How to Deal With Someone Who Is Bipolar
It's Not an Easy Task
Dealing with someone who suffers from bipolar disorder is not easy, there is no manual, and each person is different. Being bipolar myself, I can say it is not an easy task being the sufferer either. The number one thing to remember is patience.
Bipolar disorder is like riding an uncontrollable roller coaster—like a monkey jumping from tree to tree. We, the bipolar ones, don't always realize how our actions affect others. When the chemicals in our brain start to run in overdrive there are so many different moods that we encounter that it is hard to establish realism vs. just another mood swing. Sometimes our actions are not coherent to us, we believe in all sanctity that we are correct and everyone else is wrong.
If you are with someone you love, it is a full-time commitment. You can't love someone with this disorder just when they are doing well. It is a lifetime commitment on both parts. We as the sufferers should be aware of changes in our mood and behavior as well as the people in our lives. Confronting someone with bipolar and trying to tell them that they are wrong or that they are just having a mood swing does not better the situation for either party. You have to be careful—hurting their feelings when they feel they are correct or are doing nothing wrong causes more stress, anxiety and escalating moods.
Dealing With a Depression Episode
If you are with someone encountering a depression episode, which usually follows a manic or hypomanic situation, they have crashed. The word crashed is one I prefer to use because it is the way you feel—like you have actually lost feeling of your surroundings. We feel pseudo pain, require more sleep, and there is no motivation for anything. No drive to get out of bed, leave the house, shower, go to work—just sleep. Why? Sleep is as close to death as you can get, and when we are depressed, those creeping thoughts plague us. What can you do? Be supportive, not argumentative. Try to understand even if you can't. Encourage us to get up and be active but remember we have chemicals that are working against us—that don't allow us to make it from the bed to the bathroom. The littlest task is hideous. We become argumentative because we, ourselves, don't understand why our bodies are failing us. Don't ever doubt that the depression is real. It takes control and inhibits our body like a virus. Fortunately, this too shall pass.
I remember a time a while back when I was hypomanic and, even though I have worked endlessly for years to control it alone, I crashed. I crashed right here on hub pages and everyone who read my hubs knew it. There were some who cared and emailed to make sure I was okay and that was like a breath of fresh air, although others call me crazy or the "one on meds". If you truly love the person who is suffering, never call them crazy and only bring up meds or seeing their doctor in very polite, understating ways. We will argue. We will eventually realize we are wrong. Don't throw that in our face. This illness does not discriminate, and a day in our shoes will change the way you think.
Promote positive ways to help overcome depression such as participating in therapy, taking a long walk or understanding, even if you don't. You probably never will, no matter how many books you read, how many times you have studied it. Learn about bipolar, you can't help someone if you don't know what the problem really is. Yes, we think we are right, no matter how euphoric our beliefs may be.
Let's say you are close to someone with bipolar, forget they are bipolar and consider them diabetic. If they don't get their meds or a proper diet they will decline. The same with bipolar disorder. Sometimes it takes a helping hand, not a demanding hand.
Dealing With Mania
Mania is the opposite of depression. No sleep is needed. Days with no sleep is not abnormal, but the things that a bipolar person does or experiences can sometimes be considered abnormal. Spending sprees, euphoria, increase in sex drive—these things can seriously damage a relationship and a person's view of self-worth. There are some precautions you may want to take if the individual is not capable of doing so. Money can be a real problem, especially in relationships. When you are manic, money means nothing. You spend it like there is no tomorrow on the silliest, non-essential things. My downfall was shoes. This is when I recommend that you stand your ground and don't allow your financial situation to decline. If the person is stabilized, mania can be controlled. The excessive talking and cleaning and not being able to be still can be nerve-racking to some. Try to keep them grounded, in a very polite loving way. Remember we don't think we are doing anything wrong, In cases of extreme mania a medication change may be necessary, so you need to have a relationship as well with the doctor. Be there to explain symptoms of mania and medication can be prescribed to keep them grounded. Being with a bipolar individual requires a commitment to both parts: honesty and patience—more than what should be required in a relationship where bipolar is not an issue.
Those Aggravating Mood Swings
Regardless of how good you can control your ups and downs, mood swings will always be an issue. In reality, everyone has mood swings. People get angry, frustrated, sad, mad, or happy—sometimes, for no apparent reason. We just kick it up a notch a bit. It is normal, the only thing you can do is try to rationalize their point of view. Sometimes it is way off hand and sometimes, well we might just be right. Most people with bipolar are very intelligent, very creative, and what I call "left-brained". Their concept of things are sometimes not as clear as it may be to you. This is where patience and understanding plays a big role. The ability to walk away to avoid an argument, even if you are right and they are wrong and being able to understand why they fell that way. It takes a special person to deal on a day to day basis with a bipolar individual, whether it is your relative, friend or companion. Patience is a must, but it is also the responsibility of one who suffers not to make others suffer as well, this includes taking meds, therapy, and avoiding alcohol, drugs, and other mind-altering substances. Support the one you love, show them you care and understand. It will make all the difference in the world. Peace.