The Life-Saving Bipolar Disorder Treatment That Nobody Tells You About

Inspiring 61

woman lying on sofa

Bipolar disorder -- what is it, really? It is not a bad day, PMS, or a series of bad moods. It is a disease. Just like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term health issue that needs to be treated by a team of professionals.

But the person diagnosed also needs to be supported and loved by people who care. Would you abandon a friend diagnosed with cancer?

It's scary to face the diagnosis of bipolar disorder alone. I know this all too well because I am bipolar.

When I was diagnosed, I was lucky enough to have people in my life who wanted to help me through it. Family and friends who rallied around me and told me it was going to be all right. Their love and support gave me the courage to face my diagnosis head-on, to get help and educate myself on my disorder. Friendship and support are as crucial to treating bipolar as mood stabilizer drugs.

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I am not only diagnosed myself, I am also the niece of someone who did not have the support system she needed and spent most of her life broken and alone. She needed the support of her friends and family, but she was ashamed and embarrassed and kept her illness hidden from everyone. Without that support, she stopped taking meds and never truly understood how the disease affected her. We never knew until she was hospitalized that she was even sick -- and it took us even longer to learn her diagnosis. We lived states apart, so it was easy not to notice.

You may be wondering why didn’t I recognize the symptoms in her since I suffered from the same thing myself. I did recognize the symptoms after I was diagnosed. I recognized her erratic behavior almost immediately, once I understood what my own diagnosis was -- but by then she had already been psychotic many times.

When a person with bipolar is manic, she is the life of the party. She is the girl in the office who can knock any project out of the park. She has the best clothes and shoes because she loves to shop. She is sexy and loves love. She is up for every challenge. She is creative and fun. She glows with the exuberance of life. Everyone wants to be around her.

When a person with bipolar is depressed, she is low almost to the point of immobility and irritable to the point that even breathing in her direction could invoke her rage. She is nearly impossible to be around. The same girl who was up for everything and the life of the party is now not into you at all. She wants to be left alone with her misery. If you try to coax her out of her misery, you will be met with a fierce reaction that could push even the closest friend away.

Bipolar disorder is not easy to recognize because it presents as 100 separate issues. The erratic behaviors that accompany mania and the irritability of the depression can make relationships very hard for those with bipolar disorder. It’s difficult to be considerate toward others when you have so much going on in your own head.

But it's also almost impossible to be a loyal friend to someone who is so hot and cold. That's where friends who aren't bipolar need to be strong. The bipolar person in your life needs your support, especially when she is being a raging asshole. That’s when she needs you the most.

You don't have to be her emotional punching bag, though. Just keep in mind that this is a brain disorder. She doesn't have control over it. It's not her, it's the disease. She does, however, have the choice to seek treatment. She needs to. And you can help encourage her.

You have every right to walk away, of course. But know that she needs your support to have the strength to seek help, to admit that she has a problem, to own her disease. The only way to get control of her demons is for her to face them and get the psychiatric, psychological, and medical help she so desperately needs to be stabilized. Stabilization and normalcy are an opportunity to become unbroken, no small thing since when you are bipolar you feel fundamentally broken at your core.

If you know someone who is bipolar, please support them, love them, and take any threats of self-harm seriously. Your friendship may mean the difference between life and death.


Image via Sodanie Chea/ Flickr

emotional health, illness


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Disso... Dissolutions

love the article. i too am bipolar and am trying to find the right balance of medications, but unfortunately my friends have abandoned me for the most part. 

RabReb RabReb

I was diagnosed a little over a year ago with bipolar II disorder.  It made my life make sense. For so long, when I looked at the symptoms for depression, I had most of them, but then I had days where I felt absolutely wonderful; touched by the finger of God wonderful.  I was so confused.  Then I had a two week period that changed everything.  The first week I was walking on air and the next week I was praying for God to take me away and save my poor kids from having such a freak for a mom.  That is when I decided I needed to find out what was going on.  I was lucky to have been diagnosed immediately once I saw a doctor.  I'm on meds for bipolar as well as several other fun mental issues.  Even understanding it, life is sometimes so confusing and hard.

DieMy... DieMyDarling

Thank you so said everything I wish I could explain to my friends and family. It's such a heartbreaking struggle for me :(.

kelti... kelticmom

My husband suffers from bipolar disorder as well as PTSD from three tours in Afghanistan. It's been a nightmare the past five years. My family doesn't understand it, nor do they want to. They think I should cut my losses and leave him. But I have seen the man he truly is underneath it all, and refuse to be one more person that has walked out on him. He loves me and our son, and when the meds and counseling are working, things are great. But when things bottom out, it's a struggle to hold on.

nonmember avatar Littlefrogs

Yeah.. it isn't that simple and it isn't like cancer.

My husband lied to me the entire time I knew him.

He never told me that he liked to have sex with men and that at one point he had been "out"; his family and friends never told me either. In fact, there were times when I asked him point blank and he lied to me to my face.. how dare I accuse him of such a thing.

He is an alcoholic. He has been detoxed multiple times and hospitalized from alcohol induced psychosis. He lies about his drinking and hides his drinking. He's had two accidents under the influence... which he lied about.

Mania doesn't mean just happy sparkly. It can also mean furious anger, vindictiveness, paranoia and temper tantrums. Depression is easier to deal with than that.

The worst part... now that he's on lithium, he thinks he is all better and that his behavior is perfectly reasonable and appropriate. It isn't. He also thinks anything he did wrong before the lithium was not his fault and he has no responsibility for his actions. That's not true either.

I'm fighting desperately to ensure he never has supervision of our small children. In fact, the last two years we were together I never left the children alone with him because he was so unstable.

OKgirl OKgirl

Little frogs- does your ex have another diagnosis? That sounds more like an Axis II personality disorder, maybe with a secondary bipolar diagnosis. Either way, good luck to you and your kiddos. It sounds rough.

nonmember avatar Littlefrogs

Yeah.. he was originally diagnosed with PTSD, major depression and anxiety disorder because he lied repeatedly to me, his psychiatrists and therapists. His attorney says he has been diagnosed as bipolar. I am sure it is not the only label but I'm sure it is the only one they will tell me... because it is supposedly treatable.

He is not safe and hasn't been. The last time he was left alone with the children I came home to find him drunk on the floor passed out; our children were 9 months and 3 at the time. I haven't left him alone with them since.

Mary Cimino

My mother is Bi-Polar and I've tried the supportive route. I have scars across my stomach and back, had a broken jaw and my favorite the dent in my forehead from when she threw a cast-iron skillet at my head because I burnt the bacon. I barley talk to her now, she claims she's getting help but when we meet up she goes into a rage over something little. She's a hoarder on top of it all so the kids don't go to her house very often. She'll do great for a while and be a normal person. Then she goes off her meds because her five couches told her to and next thing I know I'm getting phone calls about how she should kill me. (And people wonder why I moved out of her house at 14)

There's only so much one person can take and I reached my limit with my mother. So if you can handle the crazy then you're a saint, just don't judge those who couldn't handle the crazy and had to walk away.

Sirena Robinson

My mother and sister are both bipolar, along with my mom's four siblings and almost all of my cousins. So far I have been lucky enough to avoid that struggle. As someone so immersed in it, I can tell you how difficult it is for everyone involved. To have someone you love go from being stable and on the right mix of medications to depressed and not eating is heart wrenching. Everyone who suffers from this needs love, support and understanding.

nonmember avatar Christine

I was engaged to a man with bipolar disorder several years ago and I have never been treated so poorly or met someone who was so self-absorbed. I fully believe that he is unable to love anyone but himself. He wanted someone to be his mother or his nanny, and that was not going to be me. He used his disease as an excuse for anything he did not want to do. Being in a relationship or having a friendship with someone who is bipolar is not community service and often the lows do not outweigh the highs. You cannot love someone into being okay. I reached my limit with crazy too. Do not judge those of us who have attempted to love someone with bipolar disorder and had to walk away for our own mental health.

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