Thursday, January 29, 2009

Likable Ideas

These items came from a different bipolar post. It is written, as you can see, from the view point of the bipolar disorder person. Like I state in my book, the family does probably share some of these ideas; but my opinion, as a person who is not bipolar, is the hardest thing about living with bipolar is the extreme patience required to live with someone who cannot think rationally most of the time. Then throw in the severe mood swings and high anger issues, and you will see that it takes a mixture of un-conditional love and super-natural patience to be able to daily keep a positive, loving attitude toward this "bipolar disorder". To be honest, since my bipolar loved one was my mother, I did not feel that I was ever given a choice of whether to love her, hate her, or continue to stay and help her. I, of course, stayed with her in my formative years, but after I left home and had the "choice" of really staying to help my blind dad with her care, did realize that I could never turn my back on her. I did love her deeply, not necessarily un-conditionally. But what I am saying is I know some people who have been married to a person who was bipolar and they chose to leave and get a divorce. I know a lot of bipolar married persons get divorces because the non-bipolar one chooses to not stay. If I were being honest, and knowing what I know about the disorder, I would have a hard time staying married to someone who has a severe illness. I hope you don't judge me too hard on that, I did say I was being totally honest. I know the bipolar disorder people are great, I work with students who are and I love them all and have total sympathy for and with them, but at the end of the day, I go to my home and they go to theirs. I do think these listed items will useful to someone who needs them though.

The Top 10 Ways to Support Your Mate. Keep in mind this is written from the point of view of the bipolar disorder “sufferer”. In the near future, we’ll revisit this topic from my wife’s point of view.
1. Give us confidence. If you can make your partner or loved one feel good about him or herself, life will be SO much easier for both of you.
2. Take an active role in our treatment. Help with med administration. Don’t count on us to be faithful to our medication, we all slip from time to time. If we are under the care of a psychiatrist or counselor, maybe a yearly session where you join us would be helpful. At a minimum, if you have questions or concerns write them down so we can take them with us to our appointments.
3. Recognize there are things we just can’t bring ourselves to do, and try to work with us on this. For example, my wife pays the bills, as my stress level goes through the roof, and I blow up at the family if I try to do it. Of course, it’s worse when I then give her a hard time for not “doing it right”. When this happens, try to be understanding.
4. Remember that we have certain strengths and super-hero abilities at times. Take advantage of this. For example, if we go hypomanic and suddenly desire intimacy for hours on end, or multiple times per day, help us out. Keep in mind our meds sometimes take this desire away for months on end, so when it does come around use this to your advantage. You might even go so far as to say “Paint the house and I’ll fulfill that little fantasy you’ve been hinting at for years…” The house will be painted in a matter of hours.
5. When we get in a really bad frame of mind, and we all do, be there for us. Don’t be afraid, don’t put up a defense against us, don’t brace yourself for something bad. Be there to talk and support. It may not be pleasant, personally I can be downright mean when in a bad frame of mind. But you’ll both be glad you were there.
6. We know when we’ve made fools of ourselves, or done something bold, brash, or stupid. We’ll be embarrassed to face you, or others affected. Don’t hang us out to dry. Step up and support us, not in a condescending way, but as you would with any loved one. Don’t say “that’s the bipolar disorder talking” or something like that. We may say that, but please let that be our decision. Accept us, don’t dwell on it, give us a hug to show you understand, and move on. We’ll be eternally grateful.
7. Embrace our diagnosis, it’s not going to change, and may not improve. Meds can control it, but we won’t be “cured”. Realize that it’s not always a bad thing, we’re still the same people we’ve always been. To look at the bright side, we now even have an official title.
8. Remember that even though we’re diagnosed, and likely medicated, things aren’t necessarily going to be easy. In fact, when the bad times come around, we now know what’s happening, and we understand why. Rather than use our old (and maybe dangerous) coping techniques, we may try harder to rein in our feelings and behaviors. This can make these episodes even more dangerous and volatile than before.
9. Help us to recognize those coping mechanisms that may not be good for us. We may not realize we are doing something, and the gentle input from a loved one may be extremely valuable.
10. Watch for triggers, and watch our behavior for clues of an upcoming change of mood or frame of mind. You are in the best position to recognize this, and to help us see and understand this.


Hopeful Heart said...

Hi Liz!

I am just starting to read your blog and like it! I hope to read more of it!:)

This is an interesting entry. You have a unique perspective, as a daughter of a mother experiencing some form of bipolar illness. This must have been very "trying" for you, at times. My heart goes out to you, truly. :)

I have dealt with many people struggling with bipolar illness during my lifetime. One of the first things I try to make very clear to people commenting on bipolar illness is this: Not all bipolar illness (or experiences) are created equal.

Often, people think if they have interacted with one person struggling with bipolar illness, they understand what is is like to live with (or to interact with) all people struggling with bipolar illness. This is a huge myth.

It has been my experience that many people do not realize that some of the "troubled behavior" is actually a by-product of a co-occurring illness and/or a personality (or a character) disorder.

In many cases, there is much more going on than "bipolar-related behaviors only."

Additionally, many people fail to take responsibility for their actions, and their many loved ones unwittingly collude with them on this, because everyone is "blaming" the bipolar diagnosis for all behaviors. Buying into this-- blaming "bipolar illness" for non-bipolar-related behaviors--enables the individual to continue unacceptable/destructive behaviors.

In my experience of working intensively with many people diagnosed as "bipolar," those indiviuals with only a diagnosis of "bipolar" -- without a co-occurring personality disorder, or other very complicating factors --
often do very well.

These individuals may experience relapses; yet, when successfully managing thier condition, they are not irrational most of the time -- far from it! :)

I will admit that some cases of bipolar illness are chronically severe, despite attempts to treat/regulate illness. Yet, these are not the majority, in my many years of experience.

The most difficult/complicated are the suffering individuals also experiencing co-occurring illnesses and/or personality disorders. However, many of these are not beyond treatment, if they have the means to obtain helpful treatments and they remain dedicated to helpful treatments. Treatment for various personality disorders can take years. I have seen many people overcome co-occurring personality disorders and totally change their lives, while still managing their bipolar illness.

It follows that marriages with a bipolar partner are not all the same experience!;)

Only about 50% of the many marriages I have seen with one partner diagnosed with bipolar illness (only bipolar illness) have divorced (to date). These are marriages that were very unstable long before anyone had been diagnosed as "bipolar." Isn't this divorce rate is similar to the population in general?

Some marriages actually improve through "working together" and trying very hard to understand and support one another. In these cases, the marital support is not a one-way street! Believe it or not, both parties mutually support one another. Often, through the additional help received in therapy, etc., these marriages are very solid, very healthy and very fulfilling. (The same follows if the couple has a family of their own-- these are often very healthy, solid and happy families.)

Your suggestions/tips are great!:)

I look forward to reading much more of your blog over time!

My very best to you!
Hopeful heart

Liz said...

Thanks for your valuable input. I am just trying to "keep the dialogue up". My mother always tried to ignore and hide from the fact that she was so ill and I am sure we as her family did not help much there either. We did not openly talk about or discuss her illness. I think most of us were just trying to hide from the fact that our loved one could be so ill. My brothers to this day would not want you to "bring up" the topic of our mother's illness. I causes us to just clam up; very strange and definitely not a productive way of managing a mental illness. I never thought I would write a book, blog about it and/or work with special ed. children and their parents, some of whom are mentally ill. I just do not want my mother's life and journey she tolerated to have been done for nothing. She deserved better and I don't want her to be forgotten. Thanks again, Liz