General Question

Shippy's avatar

If you had/have a partner or SO, that suffered from mental illness?

Asked by Shippy (9857 points ) February 22nd, 2013

If you are currently involved with a person who is suffering mental illness, or have been in the past I would appreciate your experience with the following:

Did you take time to find out about their illness? Did you then take steps to assist them in their recovery? In which ways? How did you for example handle volatile situations? Did you respond angrily or were you patient? Or did you decide to leave them with no further thought on the matter. If this is the case did you in fact love them?

I ask this question for another person, not myself. Who is battling bipolar and their SO could maybe do with some advice. (In a place where there is little advice I think). I am leaning toward asking her to go for counseling to assist her in her own struggles with it currently. I understand the ‘patient’ needs to sort themselves out, but there is a tendency for one to think that once the person does that; all is well. Whereas I personally feel both partners need help and assistance. Any feedback appreciated.

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20 Answers

MollyMcGuire's avatar

First thing that jumped out at me was “assist them in their recovery.” Mental illness is not something to go into detox and come out OK. Serious illnesses like Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Schizophrenia are not illnesses from which you “recover.” Some people learn to live with them through intense psychotherapy along with serious drugs. Others never get there and exist in and out of dark places and in and out of institutions.

If you date someone with mental illness you need to let them be honest with you about their illness. You have to educate yourself——asking questions on Fluther is not an education. It’s a long and hard road. The big thing is patience and knowledge. Find a lot of both.

Judi's avatar

Unfortunately my first husbands bipolar proved fatal.
Not sure if my advice would be that great since nothing I did was able to save his life.
I just saw this question and don’t have tome to answer every point but I will come back to it tomorrow.

Shippy's avatar

@Judi Thanks. Perhaps even having learned from that experience? I have a very supportive partner in my life. My son however does not, but simply because of not finding out enough about the illness I think. At the moment because they are not open about him being ill, I am their port of call. Of course I have suggested all the routine methods. But I just feel both partners need to know as much as they can. So any thoughts appreciated.

XOIIO's avatar

@Judi Wow, bipolar can be fatal? I didn’t know that, and sorry to hear it.

Shippy's avatar

@XOIIO Yes, indeed. Suicide is very common with it. Sometimes no matter what family or friends do it doesn’t help. I guess we want to try our best to avoid this. I am going to do a bit of googling to see if I can find anything. And since there is no support in their area maybe open an online support for spouses and partners. @Judi Yes, I am sorry to hear that.

Unbroken's avatar

I experienced this problem with a man I was seeing. It wasn’t that serious. And his problems were. I tried to take an interest be helpful learn more tried to take some time to let him express himself and what he was going through. Ultimately he needed counseling and probably medication. He was fearful of being diagnosed and drugged. I understood those fears but when he was unwilling to budge and was progressively getting worse I had to leave.

I think a support group is a valuable tool. A partner should be willing and want to learn more about your condition and be able to have an ongoing exchange about it. However one person can’t shoulder all the weight all the time even when you are willing to take the appropriate steps.

We don’t have all the knowledge the insight a counselor can provide and sometimes medication is necessary. If one person has to be the caretaker of themselves the other person and the relationship it is bound to be unhappy. Unhappy relationships will undoubtedly cause stress that fuel the dysfunction. But not leaning on the person at all or trusting them renders the relationship equally useless and unhealthy.

My experience is limited that is all I can offer. Hopefully your friend can work toward something in between those two extremes. I wish I could be more helpful.

josie's avatar

My ex wife was crazy. Assuming that is a sort of diagnosis

janbb's avatar

My best guy friend now is bipolar along with a host of other problems. He had been down to the bottom long before I knew him and has educated himself and is very disciplined about his needs and boundaries. I love him very much and I have had to work hard on my own needs and issues in order to maintain safety for him – and to be able to continue a very rewarding and loving friendship. My own therapist has helped me immeasurably in that so yes, I think the SO needs a lot of counseling too. I am always trying to learn more about mental illness in order to understand and function better in the friendship.

filmfann's avatar

Am I married to someone that suffers from mental illness? No, but my wife is.
She ignores it, because I manage it pretty well.

wundayatta's avatar

Yeah, @XOIIO, actually bipolar is fatal in 20% of cases. It’s pretty bad. The thing is that people take their own lives, so most people don’t think of it as being a killer like the way pancreatic cancer is. With cancer, it’s the disease killing you. With bipolar, you kill you because you can’t cope with the pain. No one can imagine what the pain is like unless they have experienced it. Trust me. You never want to experience it. Those of us who do are living with a sword of Damocles over our heads, never knowing when it might fall.

My spouse did a lot of things for me. She heard me talk about being unfaithful and instead of kicking me out, she took me to a doctor. I never would have gone to a doctor on my own. By that time I was too far gone. I was nearly ready to die. But first, I wanted to destroy everything else in my life: my family, my job my home, my friends. My wife fought very hard to prevent me from destroying it all. I don’t know why.

She made sure I got to a psychiatrist, and to do that, she pulled every string she could get her hands on. There weren’t any psychiatrists who could see me for months, and she talked to a friend of ours who realized I probably wouldn’t last for months. She gave us a recommendation of a psychiatrist who was a researcher and might see me right away. He did.

My wife kept all her pain bottled up for more than a year while she focused on getting me better. Again, this doesn’t make sense to me, and when I hear about how most people recommend dumping someone who is bipolar because their problems aren’t worth it, it amazes me that my wife was able to stick with me and make sure I got better before she allowed herself to deal with her own problems.

She also took half the responsibility for our problems. I think this is very important. It says it isn’t just one person’s responsibility for all the problems in a relationship. It says she plans to work hard, too, not just blame the other for it, and sit back and wait for them to change. For, I guess it was about our relationship, not just me.

My wife takes care of my pills now. She watches me. She tries to be supportive but without being my mother. She knows it could happen again at any moment. There are no guarantees. She knows I work very hard to stay stable. I try to keep some of my difficulties from her because I know she worries a lot, and it is hard for me to see her worry when I don’t think worry is necessary.

I see a lot of couples in my group who manage to keep the relationships together. I don’t know how they do it, because they never seem to talk about how it works in the relationship. It’s all about the bipolar person. But then, that’s what the group seems to be for. Still, it would be nice to know what they think. Perhaps in order to be with a bipolar person, you have to take a more generous attitude towards them than most people are willing to take. Or maybe they are willing because they truly believe their partner is worth it.

Shippy's avatar

@wundayatta Thank you. Just really had a negative day yesterday where a psychologist recommended kicking my son to the curb so to speak. I just found him (the psychologist to be quite misinformed as far as I am concerned in regards to bipolar).

He was adamant that alcohol and addiction is never found in bipolar? How odd. Also said that he had worked 17 years a consultant to a major psychiatric hospital for 17 years, and his experience of bipolar people were like that of ‘zombies’. In half way houses and would more than likely bite your hand when you offered it as opposed to shaking it.

I told him three times that I was BP so was my father, and I have a brother who was severely mentally ill. But he still didn’t know I was BP, until I told him a fourth time. This probably makes no sense but there I had to get that off my chest.

Judi's avatar

I was very young when my husband died. He was 26 and I was 28. We had 3 kids and he had just lost his job.
I had actually worked in a psychiatric hospital. This was before modern medications. Prozac hadn’t eve been invented yet. At the time I felt like I did everything I could to help him. I had a job with great insurance.
Sometimes I yelled back. It was a really volatile relationship. The love was passionate as was the anger. I wanted to leave, we ven had a trial separation, but I felt like I was his lifeline. After he died his mother told me, “I just think that if it was really that bad one of hou should have left.” She didn’t realize that I stayed to try to KEEP him alive.
Fas forward 15 years and our son is afflicted with the same illness.
It was awful going through the same scary symptoms, several suicide attempts, volatile outbursts in school leading to suspension, expulsion, and even a couple of weeks in juvenile hall.
The resources I found helpful were were the community network at NAMI. (National Alliance for Mentally Ill) I won’t go into the long painful path it took to get him appropriate medical help, but I had to fight like a bull dog and it cost several hundred thousand dollars.
NAMI has a “Family to Family” program that was really helpful for my current husband to understand that it is a brain disorder and not just a bratty kid. He is now older than his father was when he died so that is a great mile stone.
He has a really good job that provided insurance from day one, but I am afraid he may be messing that up. The saga continues. There are good days and bad days. My son is married to a woman who is very conscious of nutrition as it is related to mental health and they are both in counseling. He is on medication but he no longer tells me what he’s on.
This may be more information than you wanted, but there it is.

filmfann's avatar

@Judi, I am sorry for your pain through all this, and I hate to ask this, but your story is quite informative. What was the exact cause of his death?

Shippy's avatar

@Judi I so hear you. It’s strange too, my son is with a girl who is also very aware of nutrition. He really was seeming to cope better with life the last year or so but has taken a huge fifty steps back since his dad passed away. I feel his dad thought for him, supported him (financially) and emotionally far too much. The loss is so huge like a gaping hole. I think we are in crises which I did say yesterday to his girl friend could be a good thing, since now my son was ready to accept help. But that went sort of pear shaped yesterday by a strange psychologist. (When I had hoped that he would be seen by a psychiatrist). He released my son from hospital.

I was so desperate last night, that at 1am since I could not sleep, he had been released from hospital and he and his girl friend were not in a good frame of mind. That I prayed. I rarely do pray actually. But handed him over to God. Because I have really run out of energy at this point. Oddly (!) today his girl friend phoned me and said they are going to church tomorrow. (Which is even more strange since my son is an avid atheist as is she). I guess desperate measures or divine intervention? I just feel they need as much support as they can get from whoever they can get it from.

I’m sorry for your loss (again). But I know as a sufferer myself, once you have made up your mind to do that, it’s good as done and no one can stop you. I do find talking helps me to a friend. I have one friend who understands me and I talk to him. He puts up with my out bursts and all. But I plan to change that once I relocate, as I feel friends can only put up with so much. I will be seeing psychologists and attending groups. :)) So I am responsible.

Judi's avatar

@filmfann He shot himself in our bedroom closet.
@Shippy, I am so sorry. This is so hard. NAMI also has a peer to peer program that was very empowering for my son. It helped him to take control of his own health care and understand his rights. You and your son both might want to check it out. His girlfriend might want to go to one of the family to family workshops.

Shippy's avatar

@Judi Is it available in Southern Africa? No train smash. I have given them SADAG’s details who have at times been helpful to me.

Judi's avatar

I don’t know. I forgot you were international. I don’t think so. :-(

antimatter's avatar

My ex wife did, she was mentally unstable had to see a psychologist for her continues paranoia. Funny thing is she ended up cheating on me…
Will never be involved with another woman who have pills in her bathroom.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s amazing when the specialists don’t understand very well. How can we expect the amateurs to understand? Amateurs, at least, probably won’t have the big egos about about educated they are. Psychiatrists often seem to think they know better than those who experience the problems.

But those who are involved with us probably take it personally. Like we cheat on them after they have been so nice as to love us. Like no one else would love us, so how could we repay them that way? We’re just bad news. Shouldn’t no one get involved with us. We don’t follow rules. We don’t have any gratitude. We’re nuts. (This is ironic, folks).

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