When it comes to supporting a loved one with bipolar, sometimes you have to deal out a little tough love.
Supporting Someone with Bipolar - For Family and Friends
It's often pretty rough trying to cope with a manic-depressive loved one. You want desperately to help them, but sometimes the usual notions of what it means to help someone backfire. In fact, they are quite likely to backfire and so, take the word of one whose been on both the receiving and the delivering end of the following advice - it works.
Always keep firmly in mind that your loved one's illness is not YOUR problem, and it's not your fault. Be firm in refusing to take any abuse from your bipolar loved one, but be there as a safety net if things go badly off-center. Your presence is needed as a sounding board, as someone who can confirm or deny which behaviors seem disorder-related and which are life-adjustment problems. Most of all, your presence lets the ill person know that being angry at this beast of a disease is okay, but being abusive toward others is not.
Don't give in to the poor-me whine. Hard truths and painful honesty toward the bipolar person are better than commiseration at this time. This doesn't mean one should be cruel. Now is not the time to rehash old pains and sorrows, nor to place blame - there is none. But do think before you automatically, and unthinkingly, agree to everything a newly diagnosed, and really angry, bipolar says. While you think you may be helping, in fact, you will cause harm. Realize you may be a testing ground for someone who is desperately trying to get a toe-hold on how to exist as this new, medicated person. For that reason, it is particularly important that you be honest in a positive way.
Give the person breathing room. Yes, you need to keep aware of impending depression, but acknowledge the grief involved in this battle to come to terms with bipolar disorder. No matter how much you think you know about what your loved one is going through, you don't, you can't - and you never will. No good will come from suggesting that you do. Try to understand their immense pain and give them plenty of room to grieve for everything that once was, and now no longer is.
- Created: 14 December 2008
- Last Updated: 21 October 2013