending machines.”

    My man is feeling a bit down right now, so I’m texting him some of these to cheer him up. Seems to do the trick at least to some extent.

  21. perphilia, I’ve trued to tell 9 year old boys a little about it. I’ve told them I am Bipolar and that this means I have moods that go one way and the other, that I can be very sad, and I can have lots of energy and be “very cross”. They seem to be okay with this explanation, and understanding as far as they can be. The “very sad”, phase is obviously easier for them to understand and cope with. The manic bit, when I get “very cross” is harder for them because it;s their behaviour that can be the focus of my ire (but not exclusively them!)

  22. Hi David, First I am going to be a grandma, and it is a boy!!! I need to share this tech. on how I relax myself at night. When I had a job I discovered this relaxing tea. I make a cup of Oregon Chai, (the concentrate) for me it is very calming, on the nights my brain screams-works for me. Sorry you had a rough night, sometimes I just want to scream, “Make the stupid people shut-up!”Take care, and thank you, Karen

  23. Nightlady,

    That is very sweet of you to say.

    I am sharing this with all of you it is not just directed to Nightlady alone…

    Although I am a success story for BP I am not perfect. I have ups and downs not the extremes but I still have the up and downs especially with CRISIS and from what I read on another support site (YAHOO) I can not deal with constant CRISIS as it hurts my heart too much. I take on other people’s problems as if they were my own.

    When I am GOD those problems feel like a great challenge to help them solve as I do love to help others. But when I am not GOD I cry for them and suffer their pain. It is a really hard thing to maintain that GREAT attitude when you hear someone is in so much pain they want to die.

    If I had a group I would worry for everyone of them and it would make me sick wondering if SALLY who came to the meeting last night took my advice and saw a doctor or if she gave up all together and went home to end her life. TOO MUCH for me, not healthy for me or my family.

    I do what I can to bring others up and try to realize that I can’t make the pain go away they have to do what they have to do to get better. That it is not easy for me to do or say when I know someone is hurting.

    We do need support groups out there in the world to direct people like SALLY to go get help and maybe even to have someone in the group designated to taking that person to the hospital right away if need be.

    It would be ideal to have a positive support group, but people who go to these usually attend to get their disappointments off their chest so that they can feel a little better or get some sympathy they don’t get from their current support system.

    For someone to think that people who are BP and not medicated properly should be positive I am sad by this attitude. They are suffering and need guidance. Imagine attending a support group when you have just lost your whole family because of your illness, and having someone say “YOU know you are way too negative and you are bringing everyone down with your pathetic life. Come back when you have your act together.”

    Really ridiculous to have these expectations with people in BP CRISIS!!

    Personally…I use a journal when I am negative and feel frustrated as I don’t want my family (support) to feel my pain too. I am more withdrawn from people when I am like this. I like to have people think all is well! So I prefer to stay away from things that will bring me down too low.

    I guess that is why I immerse my self in laughter. In that humor I can laugh at my own illness and certain things that happen to trigger it. The key to my success is that I am realistic about this illness (I do what it takes to stay healthy) and I know my limitations with it (ok most of the time).

    Doing what Dave does is great and I am glad he is strong enough to do this! But to have the meaness from people he gets would tear me to shreds and I would have an episode and feel utter defeat!

    😎 Hope I wasn’t too negative!

  24. Dave,
    Thank Goodness I read this because I was looking into support groups. I just thought I needed to see what others are doing to deal with a loved one with this illness. I guess my answer is where do i go? How does one start a positive one.

    I beleive in what comes out of our mouths can lead to live or death. You speak death over someone(like your horrible teacher) people start to live that way. One person said that she doesnt beleive in God, well Thats ok. But When I read the bible and I see that our mouths and toung is the most deadly weapon we have and what comes out it is life or death. I chose life, I chose to let people know there is alway good in them no matter what people or this world says about them. That is why I have stayed with my husband so long, I see the good in him. I tell him that all the time, even though he thinks very negitvly about himself. (bad stepdad) He is getting better, the more love you poor on someone their little light starts to shine. I just wish some support groups would see what you see. Your amazing Dave and I love that you care sooo much about all of this. Have a wonderful day.

  25. Patti. Group theraphy doesn’t have to work that way. In fact, group cognitive terapy can be very powerful because some people are reluctant to admit to certain things that they believe are “abnormal”. It is surprising how many will admit to experiencing the same thing when just one voices it, which of itself is helpful because they then realise they are not the only person who feels that way. For example, I was once at a group, which was largely silent. I admitted to the group that I had felt I’d been “visited”, by the invisible spirit of a girl I once knew who had killed herself, that at my lowest moments, it felt like she came and hugged me, and spoke. Then, others opened up about similar experiences they had. We all then realised this was common! We were not freaks for having experienced this feeling. Further more, if one person expresses some negative emotion or assumption, the therapist can suggest a challenge to it, thereby assisting all the others who secretly harbour the same thing. For example, one person complained he felt no one liked him, or felt badly about him. We all secretly felt that way. The therapist challenged the lad’s assumption, telling him that the therapist’s research had proven(I quote approximate figures because I cannot remember them exactly) that about 2% of all the people we know don’t like us, 5% do like/love us, and the rest are completely indifferent. Thus, it is highkly unlikely that “everbody” hates Chris! So, we ALL benefitedf from this cognitive therapy, not just one even though it was only one who rasied the issue.

  26. This is a funny:

    Burnout Prevention and Recovery
    (The Conventional View and the MSU View)

    1. STOP DENYING. Listen to the wisdom of your body. Begin to freely admit the stresses and pressures which have manifested physically, mentally, or emotionally.

    MSU VIEW: Work until the physical pain forces you into unconsciousness.

    2. AVOID ISOLATION. Don’t do everything alone! Develop or renew
    intimacies with friends and loved ones. Closeness not only brings
    new insights, but also is anathema to agitation and depression.

    MSU VIEW: Shut your office door and lock it from the inside so no one will distract you. They’re just trying to hurt your productivity.

    3. CHANGE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. If your job, your relationship, a
    situation, or a person is dragging you under, try to alter your
    circumstance, or if necessary, leave.

    MSU VIEW: If you feel something is dragging you down, suppress those thoughts. This is a weakness. Drink more coffee.

    4. DIMINISH INTENSITY IN YOUR LIFE. Pinpoint those areas or aspects which summon up the most concentrated intensity and work toward alleviating that pressure.

    MSU VIEW: Increase intensity. Maximum intensity = maximum productivity. If you find yourself relaxed and with your mind
    wandering, you are probably having a detrimental effect on the
    recovery rate.

    5. STOP OVERNURTURING. If you routinely take on other people’s problems and responsibilities, learn to gracefully disengage. Try to get some nurturing for yourself.

    MSU VIEW: Always attempt to do everything. You ARE responsible
    for it all. Perhaps you haven’t thoroughly read your job description.

    6. LEARN TO SAY “NO”. You’ll help diminish intensity by speaking up for yourself. This means refusing additional requests or demands on your time or emotions.

    MSU VIEW: Never say no to anything. It shows weakness, and lowers the research volume. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do at midnight.

    7. BEGIN TO BACK OFF AND DETACH. Learn to delegate, not only at work, but also at home and with friends. In this case, detachment means rescuing yourself for yourself.

    MSU VIEW: Delegating is a sign of weakness. If you want it done
    right, do it yourself (see #5).

    8. REASSESS YOUR VALUES. Try to sort out the meaningful values from
    the temporary and fleeting, the essential from the nonessential.
    You’ll conserve energy and time, and begin to feel more centered.

    MSU VIEW: Stop thinking about your own problems. This is selfish. If your values change, we will make an announcement at the FACULTY meeting. Until then, if someone calls you and questions your priorities, tell them that you are unable to comment on this and give them the number for Community and Government Relations. It will be taken care of.

    9. LEARN TO PACE YOURSELF. Try to take life in moderation. You only have so much energy available. Ascertain what is wanted and needed in your life, then begin to balance work with love, pleasure, and relaxation.

    MSU VIEW: A balanced life is a myth perpetuated by liberal arts
    schools. Don’t be a fool: the only thing that matters is work and

    10. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. Don’t skip meals, abuse yourself with rigid diets, disregard your need for sleep, or break the doctor appointments. Take care of yourself nutritionally.

    MSU VIEW: Your body serves your mind, your mind serves the
    Institute. Push the mind and the body will follow. Drink Mountain Dew.

    11. DIMINISH WORRY AND ANXIETY. Try to keep superstitious worrying to a minimum — it changes nothing. You’ll have a better grip on your situation if you spend less time worrying and more time taking care of your real needs.

    MSU VIEW: If you’re not worrying about work, you must not be very committed to it. We’ll find someone who is.

    12. KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR. Begin to bring job and happy moments into your life. Very few people suffer burnout when they’re having fun.

    MSU VIEW: So, you think your work is funny? We’ll discuss this with your advisor on Friday, at 7:00 P.M.!

  27. Well said, BP Serenity

    I have a support “bitching” group. One has Lupus, the other has Spondylosis, and all that implies in terms of symptoms, including depression. When one of us feel bad we text each other and complain about it! We get it off our chests and know no one is going to come back with that “you must be positive” stuff. The best we do is say “sorry you’re feeling bad – hang in their, mate.” It helps, believe me, it helps!

  28. ok, this is not so much a comment as a question or request for advice. In your email you mentioned supporters not trying to micromanage and not crushing a bipolar’s dreams. What if a supporter is bipolar as well? I have several issues I am trying to deal with and am not real sure what to do. First, I just realized in the last few months that I am probably bipolar. My psychiatrist doesn’t think so, but she has only seen me twice in the last three years and for about 10 minutes each time (I live in a very rural area and don’t have the resources I need). Anyway, so I am dealing with figuring out how to cope with the bipolar. Second, I have two main supporters – my fiance and my mother. My fiance has a friend who is bipolar, yet while he sympathizes with her and is all understanding with her, when I have my downtimes and crying spells, he says “it’s not that bad,” and when I don’t have the energy or motivation to do things around the house, he gets irritated because things aren’t getting done. As for my mother, the problem there is that she is bipolar as well. She has not really learned to manage her bipolar, but is convinced that because she is bipolar she can help me manage mine. When I have problems relating to my bipolar, one of two things happens. Either my mother has an episode herself and literally screams at me, or she tells me how I’m letting things happen or not getting things done because I’m bipolar. She makes me feel like I am completely incompetent … in fact, she has told me that because of my bipolar I can’t work, I can’t take care of my kids and that I am incompetent. She usually adds, not right now anyway, but how am I supposed to get better if all I hear is how much of a screwup I am? There are times I don’t even want to tell my mother things because I am afraid of how she will respond. So, how is a bipolar person (especially one who is newly diagnosed) supposed to find ways to deal with it and get things done when there is no true support?

  29. tswope, Two words to answer your question about coping with your lack of decent supporters: Move out.

    As for the pDoc, that’s a hard one because diagnosing BP isn’t easy – there are so many other things that share similar symptoms with BP, especially with BP Type 2. BP Type 1 is much easier to diagnose because it’s damned obvious when someone is manic! BP Type 2 hypomania can, and often is, mistaken for simple “high spirits”. So, many pDocs take their time before settling on BP as a diagnosis. They don’t want to rush into a decision because they could then put you on a course of treatment that would be completely inappropriate for you. That said, does your pDoc know your Mum has BP? Do you know of any others in your family who have/had BP, or who used to behave oddly? If so, tell him about them, too. The pDoc will know BP runs in families because it’s genetic. That is a factor he will take into consideration when he considers your condition and diagnosis. The other thing you might do you help him is to join something like (the free service) at and track your mood, anxiety and irritability levels and hours of sleep on a daily basis. This could also help with his diagnosis.

    Best of luck.

  30. Find a psychiatrist who’s willing to listen to you. If your mother is bipolar its likely you are bipolar as well, and asking her for help may not be wise as she doesn’t sound like hers is well-controlled either.

    Your finance’ will probably respond better if you have a professional diagnose you. And you start on some medication to help you with your ups and downs. It’s always more respectable to do something about one’s problems than to simply complain about them and thereby inflict them on others.

    I not mening to be critical, only to motivate you to be good to yourself, you’ve suffered enough. Don’t go to your mother for advice and get yourself a professional in your corner.

    Merrill, Bipolar Psychiatrist

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