Like you, I’m all too aware of the devastation that bipolar disorder can cause in a family. How do I know? Because my mother has been suffering from bipolar disorder for much of her life. My family made many mistakes in the way that we handled my mother’s problem until I decided to do something about it and find a way to help my mother and the millions of other individuals and families who live with bipolar disorder.
To understand what I’ve done and what I’m still trying to accomplish, I need to provide you with some background information about my family and me. As I stated earlier, my mother has had bipolar disorder for most of her life. As I was growing up, I remember witnessing some of her depressive and manic episodes. My family didn’t talk about them or the disorder. Instead, we pretended nothing was wrong and left my mother with the responsibility of finding help on her own. That was one of the biggest mistakes my family made.
Now let’s fast-forward to May of 2003. I began noticing that my mother seemed to be angry a lot. She also stopped sleeping normally and started spending more time by herself. When I talked to her, I realized she was also becoming increasingly paranoid. For example, I asked her, “How’s the lawn doing?” and she immediately assumed that I was saying the lawn looked horrible and needed to be completely redone. These, of course, are all signs of a bipolar episode, but none of my family members did anything about them. We expected things to get better on their own. But they didn’t.
A month later, my mother wasn’t sleeping or eating. She refused to leave her room, and we began to realize something needed to be done. The problem was we had no clue about what to do. She was already in a full-blown bipolar episode, but not even my father understood what steps to take in order to help my mother.
After I’d gotten her to agree to go to the hospital, my father and I realized that we didn’t even know which hospital she needed to go to or even who her doctor was! We searched through the house and finally found the doctor’s business card. My dad called him, then he and my mother went to the hospital.
I didn’t go with them. I was too emotionally and physically exhausted at that point from trying to help my mother deal with a disorder that I didn’t even understand. That’s when I realized that we should have understood it, especially since my brother and I had been dealing with the problem for our entire lives.
At that moment, I decided to find out as much as I could about bipolar disorder, so that I could educate myself and so that I could more effectively help my mother. I stopped first at the library and asked the librarian for books on manic depression, which is what my father had always called my mother’s problem. The librarian informed me that the problem was now called “bipolar disorder.” That showed me just how out of the loop my family was. We’d been dealing with the problem for years and didn’t even realize that the terminology had changed!
Anyway, to make a long story short, I made learning about bipolar disorder a top priority. I took off from work for nine months so that I could devote myself entirely to my research. I talked to dozens of medical professionals, attended support groups, read almost every book available, and did everything possible to find out more about bipolar disorder.
After those nine months were over, I was able to use that information to help get my mother on the right track and to start putting a plan together that would make it easier for us to deal with future episodes when they occurred. All my hard work paid off. Look at the differences in my mom’s life before I did my research and after…
While I was glad to have helped my mother, I had also realized during my research that there simply were no books available to help the supporters of people with bipolar disorder. I’d also learned from firsthand experience that a book like that was desperately needed.
To fill that need, I put together all of my research and developed a “course” just for bipolar supporters, which would give supporters the tools we needed to effectively help the people we love. As I talked to more and more people who had bipolar disorder or who were supporting someone who did, I learned about other information needed both by survivors of bipolar disorder and their supporters. For example, they needed to learn how to restore their credit, reduce their debt, buy a car, buy a house, and find a good doctor or therapist. In response to those questions, I began to build this website, so that it included more and more of the information people needed to cope with bipolar disorder themselves or support a loved one with bipolar disorder.
As you can see, my site has grown to include a lot of helpful information. Today my organization is not only the biggest site online related to bipolar disorder, but also the fastest growing. If you type the word bipolar into your Google.com search engine, my site is returned as one of the top sites. And there’s a good reason for that: My materials include more than 2000 pages of information based on reality and real-life experiences—not just theory. With some 11 people on staff who have a mental illness and are successful in life, my organization is well equipped to provide you with the quality information you need to cope with bipolar disorder yourself or to support a loved one who has it.
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