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What is the best way to react to a person who suffers bipolar disorder and frequently verbally attacks her husbands family?
Her husband of one year, my brother, is dying of cancer, and we are all under stress, but my main concern is that her verbal abuse upsets him, as well as our elderly mother.
She is his primary carer alongside the professionals and I hope to continue being of as much support as I can to them both without getting stressed unnecessarily...
Hello, I am Rafael. Thanks for asking your question - I'm here to support you. (Information posted here is not private or confidential but public).
I am very sorry to know about your brother terminal illness. It's just very sad and frustrating to be in your shoes and witness such a sad reality.
But what makes it much painful is to witness how his wife abuses him, when undergoing this last period of his life, besides of what your mother and perhaps other family members get from her.
No form of abuse is acceptable, thus it must be confronted as soon as it appears, setting clear and healthy boundaries and limits, for the abusive person not to feel entitle to keep the abuse and know you are not willing to take it under any circumstance.
What you said about inviting her to dialogue is very assertive since it shows a caring and proactive approach.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness, that requires of consistent psychotherapy and medication in order for the person not to present serious episodes, violent behavior against self or others, and to work on developing necessary skills to build a more stable mood, coping, relationships and functioning.
Individual psychotherapy needs to be complemented by family counseling and ideally by group therapy, since we know a dysfunctional - abusive person cannot keep such destructive tendencies unless people in her support system do play a passive or codependent role allowing or enabling the abuse. In this case it is tough, since the main person, her husband, is already a victim of her abuse while facing her terminal medical condition, and anybody in his shoes should be exposed to
...exposed to any form of abuse under any circumstance, since what he needs and deserves is loving, respectful, compassionate and supportive people around him. Thus your role as family is to confront any abusive behavior in assertive ways, promoting insight and accountability, setting boundaries and limits in order not to expose yourselves to further similar incidents.
Your brother's situation is much more complex because of hos medical condition. No doubt regular individual psychotherapy for him to cope with his medical condition and to work on the very dysfunctional, abusive and stressful marital-family situation seems absolutely necessary.
Please be very aware that a person suffering of bipolar is not one unable to have adequate judgment of reality, but must hold full accountability for her own feelings, choices and actions, and never allowed to perpetuate any form of abusive behavior against others, since when people allow that to happen, the personality distortions also present in that person just get worse, undermining the person's chances for rehabilitation from bipolar disorder and from any personality , mental or behavioral disorders she may also present.
Does it make sense?
Yes, Raphael, It all makes sense. Thankyou for your insight, which affirms my gut feeling that only by firmly standing by honest communication can we make this journey together.
You're very welcome. I do totally support you. This is tough, but necessary and absolutely worthy.
Thankyou. I now feel strong and able to keep going.
Supporting each other as a healthy support system is the best way to promote the individual and family well-being, commit to it and you would get the best possible results.