“My boyfriend and I are so in love and so happy together when he is not having a bipolar episode. When he is, he packs and leaves me while I am at work, sometimes won’t talk to me for days or weeks, when he finally does, it’s usually to tell me it’s my fault. He turns things around on me and has me in tears of pain and frustration. It’s like he is someone else. When he comes out of it he is back to the sweet, caring, attentive man who I love with all of my heart full of apologies and regret. He is going through an episode now and I finally got him to talk to me last night. He is still very angry and is telling me how horrible I am to him and he is mad that I sent an email to a support group. He skipped through the email, found one thing that he perceived as negative and is focused on it. I finally reached out to his sister who had no idea and told her pretty much everything. She and their brother are going to try to talk with him and get him to agree to seek treatment. I am scared as to how he will react when they confront him, but I can’t do this on my own anymore. He does not hit me or threaten to, but he pulls away and ignores me b/c he knows how much that hurts me. I told him last night that everything that I am doing is b/c I love him and want to be there for him so that we can get a handle on this. I guess I just need to vent this to someone who understands and may have some tips for someone who is hanging on by a thread trying to be there for the man she loves more than anything. “
First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your crisis. Thankfully your boyfriend has agreed to get help. (Refusing to get help is destructive not only to the sick person but to his partner as well.) While it’s important to help him, you should also take care of yourself—this may involve seeing a therapist on your own and/or visiting one together.
I recommend a few things: 1) Setting boundaries. What kinds of unhealthy behaviors does he engage in now? See where he is after six months of treatment. (Also see if he is following whatever treatment is prescribed for him—whether that’s medication and/or therapy.) It’s good that he is not violent. However, if he is still saying mean things to you six months from now, you have to ask yourself if that is acceptable? How does this affect your health? 2) Understand when the bipolar disorder is talking versus the “real him.” Don’t react to his outbursts but instead respond to the bipolar disorder. For more information on having “Bipolar Conversations,” I recommend reading Julie Fast’s Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder. It’s an excellent resource. For instance when I used to get depressed I would say, “I hate everything.” My mom would calmly respond, “Do you hate your nieces and nephews? Do you hate your family? Do you hate your friends?..” I would realize that in fact I didn’t hate everything but I was going through mood swings that, however painful, were temporary. 3) In addition to self-care, try to do things with him that you both love whether that’s watching a movie or playing a game. During a crisis, bipolar disorder often consumes the relationship. It’s vital that you are both re