Compassion for Those Who Love People with Mental Illness

Rarely, if ever, do people accuse me of having a lack of compassion for people with a mental illness. This is probably because I am a person with a mental illness so I kind of know where other mentally ill people are coming from.

Nevertheless, this is exactly what one commenter recently did:

This is a tragic post because the writer is incapable of honoring the struggle of a human being who is in pain. Rather than muster empathy, compassion and problem-solving, she shuts out the people who need her most. There is something wrong with America when families send their loved ones to prison or institutions when what they need most is the love and support of their community.

The commenter is referring to a post wherein I suggested that sometimes the right thing to do is to say goodbye to a person with a mental illness. Particularly in cases where a person is abusive and refuses to get help, sometimes walking away is the only thing left to do in order to protect your own life. I stand by this sentiment.

Compassion, Empathy and Problem-Solving

And for the record, I’m all for employing empathy, compassion and problem-solving in all aspects of life and of course when dealing with a mental illness. That’s why I’ve written about helping people with a mental illness and telling someone they have a mental illness and convincing someone to get help with a mental illness.But empathy, compassion and problem-solving have limits. None of us is superhuman. And people with a mental illness aren‘t the only ones deserving of compassion.

Compassion for People around Those with a Mental Illness

And the thing this commenter has completely failed to take into account is that compassion is needed for those that deal with the mentally ill as well.  If you read the comments on this post you will read about heartbreaking tales of people who have tried everything they can think of and yet are still in a situation where the mentally ill person they love is still refusing help, or cannot get help, or is abusive, or is downright scary. These people are dealing with a whirling dervish of chaos in the best way they know how.

Sometimes Leaving is Best

And as I told one commenter, sometimes removing an unhealthy, overdeveloped bond between a person with a mental illness and their loved one can give the mentally ill person a chance to shine on their own. Sometimes it takes the removal of a backstop to find out how powerful we are. That is a human trait all over.

Leaving a Person with a Mental Illness is Painful

Compassion for Family of Mentally Ill

And something else this commenter glossed over is this: very few want to leave a person with a mental illness. Most people are trying to avoid doing just that and that’s why they’re talking to me. They want to problem-solve. They have compassion. They have empathy. It’s just that in their case there may be no solution that leaves the mentally ill person in their lives, or in their homes.

And make no mistake, loved ones rail against this notion.  The want to help and protect their loved ones. It’s just that we can’t always do that and preserve our own sanity.

Advocating for the Mentally Ill Means Advocating for those that Love them Too

So yes, while I advocate for people with a mental illness every day, part of my job is advocating for those that love a person with a mental illness too – because mental illness itself affects more than just the person who is sick. And the people who love someone with a mental illness no more deserve to have their lives ruined than does the sick person themselves.

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About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

  1. Goodness, this is heart-wrenching stuff to read.
    My soul-shattering, utterly confusing, traumatizing, and guilt-inducing situation is so similar to others on here.
    Ex-husband has longstanding Dependent Personality Disorder with strong Borderline, Anti-social, Narcissistic, and Obsessive Compulsive features, combined with late effect of left-frontal lobe traumatic brain injury. No one can really figure out which of all those things came first, but they have reason to believe part of the fronto-temporal disorders were congenital, the PD’s were due to childhood trauma and alcoholic/abusive parent chaos, and the TBI probably resulted from behavior due to the early onset of these PD’s and alcohol abuse (self-medicating by age 13). And TBI’s have a way of locking PD’s into place and making them worse.
    All that said, after his 5-1/2 year sexual affair with another man’s wife in our own home and bed, in spite of always being so dependent on me and supposedly me being “the best thing that ever happened to him,” and “loving me so much” and in spite of me telling him my stories of previous infidelity from others and how devastating it was for me, and pleading with him to not do it to me and let me find out the hard way, he did it anyway. I won’t go into the details, but the details of it demonstrated a lack of empathy and self-control that was literally like it was an alter personality. It was also continued in the midst and after we finally went to counseling for our other issues, which were substantial: explosive anger, verbal abuse, inappropriate behaviors at work (multiple times), lying, lack of initiative and future-planning ability, communication issues, more self-medicating, promise-breaking, extreme insecurity, and seeming inability to walk forward into the future in meaningful ways, regardless of the extreme need and changed circumstances. I never understood any of all of this until after D-day…just didn’t realize WHY the issues were so intractable.
    Since “D-day” almost 4 years ago, he attempted suicide, spiraled into dysthymia and chronic depression/OCD/perseveration, psychosis, and relapsed into severe alcoholism. I have a file folder six inches thick from trying to get help for him. Thank God he was able to get SSD on the first try. He’s been with me or in 3 different apartments during this time. Every time he is with me, he pretty much insists upon trying to drink himself to death on the couch…and that’s been multiple times. The last one was harrowing….even when he was vomiting blood, he wouldn’t call 911…but harassed me non-stop, even all night long, to go get him alcohol…couldn’t talk or get up to the bathroom for 4 days, then could suddenly talk, sit up, and everything just fine when (30 mins later) I got the EMT’s and police to come…enough to point at me and say in perfectly clear speech, “You f-ing bi#@%, you destroyed my life,” six times in a row, in front of police and EMT’s.
    He’s threatened to kill me a number of times. He’s thrown down furniture and kicked the door in (narrowly missing breaking my arm), and has threatened me with a knife (because I asked him why he invited me to play a game but then never stepped out to allow me to play! That’s all…no anger or mean words…just a question!!!). Oh…but he’s never actually HIT me (which prompted a man in my fellowship to suggest that it wasn’t actually abuse, then). When he’s drinking, his verbal abuse of me is non-stop….literally. Blames me…says that I “Killed him” with all my anger and horrible words after D-day and with things I had to write to explain to doctors and psychologists (unfortunately he got ahold of them). Has REPEATEDLY refused any and all treatment attempts. Won’t take meds unless managed by someone else (like the nursing home where he is staying at the moment after falling and breaking his arm and having two more esophageal bleeds…passed out in the line at the market with a beer in his hand…after vomiting blood all over his bed).
    WILL NOT take care of his own medical care, mental health, financial matters…probably actually
    CANNOT….Oh yeah…repeatedly threatens to kill the other woman (swears to GOD he will), and has actually gone to her house and threatened her and her husband. REFUSES to let me manage medication for him. Repeats the same things over and over all day, every day. Complains that he can’t control his money (dad is mandatory rep payee) or his dad won’t let him have his car key, but he will make NO STEPS toward taking or demonstrating control for himself, and drove the car into the wall at the supermarket and wrecked it….regularly drives REALLY drunk…and yes, we call the police. He HATES us for that, but what else can we do? Always brings up how my initial reaction and the letter was so hard on him, but won’t accept ANY of my efforts to make up for it and help him. The “forgiveness” part of his brain doesn’t seem to work. Talks constantly about every bad thing anyone has done or said to him all his life…but CANNOT let it go or even speak in “future tense,” ever.

    Please don’t anyone try to make suggestions or ask me, “Have you tried….?” The answer is “yes.” I know about all of it. We could get guardianship and force him, but realistically, even then he still has “choice.” We can force treatment, but there’s no guarantee that it will work, especially when “imposed.” And he can also sign a simple form and object to the taking away of his rights…..this is the only avenue we haven’t done yet.

    Does it sound like I love him?

    And by the way, the little bit of details of actions and behaviors I’ve told you are only the TIP of that iceberg….about 1% of what has happened that makes no sense….The day to day details would curl your hair….
    I have PTSD now….and yes, I’m in treatment. Over two years with usually no more than 3 hours of sleep a night, and I’m a teacher. Thank God I can sleep again. People tell me, “You just have to not dwell on it.. You have to keep your mind off it and let go of what you can’t change. Give it to God,” etc, etc. I am indeed a woman of faith, but when the thing is wrapped around your face and heart, and there is no resolution, and you feel responsible if this person dies by their own choices…well, there is just no keeping your mind off it. But I try.
    So….
    Should the mother who was stabbed to death by her own son in a bathtub in So. California, and whose husband had to shoot their own son in the backyard….should they NOT have stopped letting him in their house? He had been institutionalized many times. Should my friend’s friend who was recently murdered by the psychotic boyfriend who was stalking her and calling her constantly have NOT broken up with him and kicked him out of her house (which precipitated his stalking and her murder?)….should she have just let him continue to dwell in her midst and abuse and terrorize her? Should the poor mentally ill loved one who can’t stop terrorizing the children be allowed to stay in the home with them?

    So, we get them safe housing to keep ourselves safe and sane, but then they drive everybody crazy where they live, steal things, refuse to leave people’s apartments, constantly beg and panhandle from them, urinate and pass out drunk in the “common room,” and so on. And yes, the police have been involved NUMEROUS times….they always say they can’t do anything until he commits a crime or becomes a danger to himself or others, but then he does those things and they keep him 8 hours and let him out (because they aren’t equipped to deal with mental illness or serious alcohol withdrawal). You would not believe the things he has done to bring in the police. Oh…I forgot about the death threat that shut down our local TV station. Even when he tried to get to jail, he couldn’t.

    Now to the “elephant in the room” that hardly anyone on these blogs or comment boards ever seems to want to talk about: the death of our ill loved ones. That’s really what we’re all scared of, right? Aren’t we afraid that they will die, and we will feel guilty because they were alone when it happened, or their “potential” for life is now gone? But wait…If your loved one had terminal, inoperable, very painful cancer, are you desperately going to try to keep that poor person alive in their excruciating suffering? To what end? So YOU won’t feel “guilty?” What?
    When people DON’T have a faith/belief system that allows for eternity and the continuation of the spirit, I can understand (a little) what’s at the root of that fear. You think this is all there is. I don’t believe that. I want’ my ill ex-husband to be well, at peace, and most of all, relieved of his intense suffering. And believe me, forgiveness was there and well-demonstrated. I did, however, have reasonable expectations: marital counseling, commitment to therapy, full evaluation, structures in place to assist me, and most of all, acceptance by him of the issues. I wanted a bit of separation (supported of course)….because he was so dependent and had never actually lived on his own, we wanted to help him recover some of his dignity and learn to take care of himself. Bottom line, we needed to know what would happen to him if we died or got sick. We were right there with him. No matter where he was or what we did, he spiraled out of control and would not (or could not) commit and do the work. If I take him back in my home now, with none of those things in place (keeping in mind, who would want to be married to someone who treats them this way?), what WILL happen to him if I die or get ill? I think I know in his case, he would again spiral and would probably drink himself to death or commit suicide within a month. Or there is this sick scenario: After he drains the life from me and his dad, and we’re no longer even there to help him, he finally realizes he’s on his own and decides to get the help he needs. But, I’ll be dead. Cool. All the people i could have helped in my life will not get my help….but hey, as long as HE felt loved and secure to my end….sigh. No.

    Death is not a terrible thing….it happens to all of us.
    In my state, we have right to die….but guess what? NOT for the mentally ill. Awesome….my brain is permanently broken, uncontrollable, causing me excruciating torment and pain, and it’s trying to kill me and is a threat to the health and safety of others…but you insist that I cannot decide to leave this world safely and peacefully. Thanks a lot. You do know the brain is an organ, right?

    And why would I want to see this person live out the rest of their life in an institution? Heaven is better. God is merciful to the weak and the lame.

    Believe me, this is far from “resolved” in my mind and heart. It’s the worst thing ever….I cannot believe the depth of grief and suffering here…and our “system” cannot seem to help us.

    Right now, I’m maintaining no contact, which is terribly sad because he’s sitting in the nursing home. Contact with me doesn’t help. Finally (after I “demanded” it) the fellowship community of men around me has stepped in and are visiting and talking with him every day. Funny, they were the ones always telling me to “step away,” but then they didn’t “step in” to alleviate his lonliness or assist me and his dad in any way. I had to get pretty firm and direct with them, and they are now stepping in. They will likely soon confront the brick wall that his dad and I have already hit many times. My heart goes out to them. At least they are doing their best on the spiritual part. I kind of think they’re focusing too much on that right now….he already has a simple faith and understanding….it’s all he’s capable of.

    I’m not afraid to say i hope he goes home soon. If not, of course I hope and pray he will get well again or get support structure under him. There are 7 billion people on this planet. I cannot possibly be the one and only answer to his problems. I hope he finds love and happiness again. And I hope it’s not with me, but if it has to be, then it’s got to be DO-able. If it’s not DO-able, it can’t be done. Duh.

    I’m walking on. i’m on the sidelines, as always, trying to do what I can to get the right info to the right people at the right time, but I cannot let this person continue in this pattern with me at the center. Insanity is when you keep doing the same things and expecting a different result.

    Love covers a lot in this earthly life, but God’s love covers it all. where we actually cannot. His mercy endures forever.

    • Dear Kristen,

      I’m really sorry for your situation.
      Its a heartbreaking situation that you are in and I can really feel the distress that you are in.
      It is a very difficult and unique situation with your husband because with a person who has no cognitive impairment -the advice is usually that they should take personal responsibility for actions.
      However,with your husband,im not sure that he has the awareness/capacity for personal responsibility.
      He also appears to lack the capacity to have empathy for yours and others feelings too.
      He needs someone to help him to learn how to perceive empathy and perspective taking-even if it is only on a very basic level due to his impairment.
      Its important that you understand that you are not personally responsible for him.
      Sometimes by feeling personally responsible,it can cause you to do things that could ultimately be counter productive to your husbands growth and in turn also keep you in abusive situations.
      I can tell from your comment that you are a caring and compassionate person and that’s a great thing as in this world it is sometimes rare.
      If you need somewhere to talk about your feelings and get advice,there is a good Australian online forum called Sane Forums which can be found here:
      http://saneforums.org/t5/Carers-Forum/ct-p/carers-forum
      Wish you all the best, Ann

  2. I just found this website today. Wish I had seen it several years ago, but maybe I wouldn’t have been ready. After another surreal experience in a hospital emergency room yesterday morning, I think I have finally had enough. I cannot think of anything else to do or say that hasn’t been done and said many times, all to no avail. The situation was so bad that the hospital security guard asked me if I wanted him to call a chaplain and then I realized he meant that the chaplain would be called to talk to me. I was yelled at by an emergency room nurse and told to get out of the way by a doctor. Of course, the hospital let him go although this time there was blood on the floor and physical evidence of self-harm. Just stitched him up and sent him on his psychotic way. For the first time in 6 years I am finally ready to say goodbye to a 22-year-old mentally-ill, addicted homeless child. And such a beautiful, sweet, smart and talented child he once was. Blond curly hair, big brown eyes, chubby cheeks and a bright and happy smile. Are there support groups for family members who have been forced to say good-bye in such heart-destroying circumstances? I feel so alone in this. It’s like an unacknowledged death in the family.

  3. I think the best helper to the spouses of the mentally ill, would be another spouse of the mentally ill. Not the mentally ill counsellor. Many spouses of the mentally ill would love to leave but it is heart-breaking for anyone to leave a long term marriage, whether mental illness is a part of it or not.

  4. Lisaanne,
    Thank u so much for ur show of care & support.. It is deeply appreciated! And I appreciate ur words of advise…
    I’ve asked him to seek marriage or couples counseling or even soft focused alternative therapies with me.. He refuses.. Gets angry… Anything that involves focusing on and trying to make him and us better – makes him angry.
    He lashed out again at me this morning.. Out of the blue… And in a rare occasion, I lashed back. Screaming back at him ‘Stop Screaming At Me! And well ur making me angry too! I am getting really sick and tired of being screamed at all the time!’ He looked at me dumbfounded.. As I rarely lash back.. Then even more angry and walked away. We haven’t spoken since… And probably won’t until he suddenly pretends nothing ever happened in the next day or two…
    I wish to God he would get help… I love him dearly… But I can’t survive a lifetime of this! I wish he would accept that he.. We.. Need help here… I don’t understand why he wouldn’t want to do anything and everything that can be done to live a healthy happy life??!!
    I’ve become almost entirely isolated now… There is literally no one I speak to very often… It has been months since speaking to the 2 friends I have left… This is partly to do with my medical condition, and partly due to the situation with my S/O. I found that when people asked how I was doing, what I was up to.. And I told them what was going on with me medically – because literally that is All that’s going on.. I’m disabled. I’m able to do more now with the new treatments thank God, but for the better part of 3 years I was pretty much bedridden. I found that people quickly turned off and tuned out. They spoke of how sorry they were I was going thru this… And then never heard back from them again. I stopped reaching out or responding when others did. I stopped using Facebook. I’ve recently been enjoying using Twitter for socializing, seeing a bit of the world via virtual travel thru others’ photos.. And it’s all pretty anonymous.. No one really knows me.. Knows I’m ill… It’s been a fun light hearted escape for me… And nice excercise in socializing… Talking with people who seem to like talking with me… Which I’ve been sorely missing. I had always been very outgoing, active and fairly popular… It’s a shock when u realize how shallow most friendships actually are when the going gets tough…
    Anyway.. I’ve gone on long enough.. And gotten totally off subject… The meds keep my brain whirling.. Sorry!?
    Thank u again for showing a complete stranger moments of care and kindness… So truly deeply appreciated! Namaste❤️??

    • Hi Wendy,

      Im glad you’ve found a way to socialise through twitter and not be as isolated.
      Have you also considered joining a support group for people who have illnesses or is that non existant in your area/country?
      Have you said to your husband marriage involves give and take and sacrifices and tried asking your husband whether he still wants to be married and what is his response to that?
      In otherwords do you think its a situation where he actually doesn’t want to be in the marriage anymore or do you rather think it is mood swings that are controlling his feelings and responses?
      Is he just opposed to psychiatrists and medication or is he opposed to anything at all that involves bettering himself and his marriage?
      Is he open to online support such as
      http://saneforums.org/t5/Lived-Experience-Forum/ct-p/lived-experience-forum
      http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/forum/activity.php
      For yourself,have you tried an Exercise Physiologist to see if they can help with your chronic pain:
      https://www.asep.org/

      Hope you have a good week.

  5. I deal with BPD and other Mental Problems and Life Has Been Very, Very Hard For Me But Also My Wife And Kids! I do all than I can to Help Myself which is very hard to do because The Pain Of Living Is To Much But I Still Try! What is So Hurtful To My Heart Is That My Christian Wife Looks At Me as Nothing And Says She Has Done All That She Can Do Which Is Not True If You Are Putting Someone Down, Not Showing The “Unconditional Love That “GOD” Talks About In The Bible, Letting A 12 Year Old Child Stand And Disrespect Her Father And Both Doing It Together And Putting Everyone Else Above With Words To Help And Support But Has No Problem Being Provided For With “GOD BEING THE SOURCE” And Me Being The Tool! My Wife Has Already Lost A Brother To Suicide And Knows That I Have Things With That Also But Really Does Not Care! What If The Family Member Lost Their Legs And That Causes Mental Problems Would You Just Leave Them? Would You Forget And Give Up On That Person Who Has Cancer And That Causes The Person To Have Mental Problems? How Would It Feel If “GOD” Would Just Cast You Away And Not Love Or Help You Anymore Because Of Sin In Your Life Even If You Did Not Cause It? “LOVE IS NOT LOVE WHEN A PERSON WILL BE THERE FOR YOU IN GOOD TIMES! REAL AND TRUE LOVE FOR A PERSON IS NOT JUST GIVEN WHEN THINGS ARE SO CALLED GOOD! AND REALLY IT IS NEEDED MORE DURING THE TIMES OF HURT, PAIN, SORROW AND DISPARE! Those Out There Who Do Receive That Unconditional And Compassion Type Of Love Are Very, Very BLESSED!

    • J,

      I feel really sorry for your situation.
      Clearly you are making an effort to address your illness.
      Instead of advising people to leave loved ones,perhaps people should be demanding (so called) health professionals receive better training in helping families deal with the stress and dysfunctions when a family member has a mental illness and also relationship + communication skills.
      It sounds like mental health staff are underdelivering in many cases,in which case members of the public should demand they don’t get paid-in the same way you wouldn’t pay your gardener if they did a lousy job.

      There is a danger in publicly “prescribing” advice for people to leave loved ones and the issue must be trodden very carefully because while that might be the best route for a person who has a physically abusive partner or one who refuses to address they have bipolar disorder,on the otherhand that advice may be taken up by others who are simply looking for an “easy way out” when times get tough or they might leave a family member when Schizophrenia(for example) to fend for themselves because they perceive them as not being willing to get help without understanding that lack of insight can be a part of the illness and not something the person is wilfully doing.

      So while the website author is wellintended,she needs to keep in mind that she might have people dealing with all sorts of mental illnesses and situations in life, reading her blog and not just ones in a situation similar to hers and choose her words with this perspective in mind.

      • THANK YOU FOR YOUR REPLY! MY DOCTORS GIVE MUCH SUPPORT TO ME AND ARE THERE TO HELP MY FAMILY DEAL WITH BUT THE PROBLEM IS MY WIFE “NOT WANTING” TO BE A SUPPORT IN EVEN READING THINGS ALSO CONCERNING CHRISTIANS WHO DEAL WITH THESE DEMONIC FORCES!!!! MORE BLAME THEN ANYTHING I GET IS FROM MY WIFE!!!! “I HAVE NEVER SEEN FIREMEN TRY TO PUT OUT FIRE BY HOSING IT DOWN WITH GASOLINE!!!!” “A KIND WORK TURNS AWAY WRAP!!!!” “LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS THE CHRIST LOVES US!!!!” “FOR THE GREATER OF THESE IS LOVE!!!!” “OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD!!!!” I AM NOT TRYING TO BLAME MY WIFE AT ALL BUT DOING THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT SHE ALWAYS TELLS ME SHE IS THE ONE LIVING FOR CHRIST AND NOT ME BUT DOES HELP ME THAT WAY!!!!”

  6. I am in a difficult situation… I live with my long term S/O. We have a long & colored history. We were together over
    20 years ago and I left him then due to his abusive behavior. It broke my heart. In 2010 we reunited, on his promises and assurances that his anger issues were long gone.. And that he would get help if they ever resurfaced. Well, 5years into this time around.. They have resurfaced with a vengeance, for several years now, And he refuses to get help. .Refuses to even admit there’s a problem on all but rare occasions that he will then later deny. I have realized that I do believe he is bipolar. I’ve talked to his sister about this.. Asking if he had been diagnosed.. She didn’t know, but does know there is a problem. Her son was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and said the meds have made a world of difference. She sees the same behavior in him as in my S/O and said she thought he would benefit by them. His mother has said he needs to get on antidepressants and anti anxiety… The times he has been calm enough to be half rational when I’ve asked him to get help, he has said it doesn’t work.. The meds don’t work… So I Know there has been some type of dr involvement and med treatment in his past, His moods change so quickly it gives me whiplash. His anger has gotten quite frightening… He has said and done unforgivable things… And yet I forgive.. To an extent… I have to is the thing. If I were able bodied.. I would have left long ago, as I told him I would before I came, if he refused to get help if he summed his negative vortexing and abusive behaviors. But. The thing is… I’m not able bodied anymore. In 2012 I received a steroid injection in my back which caused an extensive & severe infection.. Which has caused multiple autoimmune neuromuscular disorders/diseases to manifest. I am in constant chronic pain and am for all intents and purposes disabled. In fact, am applying for disability. My illness has actually now become the focus of his anger. He blames me for it. And has now become convinced that my meds are the problem and wants me to stop taking them.. Which I cannot do. He doesn’t understand my diseases, won’t take the time To understand them, talk to my Drs or research them.. Or even look at the research I have done. Anyway.. I am completely financially dependent on him at the moment… So cannot leave. He feels completely put upon with my illness, and can only think of how it is affecting him. He is becoming more and more self absorbed, selfish, and belligerent. He is not always angry, but his lash outs happen at least once a week if not more. He goes from being almost giddy silly happy.. To viciously angry in a flash.. Then depths of depression… It just keeps cycling… I can’t understand why he doesn’t want to get help… Why he wants to live this way… He self medicated with pot.. Said it works… He has it under control… But it Doesn’t.. And it’s not. And honestly it depends on what kind of pot he gets, which I don’t know if he’s noticed.
    I would like to approach him about this natural supplement that might help.. But don’t know how to. He’s so volatile.. Anytime I bring the subject up he gets angry. As said, I have recently turned to his family… But they seem hesitant to talk to him- as I’ve asked. I know they too know the brutality of his anger and probably don’t want to put themselves in the firing line. I don’t know what to do… I would dearly love for him to get help.. For him to be happy… And healthy… For us to have a healthy relationship… I just don’t know how to achieve that. Can u offer any advise???
    Sorry this has been such a long post… I have been desperate for someone to turn to about this…

    • Wendy,

      Perhaps you and your husband might want to consider going to a place like Retrouvaille which is designed for marriage problems?
      It is an catholic based organisation but respects all peoples views and beliefs regardless whether they are atheist,muslim,or other Christian etc.
      Hopefully your husband could get a better understanding that marriage requires certain things of him as a husband like being wife centrered instead of self centered,self absorbed etc.
      I don’t meant this as a substitute for medical treatment but as an additional “tool”.
      Regarding the supplement you mentioned,it might be a good idea,but at the same time its important to keep in mind that some supplement shouldn’t be taking by people with bipolar as it may exacerbate their symptoms,but again,everyone is different.

      http://www.retrouvaille.org/

  7. I think it’s very very important to make a distinction between abandoning someone with a mental illness and leaving because it is necessary. Because people do bail just because they don’t want to understand and they don’t care, and doing this to someone who is already mentally ill makes things worse. Especially because it often is done with an element of abuse in the process of leaving. Yes, leave if they will not get help or you are unsafe. Take a break with a support plan in place when needed otherwise.

  8. We live where there is a lot of help for mental illness- we’ve tried it all with the two family members we are helping (an adult and a teenager). My opinion is, if we’ve tried it all and the people still haven’t helped themselves/changed and are not willing to stop their abuse towards us, at what point do you people think it’s ok to walk away? When we’re dead from the abuse? or just black and blue? or when we end up in a hospital ourselves? Would you be saying we should stay with them if it was a domestic violence situation? of course not! After 14 years, we are finally walking away because there is literally nothing more we can do…

    • Livingthroughit-

      In some places there may be many services but none that are high quality and patient-centred so
      Is it that the help that’s being offered is ineffective or is it that the family members don’t put in the effort?
      Sometimes its hard for families to be objective regarding this,so what is the family members with the mental illnesses impression and perceptions of the services offered/service providers?
      Also what are their diagnoses if you don’t mind the question?

  9. as i write this post with tears rolling down my cheeks i just dont know if i can do it anymore..ive been with my boyfriend for over 6 years and i love him dearly but his illness and absolute refusal to get help is destroying me.. he is bipolar and since he had a horrible childhood and was over medicated he is absolutely against taking meds.. his moods are so unpredictable and so hard to deal with.. im always the punching bag emotionally during his bad times no matter what i do or say its not good enough and then the name calling and screaming begins.. I love this man dearly and so want him to get help but i dont know what to do anymore

    • Jessica-
      Have you considered seeing a Psychologist with him instead of going down the medication route?

  10. My families tough love is what forced me to get help. The day my husband, (with the 100% backing of my parents, sister, and best friend), took my then 3 year old to his mother’s until I got stable was the hardest day of my life. I hated them all. My husband also made it clear he wouldn’t stay if I didn’t start treatment immediately, because our son deserved us to be the best people we could. 8 years and lots of counseling and med changes later, I’m stable and my marriage and child are thriving. But looking back now, I couldn’t blame him at all if he’d have left. Because no matter how much he loved me, or child’s well being came first. And I am grateful every day that he loved me enough to say “No matter how much I love you, if you wont even try to take care of yourself I can’t take care of you”.

    • i read your comment and I couldn’t help thinking about my case. In my case though, I am the one who left with our two children until I see my husband try to somehow manage his illness. It is so good reading that it worked for you. I hope it works for us too.

  11. My 22 year old son was just diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder over the holidays. Spent 7 days in a Psych hospital. I think this disorder explains his last 5 years of bad luck and bad decisions. He has a one week old newborn which I hope will give him incentive to stay on meds and turn his life around for the better. We parents have been by his side throughout his turmoil of bad decisions and his recent diagnosis. We feel relieved in a way to know he has suffered from a form of mental illness this whole time. However, we are tired and have told our son that we support him as long as he continues treatment and trys to turn his life in a positive direction. It’s not a crime to be mentally ill as we have discovered in this whole treatment process and that seeking help is optional for a person who doesn’t even comprehend they are ill. With that said, we have rights to protect ourselves from the abuses of the mentally ill as well. As for my son, I hope he chooses recovery as we are growing tired of his antics and may need to exit this roller coaster soon.

  12. The important thing people need to realise is to view Natasha Tracy’s opinions as just that-personal opinions- and not as some infallible authority on the subject, and people in these situations should never substitute their own judgments for someone else’s.

    To “leave” a person with a mental illness temporarily to heal yourself, gather coping skills or have a rest is healthy.
    To leave them permanently is unkind-especially in the types of illnesses where the people have little insight or control over their actions-ie some types of Schizoaffective,Schizophrenia,Dementia,Metabolic Illnesses affecting behaviour…

    Regarding illnesses such as Borderline Personality Disorder-often the issue doesn’t just lie with them but it is also a family dynamic issue where everyone is thinking/acting in some way “wrong” and the whole family’s perceptions need addressing.
    People who married a person with this sort of illness should objectively examine themselves as to what characteristics are within them that made them drawn to this person as we arn’t just drawn to people randomly.
    Sometimes “wounded people” come together,if that makes sense.

    The distress from the commentator that Natasha mentioned is often caused by the lack of distinguishing between different mental disorders.
    Ie:it would be cruel to leave someone who had no control or choice over their illness manifestations however not cruel to leave someone who had good awareness into their illness and simply didn’t care how it affected others.
    It’s important to understand “tough love” should be used for Alcoholics in denial but not for people who have Mental Illnesses but lack insight.

    Someone mentioned it’s ok to leave someone who doesn’t go to their appointment etc but it’s important FIRST to discern is the problem actually on the behalf of the Psychiatrist,mental health practitioner etc.If they arn’t being helpful to the person or blame the person or cause them stress etc then the problem does not lie with the person with Mental Illness.
    Doctors etc are often put on pedestals and their behaviours are not addressed and they need to start being held accountable.
    Sometimes they cause division in families and that needs to start being recognised and held to account too.

    The thing that’s missing in the discussion is the failings of Medical Staff.
    Patients are often not being given the support they need and families of people with Mental Illnesses are not being given the support and resources they need.

  13. I also used to say that I would put up with anything . Anything except the drinking . But the substance abuse is what numbs their pain . It was war , me against all his issues a roller coaster ride. Why didn’t I walk away sooner? Because he was the love of my life and I wanted to believe there was good in him . But it hurts to know that the last thing he said to me was that I never loved him I was never supportive and unreasonable. I allowed a sick man into my life to share my time with him and my children . I tried so hard to make it work , I really did.

  14. I was in a relationship for 2 1/2 years with a man I thought was drinking heavily because he was grieving. I had a lot of compassion for this person but soon realized he was an alcoholic with a lot of deep rooted anger from his childhood. Eight months into the relationship he became verbally abusive I was so devastated I turned to a family member of his and learned that depression and alcoholism ran in the family . I looked up the meaning of bipolar and he did not fit the description . I was determined to understand what was wrong with him because he was a functioning addict who was good at hiding his depression. He had a great personality very loving ,generous and very social . But he no longer held his deep dark secret from me I truly got to know his dark side, insecure and emotional . Was his anger really depression ? I was public enemy number one when he drank he was very remorseful always asking for forgiveness and promising to get the proper help. Drugs and alcohol was his way of treating depression he accused me of making him unhappy. After our final break up he was ready to see a therapist again go to AA and talked about getting on medication he was two months sober and I really believed he was going to make it until one day we got into a disagreement and the verbal abuse started and that’s when I had to walk away without a decent goodbye. I didn’t know how to help him I only know the relationship hurt me physically and emotionally. I had lost respect and friendship and it has been a long road to recovery on my own so yes sometimes you need to walk away for your own sanity.

  15. Hi Natasha, just read at high speed – one immediate comment is to step back and start again seeing people as people not members of any particular group? yes the labelling is important as a guide to treatment/management/damage limitation etc but that is all. Like everyone I have had/have issues with my parents but I developed a clear sense of right and wrong. So a person is person full stop.

  16. I didn’t know it I didn’t know it at first but the guy I’ve been dating for the last 2 years is a manic depressant I have ptsd n adhd n he was ocd manic depression anexity and add …..great combo right lol not at all I have trust issues n being lied to all the time would get old I was the one that worked I payed all the bills for my house and his house and he would only play poker for a living not the best idea of a relationship it would be his way or no way a woman in his eyes has no place to speak to a man so I would flipped out on him who wouldn’t loose there temper so one night he went out n didn’t come to my house I got pissed off sent bad text saying I was done what a mistake that was he grabed me by the back of my hair threw me on the bed choked me then put the pillow n blanket over me trying to suffake me then he treated to kill my dog I love so much that I had for 9 yrs I got out from his control n locked my self n the bathroom then he grabed his stuff from my house gave me my key back n walked out now I was only paying both bills for abt a year cause he wouldn’t find a job that’s when I found out abt the illness he made me feel like I was crazy….I would tell him abt my abuse growing up n he would tell me that I deserved everything that happend to me even the fact my mom tired to kill me the day I was born she tried to abort me but it didntwork my dad suffers from ptsd from the war I don’t want pity but ppl that says it wrong to leave someone with a mental illness they seem so nice but they can be a monster n they can kill he told me he done bad things to ppl befor so how much can someone take of abuse from a illness that they won’t get any help from its cause they like the high the illness gives them

  17. @Amy.
    People caring for someone with a mental illness should definitely be entitled to take breaks,go to the spa,relax and work on their own stress.
    Services should be offering carers much more help and more money.
    Also,often their is a focus purely on medication and not helping everyone involved to have better relationship dynamics and coping skills.
    The support offered is often non existent,and like you mentioned ,ridiculous that children are looking after ill parents without great support.
    There needs to be a unified demand for much more financial resources to go into mental health and support of loved ones who care for someone with a mental illness.
    This sort of government neglect would never happen to cancer patients and their loved ones.
    People are left to do it on their own and the community needs to start being much more supportive and helpful too-eg:churches,community centres etc

  18. @auspsychiatry
    It seems to me that caregivers should be provided just as much support as the people who are ill. At the same time, I do think a lot of people grow up filling roles that don’t much suit them. A child who grows up caring for the adult meant to care for them, for example. Eventually that person (the child) needs to realize what they are sacrificing and decide they are willing or not. In our society, the way it is, I would never tell someone to put family before their own health and happiness. Usually, in my experience, the person who has left an unhealthy situation is able to heal from their trauma and return (eventually and when ready) to their family members in need. Upon returning the newly empowered individual is able to accept care-taking responsibilities without compromising themselves or their boundaries. In short, it’s important for people to know and wholly accept they can leave, in order for them to stay (or return and be available).

  19. I don’t believe that family members should ever walk away from the person with severe mental illness.
    Mental illness may cause changes in behaviour and personality and cause a lack of insight.
    A “tough love” approach may work well on people with Alcohol addiction but it is not suitable for people with Dementia or Schizophrenia spectrum disorders due to the disorders themselves making the person “difficult” rather then it being an act from their will.
    Compassion is needed for them,but at the same time,families need much greater support and to be taught relaxation and coping skills and should demand more help for carers from services and governments.

  20. I said “I would put up with everything”. That’s not true – I would put up with a lot though, if I just knew that he was seeking treatment. It’s painful seeing him fall apart, but I also don’t see his decisions changing anytime soon.

  21. Dear all,

    Thank you for your post and all the thoughtful comments. The courage to share is so beautiful.
    For two years I have been dating a man who was diagnosed with bipolar 1. When he’s in the normal phase I feel that our relationship has so much love and potential, problems too, but workable problems.
    Recently he began getting increasingly mistrusting of me. He also started smoking pot very heavily. He’s always smoked pot, but not everyday morning and night like he is now. We were in couples therapy and things started to escalate – he became increasingly critical of me. Sigh, even after seeing him begin a previous manic episode this way, I didn’t think it was the disorder. I just thought he has “trust issues” and we can work through them.
    It occurred to me that he is self-medicating with pot but he got angry when I tried to bring it up and I still did not connect that it might be the onset of mania. I have gotten so fed up… I bought a book named “Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder” and left it out. He destroyed it violently and later, when I found it and felt hurt, he screamed at me in a rage and threw the ripped pieces of it at me along with other garbage.
    I STILL did not think of mania. Am I blind?!!
    Finally, we broke up and in our last couples therapy session he began ranting his paranoid delusions about people at his work scheming to steal money from the company and how he’s the only one who can see the conspiracy and they are all cheats and liars. Only after that did it FINALLY dawn on me that he is getting manic!
    Sigh, now we are broken up and he is fixating a lot of paranoid delusions on me. In that same session, he wanted me to admit to sleeping around with all the guys we know – of course I wouldn’t since that is completely false – and also admit to being a manipulative liar who is actively trying to hurt him.
    I love him, have loved him desperately. After his last manic episode (where he threatened to throw me out of a sixth floor window), I only got back together with him on the condition that he get treatment. He promised and he sort of tried – saw a couple psychiatrists – but didn’t like what they said and so stopped trying. I stayed with him thinking he will come around – he’s seeing a therapist twice a week and was going to couples therapy with me.
    I thought that it could work and he’d eventually seek medications to become stable.
    I’m so sad but I realized, it’s not enough. I cannot be with a man who is so unstable and scary and refusing mess and using pot instead.
    I wish pot did not exist so he would not have the option.
    I’m afraid for him. Do I call his family? They got him out of psych wards the last two manic episodes but then they put him back to life with no additional support or expectation of treatment. Why do they enable this?
    Do I call his friend who took him to the hospital during his last manic episode? He will never forgive me if I get him hospitalized. Do I just let him bottom out again? Last time he got mugged, had sex with random men on the street (and he does not think he’s bi, so that felt really bad to him later – like a desperation for any sexual contact), and of course he lost his job because he sexually harassed a woman at work by grabbing her ass and made a racist joke in the workplace. I don’t want him to go through that again. But he wants me out of his life too and is thinking I’m a liar and not to be trusted.
    I can’t date him anymore – I SO wish he would commit to treatment. I would put up with everything if he was just trying to address this illness.

  22. Wow some interesting comments going on .I am at the stage where i have just been separated from my 33 year old daughter due to her mentel illness.She has said,done, all the above for the past 20 years now i am just beginning to see that. Thanks to the publication of Mentel illness i can understand alot more.

    keep up the communication all
    Janiexxx

  23. Rereading the opening “defense”/paragraphs referencing the comment made by the insightful and scalpel sharp women despairing the urge to abandon a supposed loved one, holes bigger than equatorial continents jump out. Why is it assumed a relationship with someone experiencing mental ill health is one-way, sane condescending to the ( obvious intended derogatory label inserted) individual with mental illness, a lifting up BY the “functioning” OF the “non-functioning”. Abuse aside, and statiscally this is proven over, and over, that perpetraitors of crimes of all types, including violent crimes, are MORE likely to NOT be the person with mental ill health. The psychopathologized is far more likely to be the victim of abuse and crime. Not the implied perpertraitor. Living with mental illness also increases risks of retraumatisation, and secondary retraumatisation. And familial abuse. Familial abuse is very often a predictor of future menta illness, and continuing preditory persons will continue their abuse into adulthood in the same, or adapting stategies of preditorial planning or opportunity manipulating ways. Often the psychiatric client will illustrate the true beauty of life through their disability. Anyone with a disability draws self comparisons and musings of “how I would cope”, as do jealous teenage ex-girlfriends and envious of the attention yet to be mothers at their friends newborn baby. Advocate and agitate for overhaul of support for carers, but don’t forget what the activism is for. Fighting for something in which you believe is a gift. It is placed in your lap, and beckons you to join the fight for equal rights, promising purpose without peer, learning and wisdom only acquired through selfless action and striving, singleness of purpose, heart pumping excitement and adventure because it is real, meaningful, good, true and right.

    • I read this comment with mixed feelings. Our 27-year-old son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year. THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH OF HIS BEHAVIOR SINCE AGE 14!!! We are unable to have him in our home any longer. He almost broke up a 42-year marriage. His 5 siblings are functioning, loving, and caring toward each other and toward HIM. They are also loving and caring toward US, the parents, as well. As a sibling group, they are amazing, fun, and supportive. Several of them have tried letting “Johnny” live with them in their homes….he doesn’t understand boundaries, steals from them, and just generally abuses them and their generosity. “Johnny” lives 4 hours away from us for a reason…he is now talking about coming home for the holidays again, and this fills us all with dread. His refusal to take any prescribed medications, his dramatic behavior (including suicide threats, even on Christmas Eve, probably, AGAIN), his guilt, his lack of a plan for when he gets here, his inability to save any money for his plan to work, all make for a hellish holiday for the whole family. We are held emotionally hostage by his actions and we get calls from complete strangers at all hours of the night when he is in his manic phase. Last Thanksgiving/Christmas was the worst, as I had just lost my Mother to cancer. I was in the midst of the grieving process, only to have “Johnny” shred any hope of normalcy and a happy holiday with tender, positive memories. I don’t think I can have this happen again to our family. It is paralyzing and exhausting to have him pester us with drama, hint for money, and arrive at our house repeatedly without any notice and try to get in (we had to change the locks), all the while trying to make us feel like something is our fault. If he does come to our town or suburbs, he can’t even stay in one of the homeless shelters because, of course, he has multiple arrest warrants out for traffic offenses. We periodically have sheriffs appear at our door attempting to arrest him. We have tons of mail for him, as he doesn’t pay any child support for his 7-year-old daughter whom he claims to love.
      A couple of our children have stated that they have feared in the past that they would come in and find us murdered in our beds by “Johnny”. Now, how is that for anticipation??? You say it is so horrible to walk away from a child, but what do you suggest parents in our circumstances do? Keep giving him money for his cigarettes and beer? Buy his marijuana for him so he will like us? Let him live here on HIS terms: sleep ALL day, sneak out at 4:30 in the afternoon so he can stay up all night and come in at 4 in the morning to repeat the behavior again the next day??? Talk is cheap. Nothing we say has any impact on “Johnny”. The last 2 times he came home, he approached us with a softer voice, seeming cooperation, and kindness—yet still expecting that we would let him live here on HIS terms, as outlined above. Then we have had to buy him a ticket back to where he has been living and we get angry texts telling us (usually me) that we always treat him the same, we never treat him any better, he just can’t get along with us, he can’t talk to us, we are SO difficult to communicate with, etc., etc., etc., until I regret even looking at my texts for fear he will be unloading blame and CRAP on me yet again.
      It must be VERY, VERY hard to be dealt this deck of cards and have the wires in his brain crossed, but what can we do? WE CAN’T INVEST ANY MORE TIME, EFFORT AND CARING INTO “JOHNNY” THAN “JOHNNY” IS WILLING TO INVEST IN HIMSELF. The math is just OFF for that to work.

  24. I had a 6 year relationship with my partner. We bacame engaged and after that things went downhill. His parents had been divorced and that had had a major impact on his view of marriage and relationships. It wasnt until we were engaged that things went pear shaped and I found myself living with a man that was depressed but was in denial. I became the victim of several taunts and outbursts of rage. Nights where he was suicidal, threatened our dog with a knife, screwed doors shut to keep me in and continuous verbal abuse. I tried for so long to get help and eventually he went to see a psychiatrist. Unfortunately there was no definate diagnosis…. I was left feeling let down as I didnt know how else to help. With no plan of how to help him get better and with my own thoughts beginning to take a depressive angle I decided to leave. I know find myself still in contact with him and still in love with him but so scared to go back in case the depression rears its head again. I need to make a decision to go back or not but I cant…. Because of all the pain and trauma from the past, it has affected my ability to make that decision. I just dont know what to do….. Out families would oppose the idea and that makes it even harder because they are supposed to be there for us but I have a feeling if we get back together, my parents will disown me…. How am I supposed to choose between the man I love and my family?

    • Hi Pattie,

      Believe it or not, I have talked to many people in your situation. Often the loved ones of a mentally ill person are in the tough position of choosing the person or other parts of their lives.

      What I recommend for people dealing with this issue is to make a treatment plan. I know you said there was no definite diagnosis, but maybe that means you need to see another doctor. (Was it a psychiatrist? If not, it should be.) And seeing a therapist to work on the issues between the two of you is also probably essential – especially if you’re feeling traumatized, and justifiably so.

      So make a plan that you both can life with and ease back into the relationship slowly. Don’t jump back in with both feet. Understand that change needs to happen if that relationship is going to work and if you don’t see that change (probably in you and him) then it’s just going to work.

      And that assumes you are willing to do all that work. If you’re not, that’s OK, then it sounds like maybe the best idea is not to go back.

      As far as your family is concerned, they will either support you – which is their job – or they won’t, but if you have a rational, step-by-step plan of easing back into the relationship with help, then they might understand your decision. If you just jump back into the problem, they are less likely to.

      Again, I know how hard this must be for you, but you’re not alone and only you know the best decision for you.

      – Natasha Tracy

  25. Hi Natasha,

    I was so sorry to read about your brother in your post about saying goodbye to those with mental illness. It must be heartbreaking to see him like this.

    I think you’re right in that sometimes we have to protect ourselves. By being in a relationship with destructive people who are only causing us pain, we are not caring for ourselves. If the person isn’t ready to acknowledge or treat their condition, there really is nothing you can do.

    My parents both have traumatic pasts and I would say have narcissistic/borderline personalities, they are extremely self-involved. I do love them, but I find it very difficult to be around them for very long, they hurt me without realising. So I’ve decided that it’s OK to distance myself from them and I don’t have to keep slogging away trying to make them love me. I think that’s what they want too really.

    Rachel

  26. Maybe Eleanor Roosevelt said it most clearly: “Friendship with oneself is all important because without it one cannot be friends with anybody else in the world.” So if you can’t love and take care of yourself, how can you truly care and love others?

  27. I think you have put that so well. I look at it from both sides too, as one who suffers from a mental illness but also works with those who have mental illness. There is a need for compassion from both sides and I hate to say it but I think we the mental ill, sometimes forget that we are not the only ones worthy of compassion.

  28. Hi Natasha,

    Newbie to your blog. First of all, thanks for the follow on twitter. Second of all, (and more importantly) I absolute love your blog. I love the way you address issues that are so common for people experiencing mental health difficulties and their loved ones but are usually to embarrassing for them to talk about. It’s the first stem in annihilating the stigma. Way to go! Look forward to visiting often. Take care

    • Hi Aaron,

      Thanks so much. I do try to talk about what I consider to be pertinent issues for people with mental illness and yes, I agree, people are often hesitant to talk about many of them.

      Thanks for your comment.

      – Natasha

  29. In this day and age, people tend to aspire to the ideal that a ‘normal’ life is one untouched by illness or disability. This is fantasy, not reality. However, to make these fantasies come true, people will resort to mass genocide, unmonitored institutions and other forms of removal.

    Occasionally, we need a break from a loved one with mental illness or disability of some sort. This would more easily be obtained if friends or extended family would help out from time to time.

    There is still much joy to be found as a carer.

  30. “mental illness itself affects more than just the person who is sick.”
    That is so true, and that is why it’s better to leave. It doesn’t mean abandoning someone in need, it’s also protecting ourselves and loved ones from harm.
    If I’m living with someone who is mentally sick, abusive, violent and who refuses to admit he is sick, and refuses any help, it’s my duty to leave because I am getting sick too and it’s not the ideal environment for my children.

  31. This is exactly the situation I find myself in – my bf has BPD. I’ve known this from the start, he’s never had a manic episode while I’ve known him but his depressive episodes have become worse and worse in the last several months. He’s almost incapacitated by them, but until recently was unwilling to seek further help.

    I can’t help myself from wondering at what point is too much for me. I love him like crazy – that hasn’t changed at all. What has changed is his ability to cope and my ability to continue being around him when he’s this sick. I can’t imagine leaving him to be sick on his own, but I can’t ignore the toll it takes on me. I wish there was an algorithm for deciding when it’s time to go. I don’t want to go. I don’t even want to contemplate it – but I don’t know what continuing with him while he’s this sick looks like, or how I’ll be able to without becoming unwell myself. It all seems horribly unfair.

    What this commenter fails to consider is that loving and supporting someone with a serious mental illness takes a heavy toll on a person, and that they are no good to anyone if they become ill too. There needs to be more understanding for this really tough position to be in.

    • Hi Mosiegirl,

      I’m sorry you’re in that situation. That is really tough. Unfortunately there is no algorithm for when any relationship is working or not working. And yes, mental illness is pretty much always horribly unfair to the person who is ill and those around them.

      Every situation is individual, of course, and only you know what is right for you. However, I encourage people to work with those who are willing to seek treatment, if possible. I feel that if a person is willing to do everything they can to get better then that speaks to their commitment to themselves, their wellness and the relationship. That being said, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need your own support. Treatment often is needed by loved ones too. You can learn better ways of dealing with the illness just like your boyfriend can.

      And I absolutely feel for the situation you’re in. I wish you and your boyfriend wellness.

      – Natasha Tracy

  32. Your post is timely for me as I’ve been mulling over this very topic and was just starting to write a post about it. My mother didn’t get help until she was 73 years old. I recently spoke to another person whose mother didn’t receive help until she was in her 60s. Sometimes the reality is that a person will live a lifetime with an untreated mental illness, and their loved ones have to make some hard choices. I estranged myself from my mother for 17 years. It was the last resort. I worried about her every day. But there was nothing I could do to force her to get help. That’s the sad reality for many, I think.

    • Hi Laura,

      I think that’s a good point – many people worry every day about their ill loved ones even once they are estranged. Unfortunately, just because we’re worried it doesn’t mean we can help them. Sometimes worry is all we have left.

      I’m sorry your mother lived a life without treatment – that is very hard. The good news is that treatment is more known now not to mention more tolerable and hopefully fewer people will be in that situation.

      – Natasha Tracy

  33. I don’t know which commenter “Herb” is referring to, but if it is me, believe me, I am not looking to incite “excitement”. I just found this blog as I was googling how to deal with a person with bi-polar with multiple hospitalizations as I’d heard they might end up being placed in a permanent mental facility if they had a certain amount of admissions within a certain space of time and I am hoping my sister can avoid this as I don’t think this would benefit her. If there is such a policy, she might not be aware of it and knowing there is one might keep her from using it as a last resort living situation, if she truly is doing so which I am not sure she is. I appreciate this site discussing the subject of mental illness as it is one I have had difficulty in understanding. I certainly don’t want to belittle her health issues, but my sister seems to have tried everything the hospitals can offer with little change or betterment to her situation. I don’t know what else I can do for her besides love and pray for her.

    • Dear Belinda,

      I apologize to you for my ambiguity. “harryf200” is correct in that I was not speaking about you. I was referring to an individual whose screen name is “Catherine” and if you had followed Natasha’s link above in this topic to which you responded, it would have brought you to an older topic of Natasha’s in which “Catherine” posted the remark.

      In my opinion, there are individuals who do get some kind of charge out of and pleasure by inciting others needlessly. I have refrained from responding to “Catherine” posting or here simply because I think the post in question lacked any additional background information to justify the individual’s position. Notice most all posts, including yours; to this topic give one a better understanding of one’s position. I feel “Catherine” post is one of these inciting postings. Should the individual respond to my questions then I’ll share my thoughts and my opinions as I do have many as it relates to quoted posting.

      Once again, I apologize for my ambiguity.

      Warmly,
      Herb
      vnsdepression@gmail.com
      http://www.vnstherapy-herb.blogspot.com

  34. I just wanted to clarify that my husband and I have taken my sister in to stay with us during the years. She stole money, she lied to us. She went to counseling sessions then abruptly quit. We have three small children. We can no longer take her in because of the risk she poses to them by being suicidal and seeing hallucinations, hearing voices. I don’t want to expose them to a similar situation faced by the children of Andrea Yates. The risk of danger to my children outweighs my desire to “help” her by having her live with us and trying to get her the help she needs. At some point, she has to face facts. She has to learn to support herself instead of depending on the kindness of those around her. She has used up all her friends and family as places to stay. She has no income coming in so she cannot pay for a room somewhere yet she has no desire to find work. She is totally dependent on her medications just to function daily and even when on them, her behavior is inconsistent. She HAS been to counseling and received treatment, she IS under a doctor’s care. But she quits attending meetings and doesn’t complete treatment programs. She just stops, then she comes to family and friends begging for someone to take care of her and give her a place to stay. We’ve all done it for the last 10 years-it’s not like we haven’t been empathetic or shown her compassion, but there’s only so much we can do. We cannot take care of her for the rest of her life. At some point a person has to take responsibility for themselves and be determined to change their situation on their own. As long as we’re there to “bail” her out, she’ll never learn that she is stronger than she thinks she is. I think she’s scared and the medications she’s received while in the hospitals have just covered up the problem instead of helping her to deal with what caused the problem to begin with. She misses her kids because she can’t be a part of their lives, she’s grieving for the loss of her marriage (she still loves her ex), and she feels worthless with absolutely no self-confidence. We do empathize with her, but we cannot solve her problems for her, we can only offer advice and refer her to those who can help her. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. It’s not fair to say we don’t care about her.

    • Deasr Natasha,
      I too am bi-polar and applaude you and your accomplishments and the way you have chosen to open your life up to helping others with mental illness.I enjoy and am helped by your commentaries. I am on both sides of this situation, having bi-polar myself and also having family members who suffer from mental illnesses. The ones who love us suffer a great deal while our illness are active and deserve a great shout out of support and appreciation! I have suffered a lot of rejection and have been greatly misunderstood over the years, loosing my husband, physical custody of children, my home and many jobs.It hasn’t been easy for me, but then again I think its been harder for those who love me. I was blessed in that even though my children went to live with their dad from ages 11 and 14, he allowed me open visitation. . He was loving enough to understand my children and I needed each other. I just want to thank all of you out there who stand by us who have mental health issues and thank you for your unending patience and love! And, thanks Natasha for your tireless work helping us who need you!

      • Hi Darlene,

        It sounds like you’ve been through some tough times and came out the other side with a pretty good attitude and understanding of your own condition. I too give a shout out to all those who love us :)

        Thank you for all your kind words and of course you’re welcome.

        – Natasha Tracy

  35. Dear Natasha,

    I’m just wondering in this particular instance and matter by creating this newer topic if you didn’t by some chance go off half-cocked.

    I’m curious if you happen to know this commenter and if she were a regular commenter to your forum(s). I noticed she posted to an old topic of yours and she had no links to follow up and to try to better understand what prompted her position and remarks.

    As I’m sure you are aware there are those that enjoy inciting some excitement and controversy just for effect.

    It would be considerate of her and helpful if she responded to my requests.

    Warmly,
    Herb
    vnsdepression@gmail.com
    http://www.vnstherapy-herb.blogspot.com

    • Hi Herb,

      I don’t feel I went off half-cocked at all. I think I made a very measured, reasoned response to a commenter’s feedback. Moreover, I think it a valuable topic regardless as to what instigated it.

      – Natasha Tracy

      • Natasha,

        I think the older of your topic to which “Catherine” responded and this newer topic are both certainly valuable subject matter to be discussed as further evidenced by the responses you’ve received.

        What I feel is of little value and what I considered a “broad-side salvo” of incitement was “Catherine” unsubstantiated generalities.

        I appreciate the fact that you and many of your readers recognize and acknowledge the toll taken of us; family, friends as well as caregivers in support of our loved ones and the fact this giving of ourselves need not be unlimited and without question.

        I have learned through almost 5 decades of my own caregiving to have almost equal respect and compassion for those who choose to hang in there as well as to those who make the difficult decision to opt out. We all are entitled to live our lives as best we can.

        I was further appalled by the ignorance of the remark that “…when families send their loved ones to prison…” Obviously amongst other issue differences I may have, that commenter knows little of the laws in the U.S. as I still await a response to better understand the person’s position.

        Warmly,
        Herb
        vnsdepression@gmail.com
        http://www.vnstherapy-herb.blogspot.com

  36. I was dating a man with Borderline Personality disorder. I read self help books and went to couples therapy and nothing. Until this day the memories hurt me. He loved me, yet on other days he put me down for my looks and intellect. One day, he called the cops on me after he pushed me against the door and blamed me for it saying I was throwing things at him. Now, I had my own mental illness that I was unaware of and thought I was simply depressed. He threatened to institutionalize me and tell the graduate school staff that I was destructive. It was then I seeked help and walked away from him for ever. I also took care on my own mental health and here I am stil recovering from the trauma.

    • Rosa,

      It sounds like you made the best choice for you and even then there are still sizeable scars. I’m sorry you had to go through that but at least you made the right call to start to heal.

      – Natasha Tracy

  37. I am deeply disappointed anyone could be so cavalier about the negative impact of mental illness on loved ones.

    My second husband left Wife #1 the night she grabbed a ceiling-high bookcase in a rage and pulled it down, nearly on top of him. He scooped up their toddler and fled to a friend’s after years of parasuicide, hitting, and having things thrown and smashed in his direction, including a spaghetti dinner.

    Which was more important: compassion for an abusive Borderline who refused to acknowledge her problems, let alone seek treatment, or compassion for the man on the receiving end and the young child living in a violent household?

    Husband #2 in turn suffered trauma from the experience and paid his abuse forward to me every time his ex bullied him. Which he denied. After lying to therapists in two rounds of couples counseling, he finally chased me through our apartment, forcing his way into two rooms. I had a huge bruise on one of my arms when he slammed a door into me. That was as close to hitting me as I would allow him to get.

    Which was more important: compassion for the former Domestic Abuse victim with PTSD, or compassion for the woman he sprayed with rage because he refused to accept the mental health impact of his first marriage?

    I sincerely hope the commenter doesn’t really believe anyone should live with violence and abuse from a partner under any circumstances.

    • I completely agree. Although I was very much in love with my first husband, when he was not well, it was scary and demoralizing. It took a lot of strength for me to say, “Okay, there are many reasons he is the way he is, but there is NO EXCUSE for him to treat his children this way.” I was more in love with him, the day I insisted he leave, than I had been the entire 11 year marriage. But, I could not allow myself and our children to be treated in such a manner. There comes a point when you have to realize this isn’t getting better. It is a cycle and it keeps getting worse each time the cycle turns sour grapes. It was a heart break decision; One my little children did not understand… but it was the right one. It still hurts. It still feels horrible. But, it was still the right thing to do. We MUST set limits to protect ourselves and our other loved ones. Natasha, you are a blessing to those of us who faithfully follow you. It appears the person who commented was ignorant to your experience and the full body of what your messages project.

      • I think mental illness can sometimes be a valid excuse for commiting acts of violence, but we’ll agree I am sure that does not mean the victims of it should have to put up with it.

        • Hi Harryf200,

          Like I said, I don’t think it is a valid excuse, but it is a reason. And you’re right, regardless, it doesn’t mean that the victims have to put up with it.

          – Natasha

      • Hi Gretchen,

        I learned a long time ago that there are many _reasons_ for why a person is the way they are but that reasons never serve as excuses.

        And people in your situation are heartbroken about it, but that doesn’t mean that separating wasn’t the right thing. It’s just one of the very hard choices that sometimes we have to make in life. And protecting ourselves and others matters.

        Thank-you for your kind words. I don’t know the commenter so I’m not sure where she was coming from but yes, I believe she missed the nuances of what I was trying to say.

        – Natasha Tracy

    • Hi KG,

      It’s horrible to find yourself in a situation with an abusive person no matter what the reason and I would agree – the priority has to be to get out of there, especially if there are children involved. And _especially_ if the person refuses to admit they have a problem and get help. And I believe the person did admit they had a problem they would also have to take responsibility for their abusive behavior. Because no person who is actively seeking treatment and help can just gloss over their abusive actions as “acceptable.”

      As you said, empathy for a person in pain doesn’t always outweigh everything else in the situation.

      And honestly, people like that abusive person just make me mad because it gives us all a bad name. I believe that we can get better and be in functional, happy relationships but only if we truly work on ourselves and try.

      – Natasha Tracy