View Full Version : Non-bipolar person trying to understand

05-15-12, 06:28 PM
I'm going to try and keep this as short as possible.

I have fairly severe ADHD, and a guy I've been seeing off and on for a year suffers from bipolar disorder. One of my good friends (and ex-roommates) also suffers from bipolar disorder, so I understand the general symptoms.

This guy that I've been seeing is not currently treating his condition. He is a high-functioning alcoholic who thinks he has to drink and use tons of recreational drugs to control his moods. Obviously, this just intensifies the condition, but he has to tell himself that lie so he can continue his addiction. I got him to admit once that he is an alcoholic, but getting him to admit that he needs help and support is another thing completely.

I know that his bipolar disorder can't be treated until he's been through detox and has began to treat his addiction. I'm trying to get him there. I've managed to convince him to quit caffeine (oddly enough), but that's about it. I've called around to various rehab centers to see which ones will take his insurance, but I'm afraid to bring the topic up because he tends to blow up.

I'm trying to identify his triggers and figure out how to tell when he's manic. I can tell when he's depressed, since he stops being able to talk and sleeps a lot. Mania is harder, though.

He has a strong sensitivity to touch (especially skin-to-skin) and I'm wondering if this is a mania symptom.

Once, he burst into my apartment one day during a manic episode. It was the first time I had seen (or recognized) mania in him. He was rambling about a minor work success from days ago (that I had already heard about) and was also pounding away at his computer. All attempts at a topic change were ignored. I put my hands on his arms and rubbed him really hard, and he immediately "brought him back"... he took a deep breath and said "wow, I'm manic right now, aren't I?"

This may or may not be related, but he LOVES lifting heavy things. Loves it. It puts the biggest smile on his face.

He also has sexual symptoms that seem to relate to touch - sometimes he gets aroused very easily, even with the slightest touch. Once, all I did was rub his belly, and his level of arousal was just incredible. He almost "finished", if I can put it that bluntly. I have to put clothes on after sex because if he touches me, he tries to initiate something, despite the fact that we're both spent. He can't seem to control it, so if I don't put clothes on, it's this endless cycle of him touching me and getting aroused, and me rebuking him over and over. It's frustrating for us both.

He has a pattern: he tends to show up drunk at my door at 2 a.m. on a Friday. He spends the weekend in bed with me, sleeping for most of the day and watching TV for the rest. He eats a lot, sometimes for the first time in 24 hours. He works in a corporate tech company environment that really stresses him out. He doesn't drink at all during this time, and you can see the improvement in his mood and personality (until withdrawal hits, anyway.) He starts to seem like himself again by Sunday,

He's really stressed out by technology and the constant expectation to communicate with people. He works for a fast-paced tech company, so he has to be constantly connected. The problem is, when he's overwhelmed by work communications, he cuts off everyone else. In between these "therapeutic" weekends, he won't return my calls. It's agony for me to see him like this.

The last time I pressed him to keep in touch with me, he broke things off with me because he said it was too overwhelming for him. I understand and want to respect that, but I'm sick with worry about what he will do without my support. He has repeatedly said that I'm the only person in his life that he's "let in" and allowed himself to relax around. That puts me in the position I'm in - I can watch him spiral out of control, but can only help him restore his emotional energy just enough so that he can do it all over again.

Any kind of emotional conversation seems to be physically painful for him. He's extraordinarily empathetic and sensitive, so I have to keep my own problems under wraps. I'm pretty depressed myself, but if I express that, he clamps down. It's hard to explain. He just can't even talk - he'll start a sentence, get stuck, and just hug me really tight. Articulating his emotions (or any emotions) seems to require him to experience them fully, and it's unbearable for him.

How can I approach this with someone who winces in pain when he talks about his feelings, and who is in total denial about addiction? I can't abandon him, but this is affecting me more every day.

05-16-12, 01:58 AM

i have a number of thoughts about your situation and some questions.

does he acknowledge being bipolar? since you say "manic" are you saying he's diagnosed bp1? how long has he been diagnosed? has he ever been treated? how long have you been together? any co existing conditions?

depending on your replies, and either way if you want to take this to private messaging, that's fine with me, i might respond that way though. i think if this is someone you're really invested in...who is capable of being invested in you...which...really think abouut that. if he's wanting to navigate this with you...or if he's unwilling to let you in. i get how tough it is to want to help someone ...but i really...i cautino you about .......ok

bottom line: you can't hold yourself responsible for his moods. if, and only if, he's wanting to figure out how you two can work together is that possible. and it's a tough road. not an impossible one at all, but you're never going to be able to figure out how to avoid "triggering" this or that unless he WANTS you to and desires treatment and working out how to cope with his condition AND wants you to be part of that.

from what you've written...i'm unsure that's the case. i would say i disagree with your suspicion that the addictino issues must be treated "before" the bipolar can be addressed. but neither can be addressed until he wnts them to be. if he's cycling...

better way to put it: research repeatedly shows the best prognosis requires finding and maintaining balance/stability. and that, if bipolar, requires mood stabilizers of some sort. continuingg to cycle can have disastrous consequences. mania is very attractive, particularly given it coming on after depression. but repeatedly cycling, especially doing things to induce cycling up, can lead to more problems, not the least of which is treatment resistance.

anyway, those are my thoughts for now. i'll await yor further reply.

cheers, and good luck to you :)

05-20-12, 03:03 PM
It isn't possible to treat bipolar disorder and addiction separately. Most professionals don't feel comfortable making a diagnosis of bipolar while someone is actively addicted to drugs (because symptoms of drug use can mimic depression and/or mania) but once it's established that someone has bipolar disorder, trying to treat them separately is fruitless. They feed into each other in such a vicious cycle that you cannot treat them as separate conditions, you almost have to treat the addiction as a symptom of bipolar disorder. (This is coming from a person with bipolar disorder, and a family full of individuals with both bipolar disorder and addictions.)

In bipolar disorder addictions are almost always (in my experience) a form of self-medication, often trying to bring yourself up. When someone is depressed, they want a lift. When they're manic, they want even MORE of a lift because they're manic. When they're mixed, they just want it all to stop, how doesn't matter. Alcohol is a depressant that works on a bell curve - you feel "better" until you hit a point, and then you just start feeling worse and worse. You can literally imagine a little roller coaster car on a bell curve, going up and up with each drink, then crashing once you hit a certain point. The beginning of the curve, down at ground level, is "sober and depressed." The other end of the curve would be "even more depressed, if conscious, but most likely just black-out drunk."

I have ADHD and bipolar disorder, and I dated a man for a while with bipolar disorder. We were both untreated at the time, and it was intense. If you can imagine soaking a firework stand in gasoline and then launching a flamethrower at it, that is a fairly accurate metaphor for our relationship. If we were both up, the world was the sun. If we were both down, light could not exist. If one was up and the other was down, we weren't even on the same planet. He was more likely to be up, and I was more likely to be down. In hindsight I recognize that the only reason I was even in that relationship was because he understood my moods, because we were both so troubled. It was not a healthy relationship at all.

Of the two of us, I came to terms with my illness first. I sought treatment and began recovering and getting my life back. He did not. I was like you in that I really, really wanted to help him. I wanted to do anything I could to help him, because I was getting better and I could see that with the right help, there is hope, and life can be so much better. I wanted more than anything for him to see that too.

I tried to connect him with mental health services. I tried to get him to stop using drugs and drinking. I tried to help him get a job (and stay employed). I was his therapist, his social worker, his job counselor, I tried to be everything for him to get him on the right track, because I loved him so much.

Hear me clearly when I tell you this: You cannot help him if he does not take the initiative to help himself.

You can't. Period. Ever. You will reunite North and South Korea before you can make him accept help if he does not take the initiative and want it for himself. You may be able to convince him to try rehab, but until he is doing it for himself (not you), it won't work. He might be sober a few weeks or months, and he might take his medication for a little while, but if he isn't doing it for himself then he won't stick with it. He'll stop the meds, he'll start drinking again, and he will fall right back into the same pattern.

I watched my bipolar uncle bounce in and out of rehab for over 20 years before he finally got help for himself. Not for his wife, not even for his kids, but for himself. He had to get to a point where he valued his life enough to take control and try to fix it. If you're living for someone else, you're not living. You're just phoning it in, and that will not keep anyone on the track to sobriety and recovery.

I understand how much you want to help this guy, because I've been on both sides of it. But I'm telling you now, and please listen, you cannot make him receive help that he does not want, and even if you manage to wrangle him into it, it won't stick unless he decides that he is doing it for himself.

The best thing you can do right now is step back and evaluate. You need to realize why you're doing this, and what you want out of your life. This relationship doesn't sound healthy for you, because nothing about him is healthy right now. Sometimes doing the best thing for yourself doesn't mean staying with the person you love. Sometimes it means ending that relationship - maybe not permanently, maybe just until they are in a better place, but maybe permanently - and addressing your own needs and concerns. You have to love and care for yourself first.