I switched to linux to hide the porn!
November 12, 2005 6:13 PM   Subscribe

I am engaged to a wonderful woman who has some mental problems. She's willing to get help, but needs my assistance to make it happen.

We've been engaged for a few years, and recently she asked me why I haven't agreed on a date to marry. I replied honestly: "I am not willing to marry you until I feel that you are making progress in working out some of your anger, depression, and unhappiness." She was upset to hear it, but it prompted her to admit that her self-medication and exercise aren't enough.
I believe she has BPD, but that's between her and her therapist.
My question is manyfold: Do any of you have recommendations for appropriate therapists in the SF area, particularly Marin? How can I be helpful without feeling like I am controlling her life? She uses marijuana regularly- do you think that 5-6 bowls a day is excessive? Perhaps excessive caffeine use is a contributing factor? She has 5-9 cups/shots a day.
posted by wzcx to Human Relations (61 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
more:

She has frequent (nearly every day) crying fits, for even tiny reasons, panic attacks every few days, and hysterical fights (with violence). She frequently accuses me of cheating on her, or falling in love with someone else. She flipped out the other day when I turned around in the car to reach my seatbelt because she saw a woman walk by and was sure that's what I was looking at.

I also feel domineering because by saying this about our engagement I am using our relationship to "threaten" her into treatment- but I feel it's the only way we'll stay together at all. She has the typical "splitting" issues noted in BPD literature- she sees me as alternately a hero or devil. My comment brought on a dish-throwing, furniture-smashing screaming fit.

Possible causes are obvious: her father's suicide when she was 9, neglect by her remarried mother, emotional abuse from stepfather, rape at 14, followed by institutionalization for "lying about it", having to raise her siblings while still in high school, forced separation from them afterward... and that's just the parts I know about. (Apologies for the long posts. Writing is therapy too.)
posted by wzcx at 6:13 PM on November 12, 2005


I wouldn't even begin to comment on the rest of your questions, but I've known several people who have gotten married despite their spouse's totally unjustified jealousy under the impression that it would change once they were married. It never did, and they all divorced. I don't know if in your case this is a symptom of other problems, but in my experience, that kind of jealousy is essentially unsolvable, despite best efforts.

Also, I think that yes, 5-6 bowls is excessive, especially given other mental health issues, if you're not in college. I know people I'd call potheads, but nobody that smokes that much, that often.

Good luck!
posted by loquax at 6:22 PM on November 12, 2005


Having been in a somewhat similar situation I can tell you it's no picnic.

I would disagree with your premise that she needs your help to deal with her problems. Ultimately, you can't change someone. You need to accept her for who she is or move on.

It's possible that you're a good guy and because of this she is trying to sabotage the relationship with all the accusations because all she has known has been dysfunction. By pushing you away she is, in her mind, asserting some degree of control over the situation. She is probably convinced that you will leave her so it might as well be today.

Maybe you should try to get some therapy yourself, I'm sure you are dealing with too much as it is. Good luck.
posted by euphorb at 6:34 PM on November 12, 2005


having just gotten divorced from a woman who certainly had something like bpd, if not npd (or both) ... i can tell you that without a concerted effort on her part, that things are only going to get worse ... and you're going to be worn out and awfully sick of it

i don't think it's just between her and her therapist if you're going to marry her ... you don't need to know everything they talk about, of course, but you should know what the basic diagnosis is

you ask how you can be helpful without feeling you're controlling her life? ... the insidious thing about my marriage was that i often was faced with a choice between letting things go to hell, or acting controlling ... what's worse is that i slowly realized that i was being manipulated deliberately into being faced with these situations she'd create so i'd be tempted into taking control and she could rebel

if you haven't read stop walking on eggshells, i think you should

and yes, if you're dealing with this, therapy could be very helpful for you
posted by pyramid termite at 6:37 PM on November 12, 2005


You can't save her by holding the threat of ending or not progressing in your relationship over her head - she'll only resent you for that.

Are you in therapy? There's no reason for you to stay in a relationship where someone is violent and paranoid on a regular basis, unless you have some kind of hero or enabler complex. No matter how much you love and care about her, you're still saying that she needs to change before you make a deeper commitment- and that her progress will be judged by you. That's not a good base for a lasting and healthy relationship, and you're right, it's domineering.

And getting jacked up on coffee while simultaneously sedating with pot? I'd be a little crazy too. Not to mention how that may wreak havoc with any meds she's on.
posted by Liosliath at 6:39 PM on November 12, 2005


Termite: I have Stop Walking On Eggshells on order, as of now. The phrase has run through my head plenty of times without even hearing of the book!
posted by wzcx at 6:39 PM on November 12, 2005


I do not understand the title of this post...

The way to be helpful without being controlling is to be supportive and available. That's it. You can't restrict her caffeine intake or drug use, or make an appointment for her with a therapist - those are things she has to do herself, when she's ready. You did have a right, however, to explain to her why your relationship has stalled. I don't think that's a threat.
posted by amro at 6:41 PM on November 12, 2005


I should have mentioned that a family member of mine has similar symptoms - I have to live with it, but I would never voluntarily shackle myself via marriage to someone like that. Not to mention, what happens if you want to have children? Even if she progresses now, what if something triggers a regression later? Stress, post-partum depression, death in the family, the cycle of the moon... ok, I'm kidding, but 'Stop Walking On Eggshells' describes the situation pretty accurately.

Good luck!
posted by Liosliath at 6:45 PM on November 12, 2005


Does her therapist know how much pot she smokes? Pot exacerbated my mental issues, especially the depression. Also, 6 bowls of today's pot is more than enough to keep one stoned all freaking day.
posted by mischief at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2005


From what you have said, especially the "I feel domineering" part juxtaposed with her violence, I strongly suspect she is damaging you and you should get out of there immediately. You have done all you can for her. You only live once.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2005


In fact, the way you've phrased your description of her behavior sounds like you want to be released. It's something you have to choose yourself.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:51 PM on November 12, 2005


Perhaps I do have a hero complex- maybe I want to love myself for doing some good and being unselfish. :) It's not my first less than perfect relationship, either. (I had a whole post about why I am in this relationship- but it was deleted because it was in response to a troll.)
I think I may have to agree with you about the judgement/resentment issue, but on the other hand, as amro said, am I not being dishonest if I won't tell her why I won't marry her? I do agree that it may be a poor basis for a long term relationship.
As a few of you have asked: she is not in therapy yet (I am not in therapy either), and she's not on any meds. She has had a long-time phobia of headshrinkers and psychoactive drugs after spending months in a mental hospital after being raped.
posted by wzcx at 6:54 PM on November 12, 2005


I'm with amro, the title of your post, "I switched to Linux to hide the porn," makes zero sense after reading your question. Could you enlighten?

-
posted by Independent Scholarship at 7:00 PM on November 12, 2005


P_G: she is definitely damaging both of us. Even the dog hides when she's mad! But that doesn't make our relationship worthless, in my opinion. I have thought about leaving many times, and it may yet happen. But given that we both know we CAN be happy together, isn't it worth trying for? I'm the problem-solving geek type, and I feel like this is sort of another puzzle to solve.

Thank you all for your answers already, too.
posted by wzcx at 7:01 PM on November 12, 2005


Often, you will be advised to cut and run on AskMe, and of course it's not that simple. It sounds to me like the best thing for you (since I stick by my earlier assertion that there's not a whole lot that you can do for your fiancee at the moment) is to engage the services of a therapist yourself. You've acknowledged that you may have some of your own issues, and it may help her to see that you are garnering some benefit from the process.
posted by amro at 7:01 PM on November 12, 2005


I can't speak to the other issues, but I do want to mention something you may have already considered: that marijuana does cause or exacerbate paranoia (it certainly does with me, at the very least). She certainly has mental health issues, but the pot could be contributing to the freak-outs in which she accuses you of cheating.

So, in answer to that question, yes, it is my (very lay-person) opinion that the pot use could be doing harm. I've never been a big smoker, but that sounds like a whole lot to me.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 7:01 PM on November 12, 2005


Ah, the title: bcause of her jealousy issues, she gets a bit peeved if she thinks I look at porn. Linux has better filesystem security/privacy. It was an opportunity for a little levity in an otherwise serious discussion without a derail.
posted by wzcx at 7:03 PM on November 12, 2005


How can I be helpful without feeling like I am controlling her life?

Don't frame it that she needs to fix herself, but rather that both of you need to fix the relationship. I mean, just the fact that you've stayed for so long with someone who has such an angry, depressed, and unhappy side to her (which manifests itself daily) should point that there are issues that you have that might benefit from therapy. If she knew you were going to see someone, it might make her more inclined to go herself, and then maybe you both would get to see someone together. Fixing the way that you both feed into each other seems more helpful than just fixing the way she treats you.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:06 PM on November 12, 2005


I just want to hug you, you poor thing. Don't you think you've been unselfish enough? You said you've been "engaged for a few years," that's plenty of time to see if she's going to get better, honestly. If you want to do some good, then let her go - she's obviously unhappy, and needs time to figure this out. Your relationship may even be part of the problem - not that it's the same situation, but I remember having crying fits at the end of one of my long term relationships, way before we decided to break up. It's just a feeling of knowing something is wrong, but not being able to put it into words or what to do about it.

You deserve more than this.
posted by Liosliath at 7:06 PM on November 12, 2005


I have thought about leaving many times, and it may yet happen.

What would it take for you to leave her? Try to define it; maybe even write it down somewhere. Don't let it feel like something you don't have a choice over. Try to prevent yourself getting to the stage where the relationship drags on against your true wishes, just because it could be worse - there has to be a limit to what you're willing to go through to 'solve this puzzle'.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:09 PM on November 12, 2005


get out while you still can; you will never be able to make her happy.

posted by Quartermass at 7:09 PM on November 12, 2005


She flipped out the other day when I turned around in the car to reach my seatbelt because she saw a woman walk by and was sure that's what I was looking at.

The fact that you are still on speaking terms with this woman after she did this indicates that there is more than one person with mental problems in this relationship. You should not merely be hesitating to marry her. You should hesitate to be in the same room with her.

I realize you did not ask "Should I break up with her?", but if you are going to stay with her, I think you need a therapist as much as she does. (My last clause is deliberately ambiguous. Take it either way, or both.)

I totally admit that I don't know anything about you, but I suspect you are young, or at least that you haven't had many relationships. The reason I suspect this is that you think this woman is wonderful. Man, if you think that, just wait until you meet some women who have all your fiancee's positive characteristics but who aren't crazy.

5-6 bowls a day? Holy smoke (no pun intended) -- does she have a job?

I do not understand the title of this post...

Obviously it's something wzcx's fiancee accused him of. "You switched to Linux to hide your porn!"

The first time a woman accused me of nefarious motives for something perfectly innocent I did, rather than asking me why I did it and accepting my explanation, I would magnaminously offer her the opportunity to pretend she was joking. If she did it a second time, she would end the relationship. I don't care how great she was in any other way.

After you marry her, it's "for better or for worse" and you are obligated to stand beside her no matter how crazy she gets. But until then, you have an out. I suggest you think seriously about taking it rather than drawing out the engagement any longer. In the long run, you will be happier, and probably she will too.
posted by kindall at 7:12 PM on November 12, 2005


"I'm the problem-solving geek type, and I feel like this is sort of another puzzle to solve."

Do not do this - I went down that same road, and it doesn't work. I kept treating my relationship like a program that had bad code from a previous designers - I'd make a change, run it through the (mental) compiler again, and got disappointed every time because it still wouldn't work like I wanted it to.

P.S. - It's not a good sign when your beloved's website is called "shesinsane.com."
posted by Liosliath at 7:14 PM on November 12, 2005


As another divorced former-partner of an unstable, neurotically insecure woman with major issues that she refused to address, who spent two and a half years assuring me that it was what she wanted and a year and a half realizing that it wasn't... Dude, you're already juggling with a grenade with a loose pin; getting married will throw two more of them into your pattern. She doesn't trust you now. Marrying her won't change that, it'll just make her feel that you've trapped her.

Suggest you sit down with your best friend and say, "Man, tell me honestly, I can take it and I want to hear it: do you think I should marry this woman?" I wish I had.
posted by Hogshead at 7:22 PM on November 12, 2005


23skidoo, I am really not that concerned for myself, or even for my long-term happiness. I will leave long before I am crushed. As P_G says, though, it would be smart to write down exactly what it would take.
Liosliath: I think it is a good sign when she can see herself clearly enough to buy "shesinsane.com".
Kindall: I do sometimes think that it would have been wise to leave after the first time she accused me of having nefarious motives for something innocent- but I really did switch to linux to hide the porn. I just avoided the issue of her running across it again, but I know that people's views on porn vary wildly, and so that particular issue is not one that I wanted to make a crusade of. There are other times when she's batshit crazy about something I didn't even know happened- like the seatbelt I mentioned earlier.
posted by wzcx at 7:22 PM on November 12, 2005


You said that she is willing to get help, but needs your assistance to do it. I hate to be a downer, but as long as your assistance is required for her to get help, the situation will likely stay the same.

Staying sober and getting therapy would be a good place for her to start, but you didn't need AskMeFI to tell you that. It sounds like from your post you already thought of those things.

She has to want to change her life and get help for herself. Certainly from what you've described you provide a stabilizing force for her. But if this has continued for so many years I don't think there is any more you can do. You already do alot to help.

What do you want out of this relationship? It sounds like you have reached a point where you aren't satisfied with the status quo. The important thing for you is to figure out how longing you are willing to be in a relationship if she can't change. There isn't a right answer, but it sounds like you are at a crossroads, even if she isn't.
posted by birgitte at 7:25 PM on November 12, 2005


I dunno, if she wasn't really sort of insane, it would be funny. Given her present condition, I think her domain name is just kind of wry at best, but more like sad. Also speaks to her self-image, like you said - and it's not a positive one.
posted by Liosliath at 7:29 PM on November 12, 2005


Would you be happy for her to read this thread?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:29 PM on November 12, 2005


"She uses marijuana regularly- do you think that 5-6 bowls a day is excessive?"

Yup, and that's probably not doing her paranoia much good; counteracting the depressant effects with all that coffee isn't likely to be helping much either.

I find marijuana a nice mood stabilizer, but I very much doubt it's selective enough to be useful at such large doses; tolerance and strength differences aside.

FWIW, I find smoking in the form of tobacco+weed joints to be more self-limiting than pipes/bongs; it involves more effort in construction, they last longer, they're harsher to chain-smoke and make it simpler to vary the dose.. you need to be wary of the addictive nature of nicotine of course; I find it highly overrated, but everyone's different.
posted by Freaky at 7:30 PM on November 12, 2005


I used to be married to a woman who was mildly bipolar (bipolar 2: all the depression, but only hypomania). Your descriptions of wild overreactions and hugely emotional outbursts at the slightest provocation are familiar to me, but worse than anything I had to deal with. I have been there, done that, gotten the t-shirt and a set of bad emotional habits that continue to cause ongoing (hopefully low-grade and non-permanent) damage to my new marriage to my favorite person ever.

If she is bipolar, she is not going to get better. Bipolar disorder is not caused by trauma or resolved by talking; it is at root a poorly-understood biological disorder with a strong genetic component (though like many other conditions or illnesses, stress can turn a propensity into the active disorder). If she is bipolar now, she will be bipolar until the day she dies.

The best you can hope for that she treats the symptoms. This means talk therapy combined with medications. Usually very strong, often dangerous medications with strongly negative side effects, and she will need to be on them for the rest of her life (barring radical medical advances). People with bipolar disorder often fall off of their meds for that reason among others. Given her history, it seems to me (I am not an MD) that the probability of her entering and maintaining the necessary course of treatment without fail is extremely low.

So: get out. She is toxic. She might love you, and you might love her, but that doesn't make this relationship anything other than harmful to you. I do not know you from Adam's housecat. I do not know (or care) what various wickednesses you've committed. I do know that whoever you are and however you've lived your life, you deserve better treatment than you get from her.

I agree that it's never that simple for the person involved, so I'd agree that you should seek counseling yourself. If nothing else, it might help you to see that you deserve better than you're getting, or help you to give yourself permission to get out and move on.

Your fiancee does not have a bright future. If she is bipolar, there is a very high probability that she will attempt or commit suicide (I want to say that about a third of people with bipolar disorder attempt/commit suicide, but I don't have Jamison's book any more). No matter what you do, her future will remain clouded. What is at issue is whether (or to what extent) she takes you down with her, and to what extent the scars you will have from this experience make future relationships difficult.

This is not a puzzle to solve. Unless you can rewrite her DNA, you cannot solve this. The best you can hope for is continual, ongoing treatment of a problem that is still there, and still as strong as it ever was, forever and ever amen.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:31 PM on November 12, 2005


Kindall, I somehow managed to miss the first two-thirds of your post. We are young-ish, I suppose; we're both about 30. I haven't been in many (5-6?) real relationships, mostly because they've been long ones- several years on average. She is quite successful in a high-stress stock-market job, and works some ugly hours to boot. In her professional life, she controls/hides her emotions well. (That can't be helping what happens the rest of the time!)
I would love to go see a therapist. I think it would help me work out exactly why I ever put up with this kind of behavior. But, given that I do put up with it, and given that I also want to provide support to someone I love, I feel it's worth some time and effort to see if my efforts- combined, of course, with hers- can make a difference. Look at the risk/benefit ratio. Risk: some money, more months of her not improving, me leaving and being sad for a while. Benefits: possible years of (partly) happiness with her, and a tremendous improvement in her life even if we don't stay together. Earlier in our relationship, when her jealousy issues started to surface, I thought, "I'll give her a few months to learn to trust me." I was wrong, of course- she didn't. But I had to give her the opportunity.

I think also that some of you are underestimating what she is willing to do- and what she is already doing to control her problems. It takes dedication and effort to spend hours a day at the gym, and to stay calm enough to talk seriously about therapy when she's so afraid of the funny farm. I agree: she has to do the hard work. I can only make suggestions.

I am wondering now whether I overstated the amount she smokes, since it seems y'all are surprised. I've never smoked, myself, so I am poor judge. If an eigth lasts 1.5 weeks, give or take a day or two, how much daily is that? (It's super-sticky "cannabis club" weed- neat lookin' purple stuff.)

ROU_X: bipolar II sounds like a possibility as well, though I leave diagnosis to the professionals.

The comments that I see in nearly every relationship thread are "get out!!!11!" and so I have to take such advice with some salt, but I do take them seriously and I feel better about it as a possibility after reading so many thoughtful comments.
posted by wzcx at 7:56 PM on November 12, 2005


P_G: Would you be happy for her to read this thread?
I'd be happy if she ran across it herself... but that's fantasy. I would be unhappy if you emailed it to her, so I guess that's a no. Talking with her about it is hard enough without inviting the peanut gallery too! (No offense, I'll be her long after I dump her, right?) However, I have saved it, just in case I do want to show her.
posted by wzcx at 8:05 PM on November 12, 2005


I am (mildly) on the other side of this debate. I have been in and out of depressed/angry moods for the past several years. I do not use drugs, and I am not violent. But, I can definitely be not so pleasant to be around when I am in a "low." Your finacee's situation sounds much more serious than mine, so take this with a grain of salt the size of my head.

You *can* help her. The way my boyfriend (of a few years) has been helping is by being available and open to talking. Also, being willing to take action is often not enough. The first steps to starting therapy (wrapping your head around it, finding what your options are, contacting a therapist, possibly going through a few therapists until you find the right one... ) are haunting to plan and do. Plus, depression pushes you into the vicious cycle where doing anything about it becomes very difficult because you are feeling too down to talk to someone and make an appointment.

I would try to find some good therapists with experience in this kind of disorder. Get their contact information and prices/appointment flexibility on a list. Give that list to her, and offer to go to her first appointment with her if she wants you to.

Also, helping with little practical things helps avoid a crying fit. If she doesn't have a crying fit for a few days straight, she might realize how great it is to feel alright continuously.

Good luck!
posted by copperbleu at 8:09 PM on November 12, 2005


The comments that I see in nearly every relationship thread are "get out!!!11!" and so I have to take such advice with some salt

Well maybe that's because the act of bringing a relationship into AskMeFi for analysis indicates that it's probably not a healthy one.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:12 PM on November 12, 2005


Let's rephrase your question here: is a troubled relationship with a serious pothead/caffeine junkie, already violent and paranoid and edgy--and averse to all forms of therapy or medication--magically going to get better on its own, to the point where marriage is an option?

Uh, no.

I'm sorry she's had such a rotten childhood; the kinds of traumatic experiences you list would push almost any person alive over the edge. But it's not your job to save her from her demons while meekly suffering her abuses. You are not a Knight in Shining Armor, you are a potential husband, someone who may be about to entangle your life with hers in a legally and financially and, oh yes, emotionally messy manner.

If she doesn't get help soon, like in the next two months, you should leave her. It's not your job to fix her, it's not even something that should be attempted. And marrying her should be absolutely out of the question unless she shows major, major improvement, not just half-hearted acknowledgement that regular furniture-smashing fits might, y'know, be a problem.

If you were female and she were male, I'd be telling you to run, not walk, from such a violent and manipulative man, nevermind marrying him. I don't see why I should sugar-coat it for you just because the genders are reversed.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:12 PM on November 12, 2005


It takes dedication and effort to spend hours a day at the gym

I'm not saying it is in this case, but just be aware that exercising can become an addiction.

(No offense, I'll be her long after I dump her, right?)

I think your heart is already out of this relationship. That's not something you say about someone you love. Maybe you should get out now.
posted by amro at 8:15 PM on November 12, 2005


The comments that I see in nearly every relationship thread are "get out!!!11!"

I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the asker's of these questions are usually in a relationship that's dead in the water but maybe haven't admitted it to themselves yet. Of course the problem is the assumption isn't always correct but I think the situation must be desperate to ask for advice on the net.

Can your relationship work out? I'm doubtful but that's ultimately for you and/or her to decide. I'll second the advice for therapy for both of you.

The other problem with the questions are their one-sidedness. We would have a much different idea of the situation if she had posted instead of you. But I bet the consensus would still be along the lines of break up.
posted by 6550 at 8:17 PM on November 12, 2005


23skidoo, I am really not that concerned for myself, or even for my long-term happiness. I will leave long before I am crushed.

Oh, seeing the shrink wasn't to boost your happiness, or make sure you don't get crushed. If you really leave before getting crushed, that's great. I think what a shrink might do is help you figure out why you're even still in this relationship, at a point where an overwhelming majority of people are telling you they would have gotten out long ago, and help you figure out what you should do about it.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:20 PM on November 12, 2005


If you were female and she were male, I'd be telling you to run, not walk, from such a violent and manipulative man, nevermind marrying him. I don't see why I should sugar-coat it for you just because the genders are reversed.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:12 PM PST on November 12 [!]


That's a really good point.
posted by footnote at 8:35 PM on November 12, 2005


I really did switch to linux to hide the porn.

Hah! Busted!

Are you sure PGPDisk wouldn't have done the trick? ;)
posted by kindall at 8:38 PM on November 12, 2005


Asparagirl, That certainly is a good point, but I am the one far less at risk from violence, although the manipulation may work the same in either direction.
posted by wzcx at 8:41 PM on November 12, 2005


but I am the one far less at risk from violence

???

If you don't get violent, this is a total irrelevency. If you do get violent, then the relationship is even more irretrievable than we previously thought.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:51 PM on November 12, 2005


23skidoo, I am really not that concerned for myself, or even for my long-term happiness. I will leave long before I am crushed.

1) i strongly suggest you become concerned for yourself and your long-term happiness

2) from my experience, one doesn't get crushed ... one gets slowly squeezed ... and it's such a slow process you won't even realize it until you're out of the relationship ... in fact, i believe you're somewhat squeezed already

she needs to address her problem and you need to address yours ... this is the only chance you have to make it work

i certainly can't tell you exactly what the problems are ... but one of yours is that you don't realize how deeply you're already being affected by this ... i didn't either, 2 years ago ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:05 PM on November 12, 2005


Hey, guys, I AM bipolar type two, and I ain't that bad to live with now that I am on meds and taking responsibility for myself. (yep, including exercise.)

If this lady has borderline, that may be harder to fix-but nowadays they even have meds for that. First thing you do if you really want to marry this woman is for BOTH of you to see a therapist together (or a shrink) and get a proper diagnosis so you see what you are dealing with. As her partner you can give impartial needed input to a counselor.

I will say that if she has problems with her sleep cycle or times when she is way more talkative than usual it is more likely to be bipolar.

My main advice to you is this: although having a stable relationship in her life is helpful to her, it is on HER to get the help she needs and to take responsibility for her actions. Truthfully people like us don't have the best track records, but on the other hand I have been married for over 22 years.

And don't get sucked into her drama. Not helpful to her, and definitely harmful to you. Draw boundaries for yourself, and hold to them. Muy importante.
posted by konolia at 9:21 PM on November 12, 2005


She definately sounds borderline to me. If her ups and downs occur over the course of hours rather than months, she is not bipolar. It is a common misdiagnosis. Please, read your copy of Stop Walking On Eggshells before considering setting a wedding date. Here are a couple more resources for you.
posted by ilsa at 9:42 PM on November 12, 2005


Ok, I am going to buck the trend in this thread a little bit.
I am in a long term relationship (13 years) with a wonderful lady who at times shared some of those same traits.
What has made the relationship work is a number of things. 1. She has accepted that for the relation to work she needs to work to control what she can, at times this includes meds (usually during winter months), therapy (no one has answered that part of your question. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, amy be what she needs), a certain amount of patients on my part, honesty, the lack of any serious recreational drug use.

I noticed that many of the checked "best answer" posts included some form of cut-and-run advice. Are you just seeking permission to leave? That is something we can not give you.

I know how hard it is to be in such a relation, it requires more work then a "normal" relationship, on both sides. As long as she is making significant efforts and you love her it can work. Not easy but doable.

You should do an honest self-evaluation with professional help if at all possible, and decide what your boundries are, set them, and go from there.
posted by edgeways at 11:01 PM on November 12, 2005


I am not married.

And we're only hearing the part of the relationship that isn't working.

However, in my hypothetical marriage I would be looking for a true partnership of equals. You're taking care of her- is she taking care of you, too?
posted by small_ruminant at 11:51 PM on November 12, 2005


Linux, huh?
posted by LarryC at 12:14 AM on November 13, 2005


Humans, from my point of view, are batteries. You will drain yourself taking care of her if she can't help herself. What will this do to your future children?
posted by Dean Keaton at 12:47 AM on November 13, 2005


If your GF has BPD, then it is not just between her and her therapist -- you will be integral in helping both of you cope with it.

A young friend I love dearly has both bipolar disorder and BPD. I've learned a lot about recognizing when it is Her speaking and acting, vs. The Illness.

There are techniques to dealing with BPD, and they are not natural or intuitive. Do read "Stop Walking on Eggshells" - then read it again. Realize that when she acts out on you, it's a misguided way of purging the incredible pain she is feeling.

Some here have suggested bipolar, though what you describe does sound more like BPD. But sometimes it can be hard for us to know which is which. This article addresses the comparison: Overlap of Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder

Someone mentioned DBT -- this is something I'd really like to explore with my friend. It's apparently best when a person and their friends and family all attend and work together on it. The core is learning to be more mindful of how your emotions affect your thoughts, and processing them carefully before you act -- something everyone can benefit from. This site has details: Dialectical Behavior Therapy Self Help

There are many online resources; the Psych Cafe Forums are pretty comprehensive.

I learned about these things only after living with my friend over the summer and going through some very rough times together. I wish I had educated myself sooner. Had I realized that when she lashed out at me, she was really hurting inside, I think I could have saved both of us some agony.

How to be helpful without being controlling? It's hard. You'll be advised to set boundaries and limits to protect yourself, and prevent you from "enabling" her condition, but she may see this as controlling, limiting behavior. The eggshells book, and others, will spend a lot of time on this.

These comments from earlier responders really hit home with me. BPD is tricky. It often feels like Catch-22. Sufferers tend to be very smart, and when their intelligence is misdirected by the illness it can truly leave your head spinning:
It's possible that you're a good guy and because of this she is trying to sabotage the relationship with all the accusations because all she has known has been dysfunction. By pushing you away she is, in her mind, asserting some degree of control over the situation.
... i often was faced with a choice between letting things go to hell, or acting controlling ... i slowly realized that i was being manipulated deliberately into ... these situations ... so i'd be tempted into taking control and she could rebel
Re. pot use: 5 bowls a day sounds like a lot of self-medication to me. I doubt that it's healthy.

Re. caffeine: I'm not sure we fully appreciate the potential effects it can have on us.
I recently ran across a book by a medical technologist who has concluded that her symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, panic, OCD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia were actually being caused by an undiagnosed severe allergy to caffeine.

I'm no expert, just another average guy doing his best, but I hope you find something here useful. I wish you both the best.
posted by Tubes at 3:10 AM on November 13, 2005


It sounds like you've been basically hoping that her borderline stuff will magically clear up on it's own, or if you just act like the perfect guy. It's not going to. Regardless of her fears, you must insist that she see a therapist. If she won't then you have your answer. You say you're afraid of seeming overly controlling, but don't you realize that she is controlling everything in your relationship?
posted by miss tea at 6:03 AM on November 13, 2005


You are not a Knight in Shining Armor

Please repeat this to yourself over and over until it sinks in. I used to be attracted to difficult women with painful pasts; now I'm very grateful I got away from that pattern. You are not going to win any sort of prize for sticking with this woman, and from what I can see, it is going to make neither of you happy. As Liosliath says, you deserve more than this.
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on November 13, 2005


It's been mentioned in passing but, if you are planning to ever starting a family of your own, think of the (potential future) children. You can protect/learn to protect yourself; are you fully prepared to protect them, too? It's one thing to take on a BPD, highly voilatile person as a spouse with eyes wide open. It's quite another to subject a child to that dynamic. You can't possibly imagine what her reaction to children will be (another good book, "Understanding the Borderline Mother"--see if you potentially recognize yourself in any of the descriptions of the types of roles their husbands end up playing in the family): she may be a "good enough mother" to all, she might make one kid the "all-good kid" and another the "all-bad kid" (borderline splitting can manifest itself this way as well) singled out for abuse, neglect, etc.; she may confuse the hell out of all of them equally by literally clutching at them one minute, and then shoving them away the next. Are you prepared to protect your children from emotional/verbal abuse at the possible expense of your relationship, if it comes to that? You MUST be.
posted by availablelight at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2005


Another voice urging caution, at the very least.

No matter how willing she seems now, if you're the main force that gets her into therapy, off pot, etc., it's extremely likely that at some point she'll flip around to feeling judged, coerced, controlled, and resentful. Could be a transient stage in the process, but most likely it'll indicate, in her mind, that "your" approach has failed and she can quit.

One comment from you stood out:

I think it is a good sign when she can see herself clearly enough to buy "shesinsane.com".

I think it's actually a pretty bad sign. It indicates that, in her own head, "insane" is one of the essential elements of who she is. Sure, labeling herself insane indicates some self-awareness (as well as self-loathing) but that alone won't necessarily lead to anything good.

Think about how perversely comforting insanity can be. If, at the core, I'm insane, crazy, broken, fucked-up--then there's no point trying to feel better, to treat others better, to have a better life, and anyone who expects me to try is pushing me to do the impossible, setting me up for failure, etc. If that's how she thinks of herself, she's got a permission slip for limitless bad behavior and poor judgment. That's very, very hard to give up.

Even worse (in terms of dealing with it), most of this reasoning and rationalizing isn't at all overt or conscious. It's autonomic, so basic it's nearly invisible.

All that said -- she can deal with this and get it under control. Lots of people have. But "getting help" is just the beginning of the beginning of a tedious and frustrating process. There's no formula for being the supportive-yet-not-controlling partner. She'll be doing all the heavy lifting and you'll have to be flexible in spotting for her; what she needs from you will change, often and in unexpected ways. As she reconstructs things, avoid becoming the new organizing principle of her life. Consider therapy yourself.

Best wishes to both of you, whatever you decide.
posted by vetiver at 10:12 AM on November 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


If, at the core, I'm insane... then there's no point trying to feel better, to treat others better, to have a better life, and anyone who expects me to try is pushing me to do the impossible, setting me up for failure, etc. If that's how she thinks of herself, she's got a permission slip for limitless bad behavior and poor judgment. That's very, very hard to give up.

Oh my...
I never quite put my finger on that.
Boy this can be hard.

To reiterate others: if you decide to press on, definately have a therapist of your own.
posted by Tubes at 10:20 AM on November 13, 2005


A person with a diagnosis, and their future interpersonal prospects, is as unique as any other sort of person. Some people with BPD spend nearly all their time and all their effort fighting against the tendencies that make them so hard to deal with. Some embrace an attitude of victimization, use their diagnosis as an excuse for inexcusable behavior, and say they want to recover with no sense of how difficult it will be to accept that not everyone is out to abandon them and deceive them: that it doesn't all revolve around them. Which type is more like your fiancee?

You can be helpful by being compassionate and honest. The love you have for her may be the anchor she needs to pull herself out of a very distorted set of beliefs and perceptions. But ultimately she will be the one that has to do all the pulling. People will never be faithful enough, never constant or consistent enough, never supportive enough for someone who has BPD. They're so ready to be let down that they maneuver themselves into situations where it'll occur. You can help by giving her both the love and faithfulness she wants and the honesty she needs: Her behavior is a major player in the interpersonal failures of her life. Not the ones in the past where she was hurt, but the fact that she perpetuates the abandonment by her own actions.

She needs both to know that someone loves her and will stand by her so long as she genuinely makes an attempt to change her life, and that she must change her life in order to have someone stand by her. You might run into the problem that she will accuse you of loving her conditionally, only if she tries to 'act normal' and so on. And, of course, the rub is that love is often conditional. But that isn't a validation of her whole belief structure, evolved as it has to support the hypothesis that everyone is out to hurt her. Part of that most likely means she will need to lessen her drug use... I would speculate it is a means of avoiding facing her troubles, and possibly also a quick gratification that she may like since it is much easier than exacting the sort of support people with BPD often go to such lengths to obtain.
posted by rebirtha at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2005


Just get out the relationship already and join the real world.
posted by dydecker at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2005


Think about how perversely comforting insanity can be. If, at the core, I'm insane, crazy, broken, fucked-up--then there's no point trying to feel better, to treat others better, to have a better life, and anyone who expects me to try is pushing me to do the impossible, setting me up for failure, etc. If that's how she thinks of herself, she's got a permission slip for limitless bad behavior and poor judgment. That's very, very hard to give up.

This is an extremely important insight. I was never anywhere near as troubled as your SO, but I certainly spent a good chunk of my teens-20s in a milder version of this mode (depression/panic disorder, general instability, etc.). Being upfront about being "crazy" was a way of disarming the people around me (via being the funny-tragic-brilliant girl who had survived such drama and lived to tell the tale!) and giving myself a "get out of jail free" card for future bad behavior. When i finally decided to take responsibility for my own happiness, it was one of the first behaviors I dropped. Defining oneself as "crazy" is a crutch, a retreat from responsibility. Defining oneself as both willing and able to attain mental health is the real challenge.
posted by scody at 11:25 AM on November 13, 2005


from my own experience:
- it's not your responsibility to make others happy
- forcing people to do stuff (emotional blackmail) can lead to anger and recrimination later, even if it's the "right thing" at the time; it's certainly not a good basis for a relationship between equals
- people can change quite significantly when they are no longer depressed; you may find that when you "cure" this person, you no longer like her
posted by andrew cooke at 12:41 PM on November 13, 2005


"If an eigth lasts 1.5 weeks, give or take a day or two, how much daily is that?"

Less than I originally envisaged, enough to warrant at least the odd break. Could she stop for a few weeks without too much trouble? Maybe worth trying a "detox" next time you run out (it's a lot easier when it's not within easy reach).
posted by Freaky at 4:38 PM on November 13, 2005


This is something you should probably read.
posted by gallois at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2006


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