Personally, I mostly think of how much my bipolar disorder affects my life. Bipolar disorder causes my personality and capabilities to change over time. I can be happy one moment, and then suddenly I’m crying. It’s not always this extreme, but my moods do shift without having the power to control them or even know when they’re coming. I’m lucky to have family and a couple friends that are extremely supportive of me. However, no one is perfect. Sometimes one of them may say or do something that upsets me and my mind automatically thinks, ‘Don’t they know what I have to deal with? And they’re complaining because of how my disorder affects them?’ It takes me a little while, but then I realize that my disorder has a huge influence on those around me, especially those I’m close with.
I have to work very hard at remembering that I’m not the only person my bipolar disorder has an impact on. Even when my loved ones are educated, they’re still human, and some of my symptoms can be extremely difficult to live with. This is true especially when I’m in a manic or depressive episode. Recently, I was experiencing a mixed episode, some of my manic symptoms included constant fidgeting, increased talking, and was barely sleeping. It took me a while to realize that my symptoms were also affecting my family, especially those I live with. One family member recently said something that hurt my feelings. All I could think was how I didn’t have control over what I was doing, and I felt as if this person was blaming me for that. It took me a while, but now I realize that my family has to live with bipolar disorder as well.
Many individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point struggle to work. Personally, I went through a huge manic episode with psychosis that caused me to be unable to work at all. I have been on Social Security Disability since 2009. I still bring in some money thanks to SSDI, but I don’t make the money that I used to make. For many people, this type of situation often causes problems in families and couples. Our support systems often feel helpless because they can’t fix us, and they often can’t even understand us when we’re manic. But they’re not helpless. They can help to make sure we are taking our medication, help us come up with strategies to reduce stress, encourage us to contact our doctors, and if necessary they can contact our doctors if given permission when we have failed to do so. These are things that my family helps me with.
It’s a lot of work to be the support system for someone with bipolar disorder, or any mental health illness. Our loved ones can experience emotional and financial distress, they often have interruptions to their routines, they have to learn to handle our unusual and sometimes reckless behavior, and the stress they experience can often cause health problems. There are support groups and meetings for our loved ones, just as there are support groups that we can go to. It’s vital for our support system to receive support; otherwise, they won’t be able to be there for us. If we want someone to be patient with us, then we need to be patient with them. It’s much easier said than done.