Walking on Eggshells Around A Person With Bipolar Disorder

September 2, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Recently I was contacted by someone (let’s call her Ms. X) who wanted to end a friendship with a bipolar person and asked me how to do it with the least harm possible. I talked with Ms. X and it appears that her bipolar friend had been doing some very hurtful things. I asked Ms. X if she had talked to her friend about these things. Ms. X said that no, she hadn’t.

So why is terminating a friendship preferable to talking about the problem?

Bipolars Behaving Badly

I have bipolar disorder and I know that my mood leaks into everyday life, no matter how much I don’t want it. I’m very conscientious when it comes to keeping my bipolar hidden from others, but let’s face it, sometimes I fail. These failures don’t tend to be very dramatic, but it doesn’t mean that other people never get hurt. And for some bipolars, their mood swings can be very hurtful indeed.

It’s not much fun to be around someone with:

And so on. Each person with bipolar has their own special list as to what bipolar symptoms slip into their lives.

Can’t We Just Talk About This?

It’s true that when a person is in the midst of a depressive or manic episode discussing their behavior may not be all that helpful. It’s difficult for someone in the middle of a brainstorm to pay attention to anything other than the lightening in their head. Nevertheless, at some point, someone needs to say something.

While actions committed in an episode can be more indicative of the disease than of the person, it can still hurt nonetheless.

People though, seem extremely reluctant to just say so. For some reason they don’t want to say they were hurt by the actions of the person with bipolar disorder.

But I’ll Break Them!

That’s not really true. You can’t cause bipolar any more than you can cure it. Now I’m not suggesting that a raging fight with your significant other will have no effect, but I am saying that discussing how you feel, asserting yourself and defining boundaries are reasonable things to do and when done calmly and lovingly, are good for both of you.

Won’t They Just Figure Out Themselves How I Feel?

Now that’s just silly. No one can read your mind. And a bipolar most especially can’t do it when they’re in the grips of their illness. No, you’re going to have to be a big boy or girl and talk to them.

So, How Do I Discuss A Problem With a Person With Bipolar Disorder?

Pretty much like you would discuss it with anyone else you care about, I’d expect. Try to get your thoughts together, and then find a quiet time when you’re both OK to sit down and rationally discuss the problem. A good sentence is:

“I felt hurt when you ____. That was not OK with me.”

You may wish to follow it up with something like:

“I understand that is part of your illness, but I still need to express my feelings around it.”

And then finally,

“How can we can work together to prevent this from happening again?”

That’s how I would deal with anyone. A mental illness doesn’t make the person a block of C-4 explosive.

(This is not to suggest that some people don’t have anger issues and won’t react well to this sort of conversation. If you feel that is the case then I recommend having the conversation in a therapist’s office. Again, that’s not specific to bipolar disorder, that’s just a fact for some people.)

Why Should I Bother?

Well, that’s a question left to the reader, but what I will say is that if you care about this person, then they deserve to know what’s going on. They deserve to know how you feel. They deserve to know what hurt you. They deserve the chance to make it better. They deserve the opportunity to prevent this in the future.

It betters both of you to deal with an issue openly and honestly. You can let go of your hurt and anger, the person with bipolar disorder has the chance to improve themselves, and your relationship becomes stronger. Everybody wins.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, September 2). Walking on Eggshells Around A Person With Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

January, 1 2022 at 11:32 am

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything.
My Mom is bipolar.
Her last Manic episode was bad!
Destroyed our family.
We ended up in court! Like I couldn’t not go. No way out of it. I lost my Mom to the whole thing and my kids lost their Grandma.
What a mess! She got advocates involved which made everything worse!

May, 20 2019 at 11:22 am

I take public transportation to commute to work and back. However, I seem to be getting attention of a person who I suspect to have bipolar condition. This person seem to show body language indicative of interest, but due to my introverted character, I don't initiate contact. Some days this person shows interest, and other days as if I don't exist. My question here is if this person has bipolar condition, what is going on here? It feels like game playing with my mind.

May, 11 2019 at 7:14 am

Thanks for your thoughtful writings. Funny about the C-4 explosive but that's actually how it feels and I must say the support for loved ones of someone with Bipolar is sorely lacking. We are the least expressed in the relationships, because those eggshells never truly go away. My sister has bipolar and I love her unconditionally, but it feels like a stab in the heart every time she gets even slightly hyper. The only way to stop the barrage of nasty messages is to be positive, apologetic, and complimentary. Any tiny bit of self expression, which I gave up on long ago for self preservation, no matter how well and kindly stated, leads to a roast so painful and warped that I can't sleep for days. I know so many people whose loved ones have bipolar and my question always is: who is caring for you? We have a disease too, what else is it that leaves me physically and mentally debilitated? I am afraid of what I may see every time I turn on my phone. I'm afraid how my actions are misinterpreted, and then of course they are in ways I could never imagine. My sister seems incapable of forgiveness and it's killing me. If you know a proper resource for loved ones suffering, and not just 'this is how YOU can be better for THEM', I'd much appreciate it. I'm going totally mad here after over 15 years of mental whiplash.

May, 13 2019 at 8:12 pm

Hi Rosie,
I'm sorry that's what's happening to you. That sounds really unfair. Of course you need to be taken care of. Of course you need support.
I recommend you check out your local NAMI (just Google for one in your area). There may be other organizations locally for you that have family programs too,
Also, there is a book called "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder" by Julie Fast that may help in understanding (although it is, technically, written for partners).
I hope that helps.
- Natasha Tracy

September, 7 2019 at 1:16 pm

Hi Rosie , I feel for you,I'm going through the same awful mental torture from my daughter that has bi-polar disorder. Stuck on what i can do to help us both.

Genuinely curious
July, 14 2018 at 8:35 am

I know families who walk around on egg shells around their BP parent because if they don't, the explosions are never worth it. Any confrontation of the persons behaviour is met with extreme behaviour and ultimately punishment in one form or another. How does anybody cope with this? When do you just have to draw the line and keep yourself safe and away from the person? Illness or no illness, you can't leave yourself in harms way.

July, 16 2018 at 9:30 am

Hi Genuinely Curious,
There are all types of people in the world and there are all types of people with bipolar disorder in the world. I have no doubt that some have anger control issues and in those cases, yes, families have a hard time coping.
But please understand, many people with bipolar disorder are not like that. I have bipolar disorder and no anger issues.
As for leaving yourself in harm's way, yes, I agree, there has to be a line. We all need to set healthy boundaries and sometimes that means putting some distance between us and someone else.
- Natasha Tracy

June, 4 2018 at 7:54 am

Dealing with my friend and business partner is an emotional drain that is hard to deal with. I can’t tell where her bi polar disorder begins and her personality begins. She twists most conversations into an argument and I find myself apologizing to her just so that we can move on. When she is going through an episode she can be extremely obnoxious and hyper sensitive. I realize that this is part of her illness but frankly I am tired of dealing with it. I am actually her boyfriends friend, if he hadn’t been dating her for the last seven years I never would have continued this hell hole of a relationship and the rest of our friends feel the same way. He is a different person when she is around coddling and catering to her every crazy whim and we have to have a front seat for this. When we get together the entire group is strained because she is there. We find ourselves explaining, justifying, or simply disengaging from the group because her presence is toxic. I feel bad because I know she is ill but this behavior takes a toll. Just because I or my other friends are not mentally ill doesn’t mean we are not dealing with life issues as well. I don’t know what to do because even after all of this I don’t want to hurt her or my friend, it’s just not fun hanging out anymore.

May, 12 2018 at 3:12 am

My boyfriend of 8 years has bp disorder , diagnosed 3 years ago , hasn’t been easy on both of us . He is showing progress and staying on meds that are getting close to working for him . From 3 years ago to now , he shows so much improvement but still hasn’t been going to therapy . Has trouble with his self worth and gets sucked in his depression episodes that is hard to tell when they are . He wants to do so much at a time and take on more than I think is realistic and I try to support him and let him know it’s prob best to go to therapy first then school or set the foundation before taking on a lot and he took it as I’m thinking he is dumb and stupid and not capable . It scares me Bc when he gets into an episode which this would be the first in months compared to untreated once every 2 days .. an angry depressive episodes , he shows no empathy and blames me for his change of mood . And I regret saying anything because I didn’t realize the state of mind he was in and before you know it I’m crying and want to let him be . I cry Bc he used to say horrible things to me when he wasn’t yet diagnosed . And I didn’t know what was happening , I have some anxiety and ptsd symptoms when he gets angry so I instantly cry and try to pull myself together . This is a long process and I know it takes time but finding boundaries are important. I still tell him displacing his anger on me isn’t ok anymore and that I know it’s the illness not him but to not go to therapy is his choice . We have a son too by the way so I’m More forceful in letting him know he doesn’t have a choice or we won’t be living with him because my sons health and safety’ is #1 . And like I said he has improved, never any crazy arguments and our son hasn’t been involved in them thankfully , but when he relys on meds and avoid therapy these episodes occur . And he chooses to get lost in them rather face them straight on in therapy , I do my best to realize it’s extremely difficult but we have a Son and he decided he’s his #1 to manage his bi polar and do what’s right . I see him as an equal but with an illness and it’s ok but he has to make the right choice . It’s like He’s tired of needing help . But I can’t continue to be a punching bag instead .

Jennie M.
December, 24 2017 at 7:44 am

I have friend who I believe is BP. She is also experiencing bad grief after the loss of her domestic partner 2 years ago. I really want to remain friends with her. Our families are close. I have a hard time with the eggshells moments and the times of shutting me off and not speaking to me. I try not take it personally but it is so very hard, especially when she seems to be not shutting out others. I really do love my friend and want to be a supportive good friend, but I'm not sure if this is what she wants. She makes statements all the time about how she has no friends or that she doesn't want friends. It can be so hurtful when I have been that good friend to her. She claims that she shuts me out because she doesn't want to hurt me. She told my brother this. Please advise.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natasha Tracy
December, 28 2017 at 5:26 am

Hi Jennie,
I can't say why your friend is choosing her actions, what I can say is that the best thing you can do is have an open and honest dialog with her and then believe what she tells you. If she needs some time, let her take it. Tell her you will be there for her in the future if you like. We all push people away sometimes. Sometimes this is a good idea and sometimes it isn't, but either way, you will have to accept it if it's what she says she really wants.
- Natasha Tracy

brenda Thomas
December, 2 2017 at 12:48 pm

I have been married to my husband for thirty something years only the last seven he was diagnosed with bp and somedays I do not know If I will make it through the day. I am very depressed as well but try to uplift myself most of the time . He says very hurtful things to me and does not seem to care. I am very happy. for the most part but with his bp he makes it hard to be happy. Now my daughter in law has bp and somedays they clash and oh boy that is horrible.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Genuinely curious
July, 14 2018 at 8:36 am

I always wonder if there is such a thing as a 'healthy' relationship with a person with BP?

Laurie Raboin
September, 6 2017 at 8:11 am

I definitely need help in learning how to react to my 19 year old daughter 's bipolar rages

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 14 2020 at 8:46 pm

Don’t argue with her be the one to walk away let her stay wherever she is as long it’s not in public and there are no items she can harm u or herself with. She will eventually come down or up. Don’t insult her she ll feel bad enough for putting you through it. Watch her carefully for the next few days tell her u love her and the right meds will come around let her know your there if she needs to cry or laugh or talk emotional stability is what she needs somebody to ground her in a emotional supportive way.

July, 17 2017 at 4:39 am

I was seeing someone with bi polar for 2 years. During the time together he conned me out of a lot of money, lied to me repeatedly, pretended to be in love with me and was contemptious of my friends and life. As time went on his ability to rein in his outbursts got harder and harder and by the end he was having raging fits at me, screaming in my face, saying horrible things about me, swearing and slapping his head as he talked at me. I knew his next step would be physical abuse cos he was happy to do the former in public!!!. Peope would stand open mouthed watching him. He's a very large man tho so noone dared challenge him.
I tried to talk to him but everything I said he twisted around to being my fault. He said he shouted cos I was annoying, he swore at me cos I deserved it. He wasn't like this with anyone else. I was the one with the problem,
He has carefully crafted his life between two countries and is now conning people in another country and there is nothing I can do to warn them as I don't speak the language and he does. He uses people in churches for his own ends by pretending to be a Christian, has no job and no money of his own and bums off people for as long as they will put up with him. He lies about his past and has an uncheckable history. He self medicates with alcohol and food.
I have no contact now but life with him was scary and he ultimately tried to drag down my self esteem. He was only with me for what he could get off, a place to stay etc. He refuses to take medication and was diagnosed 10 years ago. He came over as charming and personable when i first met him but I quickly discovered the truth...that and he only showers once every month or so and is like a narcassistic toddler.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Genuinely curious
July, 14 2018 at 8:37 am

Does BPD and narcissism go together? I had wondered because sometimes it seems very similar.

Lori Schmidt
January, 7 2017 at 12:11 pm

It's a truly hard road to travel with a person with BP. My relationship with my daughter, at age 50, has suffered tremendously. She needs to be treated with kid gloves, every word I say is twisted and turned into a an argument. She is manipulative and can ask me questions that are very repulsive. I very often forget that she has a mental illness and that she is acting hatefully and antagonistically toward me. I blow up at such moments, but willing to forget and forgive her illogical acts and thinking, remembering her BP condition. Our relationship has rarely been smooth and long-lasting and very irregular.

August, 24 2016 at 3:08 am

I'm seeing somebody with bipolar's been 1 year that we're together.. It has been difficult but i like him very much..lately he has been feeling very low & has pushed me away..we are in the same institute so i see him everyday..its tough as he ignores me, flirts with other girls,picks random fights etc..amongst all these what hurts the most is that he keeps flirting with this girl when I'm around & when he already knows i don't like him talking to her like that..everytime he does it more & my question to you is that whether he does this deliberately to see me getting hurt?? I always thought that whenever he is having bad moods he is unaware of his actions.. And if he comes back this time is it okay to tell him what has been upto? Knowing that he might do it even more the next time he feels low..?

June, 13 2016 at 7:23 pm

(asserting yourself and defining boundaries are reasonable things to do and when done calmly and lovingly, are good for both of you.) That's what I had hoped, because he was walking all over who I am. Couldn't even salt the food correctly, use the right mixing spoon, say the "right" complement, give the right glance to his friends, etc. It was endless at times. I wanted us to work out and put all heart into it. I so wish this "strategy" were true in my relationship. Even though I was very calm, loving, constructive, asking for help from him to understand him, letting him know that when he said certain things that it would freeze me up, or make me think he just wanted to start a fight but I didn't want to, I wanted to have fun or relax and enjoy him...and that I wasn't mad at him only frustrated and he just needed to help me know how to react. He took this talk as me "cutting into him" and everything went downhill after that. Before it, I was just "taking it" and shutting down, but once I asserted myself he saw it as me being mean - disrespecting him, NOT seeing him for the special person he is. It didn't matter what I said after that day of "sharing my feelings" I lost him, and I lost him for good. He has since acted as if he hates me at times. That I broke his heart even though he broke it off with me. I've read every BP site I can find, and I know I used very good sense to communicate and deal with his un-wellness periods... I told him I wanted to rekindle with him, that even if he was unwell I wanted to and chose to -- even knowing he's unwell and saying so he won't budge. We bump into each other" in public" - he acts as if he's never said hurtful things to me, and acts like he's flirting with me, but then he is nasty to me in an email or text. He says very mean things then apologizes, and then becomes very cold and distant, just to be all smiles in public somewhere. He told me that it's because of "what I said that day" that we can never be together again, that that crushed him and all chance of us being a couple. I now really dislike BP because if it messed up our once-amazing connection then others suffer from this too - it's the worst feeling to lose someone you adore, love to be with, and completely lose due to this illness. I have so much more compassion for both parties in a relationship with this type of communication gap since I've experienced the heart ache. Good luck to others...

March, 30 2016 at 4:58 pm

I'm glad to see these remarks.bFor 2 1/2 years I've had a bipolar friend. I looked aty journal the other day and we've had 10 incidents and 8 or 9 reconciliations. Each time I say "That's it! I've had enough!" Then comes the knock on the door, we talk, and I see the torture he goes through.
This last time he went three weeks before he decided to stop the medications ( he developed a liver abscess). I was on board- those drugs are horrific. Now, he is in seclusion; won't answer texts. I feel powerless as well as on "Yellow Alert" 24/7. Its exhausting. " How do you go on day after day?" Sometimes I wish he'd just move away.

February, 16 2016 at 12:08 pm

My sister is bipolar (manic). We go through a lot of cycles with her, she's on meds, doing great then suddenly, she's "cured" or it was a "misdiagnosis" and she gets off meds. She then loses a ton of weight, (like skeleton skinny, she begins to act super hyper, sexual and then gets violent if a) things don't go her way, b) you mention bipolar or being sick, or c) you just look at her wrong or get in her way. She's 30, still lives with our patents, no job and it's taking a toll on my family. My mom is almost 70 and should not be dealing with this stress. My brothers can't take her because of the violent spells and they have kids, and my husband is not kean on having her live with us. We plan on having our own kids and we can't have her up until 3am, dressing permiscuisly and having violent outbursts. I'm worried for her future. What's going to happen when my parents pass on?
I guess something I'm looking for advice for right now is, she just had a horrible outburst at my parents house. She screamed at my mom and my niece and nephew were there. I went to see if I could calm her down because I did not want the kids to be tramatized by the way she was acting. Bad idea, she just flipped on me. No self control and honestly I feared for my safety. That was not my sister; something had taken over... long story short, I left. She yelled sarcastically what a great sister I was, wouldn't even stick around to celebrate her birthday. Nope. I texted her later that I will not tolerate her speaking to me or anyone that way and until she gets that under control, I will not be coming around. She apologized the next morning via text and has been calling me often since. I don't really want to just say okay and let it go. There needs to be a change. I don't know what to say to her. I could really use some help on a next step.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 11 2017 at 3:49 pm

Hello! I read your comment and noticed that it has been a while since you posted it. I also have a sister who was (recently) diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It is really hard on my parents especially and nothing has gotten better. She’s 19 and living at home and I’m only 15. Thinking back it started when she was around 10 and had only gotten worse and I’m worried it will continue going that way. She has absolutely no relationship with my dad anymore and by now I see that happening with her and I down the road. I just wanted to ask if your situation has gotten better and how did you/your family handle it? Thank you!

Khalid Hussain
January, 3 2016 at 7:20 pm

I was diagnosed Bipolar 8 years ago. I live a mostly stable life with the support of my mother and the government. I lost many friends due to psychotic episodes, and more to my self imposed isolation, but a few remained. I use medication to balance me out and make me more stable. Being bipolar is hard, but I am lucky that I have a good support group. Encourage your loved one's to seek treatment; therapy, medication, support groups.

September, 8 2015 at 7:24 am

Good day- I have a cousin who we see each other once year. We are snow birds who go to Yuma Az. We camp right next to each other for 3 months. Things go great for us for a while. For no reason in right of everyone she blows up at me. Talk about a surprise to me @ everyone. It seems to me -I'm the one she blows up at. Talk about hurt. Then 3 days with not talking -we talk she says she so sorry etc etc. But it happens again. What should I do?

May, 9 2015 at 2:09 pm

My sister has bipolar, and I am her scape goat when she is in her moods. She holds off her anger to people that matter, like her in laws and my parents, and waits to get the perfect moment with me. She can do whatever she wants, but if I sit and do nothing, I am still wrong, My parents didnt protect me from her growing up, and they still don't until now. I never hit her, even if she threatened me countless times. I always had to apologize, after she started the fight, or gets upset with the things after she upsets me.
I once woke up happy, and told her "good morning" and she told me "why the f*ck are you so happy" and I just slumped on the chair, head down, and ate my breakfast hurt.
When it comes to relationships, I see she likes being with friends first, then parents, relatives, pets and lastly me. So I can't understand why she expects us to have a good relationship after all these years. If I try to reach out to her or even ask for help, she snaps. It makes me feel like blowing my brains out.
They should stop calling it bipolar, because it makes it seem so harmless. I have been scarred and emotionally damaged. The hardest part about living with someone with bipolar is, you still have to function, live your life, and be a member of society. As for sister can do whatever she damn pleases, whether it's to work, stay at home, go out with friends, go on a trip, whatever she damn thinks of.
All I know is, she turned my mother against me. I'm sure if I had bipolar, I would be dealing with it by myself.

March, 1 2015 at 1:24 am

Thank you Judy for your insights I have been diagnosed BP II. I am blessed to have a dear friend who can give me a gentle nudge if he notices my mood dropping or my anxiety increasing . BP II is more depression, anxiety and hypo mania. His taking the time to gently mention he's noticing a shift in my behavior or perception of things is such a precious gift to me because when I'm in it, I don't tend to realize it is happening until I land in a full blown depression. I value the people in my life who are willing to take the time to learn about this illness rather than judge what they don't understand. Please don't get me wrong, I am responsible for my own self -care (meds, sleep, diet, psychiatrist appt, counselling ) but sometimes that isn't enough. I have been dealing with loved ones who quite easily shut me out if they can't figure out what's going on with me. No conversation, just silent treatment I am consciously making the decision that if they can't handle me when I'm unwell (or don't attempt anything ), then they are not going to be an important part of my life - especially when I am well. Hard decision, but learning healthy boundaries. I get frustrated that automatically people assume it's the bipolar disorder rearing it's ugly head. Could be that the person is reacting to bad behavior and may not be very graceful about it . It's all about learning, change and growth. We don't give up on kids that are struggling, why would we do so for someone we know is struggling. Sorry for the long -winded comment, but it takes 2 to make a relationship work. Good, bad and ugly. I have to work extra hard and use much more energy on a daily basis to be a contributing member of society. I try my best to do perception checks during the day etc . Some days are better than others. Guess my response to the article, if you don't want the relationship any longer or boundaries are being trampled - just send the person a note mentioning tthis. I would much rather being told it is over than having to spend energy trying to figure it out. I might be hurt, but truth trumps everything for me. Silent treatment and pulling away is not healthy for anyone. Thanks for these articles, I really do enjoy them and learn much they do help keep my mind open to things I can't see at the time.

Grace in Alaska
February, 28 2015 at 5:07 pm

Our incredibly bright and handsome 20 year old son is likely BP, as indicated by a Psych professional. He started at 15 being depressed, then deeply depressed, then aggressive, then deeply depressed. We can't have him live with us anymore and he bounces around being homeless in Anchorage. Very unpleasant city to be homeless in. It is really hard.

peggy. sue griffith
February, 22 2015 at 12:16 am

My daughter is bipolar she will be 29 in April . I've talked and told her how she treats me and she says she doesn't remember :'( its been going on since she was about 15 ! She has hit me in past now its verbal mostly about me hating her ! I divorced her dad when she was four yes old ! I know this has a lot to do with her thinking , but I can't take it much longer :'(!

February, 16 2015 at 11:45 pm

My partners just being diagnosed with biopolar and whilst I'm pleased he's finally getting help he won't allow me to talk to anyone else about it or even tell anyone else, he still doesn't fully understand what his illness has put me through and how I need to be able to talk to people too. I'm at a loss as to what to do as he made me swear on our child's life I'd never tell anyone.

Jane Hamrick
February, 11 2015 at 9:44 am

I have a bipolar husband with extreme insecurities and jealousy. I love him with all my heart but if someone says I saw your wife the other day she came in my office - then his mind blows it into the verdict that I'm intimate with that person and he blows up, pouts for day, threatens leaving and it doesn't matter that my kids are in the room. I love him with all my heart and we've been married for over 16 years - never have I even considered someone else - I just want to be happy with him but he won't let himself or us be happy. It's like if he realizes we are he causes an argument or if a special holiday is coming then the week of he has to create some huge disturbance that lasts for days and is so hurtful. I don't know what to do - I just don't!

May, 21 2014 at 5:22 am

I think you've got to be as strong as a person with BP in that you can almost match the depth of their emotions, especially love. Don't walk on eggshells, wear the shoes you feel the strongest in and love.

May, 21 2014 at 5:17 am

There is nothing more (at the moment - hey, I'm Bipolar) that I hate than the expression "walking on eggshells" when referring to a normal person dealing with a person with bipolar or bipolar with BPD traits, or bipolar + BPD. There's even a stupid book out with that phrase as the title. It's crap, BTW, don't buy it, it's not written by mental health professionals, but surprisingly bitchy men.
Anyway, being bipolar, and having been diagnosed for many years (w/BPD aspects), and as you already know, we feel everything so deeply; we love and hate so deeply. Having said that, and having gone through hell and... back here, I prefer "brutal" honesty, and dish it out when called for, as it is clean cut, clear, and precise, and so much easier to deal with. It hits hard and fast. We feel and act hard and fast to try to fix it or heal, or deal. Or is it that I've had such a hell of a life that I "need" that? I don't know other people with bipolar, so what do you other amazing people with bipolar think?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 3 2019 at 6:01 pm

If someone tells you they have to walk on eggshells at times when talking with you, then you need to understand that they say this BECAUSE when they talk open, or as normally just as they would to any other person, that your response is explosive, irrational or illogical. I don't know how your symptoms manifest specifically, as everyone is a little different. But if you are easily irritated with others, prone to impatient outbursts, quick to anger, tell others that they are setting you off, then you ARE NOT in an empathetic state of mind. In those moments you don't have the ability to hear others completely. You may feel that you do. In fact, you may believe you are more in tune than anyone else can possibly be. But the eggshells statement you hear is proof that others are wanting to avoid landmines with you. They will try to treat you differently, possibly get quiet, leave the room, say nothing at all.
I find the best way for me to handle a heated situation when someone says they are walking on eggshells is to reply, I know I'm not the easiest person to be around sometimes, so if you'll just please be quiet and let me talk right now because I need to vent we'll both be better. Don't say anything at all if you think it could escalate me. That isn't a good idea to turn my anger up even more. You and I will both be better if you stay quiet. Later when I'm feeling calm and more myself we can talk about things when you don't need to feel you're on eggshells.

sandi mercer
April, 13 2014 at 7:26 am

My husband flies of the handle for no reason. He has accused me of cheating just because things seemed different to him sex wise. If I text my sister or family he feels like I am talking to someone I shouldn't. This is getting very stressful. I feel like I am forever walking oneeggshells. I am a God fearing woman and would notthink of cheating on hhim in any way. Once we have a big fight he tells me he is sorry and he won't do it again only for to to happen just a few days later. Is this a form of bipolar or just a lack of trust. Due is seeing a nuerologust because of seizures and has to wear a 24 hr eeg test. Will this show if there is something going on in his head that will cause this. I love him very much but I am at my breaking point.

March, 8 2014 at 1:50 pm

I tried politely and sweetly and calmly having a talk like this a few times but it just made things worse between him and I and unfourtunanly we live together so now my mere breathing in the same room as him makes him scream ans cuss at me and call me names so I suggest maybe ic its a situation like this and you live with the person maybe just get out and then try .

October, 13 2013 at 2:11 pm

What should be done then with a friend of 8 years who has bipolar and who has time and time again failed to curb their violent behaviour despite being medicated and is receiving therapy? I think in this case, you can't really pin the reason for leaving a relationship on the mere fact that they have bipolar, but because their behaviour has become harmful to your own well-being regardless if they are bipolar/neuro-typical. In this case, it's not the bipolar individual who is a "victim" as is it often depicted by those who have lost friends because of the illness. As someone who is recovering from PTSD, mental illness does not excuse you from taking responsibility for your actions toward others, especially if it is abusive.

October, 3 2013 at 10:23 am

I try this with my bipolar girlfriend of 2 and a half years every time she fails to deliver on a promise or does/says something that causes me harm or hurt.The problem I have is that she always manages to twist it round and blame me,or something else.I should be "more sensitive to her as she can't help the way she acts" or she did it to make me see how I hurt her by asking her to be aware of what she's doing.I get told I whinge too much,but she fails to see that if she made an effort to at least try and realise that there's two people in this relationship then things would be better and i wouldn't have a reason to moan.Obviously I don't expect her to do everything I ask,that's completeky unreasonable,but the constant inability to realise that the problems lie in what she is doing and not everywhere else has led to the complete breakdown of our relationship,to the point of me having to leave

Kathryn Maertens
July, 24 2013 at 4:35 am

Thanks for the insight you offer. I have a friend who has bipolar disorder and she has recently told me off (via facebook) and shut me out. I am hurt and sad for her because she has shut out most everyone in her life and I hoped that I would never be in this situation. It is hard because I really care about her and at the same time, I have really gotten hurt by her words...but I feel selfish for being hurt because she is the one who has to live with this illness. Truth is, if she called me right now I'd welcome her with open arms but she has shut me out. She thinks I don't really care about her, if only for one second she could feel how my heart is breaking over her....she would know better :(

July, 14 2013 at 10:16 pm

Yeah, to be fair, I imagine it must be hard to be on the other side, dealing with your bipolar loved one.
First, the important stuff - when episodic, your loved one is probably in a pretty vulnerable place, unable to make sensible decisions AT THAT MOMENT depending on how bad their symptoms are, how impaired their judgements are, etc. Put your own judgements aside, assess the situation and act accordingly - namely, try to get them out of harms way if you can.
It is possible your loved one may not have much insight regarding their actions. Bipolar can be rather extreme. Not uncommon to see substance abuse, hypersexuality, seriously bad decision making like insane spending, or taking crazy risks, etc. Not saying all bipolar folks are like this, just saying that it is not uncommon.
Natasha, thanks for pointing out that sussing out "personality" from bipolar driven behavior is tough. It is important to consider changes in energy and sleep patterns, along with behavioral changes.
And finally, do not feed into the illness. I have to throw this in because I do think people really do this, either unwittingly or on purpose. Judging from some of the comments above, it seems this is true for others with bipolar as well. If you are honest with yourself and admit that you may be unwittingly adding fuel to the fire, know that much can be worked out and communication is possible. Ignorance can be forgiven. If you are doing this on purpose on the other hand, it is time for you to stop talking about my psyche and to start delving into your own. Ask yourself pertinent questions like, "gee, why do I feel the need to kick people when they're down?" for starters.
I have also heard that one shouldn't take bipolar driven behavior personally. To be fair, this is TOUGH, and maybe not really fair because some pretty horrible stuff can be said and done. It is also vague. What does this mean? Does it mean ignore it - hate the sin but not the sinner? Not entirely. I do think it requires a great deal of objectivity, though. It means weighing events against their "normal". Perhaps your loved one is a holy terror when symptomatic, but a kind and considerate person when not. Perhaps they are generally responsible, but spent large sums of money when manic.
Probably none of this is worth dealing with, and that is your perogative. But certainly two people interacting have thrown their own shit into the pot. It isn't fair to simply move all the blame onto those with bipolar simply because it is easy and convenient to do so. And in all honesty, this happens FREQUENTLY and apparently, it is easy. I cannot tell you how many people have behaved BADLY, and scapegoated me to deflect from their own behavior. It is also tough on the person with bipolar because you are suddenly being accused of ALWAYS being a certain way, when in reality, said action is episodic. From my experience, I was accused of things that are patently untrue - which I suspect had more to do with offending someone (eg. religious values, philosophy, etc), therefore stirring their anger, than actually being true. Certainly, making judgements from this place is not cool if it were to happen to you.

July, 13 2013 at 11:52 pm

I actually found this unhelpful, my sister has bipolar an is never there for me, her niece was abused sexually by her father and I have some health problems which I am scared of all while in temporary accommodation and going through the roughest times of our lives thus far, when I dared to tell my bipolar sister I get the same old bullying accusation of lies, put on your big girl trousers and get on with it crap she always gives me she doesn't even care how her niece is or how I am so I confronted her said the way she talks to people judges people etc is not ok and she cannot hide behind her bipolar for everything like staying in bed all day every day etc she basically said yes I can and you need help because your needy called me a bad mother etc... Then because I wouldn't just back down having read this like I always do and let it continue and apologise for things I haven't done that she has fantasised and carry on being her support and getting nothing back she decided to threaten suicide as she always does if she doesn't manage to get someone's attention and force them to bend to her will and got herself checked into the local mental hospital... Again... When will someone help and actually tell her bipolar doesn't get her out of everything it isn't an excuse for everything. She has no empathy no sympathy I always have until now and I am just sick of it.
In short talking about it doesn't always work it depends on the person and how much they hide behind their diagnosis and how much they use it to get what they want.

April, 13 2013 at 1:30 am

I have a friend that I have known for 20 years. She is bipolar and our friendship has been a roller coaster ride from the start. I am also ADD and finally have decided to go back on medication to help me. She doesn't see it that way. It is always about her and her problems. I am tired of getting on the "roller coaster" with her because my family is suffering. My children love her but they don't want to see the next episode of her losing everything including her mind. I can't tell you the amount of time and the loss of energy I have spent trying to be her friend. Everyone is always out to get her, I am judgmental and cruel. The fact is I just don't want to hear about how mean men are to her. She choices men that only want one thing from her, she is very promiscuous and naïve at the same time. Her children no longer live with her because of her bipolar disorder, and I am so thankful for that. They don't need to be around that until she can get on some sort of medication plan and see an ongoing professional who can help her with her problems. My advice to anyone who has a friend that treats you like this, is be very careful what you say, because you could be writing the same type of letter early one morning. Mental illness is serious and it should be taken seriously!

March, 31 2013 at 6:29 pm

Hi Robin,
I am 31 with bipolar disorder. I blamed other people for about two years, and still blame people while in an episode.
You are so so important to your daughter right now. I don't think it matters what you say, as long as you stick around. Her anger is not personal.

March, 31 2013 at 1:48 pm

My daughter is in the hospital and diagnosed with bipolar/personality disorder. Sge goes in waves of anger and acceptance. She is just starting meds and in denial that she needs them. She blames me for her having to stay in the hospital. What should I say when I see she is angry. She is 35.

Brant Mackechnie
May, 8 2012 at 12:34 am

Great info and right to the point.

November, 10 2010 at 7:58 pm

I am diagnosed as bi-polar and I lean towards being chronically depressed for the majority of my time jumping straight into short-lived, manic episodes. After years of trial and error, I am currently on multiple prescriptions that work well for me, right now. However, I recently lost medical coverage and was forced to go without medication for a little over 1 month.
During that time my ex (and father of my 3yr and 5yr old boys) moved back into my house while transitioning from one job to another. He had left a little over a year prior to that (because of not being able to cope with my ups and downs) and moved back to our hometown area (5 hours drive from where we currently live.) He moved back, for the most part, because our custody agreement dictated our son would join kindergarten in the city I lived in and he would need to either move back or accept less parenting time.
Anyhow, he moved back just as I was weining from my meds, and my ability to control my resentment and bursts of anger (over insensitive comments from him) was at its lowest and then got worse. He was just supposed to be staying here for a bit while he ramped up at his new job and found a place of his own. But we fell into temptation and ended up trying to make things work. We tried to get back together. Dumb move that we both knew was WAY too premature.
I feel that I cannot find myself again with him here. He fails to see my bi-polar as an actual illness and will not be supportive or empathetic, yet is insulted and angry if I imply he might be just that. Hi refuses to just let me "act however I want" and not defend himself. I tried all I can to show him the cause and effect of his actions and how he can help to not trigger an episode. But he consistently states that he shouldn't have to and that I am the problem with my irrational feelings. I understand this absolute fact. I am bi-polar. I know this. Does he?
I am an extremely intuitive person and I understand completely when I am reacting to him in with irrational behavior. He does and says things that are openly disrespectful to me (in my opinion) and then refuses to acknowledge my feelings as justified when I calmly bring them up. He, instead, jumps straight to defending himself and whatever act that may have been the subject of conversation. He does this without intending to hurt me, but it does deeply, mainly because it shows how little creed he actually gives my thoughts. So in turn I react even worse and things escalate very quickly.
He says he loves me and doesn't want me to feel hurt. He however does not know how to diffuse the situations when they occur and makes it much much worse EVERY SINGLE TIME. Your lists of things NOT to say to someone during these episodes are direct quotes of his.
He's terribly hurtful and I don't believe I can keep myself together around him. I've given him books to read on loving someone with bi-polar and he says he's read them but thinks it's a team effort and he won't start with any of the techniques they describe until I'm willing to work with him. (I go to counseling twice a month and meet with a Pschiatrist once per month additionally.)
I'll give him specific instructions on things not to do (such as mention an ex-girlfriend/fling while we were apart), and he chooses to do them over and over, all the while, explaining to me that my feelings against [whatever the case may be] are irrational and I shouldn't feel that way because my perception of the situation is off. You can understand this infuriates me and the fights get worse and worse. He resorts to blame and guilt throwing. "It's all about you!" "When is it anyone else's turn to get some attention?" "WHEN IS IT MY TURN?!"
I've tried time and time again to explain to him that I'm in no position to help him out of his funk and he needs to just take care of himself and try not to make my life worse. To no avail.
The main problem here is this: I truly do not believe he has what it takes to be in a relationship with me. And whereas, I do not blame him for this (I wouldn't ever choose to love a person with bi-polar), I am VERY resentful that he continues to protest that he does have what it takes. He says he loves me and CAN handle the ups and downs, but then proves otherwise. It's not human for someone who believes the pain I'm in to continue to do what he does. And it's not right to stay with someone if you think they are a manipulative faker, that means he does this all unintentionally, without understanding the damage being caused. I believe I have exhausted every means I can think of to tell him how it is with me and how seriously he should think about the commitment he needs to make to us. Therefore, I need him to evaluate the situation for himself and make an honest decision on both our behalves.
Perception is my reality for the moments I'm in BPDs throws. I'm still ramping up again on my meds and I haven't anything left to give him.
He - however - continues to say that he can handle it if I would just stop [insert irrational behavior here]. I try to tell him that will not happen and he is just making it worse, but he gets very defensive and starts throwing blame at me right away. He needs to constantly point out that I'm the one with the problem and he should be given credit for just sticking around. This is an endless, reoccurring argument that ends tragically each time.
Just being there is not enough when you roll your eyes and walk away when there is a problem. If you ignore my crying until I've exhausted myself and passed out, that does not constitute "sticking around" anyway.
How HOW can I make him see that it is OK for him to not be the kind of person capable of putting up with (let alone helping) someone like me? Because we are both suffering immensely. He wears me down and convinces me that we are meant to be together and it is very hard to resist that when there are small children involved. But then I CRASH to the floor when he blatently disregards my feelings and then tops it off by blaming me and telling me he will not put up with me and no one else ever will either.
I need for HIM to understand that he is not right for the job and that he is making it worse. I can't move out (it's my house) and he hasn't enough money to put down for a new place yet. I NEED him to understand that making it worse is a DANGEROUS game that he is capable of controlling. When I try to say this to him, he immediately responds defensively and goes into his "you are so self-absorbed" "what about my issues?" mode. My only answer to him is to explain that I did not ask for him to move back in, I did not want to try getting back together until he found a place and we started counseling.
I tell him I have nothing to offer him and he has no right to waltz into my house and my life again, expecting me to get over everything I've got going on so that I could concentrate on him. I told him from the moment he moved in that I was in no position to deal with his "poor me"s and he agreed to not go there.
For him to continue to do this when he sees me on the floor sobbing after a fight and hyperventilating just trying to regain composure, shows me he isn't right for the job. I want him to gracefully bow out and walk away, but he is obsessed with placing blame and being the good guy. He WILL NOT ACCEPT the notion that he could be expected to be the mature one when I am in that state. He says he shouldn't need to and won't let me treat him that way. I don't want him to let me hurt him (I don't say hurtful things anyway I mainly just get pissed when he texts the girl I've discussed right in front of me and tells her she looks hot in her Halloween costume. I think that is SOOO disrespectful. But, "they're just friends and [I] need to accept that") but he needs to understand the way he reacts when I get irrational kills me. And the thought of that just pisses him off and he throws punches (psychologically) at me.
How can I get him to realize that my life is in danger as long as he continues to casually entertain the thought of us being together. That HE needs to stop trying to convince me that he can handle me when it's obvious he will not put the effort in. He truly believes he shouldn't have to and that my pain is something I choose to indulge in [just to piss him off]. Or, how do I find the courage to handle the guilt and get out of this on my own.
He cannot handle me at my worst and doesn't deserve me at my best.

September, 25 2010 at 5:15 pm

Knowledge I agree is just as powerful as the honesty and the communication. My youngest boy was diagnosed ADHD. So, the doc explains in his lingo Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Ok doc, what do you suggest. Therapy, structure, love, etc. Reality is, I can doze off watching Barney with my boy for 30 minutes, wake up, and the Fridge door is off its hinges, the heating vents are filled with matchbox cars and the septic system is stuffed with Lincoln Logs and the Plumber is left scratching his head.
You mix a pinch of ADHD or OCD or ODD or MR in with a BP and each episode is a different sandwich. While the last 2 months have been relatively calm and stable for my dear friend and me, the volcano is smoking. ADHD is winning more battles than I care to mention and the care dont care needle can go from ok were fine to get out of my way and leave me alone. Sick people desperately want a break from being sick. And pretending you're not sick maybe a nice 3 day vacation but reality does set in whether we want it to or not and there always seems to be a mess to clean up. God bless people who can take a hundred punches and keep fighting.

Natasha Tracy
September, 15 2010 at 7:17 am

Hi Rosie,
To quote you, "not every failing is the result of bipolar". And I completely agree.
Just as a note, sussing out bipolar from personality behaviors is tough. Self-harm may or may no be personality related, and a lack of empathy may be a dampened emotion due to medication.
It must be hard to watch that, as a sibling. Congrats on sticking in there and getting your own therapy. I'm a big believer in everyone getting therapy - those of us with a mental illness just have a more obvious need.
- Natasha

Rosie Fairchild
September, 15 2010 at 4:06 am

While some issues are obviously exacerbated by mood episodes, and growing up with bipolar can make it difficult for an individual to develop healthy coping patterns and relationships - not every failing is the result of bipolar.
I think figuring out how to respond to a behavior has a lot to do with what is driving it. If the behavior is genuinely out of the person's control (eg, hallucinations, lack of concentration or energy fluctuations), there's not much anyone can do, unless they're an appropriate professional.
But we can try to influence other behaviors that have an element of choice - including how an individual chooses to cope with their moods. If someone is turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like self harm, engaging in substance abuse, or refusing to enter appropriate treatment - friends and family members can and should hold the individual accountable for their decisions. It goes without saying they should also support making better decisions, of course!
Thinking of my own relationship with a BP sibling, I've struggled to respond appropriately to the mix of issues she presents - some that are directly about her bipolar (eg, risk taking with lack of insight, catatonic depression), those that are personality issues (eg, self harm in response to stress, lack of empathy in relationships), and those that cross over (eg, trouble sticking with treatment, leading to a failure to develop better coping mechanisms or recognise early warning signs).
But I'm able to respond much more skillfully now that I've separated these out, and I've benefited enormously from my own therapy (even though I don't have BP)!

Natasha Tracy
September, 7 2010 at 5:54 pm

Hi Sarah,
That's really tough. I know what it is to have any little thing make you feel worse. I've been there.
But remember, that's not your fault. That's the disease. And we all say the "wrong" things. We're human.
You didn't mention if your boyfriend is in therapy, but it sounds like that might be helpful. If you both want the relationship to work, therapy can give you tools so you can communicate with each other more affectively. And when he is really down, he needs to understand what is him and what is the disease too.
As Mark said, talk your brains out. It will help both of you.
- Natasha

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