Caring for a person with bipolar disorder makes life a balancing act. A caregiver needs to allow time for their loved ones’ breakdowns, irrational decisions and immobility and still allow time to care for themselves. It is difficult maintaining a healthy relationship when one partner has bipolar, yet that person wants a healthy relationship as much as the person without bipolar.
Strategies on how to handle the ups and downs of bipolar can help family and friends maintain loving relationships and still see the person behind the disease.
Look Beyond the Illness
Experts offer multiple ways that people can help their loved ones with bipolar disorder and help themselves live with someone who has the illness. One of the most important things they stress is to remember that bipolar is an illness, it is not a person. There is still a human, needing love, compassion, laughter and value behind the veil of illness. Gentleness and patience will help find them again.
When a loved one is saying hurtful things, it is extremely difficult to care for them. Caregivers must suffer cruel words, cancelled plans and multiple other inconveniences from the very person they are trying to help. The frequent attacks wear them down. Throughout the ordeal, it is helpful to remember that these are symptoms of an illness. The symptoms are not deliberate actions by the person with bipolar.
Learn About the Illness
Mental illness may be the most difficult illness for others to understand. No physical signs or obvious wounds can convey the pain the person is suffering. Without these reminders, people cannot understand the depth of the internal pain that someone is suffering. Caregivers can educate themselves about the illness through the following:
- Pamphlets and booklets
- Professional Internet sites and sites of those with bipolar disorder
- Attending psychiatric evaluations with their loved one
- Attending therapy sessions for those with bipolar and listening to them
- Talking with a mental health specialist
- Talking with others who have a loved one with Bipolar
Experts also recommend that families have a plan of action for when things get very difficult or even dangerous. Some couples have specific limits as to how long they will suffer from a symptom before they call the psychiatrist. For example, if they are crying for more than three days, they will seek help. Setting limits helps the caregiver and patient see a point of help without feeling completely helpless in not knowing when the symptoms will subside. Having emergency contact numbers for doctors and hospitals will also give support in the most difficult times.
Reduce Stress, Get Support
Stress will only aggravate whatever bipolar symptoms are affecting the person. A caregiver’s offer to help with housework, finances, or run errands may be a huge stress relief at the right time.
Caregivers spend so much time supporting their loved ones in the bad times, but should also try to find some fun time to spend with them. Fun times spent together are essential for maintaining a satisfying relationship. If caregivers are only with their loved one during the bad times, that is how they will associate that relationship.
Caregivers also need stress relief from their loving care. They can find support by taking time for themselves, asking doctors for names of support groups and asking other family or friends for help.