Bipolar: How To Respond To Your Family's Reactions

Published Oct 29, 2018 • By Louise Bollecker

At age 46, Sophie, a member of Carenity France, is the mother of two children, ages 17 and 18, and has been divorced for 8 years. In this testimonial, Sophie shares her experience with bipolar disorder and how it has affected the relationships with her family and her friends.

Bipolar: How To Respond To Your Family's Reactions

When were you diagnosed with bipolar? What were the symptoms?

I was diagnosed very late, 5 years ago. I had been taking antidepressants for years. I took every type at one time or another. The results were good but relapses were inevitable. A friend advised me to go see his psychiatrist who highlighted hypomania: many compulsive purchases, overflowing sexuality, hypersensitivity among others.

How did your loved ones react to your diagnosis of you being diagnosed with bipolar disorder? Did they understand what the condition is?

They did not understand it and they said it was some type of "modern diagnosis". It was then that I realized that the road would be long with them. So I chose to put them face to face with reality: I have a mental illness . They were very surprised and that was my goal... to shock them so they would listen and understand. It's like a heart disease, except the brain is sick." But the brain ... that's where everything gets complicated.

We all have variations in mood, but to undetstand these variations when we are not sick is almost impossible. Those closest to me always put me in the group of " normal " people, which I am not.

My children were the most attentive despite their young age at the time of diagnosis. I simply explained the disease. They understood and welcomed the information. They respect me and are very protective of me. They are my best emotional support and advisors. They know what to do in each case.

How does your bipolar disorder affect your relationship with your loved ones?

With the bipolar diagnosis, they look at me differently. I am too sensitive for them to tell me stuff that they are hdiding. I altered/changed my behavior some because my relatives judge me. I placed some distance in my emotions toward them. I only share a " light " day with them.

Do your loved ones demonstrate patience with you? your relapses?

My children are patient and understanding . They help me a lot despite their age; they love me and they support me more than anyone. One of my sisters does not want to listen to me anymore because I'm never well and "I'm not the only one". During a depressive relapse, she kindly explained in front of the psychiatrist, all the excuses she had to make for me and that she wanted no further news of me until some time in the future. It was very difficult to listen to. I'm not spiteful at all; This is the first time I was.

How would you like your loved ones to behave with you?

Now that I know that only my children and my closest friends are going to be there and listen to me, I vary the ones I speak to, so that they do not "get tired " of me. I do not want to lose them, I also care for them.

I learned to control and mange the support. My family has the version: Sophie is fine.

What advice would you give to someone who is close to a person diagnosed with biopolar disorder?

My family rejected the hand that I offered them in trying to explain my illness, how to handle it, and how to help me.

"Do not despise anyone's sensitivity, the sensitivity of each one is their genius"
Charles Beaudelaire

I would advise the person close to a bipolar person to be informed, to call associations focused on mental health and / or biolar disorder, and to participate in the psychiatry care and education of the loved one. The more we know about the disease, the more we can help the one diagnosed.

What advice would you give to a bipolar person regarding their loved ones?

I'm sorry I thought they would always be there for me and that they would try to understand me. It still hurts me up to today. I would recommend turning to friends who are often more understandable. The associations, organizations, and patient support groups also help enormously. We understand each other very well and have a capacity for listening and a natural benevolence . A bipolar person will always be present for another bipolar person because we know the feelings and the right words to express it.

Anything else you would like to add?

The bipolar illness is stigmatized. It is a daily struggle, but if you take the time to understand the illness and find one person who supports you, life becomes much more beautiful and you can move forward with more serenity in your daily life .

Take the time to understand the illness and find one person who supports you... life becomes much more beautiful and you can move forward with more serenity in your daily life .

Members, please feel free to comment, ask questions, and thank this member for her testimonial.

avatar Louise Bollecker

Author: Louise Bollecker, Community Manager France

Community Manager of Carenity in France, Louise is also editor-in-chief of the Health Magazine to provide articles, videos and testimonials that focus on patients' experiences and making their voices heard. With a... >> Learn more


Lee__R • Community manager
on 2/14/19

Hello members, I hope you do not mind me tagging you, but I thought you may find this testimonial interesting. Feel free to comment, share, and ask questions here in the comment section.

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on 3/27/19

I can relate to you. I do not have bipolar, but I might as well... I suffer mood changes from when I am really depressed and ti affects my relationships with my family and friends also. I hardly go out anywhere with friends anymore.

on 12/30/21

@Lee__R I am bipolar one among other psychiatric issues, mostly due to 20 years of traumatic relationship with narcissistic type. I am currently suffering from a deep depression. I do have a talk therapist that I have known for about 5-6 months, and a psychiatrist who prescribes. As you may know, the road to the right meds can be difficult for some bipolar patients. We are working on it. My beloved companion of 10 years, a chocolate Labrador named Clara passed suddenly about  1.5 years ago and I just can't bear the loneliness without her. I am my Mom's caregiver 24/7 so it's not like I am alone. ALL of that being said, on a bad day the tears just leak out of me and my family says "oh she's having a Clara day", I am having a hard time of it helping my family to understand my bipolar condition even though I have lived at home as an adult for 10+ years! Sorry for the lengthy remarks. I guess I felt something as my family just doesn't get it. I am now 61 years of age...oh my goodness I don't see them "getting it" any time soon and I long for them to understand. Thank you for listening.

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