Mother struggles with her daughter’s bipolar disorder

Published 7:29 pm Monday, June 26, 2006

Dear Annie: I have a 19-year-old daughter, “Eva,” who is bipolar. She has had multiple hospitalizations and one suicide attempt. She sees a psychiatrist and a therapist, takes her medications, and we are working with an agency for some help with her transition to independence.

My concern is the extended family. We get together every two to three months to celebrate birthdays, holidays and other special events. Eva often does not feel able to handle more than 10 people in a room, and frequently refuses to attend these celebrations, or needs to leave very early. In addition, she struggles with social skills, such as remembering to send thank-you notes, even though getting a card or gift from a family member always brightens her day. She is better on a computer, with e-mail, but her great-grandmothers, the ones most concerned with etiquette, are not online.

I haven’t visited my grandmother in several years, even though she lives only four hours away, because Eva’s moodiness rubs her the wrong way. I love my daughter, but I am not sure how to ease this situation. — Struggling in Wisconsin

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Dear Struggling: You are doing everything right to help Eva, so please don’t feel the need to apologize for her behavior with the relatives. She is doing the best she can, and they will have to learn to accept her as she is. Surely the family is aware that Eva has problems. You can confide the details if you wish, or simply say, “Sorry Eva couldn’t come, but she is uncomfortable in large groups.”

Great-Grandma actually may prefer to see Eva, warts and all, if the alternative is not seeing her in several years. And there is no reason you can’t visit your grandmother without Eva. As for thank-you notes, remind Eva to write them, and whatever happens after that is beyond your control. Let it go.

Dear Annie: Please settle a difference of opinion. My friend says you can inherit alcoholism from a family member. I say no, you can inherit the genes for cancer, heart disease and so forth, but drinking, smoking and gambling are acquired habits. You drink, smoke and gamble because you want to — nobody pours the booze down your throat or sticks the cigarette in your mouth.

We will be looking for your reply. Thank you. — J.L. and R.F.

Dear J.L. and R.F.: Scientists are still looking for specific genes, but there is evidence that a predisposition for alcoholism may be inherited — which means if Dad is an alcoholic, Sonny has a greater-than-average chance of being one, too. Aside from genetic vulnerability, there also is the environmental impact of being raised by someone who thinks drinking to excess is normal. Neither is exactly a “choice.”

Dear Annie: I also lived through the situation described by “Just Another Soldier,” whose wife cheated while he was away, and his friends knew and didn’t tell him.

I went to Kuwait for a year and asked my best friend to help my wife with any problems while I was gone. Well, he helped her all right. I discovered they were having an affair. Once my wife realized she could lose both of us, she wanted my forgiveness and reconciliation. I agreed, but she was aware that she was going to need to earn my trust back.

I then found out that most of my friends and co-workers were aware of the affair, but didn’t want to get involved. I could not trust them any more than I could trust my wife. I quit my job and changed professions and am much happier with my new job and new friends. It has been four years, and my wife and I are still together. My advice is to get rid of the “friends.” — Retired Soldier

Dear Retired: There aren’t many people who would tell someone in the middle of a war zone that his spouse is cheating. The consequences of such information could be severe. However, we’re glad you managed to save your marriage, and we understand why you felt you needed new friends.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at