“do bipolar people ever get better?”

25 Mar

I get a lot of search hits along these lines-people looking for answers. Possibly the newly diagnosed, scared and worried that they’ll be on drugs for the rest of their lives, and maybe in and out of hospital. Possibly a boyfriend, a wife, a cousin,  looking to see if their own private confusion and heartache might stop sometime soon, if there’s any point in hoping, waiting for things to get better.

In a way, there isn’t.

Unlike cancer, or heart disease, there is no end date to bipolar. There is no “remission”, no little breaks from the disease, and no discounts on your mortgage either. You either have it, or you don’t, period.

It will not end until death. You might compensate for it a little better, or you might find a drug, or drugs that work, or therapy might help you, but you will always have this brain sickness. You will always be privy to possibly emptying the bank account because the desire to buy something, anything overrode every other piece of common sense in your body. You might eat everything you can find because it just tastes so good and makes you feel better and you hardly even notice that you went up a dress size in a month. You might launch into a rage so foolhardly and blinding, you’ll tell the people you love to leave before you beat the ever loving crap out of them. You know you mean it.

You might spend days wishing, dreaming about your death, and not even know that this isn’t normal.

This is what you live with. This is why you will never be totally better. You cannot irradiate bipolar, at least, not that anyone has figured. You cannot pump nitroglycerin into it, or transplant your brain for a new, fitter model. You are stuck with it.

I say stuck, but I don’t always give my bipolar the credit it deserves. It gives me perspective. It’s given me a certain “fuck it” attitude which allows me to enjoy my children, and my life in different ways, ways that I know many other parents can’t. My bipolar continually reminds me that we cannot judge people by how they look or act, despite a strong desire to do so. Being bipolar not only makes me see the dark sides, it allows me to watch the sunset again ice covered tree limbs, and know that beauty lies there.

We won’t get “better”, not in the way we think of when we say we’re better from the flu. We will become steady. We will become stable, and sadly in some cases numb. But with the knowledge that one has to take their pills each day so they don’t become psychotic comes the realization that better, and normal, is something unreachable, and possibly even a goal not worth reaching for in the first place.

33 Responses to ““do bipolar people ever get better?””

  1. Jenn March 25, 2008 at 10:48 pm #

    Well how do you follow up to this post. Harsh and true. Isnt that always the way? If it isnt harsh it is not the trouth. This is why I was so concerned many many posts ago, when that young lady (ummm cant remember her name right now) was seemingly searching out a partner because his bipolar disorder made him “exciting”. Taking it with such disregard. What is exciting today may be heartbreaking tomorrow and I think as many people with bipolar will agree this illness is no joke. It has reuined families, friendships and lives in the most litteral of ways. However, having said the harsh trouth, there is also hope. Not hope that the illness with somehow stalk away quietly in the night, but that it can be managable. People with bipolar are wonderful, caring, gentle, funny, smart etc… anything else you can use to describe HUMAN…. But the journey to the place where a person with bipolar can be all those things is a long difficult and continuous road. We all have to work at life with or without this illness, and it is a life long road but the life you can live is worth fighting for. Thank you for posting with such honesy I watched something the other day that I wont mention here (because I think it has the potential to do a lot of people great harm) its nice to read something that is continuosly true and thought out in a seemingly grounded place.

  2. Brigitte March 26, 2008 at 3:38 am #

    I have to say this entry made me smile just because I know what you say to be true. Thanks for the wonderful post. (:

  3. perfectdefect March 26, 2008 at 7:47 am #

    But surely there is remission… What about people that don’t rapid cycle? They have maybe years in between episodes. Is it just false hope?

  4. thordora March 26, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    that’s true. I always forget that people aren’t always flipping through mood channels in their heads.

    I guess it’s different because while cancer can come back, it doesn’t make you suddenly go insane, while with bipolar, you “could” turn-even knowing my triggers isn’t always enough to avoid them.

    But good point. Not everyone with bipolar (esp Bipolar II’s) will be constantly nutty. 🙂

  5. bromac March 26, 2008 at 8:26 am #

    Also, I would have to look up the article to cite, but read recently that chemical imabalances, in depression at least, can be re-programmed over a decade or so, so that the imbalance completely disappears.

    I don’t know that I am ready to concede this point yet.

  6. Jenn March 26, 2008 at 9:05 am #

    I fear that people want so badly for this illness to just go away so they are willing to believe whatever comes along that feeds that hope. I wouldn’t want to see someone make the decision to come off meds and out of theropy and find themselves right back where they started.

  7. kate March 26, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us; it must be so comforting for others with this disease to know that they aren’t alone. And for me, it helps me better understand me sweet niece.


  8. exactscience March 26, 2008 at 12:53 pm #

    Of course the definition of better is a fun one. I have decided I will be better when I no longer need to actively make decisions to keep me well. I believe that version is possible.

  9. Natalie June 17, 2009 at 6:44 am #

    I\’m a fairly young adult, and physiologically my brain hasn\’t \”settled\” yet. I probably have a lot more gray matter to myelinate. So the scariest thing for me right now is not knowing how intense my illness will affect me. For the first few years after my diagnosis I thought I had a pretty good idea of how much it could affect me, but then I started rapid cycling and having experiences that border on being hallucinations.

    I\’m about to get married and I am so afraid of not knowing what I am getting my fiance into. I\’m already having a hard time paying my own bills and reminding myself that I need to eat and sleep (or that I should stop eating and wake up at some point). I don\’t know that I want to bring another person into this.

    I am also so afraid that I\’ll be a bad mother. I don\’t want to be so incapacitated by a stupid illness that I can\’t raise my children. I don\’t want my mother-in-law or friends or church raising my kids for me. I don\’t want to be a pity case.

    I\’m also just frustrated that I can\’t just let a \”surprise\” pregnancy occur. I have to get off my medication, and then adjust, and then get off birth control.

    When did you feel like you had a grasp on the magnitude of your illness? How did you know that you were coping well enough to have kids?

  10. Rose January 17, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    I am currently dating a man with bipolar disorder. What I notice is that he seems to lack empathy at times. Not always…but depending on his mood. He’ll go from insisting that I talk to him on the cell from my door at work to my car. I work on a military base and we have security posted at the entrance. But, other times, he doesn’t care if I make it home while I drive in a sleet and rain storm. It’s odd and difficult to believe that he can really care so much and then not at all. He knows who to manipulate in order to get certain people to do things for him. My niece was also told that she has bipolar disorder. He has no children. She has three. I am very confused about what is and is not within their control. I don’t know how genuine he is being with me or if he just needs me right now for favors.

  11. Devdes April 12, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi Rose,
    You have just described a normal person and not a person with bipolar disorder. I have Bipolar II, and I love my family and kith and kin more intensely than anyone else I know. However it is done in a casual or even funny manner, so it ONLY APPEARS like lack of empathy. We also have difficulty expressing emotions. A

  12. B February 3, 2012 at 5:30 am #


  13. B February 3, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    You know. I am really getting disguisted with the whole “Bi-Polar” deal. Recently my wife was researching I guess and read this article. I have since been reading and see nothing but a bunch of self servers. I was once diagnosed with a “drug Induced” bipolar condition. doc said it was temporary at least but could be a type I condition prevailing. Am I bipolar. Who knows. But I am “high Strung”. But further, she went on to cite articles “describing similar habits” and just made me want to vomit. One was about a guy who was at a party and tried to take his wife in the bathroom to have some spontaneous sex, and then got upset when she would not…. So she’s out bloggin about how he is bipolar. What he is, is most likely Bi-sick of living with another woman who lied to a man to get $omething!!! Most likely he will be bi-curious after his depression from living with a disgruntled child for so long finally polishes him off. The whole thing makes me ill. I see nothing but a bunch of sf-serving babies that need a “condition” to justify continuing on in this life they are so unhappy with for a myriad of reasons… My advice is to get over your childishness and tyr to have a life. A really, that goes for all you disguisting maggots that claim to be the “victims” of bipolars. Those of you backstabbers who dont have the first idea about supporting a supposed loved one. You have the sickest of needs to try to project your own unhappiness onto others and titling them readily with a condition to serve yourselves. Disguisting vagabonds.

    • steven February 5, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      b…u are a moron

    • terri April 3, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      You don’t have a clue. I am bipolar. It’s ruined my life. I can’t hold down a job and can barely take care of myself. It’s like having a broken heart that never heals. It hurts and I’m no baby. I’ve been through traumas you can’t imagine which may be why my brain became bipolar just to cope with it all. So the next time you wake up with migraines everyday and want to kill yourself everyday, I mean you have to fight it everyday you will know what bipolar is. An by the way, it’s the bipolar people that actually go through with their suicides, I’m sorry I don’t have the percentage with me, but it’s the truth. Find the truth and it will set you free but first it will make you miserable! I’m not a victim, I want to get better, just tell me how.

      • Ashley October 24, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

        i have bipolar and the way you talked about it is how i feel. i could really use some advice.. my emailis ashhopkins92@gmail.com. please email me

  14. to close February 3, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    Do some BPD people really want to get better? If they get everything they want and their own way, why change it if works for them? If they can’t get what they want they can always play the victim card. I am not convinced that all BPD people want to be set free! This is my experience with some but not all. Their are some who are willing to look at their part in things and make the changes like all the rest of us in relationships, we own our stuff!

  15. Pat March 16, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    This is a new thing for me to deal with. My wife was just diagnosed with bypolar disorder and she was in the hospital twice. The first time was from a urinary track infection she came out and the bybolar manic attacks just got worse. She even talks to people like if they are in the room. I thought she went crazy until I started reading about this disorder. Now I stayed home form work a week and missed many days last month going to the hospital. She is taking serquel and it puts her to bed but she smokes and I have to dole them out to her otherwise she smokes even two at a time. Now she is calming down on the smoking. She didn’t want to take her meds or eat and now she is getting easier to give meds to. But when she gets irritated I have to trade her ciggeretts to take pills. I hardly see any of her true self left. I only see it when she takes the pill and gets tired. When she sleeps its my salvation.I am wondering will she ever get better ? Did I wait to long or did the hospital release her to quick? I love her so much and would give up everything just to make her better.Thank you for letting my share and for sharing your stories and struggles.

    • Rachel January 12, 2013 at 4:22 am #

      Pat, do you ever wonder why it is that there is one person who is “off” in the relationship and the other is “normal.” Why can’t normal people find normal people. We must be gluttons for punishment.

      I hope your wife is doing better? How is she? How are you?

  16. Piper August 6, 2012 at 2:35 am #

    I spent my whole life wondering why I can excel beyond anyone’s expectations or fail like I never had a chance. I always wondered why I could go from the employee every boss wants to a worker who misses several days from work each month with chronical lateness. I can go from having spotless credit to horrible credit and back to spotless credit again. Why I am hot or cold … never warm. Things couldn’t be better or things couldn’t be worse. Why my day is off the charts fantastic or I want to die in my sleep? That is what bipolar does to me among many other things. It ruins personal relationships, careers, and piece of mind.

    The people around a bipolar person have to deal with the crap that the people in their lives dish out. Bipolar people have to do that in addition to having to deal with the crap that their own minds are dishing out. It can be very aggravating. I recently found out that those with high IQs are often bipolar. I have very low self esteem and one thing I pride myself on is my intelligence level. Imagine that the major thing you like about yourself is the reason you are ill. Tell me that is not a hard pill to swallow.

    I am a rapid cycler. I never used to be, until recently. I used to have manic episodes most of the time and then when I would crash, I would spend a winter in bed pretty much, missing out on precious days of my life. Currently, I have been diagnosed as a rapid cycler and I am really not liking this at all. I hate the fact that I am smart and I have no control over my inner feelings, thoughts, or emotions. People tell me “relax”, “don’t take things so seriously”, “enjoy life”, “you shouldn’t feel that way”, etc…… I wish that I could just wave a wand and change the way I feel but it is out of my control. Been on medication and therapy for a little over three years and the meds that worked, did not work for long. My meds have been upped and downed, changed completely, and nothing works for long. So I continue to drive the ones I love away and insane. I don’t do it intentionally. Sometimes, when I am having a bipolar episode, I think to myself “why are we starting an argument, there is no good reason for it or I am being unreasonable, but I can not stop the behavior while it is happening. Then, I have to hope and pray that the people around me will forgive me for acting so ridiculous. Always feeling that impending doom that one time they will not and that it is just a matter of time until we are completely alone. For those with abandonment issues, bipolar intensifies these and manifests issues for those who had none.

  17. curtis October 1, 2012 at 4:28 am #

    if you are with a bipolar person and you are not bipolar-run like hell!

    • too close October 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm #


      So agree with you, most bipolar people I have known and had relationship with are the most self-centered, manipulative, bitter, judging people. Run and don’t look back. Many don’t want to get well, they want you to feel sorry for them, they have it so bad. I guess the rest of us just breeze through life and eat off our silver platter.

      • Ashley October 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

        you are a freaking douche bad, i hope you are alone for the rest of your like jerk!!!!

      • Bobbi December 31, 2012 at 12:32 am #

        I hope someday you start feeling like shit, need to go to a shrink and voila…you are bipolar!!!

  18. Ashley October 24, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I am honestly just lost. they put me on meds to even things out in my messeded up brain but nothing is working they just keep upping the dosage.. im a ticking time bomb. i feel so alone.. my husband is trying to help but he just dont understand. no one knows how i feel and when i try to explain it i just get people looking at me like im a nut case!!! someone help me please:(

    • observer January 1, 2013 at 8:07 am #

      People who suffer with bipolar can and do get better. However depends on their meds, getting the right ones, and staying on them. I find once they get better they think I feel better I don’t need these pills and they start messing with them or go completely off them. That seems to be the biggest problem to getting well and staying well. They need the meds just like the diabetic needs them, nothing wrong with them their brain chemistry is just different and needs the meds to function. That has been my observation after dealling with many who suffer from bipolar.

    • 23Drezzy May 31, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      My best advice is to exercise as much as you can, make sure you a lot of sleep, and take your medz. Ask you physician about Zyprexa Olanzapine. That’s what helped me.

      All the best. Feel better!

  19. Rachel January 12, 2013 at 4:08 am #

    Although I feel like people that are Bipoloar have a valid mental illness I also feel there are other factors involved that can influence a relationship with their spouse and children and have the cards stacked against them. I believe family upbringing and other environmental factors play a role. More so I believe there is a spiritual stronghold that keeps them in bondage. I believe having others pray for you to be delivered regularly could see great results.

    I am coming out of a 3 year marriage with few follow up attempts to reconcile with my reunited first love. I haven’t spoken with him since 11/11/12 when he came to my church unannounced and confronted in front of my children and others walking in. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, which was my most frequent comment to him. I felt he was so on the verge of cracking and he scared me. I told him it was neither the place or time to discuss our disagreement. I was desperate to help him but more scared and wanted to run away from him. He went into church and I sat in the back and he was gone, well, like a bat out of hell when service was over. I texted him that it was over after that. Normally that is not the way I would end a relationship but getting into a conversation with him is a trap. Six days later I got and apology email from him stating “that he didn’t handle it properly.” Really? To me, if I had something I wanted to discuss I would ask when the best time would be and that you loved me and wanted to resolve it. Nope. I got none of that consideration. All I got was embarrassment and feeling scared.

    I have two boys from a previous marriage and he has none. Six months after our marriage he got a letter stating he had a 25 year old son that he fathered. I was shocked and hurt but got over it.

    From the get go, he talks excessively especially when he wakes up. He learned to curtail it because it interfered with my sleep. It still occasionally happened but again I managed because I loved him more than the irritation. He got fired from his job for threatening a coworker. He played it down and took some blame but he said he was provoked. This sent my home into disarray. He was unemployed for 8 months. I began to think he was just fine with that like he wanted to not work. He had an offer for the Sheriff’s department booking job and was vetted for the #1 spot until they revealed in the exit interview that his Psych exam is what failed him. I saw the read flag on that one! He was in a new job when he was attempting getting that one and he emailed from work and that got him fired.

    Other things, like when I would speak honestly with him over a disagreement he got within an inch of my face. That scared the hell out me! He punched a hole in the door. He belittled my youngest son’s speech impediment which pissed me off royally and I called him on it. He said he was just trying to help. What a load of BS. He is very cutting with his remarks and alienated me from my mother-in-law that is still not the same to this day.

    On the flip he could be so loving and affectionate. The best love making of my life. Then he could be indifferent to a request for a massage that he may have offered the day before and then declined when asked to follow through.

    I almost feel like I am going through withdrawals which makes me feel crazy. I finally just cried like hell the other day and still feel those feelings wash over me and I well up. I am aware that he has already found a few women to have sex with online. I also know he still “loves” me. This is so baffling to me. For one I am still single and have had no sex with anyone since him. I am jealous, yes, at times. Very angry as of late. It takes all my strength at times not to contact him. I am concerned for him sure. His health isn’t so good either. He has AFib and has had a few blood clots since our marriage. He also had to have some plumbing surgery that I encouraged him to get. That is when the explosion happened. The final day when he had his cathader out I decided to go to the farmers market with a girlfriend and something in the text he wrote hit a nerve. I texted back I was going with a “friend”. He didn’t like that and began to call me, text me. I answered and spoke with him, I was firm but kind. When I got home at 10pm he was visibly pissed and pouting. I began to undress for a shower and he began arguing with me. I told him to knock it off and “grow some.” He shot up out of bed ripped the towel off me and again got within and inch of my face called me and “f’in fat b*tch” and continued to back me into a corner. He scared the crap out of me again. So here is the end of the relationship realizing I could never feel safe or be honest with him because these constant reactions I would get. I asked him to leave the next day. Luckily my kids weren’t home when this happened.

    He has been living with his mom for two years now. He doesn’t pay rent or utilities. This is where the upbringing comes into play. She is an emotional manipulator and baby’s all her children. The youngest son didn’t leave home until 34 years old. Once he was out of here I stood no chance because they all encouraged him not to come back. I tried to encourage him to get his own small apt till we could work things out so there would be no interference. He told them private things that I told him in confidence and I am sure even our sex life. His mom is a pot smoker throw back from the 60’s who get her fortunes told to her regularly. So there is a generational and biological curse on this family. For all I know the mother did drugs while pregnant with her kids. They had no warnings like they do now for such things. The father who since passed away some 5 years ago was an alcoholic too. There is isn’t just one pink elephant in the room there are several. I didn’t and don’t stand a chance.

    I have made a laundry list to remind myself of the things he said and did because I am a forward thinker and tend to forget the hurts from the day before. I am left with picking up the pieces of my life and heart. I should have left him in the past and I realize that him moving across the country 20 years ago was a God send. I am his third wife and doubt I’ll be his last. The first one threw things at him and the second wouldn’t speak to him for days. And of course it is all their fault of which I heard about regularly. No doubt I next in line for blame.

    Thanks for the vent session of those who made it this far. I guess I am on here looking for consolation or direction. I feel such a deprivation of lost hope, dreams and love. I believe he loves me but there is so much crap there that keeps him buried that our relationship would just stagnate or die off anyway. Do I still love him? Yes. I shouldn’t, but I do.

    • Rachel January 12, 2013 at 4:27 am #

      Oh yeah, I liken our relationship to that of Wuthering Heights, in particular the one with Tom Hardy.

  20. judy January 17, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    Seems like they can’t have a meaningful relationship and I was asking them to give me something they are not capable of giving. I had to open my blind eyes..

  21. Bibiana May 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    This was an excellent post. I am bipolar, although I was not diagnosed until my late 40s. Believe it or not, I DON’T mind taking the meds. I would rather take them for the rest of my life than be as sick as I was. However, bipolar is UNFAIR. I am a talented, decent person, but I cannot work full-time, cannot travel anymore because of my panic attacks, and have to be very careful of my scheduling.But on the positive side, my illness has given me a real appreciation for the small joys in life -and for the things I have and CAN do. I have part-time work that I love. I sing with a wonderful concert choir. I am very involved in my church and community. And I have two lovely adult children, friends, a boyfriend, and two sweet cats. Not bad!

  22. Bibiana May 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I feel the need to comment again. Bipolar is not just something that’s ‘all in your head’ , but neither is it an excuse to be abusive. Not all bipolar people are abusive, just like not all abusive people are mentally ill. Also, I feel that being bipolar does not absolve me of responsibility. I have to take care of myself, be decent to others, and give back to my community.

  23. din 7/16 female connector February 1, 2015 at 2:22 am #

    Minimizing Acceleration Sensitivity.

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