Saturday, September 20, 2014

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

It's been a little over a year since my wife Jane has received her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I know that my insight into her disorder and her compliance with treatment has improved our relationship. Even though things are better we still struggle. We have come a long way but it is still a work in progress.

In trying to understand this illness I have spent a great deal of time interacting with online support groups for people with a bipolar partner. Every case of bipolar disorder is different. I can relate to many of the problems that other people are facing within the bipolar support community. I have read many comments from angry and frustrated people. This is because their partner usually made poor decisions that caused damage to their relationship. In my opinion, the people who struggle the most are those who have not researched the disorder. They do not truly understand what they are dealing with.

I have seen many people on online support groups advise others to end a relationship. While I can sympathize with their frustration, it seems to me that many people think that because the person they are with has a mental health issue and they do not like their behavior, they have a valid reason to leave. This idea really bothers me. Would it be fair to leave a person because they had cancer or another physical illness? Just because you cannot see a mental disorder, does it make it different than a physical one? I believe the decision to leave someone just because they are ill is wrong; whether it be mental or physical. 

There are things that be can be done to make life less stressful for people who are involved in a bipolar relationship. When Jane is in a bad mood I try to avoid pushing her buttons but there are times where I fail miserably. Even with medication, her bipolar attitude will show up in a conversation. She will say things that are very hurtful. I try to set my feelings aside and choose to not take offense to what she says to me.

There are many challenges within any relationship. When you are fighting with someone who has a mental illness, you are dealing with the symptoms of the disorder, not the individual. When I get frustrated with my wife, I have to remind myself that she did not choose to have bipolar disorder and I should not blame her for it. While being a supportive is partner is important, I feel that there are specific behaviors that are non-negotiable. Regardless of whether or not a mental illness is present, in situations where a partner is violent, abusive, or unfaithful it is not acceptable. The person involved with someone who displays these behaviors need to set their boundaries. If their partner refuses to change, they should leave the relationship.

In my opinion, positive changes in the relationship will not happen until the person with bipolar disorder is stable. This is attained by adherence to medication and therapy. If these circumstances are not met things will not change. You are fighting a losing battle.
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