I am trying to live with my bipolar, but I have no family support. My Mom and sisters don’t think its a real disease and don’t think I should be on any medication. My husband knows I need my medication, but he thinks it should cure me and I should get over it. He is so unsuportive that the last time I was in the hospital he told me to take the time I needed to get better, but hurry up because he couldn’t take any more time off work. I set up a little table with puzzles and paint by numbers in my room as a soother corner. My husband thinks I go there to hide out. I explained what soothers are but he just didn’t want to hear it. He said I was being lazy. How can I keep myself from going manic when I have no support and it’s just me holding me back?
A lack of family support seems to be quite common for those of us who have bipolar disorder. However knowing that we are not alone with this phenomenon doesn’t change the fact that we struggle when family does not understand the disorder and what our daily needs are. When it comes to my family I have no support at all. My family members tend to be in their own little worlds and when it comes to any kind of mental illness they live in denial. My mother is a good example. Last summer I told her that I had been diagnosed with bipolar II and it did not go over well. I’m not sure what kind of reaction I expected to get, but my mom became quite “defensive” and was not very supportive or understanding. She made it clear that she did not agree with any kind of psychiatric medication and that I should not take any of the meds that my psychiatrist has prescribed for me. When I attempted to explain how bipolar disorder affects me in everyday life she wanted no part of it. Although I was initially quite discouraged because of her negative and non-supportive reaction I have come to the conclusion that my mother will likely never accept that I have a mental illness. That being said I really don’t see any point in revealing that I have bipolar to the rest of my family. I am pretty much gun-shy now and keep it to myself. The way I see it is that it is sometimes wise to “choose our battles carefully”. In other words if we suspect that someone is going to have a “negative unsupportive reaction” to us revealing that we have bipolar why “shoot ourselves in the foot” by telling them, to me it just isn’t worth it.
I can certainly understand some of your frustrations as my mother said pretty much the same thing that your mother and sister said to you. Furthermore I am sure that it is also quite difficult with regards to the way that your husband reacts to your bipolar disorder. I know of other people with bipolar who have very similar problems with their spouse. Any relationship can be a challenge but trying to cope in one when you have to deal with all of the symptoms of bipolar disorder for sure makes things even harder. You mentioned that your husband thinks that your medication should “cure” you and he told you “that you should just get over it.” I can see why you would interpret that to be “unsupportive” and I would imagine it was quite “hurtful” to you. I know if it were me I would feel very “alone” in my struggle to cope with the symptoms that are a part of bipolar disorder. The other thing that would be hard to deal with would be that your husband seemed to be giving you “mixed messages” with regards to your recovery process while in the hospital. I can see why that too would make you feel like you had no support from him.
Unfortunately there are way too many misconceptions, stigma and ignorance about most mental illnesses including bipolar disorder. I have learned that it is in my best interest to only discuss my having bipolar only with people who I am 99% sure that they will be “supportive”. People like my family doctor, my psychiatrist and with peers who also have the disorder. I also used to see a psychologist once a week and that was very helpful as I had the support and guidance that I needed at that time. I was also able to learn some good coping skills which turned out to be very helpful in terms of dealing with people who are unsupportive and/or ignorant of how bipolar disorder affects me.
Another good support system that you may want to explore is to look into whether there are any “bipolar support groups” in your area. Many people find it very supportive to attend a group where they can feel safe and not be judged. If such a group is “unavailable” to you, perhaps you could find some comfort with being a part of an “online bipolar support group.” I live in a very small town and I have no access to a support group within my community, so for me being involved with an online support group is the next best thing. I would also suggest that you ask your doctor about any other types of supports that may be appropriate for you. Often doctors can set you up with outside supports such as counseling. For me “outside support” has been vital with helping me cope with my bipolar symptoms and is my best option because of my lack of “family support”.
So if you are able to “tap into” any type of “outside support” I think that would help you cope better with your situation. You should give yourself some credit for already taking a step towards that direction by writing to www.askabipolar.com. It is also important to have your “own space” or a “place to retreat to” when things are getting to be too much for you. A lot of us are susceptible to “sensory overload” and like myself I need a “quiet zone” at times. I think that you made a good choice by setting up a spot like the “soother corner” that you described. I would encourage you to keep that going for yourself no matter what your husband says about it. I think that perhaps he is just not “aware” of what bipolar disorder entails or he may not be accepting of it and how it impacts you.
My other suggestion would be to “educate” not only your husband but other family members or even friends about bipolar disorder if you think that they would be open to that. Just beware that some people will want no part of that so it is usually best not to push it in those cases. Sometimes people surprise us later on and with time want to learn about the disorder. It is also important that you “educate yourself” as much about the disorder as you can. The more we understand it the better we become at “identifying what our needs are and how we can learn what to do to have them met.” You also mentioned that you are taking “medication” and that too is a very important part of managing our “bipolar symptoms”. And of course that will not “cure us” because we have a “chemical imbalance” within our brain, but medication along with other things can at least help us “manage our symptoms” so we can be more stable.
I hope that the suggestions I have given you will help you feel less manic and give you some guidance as to what you can do to make things better for yourself. Sometimes my disorder gets the best of me and I have to pick myself up, dust myself off and soldier on. It can be a battle at times but with patience and perseverance we can get our symptoms to a “manageable level”. I wish you all the best and thank you for your question. Please write to us again with any questions, comments, or concerns that you may have.