Shortly after bipolar disorder invaded our home in 1999, a series of marriage counselors encouraged me to learn to speak in “I” statements. That was the advice I got from NAMI’s 12-week Family-to-Family course, too.
My initial reaction was, “Great, not only am I a lousy husband, but now I can’t even speak properly!” We had had 15 years of connubial bliss, relatively speaking, before the fireworks started, and I wasn’t doing anything different, so how could this inability to communicate suddenly be my fault?! In short, I was very resistant to the idea.
Part II of How’s That Working for You?
Tuesday’s post asked those with bipolar to weigh in on what works and what doesn’t. This week, family and friends of those with bipolar get their chance to weigh in on the same question in a different context. As a friend or loved one of someone who has bipolar disorder, what has helped you deal best with the situation in terms of helping yourself and your loved one?
I’ll kick off the discussion of what has and hasn’t worked for me in the past.
As Joe pointed out in his post “Bipolar Disorder and Family Dynamics,” bipolar disorder typically affects and is affected by everyone in a family. While no family member is to blame for having or causing the disorder, all family members can and should work together to try to avoid conflict and keep the tone of unavoidable disagreements to a dull roar. Strong emotions tend to fuel conflicts, which isn’t good for anyone involved.
While every family is different, here are some basic strategies that are often helpful in reducing the level of conflict at home:
On a recent admission to hospital I felt more anger than mania. I felt angry over an involuntary admission. As I vented my feelings of anger, they were perceived as symptomatic of a manic episode. Where does that “fine line” exist? Please tell.
We expect that situations like these occur more often than most professionals would like to admit. Although therapists often point out that “Nobody can make you angry,” sometimes people have very good reason to feel angry, and an involuntary admission certainly qualifies as one of these reasons.
Unfortunately, any expression of that anger is likely to be perceived as a symptom of mania. It’s like being suspected of a violent crime you didn’t commit. The more vehemently you protest, the more your captors suspect you of being a violent person capable of committing such a crime.