bipolar disorder, Dr. Paul Markovitz  Q. . I am engaged to a man who is bipolar. He has never outright told me he was, I am assuming it is because he is ashamed of it. It would not make me love him any less I just wish he would see that. Right now he is in either the manic or the depressive stage of it. He lives with his mom but has not been home since the 2nd week of Feb. He avoids his mom and me. When he comes in for clothing or mail it is when no one is home. He is living with some guys he met at work. He will only talk to you if you call him at work and then it is only surface conversation nothing pertaining to what is going on in his life. He will not pick up the phone and call anyone. He is also smoking pot and I pray to god not drinking. He was clean 6 months as of Feb.12th. I also don't think he is taking his meds. He has not seen a doctor since he has been back to MI regarding his meds. and he has been back since May 1999. He is still working but I don't think he is showing up on time all the time. He has isolated himself from everyone who cares for him and is suddenly with these people who he has known all of 4 months. I am assuming when he is in these moods he talks to no one and is just by himself closed up. He is not one to let his problems be known. I would like to know:
1. How long do these episodes last if indeed they are not taking their meds? (this blown out one has been going on since the beginning of Feb)
2. Is it normal for them to run away from everyone who cares about them for this long of period of time?
3. When they come out of this depression what happens with the significant other? Do they go back to the way things were before or do the people with BP decide that it is no longer a needed relationship? I have 2 children who are very attached to him and he has just like disappeared with no answers nothing. Saying he needs to get his self taken care of first before he can worry about anyone else, after telling my son in the onset of this depression in Feb that he wasn't going anywhere he was just going through a real hard time.

  A. . Sounds like a very unpleasant situation. I will address your questions as best I can

1. Episodes can last days to years. The episodes can go from mania to depression or even to mixtures of the two (called mixed states). I cannot tell you how long it will last.

2. It is not normal to run away, but it is not uncommon, either. I do not know anything about his coping style and personality, so depending on how he is constituted, the behavior may be part of his illness or just part of his baseline personality.

3. Even if he returns to his previous state, there is no guarantee that you and the children will. There is water under the bridge, and you or they may harbor resentment over the course of events. This will in turn effect the interactions you all have. As almost anyone would tell you, it is imperative for him to get into treatment, and get the best care he possibly can. This will insure that the number of episodes are limited, and life continues more normally.