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Hi All,

I'm BP1 (with psychotic features when manic), and I've been dating a great girl for over a year, and I love her very much. I had a manic episode this last February and was hospitalized for approximately a month. It was brutal. My girlfriend was there for me every step of the way and saw every feature of my episode. At times it was pretty bad.

We (predominantly - she) has some questions about the illness, BP1. She also has *sigh* either naturally (?) or not questions about whether she want to stay with me. She loves me but she's worried about the implications of the illness for her life over time, our lives. I really want to stay together. I want to save our relationship and, like I said, love her very much.

My girlfriend has proposed that we talk to a therapist/BP specialist (maybe even over Skype while we all in quarantine) so we/she can ask(s) questions about the illness. For what it's worth, I keep hearing that I am *very light* in severity on the bipolar spectrum -- I'm not sure entirely what any of that means. I have, however, while medicated gone 7 years before my last manic episode.

I'm wondering if anyone has any feedback on any of this? I want to find that therapist who will talk to us over Skype. I would love for that person to have a more open-minded, generous viewpoint of the illness and not just shoot it down with all doom and gloom, like all the literature I'm reading on the web. I'm worried about talking to my own psychiatrist about relationship stuff. She seems particularly severe about the implications of having this illness, and I'm sure there are alternate takes that will also be honest and meanwhile answer my girlfriend's questions.

What do you think?

Also, Do you know of such a person?

Thanks so much in advance.

Best,

More_Light

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HI More_Light,

It is great that you went 7 years without an episode.  However it must have been a bad one to keep you in the hospital

for a month.  I am not sure what country you are in but we have an organization in the U.S. for friends and family

of persons with mental illness.  It is called NAMI.  She can find a lot of information there and support too.

It is nice that she stood by you.

Do you have any idea about what triggered this recent mania?  That might be helpful.

Stay well!

BPLadybug

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You can use psychologytoday.com to look up therapists in your area and it will tell you what they treat specifically. Look for ones that have mood disorder in their list of what they treat. When I was diagnosed bipolar it was much easier for me to find a therapist so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. 

I’ve been with my husband for 14 years and I have schizoaffective which is considered (though it depends on the individual and treatment resistance) more severe than bipolar. All I can say is get all the treatment you need (a tdoc and pdoc), stick with it, and take your meds religiously. If your partner is going to stay with you, you owe them that much. My husband says he can deal with the symptoms of my illness as long as it’s something out of my control. I know if I ever stopped my meds or quit getting treatment, he would leave me. That’s the deal we have had since the beginning. 

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Hi and welcome. First I want to say that I imagine it's pretty stressful for you for her to be questioning your future together, so I'm sorry you're going through that right now.

I think your instinct to not have this conversation with your psychiatrist is correct. It's important to find someone who has experience working with the friends and family of someone with Bipolar Disorder, not to mention someone who has experience working with couples.

So, ideally you'll find a therapist who's experienced working with both couples and people with Bipolar I. Psychologytoday.com is definitely a good resource to check out. I would say, though, that it's worth double-checking what.a therapist says they're experienced in. I always do a sort of interview when I have to look for a new therapist.

There are plenty of sites that specialize in online therapy, some of which even take insurance. I put together a big list of them here, under the "Online Therapy" section near the bottom. They're probably all extremely busy right now, but that might be your best bet for finding someone in the middle of the pandemic.

Good luck, and best wishes.

 

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I think just about all the mental health professionals are working via Skype and other online resources these days, so that shouldn't be hard to find.

I'm sorry you've gotten such a gloomy outlook on bipolar from the internet and from your psychiatrist. What I've found, from most mental health professionals, is that they just don't consider it THAT big a deal. It can definitely be severe and life altering, but it's also quite common. I worked for a psychiatric healthcare organization for almost six years, and mental health professionals, in general, just say "yep, diagnosis is bipolar, what's the best way to treat it and help this person navigate life after hospitalization?" 

I should be clear that I, in no way, am saying that bipolar is not a serious illness, just that you aren't likely to encounter as much stigma as you might think. Any good family/couples counselor (probably what you should look for it you're hoping to work through things with the girlfriend) will be compassionate and understanding. If they aren't, RUN, because they're probably not that good at their job.

A big thing to consider, here, is that there is a difference between the way psychiatrists and counselors approach their clients. I think it's your psychiatrist's job to emphasize severity, and she might be leaning into that because a lot of people really, really suck at treatment compliance. She needs to make it clear that this IS a lifelong illness and you MUST continue with treatment. She probably has a bunch of patients who need it hammered into them how important meds are. A lot of people get complacent with treatment when they're feeling better. 

Meanwhile, counselors and therapists are more likely to emphasize how you can live a relatively normal life. They're there to help you work through stuff, feel better, be optimistic, and develop healthy habits for maintaining stability. That's not to say that they're gonna be all rainbows and sunshine, but the last thing a counselor should say is "yeah, your life is gonna suck from now on." They're there to help you make it suck less. 

You should be reassured that your girlfriend seems so eager to understand. If she didn't love you, she'd have started distancing herself. Instead, she wants to work together, with you, to make sense of it all and navigate how your life together could be. I think it's a good sign that she was able to be honest, and tell you about her reservations about your long term future. That's a level of honest communication that some couples never achieve. So, so many people never talk to their partners about their relationship concerns, and just let it get worse until they break up. 

These are just my opinions. I have bipolar and I have dated multiple other people with bipolar. One had no interest whatsoever in getting his shit together and staying stable. The other was honest, self aware, and takes his treatment seriously. I married him. 

 

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