Bi-polar Disorder

Updated on November 24, 2008
K.K. asks from Erie, PA
14 answers

Happy Holidays,
This is the time when all the dysfunctional-ness comes out in my family. I'm just wondering if anyone has ever dealt with Bi-Polar disorder?? My mother's only brother was diagnosed about 5 years ago after alienating most of the family, ruining his credit, being sued for buying cars he couldn't pay for, etc etc. For some reason he had started contacting family this last year during the up part of his mania, Now he is crashing again. He's been hospitalized before but this time there is talk of having him ..... I'm not clear on the terms... permanently admitted as a resident at the state mental hospital not to be released.
My grandmother has been having some health problems as well, and this information about her son is really stressing her out and taxing her health.
So I guess my question is, Is there ever a time when you just have to turn your back on family that stress you out and make you crazy???? On one hand i know this is a mental disorder but if he won't take his meds and won't see the psycologist, is there anything we can do???
Most of this is just a vent, i suppose since i'm sure my grandmother and my mom won't completely turn their backs on him, I just hate to see them all anxious over this and i really hate to see them keep giving him money etc etc. And for what it's worth he does have a wife and 2 adult children. The children have nothing to do with him and the wife for some reason (probably because of money) won't follow through on the threats to divorce him although i have my doubts that she ever cared about him at all even before this all really manifested.

If anyone has dealt with this and can tell me where this road will lead, I sure would appreciate it.

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So What Happened?

i'm really touched by the caring responses. It is so sad that more can't be done, but as many of you said he has to help himself. I needed to hear that thanks!

Featured Answers


answers from Allentown on

Hi Kristi,

Ask about restorative conferencing at the International Institute of restorative practices at

Hope this helps.


More Answers



answers from Johnstown on

Dear Kristi, I was married for 18 years to a man who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was not a good time in my life. His behavior was irresponsible, with money, with other women; he drank heavily, refused to take his meds and would disappear at holidays and times when I needed him to be here. He was a poor example of a father and a man for my two daughters, and when I finally had the courage to kick him out, I discovered he had wiped out the girls savings accounts, as well as ours. We did do sleepovers for fear of his rages, we didnt entertain, or do the things that normal families do. The few vacations we took, he sank into a depressed state and spent the time in bed in the hotel room. That was 6 years ago, he has had a turbulant life, had remarried to a woman who is wonderful to him and my daughters..........but she too is about ready to leave him, in just two years. I know its a different situation to have a spouse be this way. The impact on the children is tremendous. Its hard to say how he will be able to behave in a holiday situation. My ex couldnt stand the sharing, giving and celebrating with his relatives. So my holidays were spent entertaining both sets of relatives, minus him. In a way, it was a relief. I never knew if it would be a manic day for him, where he would be disruptive, bold and inappropriate, or stay in bed all day while his mother and siblings asked why he wasnt feeling is that the meds worked. I saw them work. But he hated to lose the highs he got when he wasnt on the meds. So he always quit using them, life was so boring to him when he was taking the medication. So, when I realized that he chose that lifestyle over his family, I knew it was time to leave. I have NEVER regretted cutting him out of my life. My girls still have to deal with his ups and downs when they visit him. But as the grow older, they leave when he is abusive to his wife or acting inappropriately. They know they can always come back to my house if and when they have had enough. You can make a choice to remove him from your life if you decide he has a negative affect on you and your children. No child should have a holiday ruined with outbursts and bad behavior. And no one should have their days controlled by any person other than themselves. I wish you luck, I wish your family luck. I have found that other bipolar people have the same struggle throughout thier lives, staying on the medication to help this disease. My kids and I were in therapy for two years to try and understand how he had impacted out lives. It takes a toll on everyone.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on


My husband is bi-polar and there are different levels of severity , there is no cure and the best way to deal with the episodes is to remain neutral. Do not respond to him when he is out of control. If your family keeps giving him money than they are enablers and if they truly want to help him they need to stop offering and start by just being a listener. If no one makes an effort to approach this in a calm manner than things will progress from bad to ugly bad. His wife is probably too scared to get divorced, so go easy on her. I will say a prayer for all of you folks, and in case your not aware, but his diet can effect how he behaves. He needs to eat foods high in B vitamins. In fact if you have access to the internet get some recipes and cook him a healthy meal. I hope this was of some help.


D. F

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

My sister-in-law is bipolar and it was out of control for years. There were times when she even tried to leave my brother (during her mania phases) but my brother amazingly stuck with her. It took years, but finally when everybody (especially herself and her parents) could admit that she had a problem, that's when things started to get better. She started with a new psychiatrist who changed her drugs. I really think it was a mixture of lots of support from family members, her admitting she had a problem and finding a good psychiatrist that ultimately led to how stable things are now. I can't believe it when I talk to her now, it's like before she ever got sick! I know all cases are different and I wish you all the best. By the way, my brother has control over every penny she spends now.



answers from York on

You surely do not have to turn your back but at the same time you need to step back from the negativity of it all and not let it pull you down. when you talk to family keep it short and sweet!
Good Luck I have been through this and it has all worked out to a degree!



answers from Pittsburgh on


God bless you for asking about this, I know it must be very difficult for your family.

You have gotten a lot of great advice here. As a graduate student in counseling I would like to suggest one more thing that may not go over very well with your family. That is family therapy, or at least a therapist led support group, it will help all of you to understand the disorder and your responses to your uncles behavior.

Even if your uncle is hospitalized he can have visitors, and if his doctor agrees go out on day passes.

I have a classmate who has both Bipolar disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. She has made a commitment to taking her meds and staying on a schedule which helps her to live a fairly normal life. She is a single mom, going to grad school.

There is hope for management of the Bipolar with the acceptance of the disorder and regular therapy, sort of like a person with diabetes having to take insulin.

I hope this helped


answers from Raleigh on

Hi Kristi,

My husband is also bi-polar and has been dealing with the disease for 13 years now. The only advice I will give you (not knowing all of your circumstances) is to keep loving him and supporting him, but not enabling him. When people with bi-polar sink into a depression or become manic they are looking for people to bail them out. The one rule I have with my husband when he goes through these is that I will not enable him to continue his destructive behavior. I love him and encourage him, but in the end, only he can help himself. Tell your family to stop giving him money during his bad times because they are allowing him to continue his path of self-destruction. I do suggest that if the state is willing to take him, have him institutionalized. My husband was put in the state's care three times before I met him and because of the help that he got there, he is a VERY functional man today. I will be praying for you and your family during this difficult time. Good luck and God bless.



answers from Pittsburgh on

My uncle is bipolar, and it is a very sad disease. There is medicine, but they often won't take it consistently. The fact that the state is willing to institutionalize him says he is very ill, and also probably very lucky. Most with this disorder become our homeless. There is nothing you can do for him, but pray and be there for the others in the family who are affected by this.



answers from Philadelphia on

You have a lot of good advice on here -- I can only add, having worked in mental health settings for years, that 1) Indeed, if a state hospital is willing to take your uncle, then he must be seriously ill and must have an extensive record of previous hospitalizations -- state hospital beds are at a premium and reserved for only the most seriously, violently ill; and yet, he likely would eventually be released if he improved, because the state is always trying to keep the numbers of patients at a minimum (they're constantly trying to find ways to shut the state hospitals down). And, 2) having worked with many clients with bipolar disorder, one frustrating element to keeping people out of the hospital and healthy was family and significant others who thought they were helping by providing money or other bailout help when they got in trouble. This only continued the same old patterns and the client ended up in the hospital anyway.

It sounds like your family needs some support -- first to understand what the disorder is about, what your uncle needs, and then in giving your uncle a clear, unified response as to how your family will interact with him from now on. The restorative practices site is a good place to start -- so your family can meet and get on the same page, and be able to give your uncle the best response.

I wish you luck, and I hope the holidays are full of hope this year for you and your uncle and your family.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I seriously doubt that your uncle can be "permanently committed" to a psychiatric hospital. We have family friends whose son is so delusional and out of control I simply CANNOT believe that this particular could not get him hospitalized. And believe me, they tried--HARD!
Please realize your uncle is sick. He stops taking his meds either because he feels "OK while on them" so he feels he is cured or perhaps they have unpleasant side effects. It's not always a black and white issue like "You are fine on meds, so just take them."Your family needs to know that love does not look like enabling. They are two separate things. You can love, accept, and help without enabling dangerous behavior. This is not an illness with a quick fix and he will most likely battle this all of his remaining years.
Knowledge is power and I would hope that you and all of your family members seek lots of education about this disease. You're not alone. Life deals us all some unpleasant and inconvenient cards at times but we all need to display empathy and tolerance. God Bless.



answers from Philadelphia on

Good morning! It was seventeen years ago that I said good-bye to living with an individual with bi-polar disorder. It was a very messy departure, and at the same time it was my personal Independence Day! I couldn't force him to take his meds or to put down the bottle of scotch. I just had to walk the other way and hope that with all the great new meds out there he could get help. The scary thing about bi-polar disorder is that you never want to turn your back on someone who is suffering with it, but you don't want to invite the behaviors of the illness into your daily life. Hitting bottom is important for that person. Leaving enablers behind is crucial for that person. Love that person, but keep your family protected. There is help out there. There is still room in your heart to care and love that person without having them in your daily life. Bi-polar disorder is a roller-coaster ride for an entire family. Keep seeking help and keep hope. Mental illness is just that, an illness. There is someone and something that can help this person. There are support groups for families of Bi-polar disorder patients. Ask your health care provider, and know that you all are not alone. Look to a future of healing and stay strong and hopeful. There is light at the end of the tunnel.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Bipolar is a very serious mental illness. I strongly suggest you/family go to it is the web site for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There are many local chapters. I am President of the Clarion County Chapter, involved due to my stepson. There is a wealth of information on the site as well as meetings to attend. They have an excellent class called Family-to-Family to help educate family members about mental illnesses.
I'd also suggest reading the book "I'm Okay, I don't Need Help" by Xavier Amador. Part of the illness of bipolar and schizophrenia is an inability to see their own illness, thus the reluctance to take medication. Plus, there are many unpleasant side effects to psychiatric meds.
In this day and age, nobody is put in state hospital with the intent of it being permenant unless the person is in the forensics unit. Most people are discharge to family or to a community support system. In the meantime, offer him support, try to keep things calm around him if at all possible.

Good Luck and God Bless you for caring about him.



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi Kristi,
Sorry to hear about your family distress over a bi-polar relative. I know the stress as I have a cousin and ex-ddaughter-in-law suffering from the same mental illness. Their families have traveled the same road as yours and it has been heartbreaking. When a person refuses to take medicine so obviously important to his mood stabilazion and refuses counseling sessions there is little anyone can do. Your mother and grandmother should take advantage of some counseling sessions themselves to deal with the stress and guilt they may feel and to give them courage to care for themselves.
I have been to many support groups (AA) and their advise is "The best way to change someone is to change yourself." Being an enabler only allows the sick person to continue the behavior knowing he will not be denied the forgiveness he needs to continue the destructive behavior. Yes, bi-polar disorder is an ugly mental disease but with the proper meds and counseling that person can lead a normal life.
Maybe institutionalizing your uncle would be the best gift his wife could give him and herself. If he responds to therapy he could certainly rejoin the community and be a much happier person.
Please let us know how things work out. I will keep you in my thoughts.
L. K



answers from Sharon on

I battled Bipolar Disorder for many, many years. I often made messes that were difficult to clean up and had many dangerous relationships as well as struggling with self-medicating.

I took Lithium for 11 years which didn't stop the mood cycles but made them a less extreme so that I could go to school and work and raise my children.

A couple of years ago, I decided to give my entire life to the Lord and to trust Him with it. I weaned slowly off my meds and have been medication-free for almost 3 years now.

The Lord has taught me to eat properly and take supplements and to recognize my mood triggers. Now I manage my moods with low-fat diet, L-carnitine, Vitamin D, Multi-Vitamin, Magnesium, good sleep and lots of prayer. (I was found to have vitamin deficiencies)

I seldom have mania any more but still battle depression a little bit. I think that is mostly because I live a quiet life now and I get a little bored. Plus, I do suffer from chronic fatigue and pain.

If I do have a rev'd up day, I drink chamomile tea to calm myself and to keep from going too fast and I DO NOT shop on those days. If I am too anxious, I talk to God about it and He usually gives me something to do. The depression is a little trickier to manage but so far, so good.

I have a history of lows that led to suicidal attempts; had my stomach pumped three times between the ages of 19 and 30. I was hospitalized once during a mixed state which means that I was manic for so long and had lost so much sleep that depression was mixed in with it. At that point I was self-mutilating, self-medicating and extremely suicidal.

My point is, there is hope! I would be happy to write to your uncle if you think it would encourage him.

Love In Christ Jesus,

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