On Where to Draw Boundaries and Lines in the Sand…

By Dennis Heil

Quite a few people reach out to me in the hopes of gaining some understanding of what their mentally ill loved one is going through. One of the most common strings of questions I receive goes something like this: “Where do I draw the line? How will I know when enough is enough? Where does compassion end and accountability start for destructive behavior?”

There is a simple answer. The line is drawn wherever you want to draw it. That’s as complicated as it needs to be. No one but you can decide what you are willing to deal with. No one but you can decide where your compassion needs to end. You are the only one that can make that decision for yourself, based on your personal circumstances. And if you’re confused and unsure? Get off the internet and talk to a certified mental health counselor about the situation.

There are no internet articles that are going to be able to replace that important knowledge and neutral, third party perspective.

And it would be lovely if the more vocal, compassionate people of the world would stop pushing the romanticized narrative that martyring oneself is a good and noble choice. It’s not. It’s short-sighted and destructive. The stains, wounds, and scars of staying in an abusive situation, regardless of the cause, do not just disappear after. They may linger and continue to be destructive even decades later.

Then you have the generic, blanket advice to clearly state one’s boundary and enforce it. Okay. And if the other person is a skilled manipulator who can gauge how to coast just below that boundary to be destructive, but without overstepping? What about people who have been in emotionally abusive relationships that have been conditioned by an abusive partner to bend their boundaries?

Blanket statements can cause a person to give up far too much information to someone who may be adept at wielding that information as a weapon to harm. Anyone who’s been in an abusive relationship knows that honesty is an impossibility in that kind of situation. That person knows that what they say or do can, will, and often be used against them.

Always be wary of who you discuss the issue of boundaries with and treat their words with skepticism. They are not you. It is so easy for someone sitting outside of the situation to tell you to keep going through hell because they believe it’s the compassionate or right thing to do, when they aren’t the one suffering. That’s not their decision to make for you.

And in my personal experience, having listened to the survivors of these situations for years now, women tend to get the worst end of that. For men, it’s typically, “She’s crazy. You should dump her.” For women, it’s typically, “You need to be more supportive and understanding. It’s your job to keep things together.” Which is total BS on so many levels.

Draw the line wherever you want. You are the only one that can decide what you are willing to suffer through. No one else is going to live your life 24/7. No one else is going to have to deal with the consequences of that choice. You are your own person. No one has the right to tell you how compassionate you should or shouldn’t be.

Anyone that would criticize you for choosing your own survival and well-being is not worth listening to.

Editor’s Note: Dennis Heil is the author of the refreshingly insightful and blunt books What They Don’t Tell You About Bipolar Disorder and Everyday Instability and Bipolar Disorder and his informative blog can be found at bipolarmanifesto.com

Best Books About Bipolar Disorder

Best Books about Bipolar as Curated by former Columbia Psychiatry Library Chief

Best books about bipolarBienvenidos! My name is William Jiang, MLS and I was the Chief of the Patient Library at Columbia Psychiatry / New York State Psychiatric Institute for almost a decade from 2004-2011. According to the Surgeon General, more than one in four people in the United States struggles with mental health issues: anxiety, bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and more.  Bipolar disorder used to be called manic-depression. The following were the best books about bipolar of the Columbia Psychiatry Patient Library during my tenure and of today.

Best Books about Bipolar DisorderBest Books About Depression

  • An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison “An international authority on manic-depressive illness, and one of the few women who are full professors of medicine at American Universities – a remarkable personal testimony: the revelation of her own struggle since adolescence with manic depression, and how it shaped her life. With vivid prose and wit, she takes us into the fascinating and dangerous territory of this form of madness – a world in which one pole can be the alluring dark land ruled by what Byron called the “melancholy star of the imagination,” and the other a desert of depression and, all too frequently, death.”
  • Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania by Andy Behrman “Electroboy is an emotionally frenzied memoir that reveals with kaleidoscopic intensity the terrifying world of manic depression. For years Andy Behrman hid his raging mania behind a larger-than-life personality. He sought a high wherever he could find one and changed jobs the way some people change outfits: filmmaker, PR agent, art dealer, stripper-whatever made him feel like a cartoon character, invincible and bright. Misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychotherapists for years, his condition exacted a terrible price: out-of-control euphoric highs and tornado-like rages of depression that put his life in jeopardy.”
  • Guide to Natural Mental Health: Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Schizophrenia, and Digital Addiction: Nutrition, and Complementary Therapies by William Jiang, MLS “In this useful guide, Jiang gives a short practical summary of a wide variety of mental disorders ranging from the classical bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia to the more modern affliction of digital addictions. In each category, he supplies a list of non-pharmacologic treatments, providing for each item a reference with abstract. He also offers resources such as national networks and local support groups.” – Marjorie Ordene, MD
  • 100 Questions & Answers about Bipolar Disorder by Ava T. Albrecht  “Whether you’re a newly diagnosed patient, a friend, or relative, this book offers help. The only volume to provide both the doctor’s and patient’s views, 100 Questions & Answers About Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder, gives you authoritative, practical answers to your questions about treatment options, coping strategies, sources of support, and much more. Written by a prominent psychiatrist, with actual patient commentary, this book is an invaluable resource for anyone coping with the medical, psychological, and emotional turmoil of this debilitating condition.”
  • Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness by Jessie Close “In RESILIENCE, Jessie dives into the dark and dangerous shadows of mental illness without shying away from its horror and turmoil. With New York Times bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Pete Earley, she tells of finally discovering the treatment she needs and, with the encouragement of her sister and others, the emotional fortitude to bring herself back from the edge.”
  • Touched With Fire: Manic-depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament by Kay Redfield Jamison “Drawing from the lives of artists such as Van Gogh, Byron and Virginia Woolf, Jamison examines the links between manic-depression and creativity.”
  • Shock by Kitty Dukakis “Kitty Dukakis has battled debilitating depression for more than twenty years. Coupled with drug and alcohol addictions that both hid and fueled her suffering, Kitty?s despair was overwhelming. She tried every medication and treatment available; none worked for long. It wasn’t until she tried electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, that she could reclaim her life. Kitty?s dramatic first-person account of how ECT keeps her illness at bay is half the story of Shock. The other half, by award winning medical reporter Larry Tye, is an engrossing look at the science behind ECT and its dramatic yet subterranean comeback. This book presents a full picture of ECT, analyzing the treatment’s risks along with its benefits. ECT, it turns out, is neither a panacea nor a scourge but a serious option for treating life threatening and disabling mental diseases, like depression, bipolar disorder, and others.”
  • A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction by Patrick J. Kennedy “Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, details his personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health care’s history in the country alongside his and every family’s private struggles. On May 5, 2006, the New York Times ran two stories, “Patrick Kennedy Crashes Car into Capitol Barrier” and then, several hours later, “Patrick Kennedy Says He’ll Seek Help for Addiction.” It was the first time that the popular Rhode Island congressman had publicly disclosed his addiction to prescription painkillers, the true extent of his struggle with bipolar disorder and his plan to immediately seek treatment. That could have been the end of his career, but instead it was the beginning. Since then, Kennedy has become the nation’s leading advocate for mental health and substance abuse care, research and policy both in and out of Congress. ”
  • Best books about bipolarThe Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness by Mark Williams  “If you’ve ever struggled with depression, take heart. Mindfulness, a simple yet powerful way of paying attention to your most difficult emotions and life experiences, can help you break the cycle of chronic unhappiness once and for all. In The Mindful Way through Depression, four uniquely qualified experts explain why our usual attempts to “think” our way out of a bad mood or just “snap out of it” lead us deeper into the downward spiral. Through insightful lessons drawn from both Eastern meditative traditions and cognitive therapy, they demonstrate how to sidestep the mental habits that lead to despair, including rumination and self-blame, so you can face life’s challenges with greater resilience. This enhanced e-book includes an audio program of guided meditations narrated by Jon Kabat-Zinn.”
  • Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky “Developed by two master clinicians with extensive experience in cognitive therapy treatment and training, this popular workbook shows readers how to improve their lives using cognitive therapy. The book is designed to be used alone or in conjunction with professional treatment. Step-by-step worksheets teach specific skills that have helped hundreds of thousands people conquer depression, panic attacks, anxiety, anger, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance abuse and relationship problems. Readers learn to use mood questionnaires to identify, rate, and track changes in feelings; change the thoughts that contribute to problems; follow step-by-step strategies to improve moods; and take action to improve daily living and relationships. The book’s large-size format facilitates reading and writing ease.”
  • The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, Second Edition: What You and Your Family Need to Know by David J. Miklowitz “Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward reclaiming your life from bipolar disorder. But if you or someone you love is struggling with the frantic highs and crushing lows of this illness, there are still many hurdles to surmount at home, at work, and in daily life. You need current information and practical problem-solving advice you can count on. You’ve come to the right place. Trusted authority Dr. David J. Miklowitz offers straight talk, true stories, and proven strategies that can help you achieve greater balance and free yourself from out-of-control moods. The updated second edition of this bestselling guide has the latest facts on medications and therapy, an expanded discussion of parenting issues for bipolar adults, and a new chapter, “For Women Only.”

 

I invite you to add your own favorite books about bipolar disorder in the comments.

In Health,

William Jiang, MLS

William Jiang, MLS is the Author of 63 books, including the bestselling books Guide to Natural Mental Health , 3rd ed and his critically-acclaimed autobiography A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope. You can see a selection of his books about mental and physical health nicely laid out on his blog at http://www.mentalhealthbooks.net