Never getting better

I need some insight into bipolar please.

My 40 y/o sister is in hospital again. She has been in a hospital 4 or 5 times since she was 24 y/o.

I have my own ideas about depression and this huge topic and would like to explain where i am coming from.

1) do people actually get better and live a fully normal life with bi polar ? If not, why ??

2) Do they not get better because the brain type drugs are not what these people need. Would they benefit more from attention to diet and hormones ?

3) When humans are badly treated physically or emotionally the body adapts and changes to accommodate the stress, stimulus etc.

e.g., if you don't get a good diet while growing you will likely be smaller in stature. If you bind your feet while they grow they will be small and deformed when you reach full adulthood. Women used to do this in Japan.

When children are treated with fear, or non consistent attention they can develop unbalanced personalities. The body learns ways of behaving on a hormonal and chemical level.

4) The mental health industry wants to alter peoples brain signalling in order to make them well. But why do they not look at a more fundamental level and balance hormonal issues which are never addressed.

Is it because hormones cannot make companies any money ??

So i have a sister who lives a very separate life from mine. I have not seen her many times over the last few years as she has wanted to keep herself separate from the family.

Two years ago she was at her mums house and took all her clothes off and ran around the garden. She was being very aggressive and the police were called and she was sectioned. At the time she was going through issues with her husband and they have now divorced, but are still friends.

She has recently been sectioned again after crashing her car the other week.

She called me tonight (which she has never done before as i am not really part of her life). She was talking about the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. This topic comes up every time she is having a full "episode". It is not talked about when she is balanced.

I think all this is happening AGAIN because of medicine changes.

To me it just seems that my sister does not get better or balanced. All the drugs do is keep her contained. Are there any alternative paths to follow in terms of getting better. I think she has a councillor who she sees most weeks so talking is part of her life which is a good thing, but she is still unwell. I mean is this the norm for bipolar for the rest of your life ? Is it the norm to talk about sexual abuse when in an episode ? Why does she talk about this only when she is unwell ??

Growing up for both of us was not happy. We lived in a stable community, but our home life was dysfunctional (but very middle class). He lived with my mum from 7 yrs till 15. He was never violent or bad to us, we were just a burden to my mum and her boyfriends relationship. Whether this guy sexually abused my sister i have no idea. I suppose it could easily have happened, but i never saw anything. This topic was never mentioned until my sister was first sectioned aged 24 and this is when she was diagnosed as bi polar. Before this she was just a normal young adult, a bit geeky, but boringly normal.

I don't know if anyone can help me because i am looking for a bit more guidance than just "please be there for her". I really want to find some deeper answers to this whole thing. I am pretty sure there is more that can be done than just dosing up on personality suppressing drugs.

sorry for rambling, but it is hard to type exactly what i am feeling and my thoughts.

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7 Replies

  • Hello - I can't help a lot with your complex post, I'm sure other can though.

    I would say I think it is possible to live a 'normal' life with bipolar.

    It can be a matter of finding the correct medication, which I can imagine is not easy sometimes. Plus, patient compliance with any treatment whether therapy or medication

    Has your sister had counselling for the sexual abuse issue?

    I am sure your support is very important to her!

    Sorry to not be more helpful, best wishes ❤️

  • I understand your concerns completely, bi polar is different for each individual. I had bi polar when I was 45, I realised that my Mother had it, it usually runs in families. I am fortunate that I lead a normal life, I am on lithium and this stabilises me. I do not see anyone now because I found myself having to listen to my Psychriastrist more than he listened to me. I worked and even put up with a husband who has something wrong with him, he is Mr Intolerant. Now regarding your sister who you say you are not sure if she was abused. If this is the case I would imagine that it would be very hard for anyone of us to come to terms with let alone if she is bi polar. From what you have written your biological Father is not in the picture, also you say both of you got in the way of your Mother and her boyfriends, this is very unsettling for both of you as children. I cannot help you regarding what medication your sister is being given. Diet etc do not play a part as far as I am aware. Your sister could be lacking vitamin D which produces low moods. Personally I do feel that your sister has had a lot to endure, as you do not live with her you do not know if she takes her medication regularly, if she forgets or does not bother then this is why she gets sectioned. Sometimes people think if you are bi polar then you don't work or lead a normal life - completely untrue. Take Stephen Fry, he is bi polar. Do not fret over your sister, she will get the best treatment, maybe she needs support from her family. It is hard to be alone with this illness and no one understands. Try to see her more often and make sure she takes her medication. My son now has it, it upsets me and he has got into awful debts with it, spending money he does not have. Bi polar is either you are on a high, spending money, fast driving, taking all your clothes off like your sister did, or very low mood, wanting to die, no energy, cannot focus on anything which would normally give you happiness. But there are those of us like me and lots of people who live normal lives and you would not know we are any different😊😊 hope I have helped xx

  • Hi Lin I just want to say what a great reply this is, I am not bi-polar but suffer from Depression since my 30's. A lot of what you say can relate to Depression, I'm sure your reply will help the original Poster but I just wanted to say thanks for this great reply.

    One of my best school friends had BiPolar since it was diagnosed as a student, she too had ups and downs but if she stayed on her medication she was mostly ok.


  • So pleased I have been able to help. Thank you🤗🤗😊😊

  • You are asking some very difficult questions, which as far as I know, and I'm pretty sure literally no one in the medical profession could answer. I'm not a medic so can only give my opinions on your questions

    1) I don't think anyone with bipolar gets better but for many it is possible to live a relatively normal life albeit very unhappily at times. Basically this is because the medics know too little about it,altho they can help to some extent. How normal a life depends on the sufferers particular type of disorder , their own inner courage and strength, and the degree of support they receive both from medical people , and friends and family resources.

    2) What little is understood indicates this is a type of brain disorder , and not due to hormones/diet. So little is understood that even this conclusion could be faulty.

    3)Childhood experiences appear related to the condition but identical twin studies,raised together and separately indicate that there are other factors including genetics.

    4) You're right to be cynical about drug companies but again there is evidence that drugs help many. Maybe there is a case for more research on diet/hormones but I do not know what indications there are that this would help ,or how much research has been done on this. I doubt that GPs could answer this.

    There may be as many varieties of bipolar disorder and other mental illness as there are people but obviously the problem will never have the resources to do anything helpful on this basis. I suspect your sister would be helped by a spouse,friend or family member who could dedicate a great deal of their time to trying to help her but few people have the dedication or time to do this . When you look at the number of people who suffer mental health problems, the human race will never have the resource to dedicate to this level of support , and of course there is the danger that whoever was designated as support might not even be the right person to help.

    Don't let all these difficulties put you off listening to your sister as much as possible and giving all the love and support you are able to give her , within reason. Any love and support you can give her will make a big difference to an improvement in the quality of her life , but you have to balance this with the requirements of your own life and happiness. If you or someone could convince her in the kindest way that while friends, family and medics all want to, and will try to help , her own courage and resolve are probably even more important. Its a tough illness so don't be surprised if her courage and resolve are sometimes not enough.

    I write as a sufferer for 40 years, on and off, who so far (at 73) has led a pretty normal life and no one knew except my wife and medics. My wife and I now live separately which has made things much more difficult for me but I'm managing so far (10 years). However my bipolar disorder is likely to be different from your sister's. Minds are so complicated it would be a miracle if that was n't so and that is the heart of the problem.


  • Thanks for the replies.

    My dad is still in the picture, but we only saw him at the weekends. He is part of our lives but we are not a close family. Typical old fashioned family with not a lot of love or confidence.

    But that is what it is and you still get on and do life.

    I think my sister does take her medication, but i think it has caused problems with weight etc. Maybe she does miss taking it sometimes, but i am not sure on that one.

    I just think there maybe a better way of approaching this issue in terms of diet and understanding how the adrenal glands work as these little organs produce cortisol and i think it is this hormone which tips people into being depressed or manic. Too much cortisol means you are on top of the world, too little and you are low.

    You can buy cortisol saliva tests which show how your daily rhythm works. It is research like this which i think could be useful. ALSO hashimotos disease is said to be involved with being a manic depressive. This is a thyroid condition and many thyroid sufferers are told they have depression when really they have an endocrine disorder. It is a huge scandal in the thyroid world.

    I really think this is related here, but it is hard to get this information over to my sister. She sort of uses this illness as an excuse to do nothing with her life. Her whole life is based around therapy, mixing with other sufferers, walking the dog and generally living a fairly low key life. I don't think she is fulfilled, and so she has these blow ups every so often.

    Do other sufferers just live a life based around this illness or do people live a normal 'ish life?

  • Hello, after being told I suffered from depression for 20 years and having tried all the drugs and ect, I have now been diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder type II with Complex PTSD. I am on a completely new drug treatment that includes Lithium, Lamotrigine, Effexor and Omega 3. I feel balanced, settled and well. Yes there are side effects, notably acne because of the Lithium, however I have none of the weight gain on this combination associated with queitapine. My psychiatrist hypothesised that I most probably have a genetic predisposition to Bipolar but that was exacerbated by childhood abuse and traumatic work experiences (I was a child protection social worker). He was clear that there is medical evidence that Omega 3 has a beneficial effect for people with Bipolar and I take 3g a day.

    Am I normal, do I lead a normal life....goodness I hope not! I am who I am and if I am juged normal, so be it, if not....well I don't care anyway. I am a caring, compassionate, loyal, fun, intelligent, witty, individual who is a Priest and a Philosopher. I am also a wife, chocolate lover, sad movie sobber, state of the world worrier, injustice awareness raising, red head! I don't know if any of those traits are due to Bipolar, certainly at time when I am ill all those traits can become problematical as I can lose perspective, but am I normal? Because of my faith, my belief is that I am the person who God created me to be, that is not saying that God gave me Bipolar, but I am who I am because of and inspite of all the negative experiences in my life. I can only be who I am, but it has taken a lot of life and many 'lessons' to accept that.

    I think what is important is that your sister gets on the right meds, and sticks to them. It takes time....grrr, yes we have all been there, but there will be a combination that works. Once she is on an even keel then things will look different for her and you.

    Are meds just a way of society medicating people into behaving in a way that society finds acceptable? Well one answer is yes, but what is the alternative, back in the day to be diagnosed with a severe mental illness (and don't let anyone fool you, that is what Bipolar is) would mean incarceration into an asylum for life. Pre assylum days the mentally ill were cared for, or more likely not, by the parish. Many people with mental illness would travel from one parish to another, begging, being beaten, mocked and accused of being possesed by evil. The few charitable places that would provide some form of care would be religious orders, hospitals, convents and monestaries. Could and should things be better for the mentally ill, yes of course they should, and daily I and people I know campaign for this.

    I would have a look in your local library or at Amazon for books about mental health and Bipolar. Try and choose the most recent as developments happen so quickly. You will find a stream of literature and academic opinion that is known as anti-psychiatry or post-psychiatry. There is some good stuff here but be warned some of it is just dangerous. Yes meds affect the way your neurons grow, but this is not a reason to dismiss meds. Gather up as much information as you can, become an expert by experience, see if there is a local group for people with Bipolar or their carers and phone someone and have a chat. The more information you have the more you are able to advocate for someone who is ill. Doctors, especially psychiatrists get a bit twitchy when faced with someone who knows just as much as they do, keep asking questions, keep in contact, ask to be part of any planning, don't take extreme views, keep the conversation open.

    Ok that's all I can think of at the moment. Oh and my qualifications, I am a qualified social worker, I have a degree in theology and am an ordained priest in the Church of England and I am doing a Masters in Philosophy and Mental Health, and, AND..most importantly I am an expert by experience because I suffer from Bipolar . Good luck.