Many individuals have asked me to write about relationships and Bipolar Disorder. That is how The Ultimate Guide to Surviving When Your Partner Has Bipolar Disorder came to fruition.
Specifically, these individuals asked me “what are some strategies to practice when your partner has Bipolar Disorder?”.
I picked the top 8 things I feel will help you and your loved one get through the journey of life. This list is not at all exhaustive.
Here they are in random order (mostly):
1) Understanding is HUGE
The way to understand your partner is to educate, to educate, and educate yourself some more. Read books about Bipolar Disorder, research it, and talk to your partner about their specific symptoms and needs. Show genuine interest in your partner’s chronic illness. Click HERE to find out more about Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar Disorder is a chemical illness. This is important to remember if your partner reacts in a way that hurts your feelings or puts you in a bad spot. Just like an individual with diabetes, it is not your partner’s fault.
I am not saying to victimize your partner and enable them. A negative reaction such as yelling, screaming, or putting you down may be indicative of a deeper issue or a possible impending episode. That is why it is important to understand your partner’s symptoms. You are the best advocate for your loved one.
Another way to educate yourself to understand your partner and Bipolar Disorder is to go with your partner to their doctor’s appointments. My wife accompanies me to all my appointments. She goes with me when I go into the room to chat with my doctor. Any questions she has can be answered by my doctor.
The same goes with my therapist. I usually chat with my therapist for a while and my wife comes in to chat for the last part of the appointment.
Not only will educating yourself be beneficial to your relationship, but it will show your partner how invested you are in them. Being on the other side of the coin I can attest to how this proactive role helps myself as well. It shows the compassion and love that my wife has for me.
2) Practice Acceptance
When it comes to Bipolar Disorder (along with anything else), it is hard to accept something if you do not understand it.
Once you start learning about Bipolar Disorder and the role it plays in your partner’s life, understanding is the next best step. This way, you can understand why your loved one acts the way they do and accept it as part of them.
It is so much easier to understand the why before you can practice acceptance. Trying to accept Bipolar Disorder without understanding it is like your parents trying to discipline you as a kid. Do you remember they would say do this and you would ask why? Some parents would respond with “because I said so”. As adults, understanding why helps with the acceptance part.
3) You Need “Me Time”
Having “me time” is so important to your overall well-being. This gives you time to rejuvenate and not only focus on others but your own health as well. It gives you a chance to breathe and recuperate.
Everybody’s “me time” is different. Some like to work on their hobby. For example, I enjoy drawing. Others like to work out or get a massage. Maybe a nice brisk walk is your thing while listening to music?
Find something that you can do every day just for yourself. Some people have a hard time doing this, but it is so important. Otherwise, you can get lost in taking care of everyone else and many individuals over time, become bitter. Do not let this happen to you.
4) Have Your Own Friends
Many people have the same friends when they are married or living with their partner. Sometimes, it is just easier that way. Having your own friends gives you a different support system to lean on in times of trouble or needed advice. You don’t have to worry (usually) about your own friends passing judgment against you based on your problems. As long as they are true friends of course.
Many relationships benefit by having a “guys night out” or “girls night out”. Not every couple is like this, but it is something to investigate and see if it helps your relationship.
5) Exercise Every Day
I put exercise as a separate point because this is important to do for everyone. Yes, you could call it “me time”, but “me time” should be something different in addition to your daily exercise regime.
Studies have shown the efficacy of aerobic activity on improving mood in those with depression and Bipolar Disorder.
As you get older, it is a good idea to add a little resistance training as well. This can be as simple as doing some body weight exercises at home. As we age, our muscle mass slowly decreases. By adding resistance training, we can build part of this deficit back up.
The important thing is to find something you enjoy. You will have a higher success rate by choosing an activity that you like and look forward to each day. Do you have an at-home DVD workout program you like? What about swimming? Biking? Crossfit? Walking? I could go on forever, but I think you get the idea.
As with any workout program, please check with your doctor before beginning anything. Everyone is completely different and you may need some type of modification. You and your doctor know your overall physical abilities best.
6) Have Patience
Patience is something we can all practice. It is especially important if you are the spouse of an individual suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Moods can change from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. This also goes for motivation and energy level.
Realize that finding a medication can take time too. It is an experiment with each case. Your loved one does not know how they are going to react, feel or what if, any side effects they will experience. It took me close to 10 years to find a “cocktail” to stabilize me. Click HERE to find out more about what a cocktail of medications is all about.
Patience and some deep breaths can go a long way. Remember, this is true to practice in every relationship. It is not solely about Bipolar Disorder.
7) Personality Changes from Medication
Realize that your partner’s personality can change after a switch in medication. Psychotropic medications work on different pathways of the brain. Be prepared for the simple fact that a person’s personality, mood, thoughts, energy level and motivation can change. This is not always the case, but it sometimes can be a hurdle to overcome.
8) Episodes Can Change Personality
During an episode, your loved one’s personality can change too. That goes with the time after an episode as well. It takes time to recover and realize that is generally the case.
There is no set time to stabilize completely. Some times it’ll be weeks and other times months.
Do you find anything special in addition to the above list, that helps your relationship? What would you add or subtract to your own ultimate guide? Please comment below with your ideas. I am interested to hear what helps you.
Thank you for your continued support! You are the lifeline of The Bipolar Battle and that allows me to write for you each week.
I am intensely grateful and mean it from the bottom of my heart.
Until next time, take care of yourself! 🙂