This is a difficult topic to cover without offending anyone. So to cover bases, I mean no disrespect.
Being in a relationship already has its own inherent difficulties, much less adding into it bipolar disorder.
A bipolar relationship is riddled with ups and downs. From mania to depression and stability in-between. The success rate of a bipolar relationship is minimal due to impending ups and downs. That’s not to say there aren’t many successful bipolar relationships. For example, I have Type 1 Bipolar Disorder, and my husband and I are going on 14 years together.
Bipolar disorder requires a lot of support, attention, patience, and understanding. This is often difficult for the person with bipolar disorder, as a relationship can bring on triggers, stress, and high maintenance.
Here are some tips to help you along.
ESTABLISHING THE RIGHT MINDSET
Becoming an effective support person has as much to do with what you think as it does with what you do. If you approach your role with false expectations and misunderstandings, you may be more apt to say and do all the wrong things, become easily frustrated, and blame yourself for situations and events outside your control. By establishing the right mindset, you can function more effectively as a support person while maintaining your own mental health.
FORMING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Everyone needs hope, but false hope can lead to disappointment and frustration. To help your loved one win the battle (don’t confuse this with a cure, as there is no cure) against bipolar disorder, you must first establish the right mindset and confront the realities of the disorder.
· Your loved one is and will remain vulnerable to mood episodes
· Your loved one can’t will him/herself to overcome the illness
· Preventive long-term medication is almost certainly required to prevent relapse and to control symptoms
· Even with preventive medication, symptoms may occur
· You and your loved one may need to adjust your future expectations and lifestyles to maintain wellness
· Your loved one may not want your help at times, but he/she always needs your love and understanding
DISASSOCIATING THE DISORDER FROM THE ONE YOU LOVE
Your loved one personifies bipolar disorder for you. The disorder expresses all its negative symptoms through your loved one’s actions and words, which makes it tempting to associate the disorder with the person and blame your loved one for problems that result from the illness.
To successfully battle the illness, you have to team up against it. Start by disassociating bipolar disorder from the person who has it. In the midst of a major mood episode, disassociation is easier said than done, but when you have time to think things through, try the following exercises:
· Think back to a time before the first major mood episode disrupted your lives – Did the person you love seem different? In what ways? Can you associate the behavior with the disorder?
· Look at photographs of pleasant times that you and your loved one experienced together – Did you notice any symptoms back then? What has changed? Name some ways that the disorder affects your loved ones behavior during mood episodes.
· List all the words and behaviors that seem out of character with the person you love. – Would you loved one say and do the same things if he/she were thinking clearly? What would be different?
LEARNING NOT TO TAKE IT PERSONALLY
When you’re on the receiving end of an angry tirade and when nothing you do seems to please your loved one, you may react by taking it personally and become defensive. This reaction is perfectly natural, especially when you’re in a close relationship with someone you love. Your happiness and the happiness of your loved one may be intricately intertwined, and when one of you is unhappy the other suffers as well. You begin to think that if you could just figure out the right way to act and the right words to say, the situation would improve. When it doesn’t, frustration and bitterness often follow.
Try to depersonalize your loved one’s hurtful words and deeds in order to overcome the common trap of taking them to heart. Depersonalizing consists of coming to terms with the fact that much of what your loved ones says or does has very little to do with you. Your loved ones feelings, thoughts, reactions, words, and actions can arise from multiple sources, including depression, mania, distorted thinking, or paranoia. By knowing that the disorder and other factors often contribute significantly more to your loved one’s behavior than anything you say or do, you may have an easier time shrugging off some of the reactions.
NURTURING A SENSE OF EMPATHY
You may not know what your loved one with bipolar is experiencing or feeling, but you can empathize – or imagine and share in what your loved one is going through to some degree. Unfortunately, your loved one is probably in no position to describe how he/she’s feeling because he/she may not understand him/herself what’s going on inside.
Your loved one with bipolar disorder is wrestling with a severe mental illness that threatens him/her self – his/her self-esteem, self-control, self-confidence, self-determination, self-image, and so on. When he/she feels threatened, he/she instinctively resorts to fight or flight mode. In fight mode, your loved one may be angry, arrogant, or critical; refuse help; stop taking his/her medication; or blame others. In flight mode, he/she may turn to drugs or alcohol, break off a relationship, seem indifferent or self-absorbed, or deny she has a problem.
Empathy is all about accepting that fact and trying your best to see the situation through the eyes of your loved one. Here are some constructive ways:
· Focusing less on criticizing negative behaviors and more on praising positive behaviors
· Becoming less demanding
· Avoiding confrontation and arguments
· Shifting from blame to problem solving
· Focusing on the here and now instead of digging up the past
RECOGNIZING YOUR LIMITATIONS
When you have a loved one with bipolar, you stand by and watch the drama unfold. On the main stage, the doctor diagnoses and prescribes, the therapist counsels and educates, and your loved one wrestles with mood episodes. You wander backstage like a lonely understudy, wondering whether you have a role to play and something to contribute.
Naturally you want your loved one to get well, but the situation is totally new to you. Should you get out-of-the-way so the doctor and therapist can do their jobs? Should you take control? What would be most helpful? And how can you avoid making matters worse? To become an effective support person, you have to determine what you can and can’t do to help.
DOING WHAT YOU CAN
Your presence, patience, understanding, and willingness to help are perhaps the most valuable contributions you can make. Beyond these, you can offer many types of help, but keep in mind that he/she has the option of accepting or rejecting your offers or limiting your level of involvement. Being too pushy or overbearing can cause feelings of resentment and additional resistance to treatment, and you definitely don’t want that.
Here are some of the best most effective ways you can help:
· Learn about bipolar disorder and its symptoms and treatments, which you’re already doing by reading this blog
· Keep in touch, especially during the tough times
· Provide unconditional love and encouraging words while setting boundaries to keep your emotional reserves intact (such as “I need you to call me only three or four times in on day”)
· Reassure your loved one that with the proper treatment, he/she will eventually manage the symptoms
· Encourage your loved one to seek professional help when necessary (but don’t nag)
· Help your loved one find a qualified doctor and therapist
· Assist in following up on insurance coverage and claims
· Help with tracking moods and medications and watching for signs of impending mood episodes
· Ask for permission to attend appointments with your loved one’s doctor and therapist
· Talk to your loved one about when and how to call his/her doctor and therapist if you become concerned with his/her behavior
· Keep other people posted as directed by your loved one
RECOGNIZING WHAT YOU CAN’T DO
You can’t control how your loved one chooses to deal with bipolar disorder. You can’t force him/her to take medication, attend therapy, or even get sufficient sleep. If you attempt to take control, you risk taking ownership of a problem you can’t fix.
You can and should step in at times when the illness makes your loved one incapable of making the right decisions, but the rest of the time, your job is to let go and allow your loved one to manage on his/her own. He/she needs to take responsibility for sticking with the treatment plan, making and keeping appointments, taking the prescribed medications, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and asking for help.
You didn’t cause your loved one to get bipolar disorder, nor can you cure it. Don’t feel guilty for the onset of bipolar disorder and don’t think you have the power or the resources to fix the problem on your own.
If you have comments, please post below.
Source: Bipolar Disorder for Dummies