Help me understand my bipolar friend


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I have a friend, N., who is a self-diagnosis'd bipolar. No medications.
He used to write code for computers and had several really good computer jobs, but eventually things went in another direction and he now suffers from depression. I've researched a lot of this online and he certainly fits a lot of the description, eg., when he was earning big $ he bought a half doz racecars, hundreds of art prints and paintings, and generally dug himself into a financial hole. Very manic at that time.
His wife is an engineer and a worker bee. She holds everything together. He stays home, does the laundry, makes dinner, and repairs things around the house. (In that sense, he's a househusband but I don't think I should tell him that, LOL!)
Our kids go to the same school and his kids are what I call Baby Geniuses. He and his wife are brilliant, too.
He is very funny, and very, very good at everything he does--in fact, if he can't do a perfect job, he won't even bother trying.
We used to go out to lunch about once a wk, talk about our kids (they go to the same school), talk about art (he collects, and I create), exchange books (I finally found someone who reads as much as I do!) and mostly, just eat and eat, because his family hates Indian food and sushi as much as we love it. It's really hard to find people who like that kind of food!
Generally, he fixes our computers, and I pay him back by buying him lunch. In fact, he totally created a special computer for difficult child that does not allow difficult child access to the disk drives, and has a very small graphics card so he can't play the games that make him go ballistic.
After my breast cancer surgery, I insisted on doing murals (mostly for my mental health--I couldn't lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling for one more min.). I had limited motion in my arms, and N. came and moved the ladder for me (it was on a stairway with-3 landings, very awkward and very heavy), and he critiqued my work.

husband was and is always at work, and won't look at anything until it's finished. He hates "the process" and is a linear thinker. (He keeps saying it's his German heritage.)

Right now, I'm working on an Asian gallery show with-N, which is comprised totally from things from his collection. There are two components to it, ceramics and prints. The students who were supposed to help him have all fallen through (to my embarrassment, one was my easy child), but I've been very good about helping with-the prints, since I love that sort of thing, and it's easy enough to send emails at my convenience, and then he can edit and upload at his convenience. On top of it, he's in the middle of a computer architecture planning event that will probably last 2yrs, so he's got his plate full.

He's getting really upset as the days go on, as anyone would under stress, but what does he do when he gets depressed? Sleep, of course. I understand that. But--this must be the bipolar part--he also stays up all night and watches an entire season of some TV series, or he plays video racing games, or generally does mindless things when he could be sleeping or working on his/our projects.
So he messes up his daytime schedule, misses lunches, doesn't bathe for days (don't ask me how his wife and kids put up with-it) and sometimes I feel like I'm walking on eggshells.
I shouldn't "own" it that much, except that since we're on deadline with-this show, (it opens the 1st wk of Nov.) the whole thing is making me nervous.

Okay, I'm projecting a bit of myself here, too. I have taken big strides with-my difficult child and my own emotions, I'm taking Effexor, going to counseling, all that. And he isn't doing anything for himself. On one hand, I'm impressed that he's so functional with-o medications, and on the other hand, it really ticks me off, because he could be taking medications, doing so much more, and helping his wife so much more. (For eg, their doorbell has been broken all summer.) She never complains in front of people, much to her credit. She just dives in and gets to work. But she's very serious and intense and I wonder how much is her normal personality and how much is dealing with-him.

I would like some insight into all of this. I've never known anyone quite like this b4. How much accountability should I expect from someone like this?

The only time I've actually lit off on him was when he slept late and totally forgot we were supposed to have lunch. I am hypoglycemic and have to eat every 3 hrs. If I don't eat, my fangs come out! He was very apologetic.
I am frustrated because I can't really plan ahead, and with-this show, it's all about planning.

Oh, one more thing --he does bring in income by selling some of the old cars and car parts he used to collect. It's pretty amazing, really--he can sell one collector car every 2 yrs, and pay off the kids' tuition, pay bills, etc., in one fell swoop. But he gets so uptight about the negotiation with-the sale that he's pretty much out of commission for a wk afterward, and he'll sleep and read and go incommunicado until he's ready to greet the world again.


Well-Known Member
Well I wish I had been that good with collecting stuff that I had that kind of ability now!

I found some pamphlets at my therapists office the other day and maybe they would be of some help to you.

I picked up the one that says When Someone You Love Has Bipolar so maybe that would give you some ideas.

Im sure there are others plus links to other places.

Now...his other activities sound normal for an unmedicated bipolar. Its true he would be much better off medicated. I dont know what you could do to help him unless he would be willing to consider medication. Is there a reason he wont?

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
I recognize alot of his behaviors because I share them.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> He's getting really upset as the days go on, as anyone would under stress, but what does he do when he gets depressed? Sleep, of course.</div></div>

I can't speak for your friend. But I react to stress this way because I'm feeling overwhelmed by it. It allows me to shut out the stimuli around me and gives my brain a break. I'm not sure if this is bipolar behavior or not. I've got several bipolar friends, plus Nichole, and they don't do this one. And it's not just stress, it can be any sort of overwhelming stimuli like loud music, crowds of people (including family), ect.

I'm not depressed when I do this despite what it appears to others.

I'm also a very creative person who tends to Not be able to see the forest because I'm paying too much attention to the trees. I'm so detail oriented I can loose the Big picture and get bogged down and overwhelmed. Having someone remind me of the goal is often helpful and can get me back on track. As I've gotten older I've learned to do more of this for myself.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">But--this must be the bipolar part--he also stays up all night and watches an entire season of some TV series, or he plays video racing games, or generally does mindless things when he could be sleeping or working on his/our projects. </div></div>

I also do this. For me it is a coping mechanism to let out my manic behavior without it branching out into worse self destructive outlets. But if I'm working on a pencil sketch say, I can put the same sort of manic energy into it and spend more than 18 hours on just that sketch without eating and such. So this type of behavior can also be beneficial. And I can honestly say that even when I was on medications this behavior didn't really change much. But I have learned to steer such behavior to certain times of the day or week or whatever instead of it being out of control. In other words, don't bother me after 9pm. That's my computer time. I play my Sims2 game (and have done it for the past 7 yrs) and yak on this board. Doesn't mean it's the only time I do these things, it's just the uninterruptable period. It better be one heck of an emergency. lol

My family has learned to keep their distance and avoid interrupting either type of the above behavior unless absolutely necessary. I can be redirected, but I'm a bear for a while til my brain shifts gears.

With my minor "relief valves" I can maintain stability without medications. I don't go off on extreme manic binge behavior, nor to I fall into major depressive states.

While it made the first years of marriage to husband tough on him a bit, now it's just "normal". It's just Me.

And yes, I think your friend needs to be held accountable. I expect others to hole me accountable when I agree to do something. I might have to do an all nighter or something to pull it off, but I've always managed to meet deadlines and such.

I don't know if this helps you understand a bit more or not. lol


I just finished reading a book "The Best Awful:A Novel" , by Carrie Fisher. You may remember her as Princess Leia from Star Wars. She has been very open about her Bipolar diagnosis and has written several fictional books about her issues. This one really captured the issue of not wanting to take medications or medication noncompliance for me. Quite simply, the medications take away the glorious, euphoric highs that cycling bipolars experience and crave. That's no fun! The problem is that those highs inevitably get out of control. I had a friend in college who was so creative and just so much fun to spend time with. One night he broke into my apartment around 3AM because he had some really great ideas to share with me... Luckily neither one of us got hurt when he woke me up unexpectedly. This was the beginning of a week long period when he did not sleep at all and our small group of friends took turns staying up with him until we could get him admitted to a hospital for treatment. This was quite an eyeopener for me at the time.

Medications really can control this disease very well, Lithium is a tried and true approach for many. One thing for your friend to keep in mind is that each repeated cycle does leave its mark on the brain - in a way that is very similiar to repeated, uncontrolled seizures. It is something for him to think about.

I understand your love and concern for your friend. I definitely felt the same way about mine. The very things that made him such a joy to be around were also the things that made him very ill.


Well-Known Member
Thank you all. That is very helpful.
He said that if he ever had to go back to work in the corporate world, he would try medications, but since he pretty much has it worked out, he is continuing on this path.
His manic episodes are under better control, and if he stays up all night, he makes up for it by sleeping during the day, which messes up his sleep cycle but doesn't actually take away sleep, if that makes sense. He never goes more than 24 hrs with-o sleep, like he used to do in college, by his own admission.

I think he is afraid of medication side effects, trying diff doses, etc. In fact, he often suffers from sinus headaches that turn into migraines, and he has only taken Tylenol twice in the 2 yrs I've known him. I've offered him my Imitrex and he refuses. I'm guessing he had a bad trip there somewhere, or had a friend who had that experience in college, but I could be wrong. But he's an awful lot like my husband in that regard, not taking medications unless it's a life and death situation.

I love it when he's manic! He is so much fun! He's helped me plant things around my yard, we've hunted for daylilies and other items on sale (after his disasters yrs ago with-$ he is a very good bargain hunter now, so at least he's learned from his past mistakes!). Because he's so obsessive-compulsive, and I have 4 acres and no system, he has also helped me create a yard map and create nametags for the more exotic things we have. (This will be great when I am senile and all I have to do is read the labels, LOL!)

husband has asthma and allergies. It was his idea to buy a house on the water, but it was a concept that had no bearing on reality. Sigh.

N.'s repaired a lot of things around our house, and together, we made bookshelves for husband's birthday last yr. It was very fun and very productive.

But then he'll get manic on some other project and it's hard not to feel left out. Or he'll crash and go AWOL for a week, sleeping. I want to keep going on whatever project we've started. It's like his excitement is contagious, you know?

Lisa, this was very helpful: For me it is a coping mechanism to let out my manic behavior without it branching out into worse self destructive outlets. I hadn't thought of it that way. I admit I was being judgmental. It's just so hard to figure this out sometimes.

Also, he's been very helpful with-our difficult child. He often wonders if difficult child isn't bipolar instead of or in addition to being ADHD. He, as well as other friends, has taken time out of his day to drive all the way over when difficult child is raging, to help me out. But inevitably, by the time he/they get here, difficult child has calmed down to the point where he's steaming and giving off that Mean Monster face, but not actually throwing anything or kicking, so it's really hard to tell.
N. keeps saying he wants to see difficult child in a full blown meltdown so he can distinguish the diff. Very few people actually WANT to be a part of that, LOL!

N. has never gotten mean that way ... the only indication I've gotten was once, when he asked his son to pick up piles of leaves in the yard, and instead, his son snuck off and ruined the specially made wheelbarrow (N. had constructed a sort of box on top of the wheelbarrow to give it more capacity). His son said it broke, but you could tell that it was broken deliberately so he could get out of doing the work. N. was absolutely steaming, and stomped around for 2 days afterward. I asked him what he did to punish his son, and he said, "I told D. to deal with-it. I walked away."
"What? Why did you leave it for your wife to deal with?"
I saw that as being totally immature and into avoidance tactics. But he stopped me in my mental tracks when he said, "Because I didn't want to hurt him."
He has never hurt his kids, and he deliberately has worked out this method because his mother abused them as kids and he has worked hard to redirect his life.
In fact, he's way better at that than I have been. I had a very abusive mother who drank, and I find myself losing my temper and yelling--to no avail--as we have all learned--and have had to work very hard not to repeat the same mistakes.
N. says I have taken it too far--that because I was treated so harshly, I am too soft on my difficult child.
But when you're raised like that, it's hard to find mentors.

Anyway, thank you all.



Mom? What's a difficult child?
The book "Detour" By Lizzie Simon is great because she goes into detail about her issues with medication and interviews some highly intelligent people who are medicated and some who are not... she is traveling the US looking for her herd. Many of the people in the book are just like N...
I am to some degree, my Brother in law is a lot... he has stopped taking medications for about a year now.

He was in and out of colleges, aced tests but found the homework too boring... same story with highschool, so he drank to fill the boredom. Went into the Navy after dropping out of his first college, nulear engineering in the Navy, drank himself into A stupor... he was in the top of his program! Ran up credit card debt and finally forced a discharge.
This kind of behavior has gone on for years now. He is my age, 37. He will throw tons of money into stocks and investments and make tons of money. Hide for days in his apt... read book after book after book.
He feels the medications quash his spirit. but we can see a difference, short fuse, depression etc.
He goes to therepy and now lives with his girlfiend but we worry abotu the day if they were to ever break up...
For him the one thing that has really forced him to "deal" with dealines and schedules is guilt!!! He got sick of hurting people ... He owns the busines with my husband and stepdad. He is still really hard to work with and he and his dad both suffer from mood disorders, mt poor husband has to walk on eggshells ALOT!!!
B crashed and burned one too many times and I think that is what has really helped him, more than the medications, I wish he would keep up on the medications though.

It is hard though... I have more of the ups than the severe downs.... I get down but not severly. I will be hypomanic for days though...
He is lucky to have you!!!


Well-Known Member
I couldn't possibly help you with understanding bipolar, BUT I'm jealous as the devil that you have a friend that you obviously care so much for. To be that devoted to a friend to the degree that you are, isn't found very often.

I swore off friends about five years ago. 'Got tired of being hurt over and over and over...


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I cannot imagine not having any friends. What would I have done during my cancer scare?
My friend, D, had cervical cancer and lung cancer at diff times in her life, so she sat down with-me and made a list of priorities and tasks. She was in charge of the phone for the days and weeks after my surgery. She literally screened my calls and got quite an earful, as we all have relatives and kooks we do not want to talk to! She was businesslike and calm. (Although we had good laughs after she hung up the phone!)
She was irreplaceable.
A few mo's later, we got into a huge fight--actually, she exploded and I was clueless. I've never had that happen b4 or since with-any friend, and had to give it some good, hard thought as to whether it was worth it all. I decided it was. (So did she.)
My friend, N., was given the task of watering my special rhododendrons, daylilies, and anything else that was special, because we have people who cut the grass but they don't have a clue when it comes to the diff between a weed and a plant. He brought over movies, and his kids (who were bored silly but it was summer and he didn't want to leave them home alone), sat with-me on the couch and watched movies, all the while with-one eye out the window to make sure the sprinkler was doing its thing.
Other friends sent flowers and stopped by with-chocolate or entire meals.
Of course, there's my husband, who pretty much told everyone on the planet about my cancer. It was embarrassing, because one of the 1st things people do when you have breast cancer is stare at your chest, (like they can really see anything?!) but I got over the embarrassment whenever someone showed up with-a hot meal, LOL!

I swear off my friends but it never lasts.

Keep working at it. It's give and take. I'm sure my bipolar friend has things to say about me, too ...


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The low lows I'd hit after the hypomania wasn't worth it to me. I slept when I was depressed too. Depression is like a broken leg that you can't treat--it's an emotional pain that offers no relief--for me I'd not even have a few seconds of relief and nothing gave me pleasure, so I slept. I didn't want to put my family through that, and I hated being that way. I would never go off my medications. The black depression isn't worth what benefits the hypomania may give me. And my family deserves me to be the best I can be.
Sounds like N. may also have stuff going on that's not just bipolar. I know I do. Rarely does a person have only one thing going on. I doubt I'd be friends with somebody who was bipolar and wouldn't take medications--I would forever be asking them why they'd choose to be that way.


Well-Known Member
Well, I guess that's the $10,000 question. Of course, if you say "choose," anyone is going to take that as an affront.
I'll wait until an appropriate situation presents itself.
But it will have to wait until after this show has been installed.


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I tend to agree with MWM about how I feel with the hypomania and mania. Mine isnt fun. I dont get the happy, joy, joy times where I feel wonderful and want to go have a wonderful old time. I get stupid. The things I do when manic or hypo are simply dumb. I also get irritable, angry and feel like I want to climb out of my skin. Not sleeping for days on end makes me edgy as all get out.

I dont like any of this and so Im constantly on the look out for sliding into hypomania. If I start spending too much money on dumb things, feeling too up, talking too much, having too many racing thoughts, not completing sentences...I start looking at my medications and making sure I havent skipped a dose or something. Sometimes I have messed up and missed one. Sometimes I am coming down with a cold. Sometimes my world is going cranky on me and I need to hibernate. I cant get to the manic phase or Im in trouble. I have two people watching me closely. Anytime I start any new medications we watch me like a hawk. Jury is still out on Lyrica on how it is effecting me. I like the pain control but my mood is iffy but that could be environmental right now.


Roll With It
Not sure if this will help you understand your friend of not.

I did some research a few years back when we were looking at bipolar as a diagnosis for my difficult child. Quite a number of sources seemed to feel that the manic phase can actually create pathways in the brain. The more manic phases you have, the more likely you are to have another one. It is almost addicting. People with bipolar will actually crave the manic state. Many of them either go off their medications to get this "high" or seek triggers to get it. Much like drug addicts do things to get high. And hte longer you have the disease, the more likely you are to seek out hte highs.

It is one reason why ruling out bipolar is recommended to be the FIRST thing we do when our kids show signs of mental illness. Rather than starting stimulants or antidepressants (both of which can make bipolar worse), starting with a good mood stabilizer can make all the difference in the world. It is a shame that so many docs will write a prescription for controlled substances for little kids, but won't take the time to figure out if bipolar is part of the mix. With a stimulant or antidepressant on board, it is very hard to see if a mood stabilizer is doing its' job.

I think that holding your friend accountable, esp with a show coming up, is probably very important. He sounds like a wonderful friend in many ways. Maybe by pushing for some accountability you could end up being a better friend. LIke the doctor in the show "House" said last week, "If he had tuberculosis I would still treat him. But I wouldn't let him cough on me." In this case you can be his friend and work with him, but you don't have to tolerate disrespectful or unproductive behavior.



by the way, do you have any of your art posted on a website? I would love to see some of it&gt;


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Susie, I used to drink tons of coffee to get to that hypomanic state. It's I stopped. The real key here was when I'm goofy and silly and enjoying myself, nobody else is enjoying I don't live in a vacuum. I have a hub and five kids who need me and I just couldn't live from "High" to "crash" (during the crashes I was useless). I think it's important for those with bipolar to at least attempt to get to an even keel. THAT is also addictive, in my opinion. I love stability now. Why should others have to learn to deal with our crazy moodswings? Fine if you live alone, but not when you take on a family. JMO


Well-Known Member
In this case you can be his friend and work with him, but you don't have to tolerate disrespectful or unproductive behavior.

Thanks, Susie, that is true. The problem is, when ever I want to talk about something, he's too tired (both physically and emotionally) and just wants to go to bed. I think he uses his bipolar issues as an excuse sometimes, a way of not dealing with-things he has to deal with-. It's like he doesn't even try.
And that ticks me off, because I see all of you working so hard on your issues, and I'm working on mine, doing medications, going to counseling, exercising, all that, and it's d*mn hard work.

He can deal with-things when he has to, say, the curator of a gallery when we have an appointment. from 9-2, but it's like at 2, the appointment ends and N. turns back into a pumpkin.

Maybe I should put him in the category of my friend, D., when she broke her wrist and I couldn't even be around her because it affected her whole attitude and I wanted to tell her to go on medications or something. But I knew that her issues would pass when her wrist healed. (And believe me, it has taken more than the full 8 wks of healing!!!)
His issues ... I don't know.

On one hand, I want to say "It's not my problem." on the other hand, he does need to be held accountable.

Why should others have to learn to deal with our crazy moodswings?

Good point, JMO. Except that being silly and happy and goofy are generally good things! I think that's what makes the "downs" even worse, because there's such a contrast.

Maybe I should view his moods more like my friend, G, who has lupus. Every day after lunch, she takes a nap. If you're in the middle of something incredibly stimulating, or intense, or fun, you say, "Don't go!" and she says, "Fine, but then I can't have dinner with-you and I will also sleep late in the a.m."

She knows her limits.
My friends sort of knows his. I just wish he'd be more regimented. Like, if he HAD to nap at exactly at 2 p.m. ea day, come h*ll or high water, I could handle that. But some days, you're in the middle of a project, or he's helping me with-my difficult child, either in person, or offering advice in email, and then he just drops off the face of the earth.