(Closed) Help! My to-be sister-in-law is Bipolar.

posted 7 years ago in Family
Post # 3
3471 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2012 - The Gables Inn, Santa Rosa, CA

Well– bi-polar disorder gets worse when someone is under stress, so the stress of her mom’s engagement is definitely something that could cause a break. As for now– I doubt it was intentional to stop taking hermeds right before your wedding, but this is also common.  Often those with mental disorders feel that they’ve gotten “better” and thus can stop treatment, without fully realizing that the treatment is what’s making them better.  

As for what to do– go get married! You can’t let her illness control your lives, so either she can handle it or she can’t. If you’re that worried about it, maybe talk about having her voluntarily commit herself for a while to help her get back on track. Or ask a friend or other family member to stay with her while her mom is away.  

It’s tough, but you can’t “fix” her, so you just have to accept the family you’ve got and move forwardwith your own life. 

Post # 4
922 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2015


I’m bipolar, and I’d like to give you an idea of what your Future Sister-In-Law is going through.

The year after I was diagnosed was one of the worst of my life.   The medications they put you on are horrific…lithium has a permanent effect on your body.  Weight gain and breakouts may not seem much to you, but since I was diagnosed in 2006 I’ve put on nearly 7 stone.   When you are feeling shitty, looking at your body and not recognising it really doesn’t help.

Your insinuation that she is ‘planning’ her breaks is extremely offensive.  As the previous poster pointed out, anything that causes stress can cause one.  It might not seem much to you, but I had my last break when I got a new job.  I certainly did not ‘plan’ it, the timing could not have been worse.

Your wedding is one day, she is going to have to deal with this condition for the rest of her life.  Try and have some empathy.  Unless your Fiance can read her mind, he has no idea if she was ‘lying’ when she said she wanted to get better.  Having to constantly see doctors and take the medication is not easy. 

Post # 5
1243 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: December 2010

@TobeJones:  Okay…deep breaths.  

This kind of relapse is NORMAL with people struggling with this type of illness.  It can be a vicious cycle: she started to feel better, thinks that she cured, saw that she was having side effects and decided to go off her meds.  The medication can often make people feel like they’re dead inside or have no emotions.  It’s tricky to find the right balance.  As sad as this is, this happens a lot and it most likely has nothing to do with you or your Fiance.  So, first things first, I’d say that you guys need to stop thinking that she’s doing this to hurt you.  She’s not thinking about you…and that sucks, but she’s in her own world right now…bigger things are going on her in head.

It’s really really sad that she’s struggling with her diagnosis and didn’t pursue help after being diagnosed but that’s also, sadly, understandable.  She was dealt a serious blow and it’s not like the world looks kindly on people who have a mental illness.  She probably feels a lot of shame.  Is this productive and/or good?  Not at all.  But again, it’s understandable.

I know that this is a stressful time and you just want everyone to be together for your wedding.  I think that in order for you to take some control back, you could talk to your Future Mother-In-Law about what she thinks about travelling.  Maybe she can talk to the doctors who are looking after your Future Sister-In-Law and see what they think about the possibility of your Future Mother-In-Law leaving the country.  I do think that you need to realise that it’s entirely possible that your Future Mother-In-Law won’t be able to leave Future Sister-In-Law.  Again, I can only imagine how much that would hurt, but your Future Sister-In-Law really may need her mom right now.

Mental illness is often really difficult for friends and family to “get” because it seems so simple: take your meds and things will be fine.  That’s not how it seems to the individual however and your Future Sister-In-Law has to get to a point (and find the right meds and doctor) where she realises that she can be herself, just more even.  

There are quite a number of women on the boards who have Bridal Party and I’m sure that they will be able to help more.  I’ve watched someone deal with this diagnosis and it was…well….rough would be an understatement and have struggled myself with anixety and depression.  

Your feelings are normal too.  This has shaken your family and the person you knew and loved appears to have gone away.  I think that the only thing that you can do for your Future Sister-In-Law is to encourage her to get help, to be there for her, and love her.  

Post # 6
2401 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

Stress or new situations (such as a wedding) triggers the changes and spirals. Blaming her or accusing her of planning is, as Sekhmet said, insulting to an entire community. 

My suggestion is to let your in-laws deal with it and understand/accept that they may or may not be able to be there with you. It doesn’t mean they love you less, and I am sure they feel very guilty for not being able to attend if the siutation warrants that. Your sister-in-law needs physical support while you need emotional. I am sure they are giving you what you need. Let them work on your sister. 

Post # 7
1685 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

I’m sorry you have to go through this. Mental illness is always difficult.

That said, his sister is an adult and can make her own decisions about medication. She decided to go off her meds. People can’t reschedule their entire lives around when his sister decides to stop taking her meds or change her meds; she was aware of the possible effects when she made that choice and it was worth it to her. If she isn’t well enough to attend the wedding (if that was ever part of the plan) then I think your Future Mother-In-Law should talk with your sister’s doctor and see if there’s a residential program of some kind where she can stay for a week or however long your family will be out of town.

I don’t think you or your Fiance should feel guilty about this, and I don’t think his family should feel guilty about it. Your sister in law has an illness, and will probably have it her entire life (unless they discover a cure for bipolar) and you cannot — cannot — structure your entire lives around her illness. It’s not healthy or realistic.

I hope you manage to come up with a solution that will let everyone relax and enjoy your wedding.  

Post # 8
511 posts
Busy bee

@Baal:  +1

It’s no wonder mental illness carries such a stigma when most people know all the buzzwords and think that they understand it. I’m fairly certain if we were talking about kidney disease and the fact that your Future Sister-In-Law would need dialysis, this thread would read very differently.

I’m not bipolar but I do suffer with chronic depression. Would I love not to have to take meds every day, and other meds to combat some of the side effects like insomnia? Hell yes.  Is it an option? Nope. Do I still have not-so-great days? Unfortunately yes, but I sure as heck don’t do it to draw attention to myself, or to inconvenience anyone.

Post # 10
10363 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: September 2010

It sounds like your Fiance hasn’t really accepted the realities of his sister’s condition. It isn’t that she isn’t listening to him – it’s that she CAN’T. Her compulsions from her disease don’t let her. My aunt is bi-polar. Same thing. On and off her meds a lot, behavior like your Future Sister-In-Law. You guys need to plan for your own life, and move forward. There’s nothing you can do to change his sister.

Post # 11
175 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

My brother is Bipolar, so I know what it feels like to be concerned. It was really hard growing up, and I think his constant highs and lows really had an effect on me (I adored my older brother) as well as the rest of my family. It is really hard to understand because you don’t experience it yourself, but it is very important to be as supportive as you can.

While my brother does not have extremely severe symptoms, he really does his best to prevent episodes. He gets irritated very easily by certain things, and we have all had to learn to just let it go and let him be frustrated. He knows certain things can set him off, so when anyone talks about something that makes him feel uneasy he speaks up and lets us know.

I have read in psychology books that when people with Bipolar disorder go off of their meds, there are other ways to cope with the illness that can have somewhat of an effect/help.

Like PP have said, medications can make people with this illness feel off or just wrong. Some even like the manic side of Bipolar, and choose to stay off of medication in order to experience it. 

From what I have read, a good diet is definitely a start in dealing with Bipolar disorder. Lots of exercise helps to redirect manic energy, and can help keep them on more of an even keel. I have seen this help my brother–he teaches exercise classes, and ever since he started doing so I have seen such a positive change in his moods. 

A normal schedule is also said to help, with regular bedtimes and such. 

None of these things may help, but they are worth a try. Just remember, whatever you feel, it is probably 1000X worse for your FI’s sister, so just try to be supportive. Do not let it get in the way of your big day, but don’t be upset with her either for any shortcomings she may have. Mental illness is a really tough thing to deal with, I wish you the best.

Post # 12
1715 posts
Bumble bee

I’m not bi-polar, I lived with a bi-polar roommate for years.

I could see her spirals, I learned her ups and downs. If you have any empathy, you learn it just by being there. What I’ve done may NOT work for you, not all bi-polar people manifest their cycles in the same way.


I usually kept a stock of chocolate on hand. If I felt she was getting into a small funk about something, I’d give her a peice. That seemed to work on the daily stuff. If she kept going down in her cycle, I’d ask her to vent. Didn’t matter what it was about, even if it was about me. I’d just let her talk. It seemed to help. If it was worse, I’d call her doctor’s office for help. Even the suicide hotline. Just for someone to talk to. Anything to help her get out of her head.

You really do have to keep an eye or ear out for the little things. Every person with this affliction is different. So PLEASE talk about it with her and ask her doctors advice.

Either way you cant let her control your life. But, be empathetic. She’s really not doing all of this to you. It’s not about you or your Fiance, even if she says it is. It’s her disorder manifesting it’s self. If you take it personally it will ruin you. 

Sadly, my roommate was doing things I just couldnt ignore, mostly due to her disorder manifesting its self into jealousy over my relationship with SO. I had to leave the situation and move on with my life. And I really think that was because I sort of centered my life around her disorder. So don’t make the mistake I did.


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