Help me help my boyfriend

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a couple months now. Over the years he has had problems with depression, mood swings, and suicidal thoughts. The doctors believe he has a bipolar disorder. They have been changing his medications for the past few years now, and he only seems to be getting worse. I know he is bipolar from what I have read, but I am unsure of how to help him since his medications are not working. He has asked to be placed in mental treatment, and I was wondering if this is the best option for him. We plan on spending the rest of our lives together, so we really need help on stablizing him. He has these mood swings where his mind goes blank, and he doesn’t think anymore. Then about 30 minutes later he goes right back to being normal. The mood swings are becoming more common now. I feel terrible for him because no one should have to live life like that. I need someones help. Please.

A: Your boyfriend is a lucky man indeed to have such a loving and supportive girlfriend. But from what you said, I think you are in over your head. He is in treatment with someone who is trying to adjust his medications. He needs to be working with his treaters, not with you, if he is feeling so symptomatic that he is seriously considering a hospitalization. I’m also concerned about the “blank” times. I hope he has shared this information with his doctors and that they have ruled out the possibility that he is having absence seizures.

If he really wants you to be helpful, the best thing your boyrfiend can do is make you a member of his support team by including you in his appointments. That way, you can report to the doctors what you observe about his moods and behaviors. Your boyfriend can only report what he experiences from the inside. You can be a more accurate reporter of how he appears from the outside. It would be helpful if you kept a daily log of your observations to bring along to the appointments.

I understand that you feel strongly about each other. But it’s really early in your relationship for you two to be deciding that you are a forever couple. Your boyfriend needs to focus on getting himself together before he will be able to be the kind of partner he wants to be and that your relationship needs. Although you show yourself to be unusually mature for 17, it is still a lot for someone your age to be a support for someone who at times is unable to be an equal partner. Pressure to take the relationship to the next level may be too much for him to manage – regardless of how much he likes you. I hope you will both slow down a bit and give him the room he needs to truly heal. Sometimes loving someone means taking a step back.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Help me help my boyfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/05/help-me-help-my-boyfriend/