Ask Lizzie

How to Love & Understand a Bipolar Person

I made this video in 2017 called: “How to love & understand someone who has bipolar disorder” At 70,000 views, it has helped countless people learn how to support their family member, friend or significant other who has bipolar!

Through the years, I’ve responded to hundreds of DMs/emails asking me for specific advice on this. Typically, it involves someone dating/married to a bipolar person who is refusing treatment. My response is always similar. Here is a recent comment I got on the video asking a question I’ve gotten A LOT! Below is the response I give in my 1-on-1 messages 💛

I re-watched this recently and had a similar reaction as you, I was shocked how intense and complex it is. I filmed this when I was manic and newly diagnosed, so I would make a different video now, 4 years later.

That being said, there are a lot of truths to what I said. Here is how to understand them:

1. Care for a bipolar person absolutely needs to be a group effort. You are right, 1 person CANNOT do it alone. It requires a community: the parents, siblings, significant other, several best friends, a therapist and psychiatrist. If you are the ONLY caretaker for a bipolar person, it will not work. You will not be strong enough and that says nothing about how selfless or loving you are. Recruit your boyfriend’s parents, siblings and friends. They NEED to help. Ask his parents/siblings/friends to attend therapy appointments with him. Send them books and articles and youtube videos so they can educate themselves. They have known him much longer than you and need to be doing more than you are.
2. If someone in your life has bipolar (or any mental illness), you should go to regular therapy. Your needs absolutely need to be taken care of. It is overwhelming and takes a toll on you. A therapist will help you process everything and teach you how to practice self care and maintain your identity within it.

3. It will get better! The episodes and constant changing of meds is temporary. When bipolar first comes out, it is complete chaos. It is overwhelming for the bipolar person to process. Getting on the right meds could take many months, even up to a year. But this will NOT be forever. The “chaos stage” for me lasted a year and a half. I was not in a romantic relationship at the time, which looking back I’m grateful for. I would NOT have wanted to put that much pain and trauma on a romantic partner. Once the bipolar person is on the right meds and has gone to enough therapy and cried enough, it will be extremely chill. I forget I’m bipolar all the time, because I just take my meds at night and that’s it. I don’t have strong symptoms or episodes anymore.

4. It is a NON negotiable, that he has to stay on meds for you to be together. My fiancé told me this before we started dating. He said we will break up if I go off my meds. It is the most loving thing he has ever done for me, because that accountability of keeping me on meds has kept me happy & healthy. I did go off 1 of my meds eight months into our relationship and he told me I had to go back on. Because of his passion and intensity, I thankfully did. Currently, I haven’t gone off for 4 years. I have changed my meds a few times through the year, but under the counsel of my psychiatrist. Going into our marriage, we both know that I will stay on meds. That’s the ONLY way to maintain a healthy relationship with a bipolar person.
5. If your boyfriend is refusing treatment and you have tried to help him so many times for months but it isn’t working, you need to walk away. There’s NOTHING you can do to help him if he is refusing to go to therapy and refusing to be medicated by a psychiatrist. You are enabling an addiction (craving mania is a chemical addiction, it’s why bipolar people go off meds) by staying with him. Imagine if he was an alcoholic or addicted to heroine and refusing treatment, would you stay with him? No. It would only make it worse. This is heartbreaking for partners of bipolar people to hear, but it’s the truth. It is extremely common: most DMs and comments I get about bipolar from their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife involve this: the bipolar person refuses to believe they’re bipolar, will not go to therapy and will not stay on medication. Often they refuse to even talk about it. Definitely be persistent for a couple months, but if nothing is changing, the best thing to do (for you AND for him) is walk away and breakup with him.
6. Some people will not be a good partner to a bipolar person. Even with help from a community and therapy sessions for yourself and the bipolar person staying on meds to fully comply with treatment, there are very specific needs that a significant other will need to provide for the bipolar person and you might not be able to meet their needs. You might never be a person who can be with a bipolar significant other longterm and that says nothing about how selfless or loving you are. Everyone has different personality types and different dating preferences and that’s normal! My fiancé is very intense emotionally and my huge emotions are not “too much” for him. He is fine with calling me many mornings to wake me up, doesn’t get annoyed at reminding me to take my meds or eat, and helps me with the logistics of my health insurance. He has known other bipolar people and so this isn’t new to him.
Hope this helps!! Much love to you 💛💛💛

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I'll keep you updated on my life + the new content I'm releasing! Personal stories, my favorites of the month (books, saints, videos, bible verses). You'll be the first to know the topics of my future videos & livestreams! Also: how you can pray for me 😃🙏

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