Taking the Bad with the Good with Bipolar


There used to be an old nursery rhyme that went:

There was a little girl, Who had a little curl, Right in the middle of her forehead.

And when she was good, She was very, very good, But when she was bad she was horrid!

I don’t know why that made me think of today’s topic, but it did: How you have to take the bad with the good when you’re dealing with bipolar disorder. Or maybe it should be the other way around if you continually dwell on the bad – that you might need to be reminded that underneath it all, there is still some good to be found.

Just in life in general, there is both bad and good to be had. You don’t have to be dealing with bipolar disorder for that to happen. But it just seems to be amplified when you are dealing with the disorder.

Like the nursery rhyme line, “but when she was bad she was horrid,” sometimes what you have

to go through can seem almost intolerable. But it could be just your subjective interpretation of events – to someone else it might not seem so bad. Not to belittle what you have to go through as a bipolar supporter, because I know it’s rough. But taking the bad with the good, you have to admit that there is some good in there.

Even though the bad times are, as the nursery rhyme says, “horrid,” the good times are just as good. And there are good times in between your loved one’s bipolar episodes, you’ve got to admit. The truth is that someone with bipolar disorder only has about 4-5 full-blown episodes in their lives. It is a fallacy that they go from one episode to another all the time:

Even so, you are there for the worst of it. You know your loved one better than anyone else.

You know the bad side of the disorder. You know firsthand what “horrid” means.

But in between bipolar episodes, your loved one can be normal. So you have experienced those times as well. And you need those times to balance out the bad times. Otherwise you wouldn’t still be together, would you? It would just be too hard to take. Too much bad all the time.

But it’s the good times that make it worth it to stay. And the good times can be very, very good.

So you have to take the bad with the good. And you have to focus on the good in order to put up with the bad. It helps if you can separate your loved one from their disorder.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


  1. Dave, my experience has been unmedicated, untreated bipolars are just horrid to deal with all of the time. After six years of living with him, and going through all these ups and down, I finally realized what was going on with him, only to have him disappear on us and end up with another woman. And while I still love him and we have a son together, there is no way in the world I am going back to that situation. He needs treatment and unless he is willing to get it, there is nothing that can be done.

  2. I do not think everyones experiences of dealing with someone with bi-polar are the same! my husband has had 4 major episodes in 5 years and and is in bed most of the time in between. I have been told its not likely to change .bringing up 3 children in the middle of it has meant no good times.I feel awful for him but he comes first and we never count. I am glad to hear it is different for some people but remember for some it is impossible to live with.

  3. My loved one has been manic for several months which has been extremely difficult. I tried to be supportive but got yelled at constantly. I heard a million times “I’m fine, you’re the one with the problem…” I became so accustomed to living with the bad and micro managing this illness that I didn’t even see the good. His episode ended and I didn’t even realize it!!!!
    I’ve read so much about this illness but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone doing what I just did. I have been humiliating my loved one by continuing to treat the bipolar when it wasn’t even a problem. He has been waiting for me for weeks and I didn’t even see it, it’s really him. I hope he can forgive me. I am so happy that the nightmare is over and it’s really really him again!!!!

  4. I’ve lived through more than 16 years of the ups and downs. In the latter years she would, during episodes, threaten with divorce which she did. After two years of battling through the divorce she became even more horrid. Now that it’s suppose to be over, she have someone to blame. I got the kids now she’s keep on ruining the kids life further. I think that there should still be some space in the persons character which would allow them to see things as ther are and not as the person is. They should be able to humble themselves and treat others with respect. As a man think, so is he. We all should guard the way we think as this determine your whole life. To be bipolar should not be an excuse to be disrespectful to others. If we allow our emotions, will and wants to rule us, it will end up in disaster. For all of you who battle with bipolar of loved ones, know that God is there to strengthen you

  5. well after fighting putting my son on bipolar medicine for years, at the age of eleven he has become too much too handle and has kept the entire family miserable,and it was pretty hard to see much good because there was so much hurt and anger from the bad that we all just stopped trusting the good to last from one minute to the next. He started an antidepressant two weeks ago and i have had one week of bliss!!1 i can have a conversation with my son again! he says the medicine is not helping him and he just wants to be able to focus at school again. i know this pill is not magic and there will still be work to do but thank you God for this past week, if it all goes back tomorrow at least we had this week!

  6. I think the key is straight bipolar without the co-morbidities of alcoholism or narcissism or other personality disorders too. Our experience has been horrid for the last 5 years. There was no good. I had waited and waited, knowing that many years ago there was some good, but the good never came back. It is not prudent to continue to stay in a situation where there is unchecked abuse going on and no responsibility toward getting on or staying on the proper medications so as not to destroy your family and their health too. Even when we gave him the chance to be different he did not want to be he told us he intended to punish and abuse. Furthermore, it got worse after allowing criminal charges to be dropped. Most recently the threats to kill are in writing now. We have learned that bipolar is not the only problem and we wish it was as it would be easier if it was that straighforward. Regardless, medications do help and my son’s both say they like him better when he is “depressed” because then he is not as abusive. But to be in love with the mania (which he is) is not tolerable for anyone and it is quite selfish. I felt like Claire did when we got through one cycle in 2004 and therapy was implemented and medication finally started, but then a year later it was all down hill. We are more traumatized now than we were a year ago. We took breaks to heal along the journey, but now we have been instructed by very good professionals and psychologists to just keep him out of our lives because he does not want to be any different or behave any differently. We have started going to a support group for family members, it is called Getting off the Emotional Roller Coaster. Most people still have hope which is nice to see. Maybe there experience has been more positive. We wanted our experience to have a happy ending, and I wanted our family to be the role model for mental illness recovery but it was not possible and can never be possible according to all the specialists we have involved – 4 psychologists, the courts, doctors, therapists, Mental Health Association. We continued to learn more and more to help one person, but now all we can do is help ourselves stay safe.

  7. I am so glad I found you Dave, it is like Just In Time.
    I grew up in a household with a Bipolar father who seemed to have one horrible episode after another. He passed away four years ago where he finally was living in an assisted living facility. I miss him terribly, I loved my dad very much, but I get so angry when I think back to all those years of misery he put me through. Now, the horror comes full circle, One week ago my seventeen year old daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. If it is not trying to calm her and deal with her mood swings I find the worst part dealing with the medical proffessionals who have to try out different meds. I guess I am just hoping for that cure all pill that doesn’t exist. I am petrified for what the future might hold for my young teen daughter that I love so much–my only child. It seems like I am living a horrible nightmare that I never can wake up from !!!

  8. I find it difficult at times to remember the good times, but they do exist. My 26 y/o son does not live with me so it is hard to monitor if he is doing what he should do to take care of himself. Fortunately he wants to be well and is willing to be on meds and go to a counselor. It is very hard dealing with the drs. who don’t listen and just want him to take the meds and not question them. We are in the process of finding another dr. and I dread the yet again change of medicine. It is a constant struggle to distinguish the illness from the personality of my son. Sometimes I find myself using his illness as an excuse for his behavior. As a parent I know that I need to step back and let him help himself more. Thank you Dave for all of your emails, they sure help!!

  9. I have a question. I am reading and researching these disorders but it seems to me that when bipolar is in the manic state – which is all we have known for the last 5 years – than it also appears to be antisocial personality disorder and naricissism too. Yet the narcissism seems to be a constant trait even while not in a manic state. My question is: What percent of people with bipolar disorder also have a personality disorder? I know there are comorbidities and I think those refer to addictions. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  10. maybe in the best cases there are only 4 or 5 episodes in a lifetime. I have known a few individuals with bipolar disorder, and each one of them has had several episodes every year. These people have severe emotional up and downs that have no connection to the external environment. These people are stuck in their own hell, and they will drag anyone down with them if they get a chance. Don’t let them take you down their hell hole. I have never seen anything good in these people that is worth the grief they create.

  11. My daughter has always been explosive since she was a toddler. At eight she was diagnosed with BP and placed on meds. She did well and had a manic episode maybe twice a year until she turned 13. She has become extremely violent and is angry all the time now. In the past 8 mos. she has had 7 ER visits and two psych. inpatient visits. They have changed her meds and it was only effective for 1 1/2 mos. Things keep escalating to the point she is in respite right now. Also researching her behaviors I wonder if she has a personality disorder along with BP.

  12. my daughter is a compulsive liar and she has told me she has bipolar yet i have never seen her have any sort of episode ….. she is moody but never up and down in her 25 yrs. she says she is seeing a psychiatrist and he has put her on lithium….should i believe her?

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