by Rick Qualls
Bipolar disease is difficult to treat. It is complicated and hard to diagnose. It may take three or more years to identify. It can be a financial nightmare and contributes to the wreckage of relationships.
- Educate yourself about the illness.
My wife was critical in managing my disease. She went with me to psychiatric appoints. She noticed symptoms and side effects that I was not aware of. She was able to give input to my doctors which helped find the diagnosis.
Learn what you can about the disease. Meet the professionals treating your loved one. They can give you personal suggestions and teach you about the disease. Do internet research for information and suggestions. Make sure the sources are legitimate.
- Address your stress.
Caring for anyone with chronic disease is difficult, but bipolar’s cyclic nature is added stress. Encourage the person with bipolar to develop a support system that includes professionals, friends, and family. The broader their support system the better for both of you. You cannot be the sole source of their support.
- Develop your own support team.
Simplify your life. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Take time to de-stress by spending time with friends who can help you decompress. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially including sleep, exercise, and eating.
Caregivers often feel isolated. Finding others in similar situations help.The support may be face to face, or it may be online, such as forums, and blogs. We can be helpful to others traveling their path toward healing. One Bible verse encourages comforting one another.
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)
- Take notes.
Jotting down different behaviors, when they occur, what preceded, and what followed. Make sure your loved one knows you are doing this or they will feel betrayed. Share what you learn. You are a team with your loved one. These notes help spot symptoms when they can be treated early.
- When your loved one is stable, together plan what to do during the next crisis.
What are the triggers for mania or depression? For example, if insufficient sleep is a trigger your plan may be to use sleep aid medications (see your doctor) short term until you are stable again.
Impulse spending might trigger a manic episode. Actions you can do: avoid credit cards, avoid internet banking, and shopping.
- Offer listening and personal acceptance.
Having someone who actively listens and cares help the person with bipolar feel more comfortable about their disease. Stay calm. But do not tolerate verbal or physical abuse. If that happens, walk away until there is a better time to discuss issues.
- Be your loved one’s advocate.
They may feel the whole world is against them. Assure them you are there and you have their back, and it will give them calmness and confidence.
- Affirm their strengths.
Your loved one may feel worthless. Remind them of their strengths and the tough situations they have overcome. This gives a sense of calmness and helps recovery.
Finally, if you are a person of faith use your spiritual resources. Cultivate a deeper prayer life. And discover Bible passages and promises to give you hope. One of my favorites is: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Is. 40:31