How does mental illness affect families?
“This was thrown over in pieces on the living room floor… This is when I came home from Connecticut. This drawer I couldn’t find for months: it was stuck in a tree outside. I had to stain all the furniture, fix everything up like nothing happened. And he took all of the pictures out of all the albums and cut them all up. And he took our wedding album and took it all apart. And I put everything back like nothing happened.”
“When I’d get up in the morning, there would be a bunch of people sleeping on the floor. Underwear here, underwear here. There would be a bunch of people sitting at the table when I’d get home from work, playing cards, ‘get me this, get me that’. They don’t know what they’re doing. They have no rational idea of what’s proper and what’s not. They’re always doing things like they want to make a business. One time, he wanted to go into the cheesecake business and sell the little ones? He called Junior’s to put out the little ones, and I don’t know what they told him or whatever, well anyway, he went to make a party and rented a hotel room, and he brought [Aunt] Dannielle down there. And I was working at the time at the school. So I went down to stay with her, since I didn’t wan her to stay there by herself. He called everyone in for a business meeting. Oh God, he brought 100 loaves of long bread but no meat or anything to go on it. He brought that and bagels but nothing to eat with it. And we stayed there for a couple days and then she wouldn’t come home with me, so Mark went down and took her out of there and drove her home. And then when I’d come over, between Mark and Harold, they got him to go into the hospital.”
“So many times I’d, stupid me, I shouldn’t have done it, end up calling the cops. I wanted to stop him from f*cking up the house again, cause he turned off all the electric. By the time the police came, he took that picture out of the bedroom and put it in the middle of the living room and the police walk in, ‘What’s going on here?’ ‘Nothin’. I says ‘I have no electricity, he turned off the electricity.’ I explained to them that he has a mental disorder and that’s why he does all this…and they told me to get out.”
It is obvious from these stories that this behavior isn’t okay. These are symptoms of bipolar disease, also known as manic depression. Everyone that is affected by this mental disorder lash out in different ways, just as different people react differently to certain medicines or foods. But ultimately, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.1 Bipolar disorder often develops in a person's late teens or early adult years and at least half of all cases start before the age of 25.2
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
How can this affect your family?
It is said by scientists and researchers that bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Some research suggests that certain genes are more likely to develop this disorder than other genes. Children that have parents or siblings with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the disorder as opposed to children whose families do not have a history of the illness. However, genes are not the only risk factor for bipolar disorder. Other outside factors are possibly involved in this development.3
If you know someone who has bipolar disorder, it affects you too: especially family members. As a companion, you are expected to offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.4 Unless an episode is experienced, it is very difficult to imagine just how hard it is to carry out these expectations. Just imagine: a father. He’s yelling and screaming, at you, breaking everything there is to be broken, making irrational decisions. How do you maintain your own composure before helping him, too?