From the other side of Bipolar Disorder

Hello all,
I am a woman living with bipolar disorder, diagnosed at age 17. My mom has always been incredibly supportive, occasionally (well, ok - more than occasionally!) crossing the invisible line to being over-supportive. She associates love with purchases, and 'fixing' problems. While this is great on occasion, in the long run it is more harmful than helpful!

About 10 years ago, I was in full-on crisis mode, repeated hospitalizations, suicide attempts, drug use, maxed out credit cards, homelessness... you name it. My mom bailed me out so many times I can't even count them. She has paid my rent, has come to live with me so that she knew that I was eating properly, has paid off my credit cards and so on...

While I sometimes felt guilty for taking her help, I believed that I was not able to get myself out of these situations without someone else taking full control of my life. Near the end of this period, my mom started to get counselling for herself, and one of the things her counsellor told her was (along these lines - obviously I'm paraphrasing) 'let your daughter make mistakes. Yes, she has a mental illness, but she's an adult. She will learn to make healthier choices through experience - even though it hurts to see her fall flat on her face time and time again'.

Boy, can I tell you that this was great advice! I did make many mistakes, and continue to do so... but I am now confident that I can fix my own problems, that even with an illness I am capable of living my own life. Sometimes it's messy. Sometimes I look at my massive credit card bills and wonder how I will ever be able to dig my way out. But I can, on my own, and this is something that I'm proud of. I am responsible for my own messy life and the decisions that I make, both good and bad. This has helped me to gain control of my recovery, and my mom and I have a great relationship now. I respect her, and she respects me.

So, it's hard (probably harder than I can imagine) to watch someone you love make poor decisions. Sometimes the consequences of these decisions are what helps us learn how to make better decisions next time.

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Dec 25, 2010
by: Don

Hi and thank you for your confirmation of the tough love approach...You are an inspiration!

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