Bipolar disorder (BP) doesn't just
affect the person diagnosed...it also affects their family, friends and
everyone around them. Often times those closest to the sufferer are more confused,
scared and upset because they're unsure what to do or how to act, or they may
not even fully understand the problem. With some help, encouragement and
understanding, family and friends can be great allies to depend on in the
hardest of times.
Blame the Illness
One of the key points for any spouse,
family member or loved one to understand is a lot of the behavior a person
exhibits is the disorder and not the person. If they could control their
behavior they probably would so it's unfair to blame the person. Put the blame
where it belongs, on the disorder.
Many times this is the hardest thing to
do. It's difficult seeing a loved one in a manic or depressed state, and they
may even lash out at you. Try to stay calm and remain as supportive as possible.
There are a lot of things to learn
about BP, from medications to therapy to just how to manage everyday life. Ask
to go to doctor appointments so you can ask questions. Offer to go with them to
some therapy sessions if they are comfortable with you being there. If they
aren't ask if they would be comfortable with you scheduling a separate
appointment without them so you can learn and ask questions.
Be sure and have your questions written
out BEFORE you see the doctor. You want to learn as much about BP as possible
keeping in mind that you don't want to add stress to the person living with it.
If you're not understanding something, you may want to set up a time with the
physician by yourself to go over things in more detail.
Having someone to share the best and
worst times can be a blessing to many people suffering with BP, but sometimes
many feel like they have lost all control over their life. Don't assume they
want you to take charge of everything. Ask what areas they know they need help
with and also ask their physician what areas he or she thinks they'll need help
with. When a situation arises stick to what you've talked about and if things
need to be adjusted try to involve them as much as they want.
Medication is often one area that
patients need the most help with. Research exactly what types of medications
have been prescribed, the dosage and when they need to be taken. In some cases
you will need to take over dispensing the medication. You may decide upon diagnosis
you will handle all the medication but that is something to discuss between
you, the person with BP and their physician.
At various times and for various
reasons, people will try to stop taking medications. When a person is in a
manic episode they feel like they are fine and no longer need the medication,
while in a depressed episode they may not feel the medication is helping.
Knowing beforehand that this may occur, you both can plan how you will react to
help keep the person on their medications.
With BP it's always good to expect the
best but plan for the worst. Knowing what you will do in certain circumstances
will help not only the patient but help all those around them. If you have
children, arrange for whatever assistance you need from friends and family so
they can move in quickly when needed. You will also want to talk to a financial
counselor to plan for periods of financial uncertainty.