When Family and Friends Aren't Sympathetic

Lynne Taetzsch Health Guide
  • I’ve heard a number of my bipolar friends complain that members of their family are not sympathetic and understanding of their illness. It may be one particular member or all of them, but the attitudes range from acting as if those of us with bipolar are “faking it,” to getting angry when we can’t participate in activities that might be harmful to us, like drinking alcohol or staying up late at parties.

    It is certainly irritating and hurtful when family or friends treat us without respect and understanding. It took a long time for me to get my husband to realize that being bipolar is a real illness and that I have to monitor myself in order to stay healthy. He still has a hard time not taking things personally when I am depressed and irritated. He tends to blame himself and to wonder what he did wrong, when it has nothing to do with him.
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    As for my five brothers and sisters, I don’t discuss my illness with most of them. They don’t ask and I don’t tell. But I do have one sister who is interested, and I can call her and vent when I’m having a hard time. She is always sympathetic, and I consider myself lucky to have her.

    So if you have at least one person who is sympathetic, count your blessings and forget about changing the others. Once you’ve made a sincere attempt to communicate and been rebuffed, there’s no point in letting your family’s insensitivity get you down.

    There are many reasons why our families may not accept that we have a mental illness. It may be easier for them to think we are acting out or simply not exercising enough will-power to control our behavior. In any case, their ignorance is their problem. We can’t change them, but we can change our reaction to them. For a great book that will help with this project, read LOVING WHAT IS by Byron Katie. It helped me a lot!

Published On: November 06, 2006