My 23 year old stepdaughter, fresh out of an abusive relationship, diagnosed with bipolar years ago, recently moved in with us. Currently have her with psychiatrist, counselor, on medications, etc. My question is: She has been manic/hypomanic for the last 3 weeks. There is no reasoning with her, she has a smart ass comment to make about everything we say to try to calm her down but the situation escalates. What are we to do? If we say nothing, or try to walk away, the anger and hatred intensifies, if we do say something, the exact same response from her occurs. When she has her appointments with doctors, she is all sweetness and smiles, says exactly what she thinks they want to hear-she's a pro. We live in an area with no support groups and are totally exhausted in trying to do the right thing, whatever that may be. We need help.
One important question here: Can you separate her "hypomanic"anger and nasty attitude from her normal "non-manic" anger? If you take her manic behavior as a personal attack on you, then you are simply engaging in a no-win conflict. You can't argue with a delusional person.
If she's normally a reasonable, respectful, considerate person, and it's only in the last 3 weeks that these annoying traits have come about as part of her mania - then all the more reason why you can't take any of this personally.
While you don't gain anything by trying to change her attitude, it still may be important to set clear limits and tell her clearly when she is saying or doing something that is crossing the line. (I realize that may seem impossible with a person who appears to be intent on provoking you and making you miserable). Being blunt and setting clear, assertive boundaries with a person that is truly manic often works well, because subtlety may fall on deaf ears (this has been my experience). I've seen some people in a manic state, who show no awareness of their intrusiveness or over-bearing intensity, and actually stop and have some appreciation when I've told them very directly how they are behaving towards me and asked them to stop it.
But if some of this is her usual personality, if her typical daily life is filled with drama, conflict, anger and blame, whether manic or not, then it's another matter. Those issues would be something beyond what you could attribute just to her being Bipolar. Her hypomania may simply be intensifying her already bad behavior. In this case I don't have any easy answers for you. You may always come out feeling like you're on the losing end of a never ending conflict. In this case, while it's still important to be assertive, set clear boundaries and not simply accept all of her disrespect - it would be even more important that you do things to take care of your own emotions.
Being in relationship with someone in this state, and living with them, creates a situation where it's easy to become emotionally enmeshed. Whether she knows it or not, she may be reacting to your negative feelings, frustration, hopelessness, judgment and resentment towards her.
Meridian Tapping/EFT can be extremely helpful as a way to shift your own consciousness and your own negative feelings towards someone, which indirectly can influence the other person to shift with you. On an unconscious/energetic level, when we change our own feelings and perceptions of someone else, they almost always change along with us. You might find that her attitude towards you changes for the better when you resolve your own feelings within yourself. It's certainly a thousand times easier than trying to change her.
I don't know if you are doing any family therapy sessions, but that can also be a good place to confront her about her behavior towards you, without being so vulnerable to her assaults. It can be a useful aspect of treatment for everyone involved.
I wish you the best,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist
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