Let us talk about the people who hang around after they find out we have a diagnosed mentally ill person. Having a support system is imperative to bipolar wellness and that support can come in many ways.
I can’t say enough about good therapists. Sometimes a beautifully bipolar chick just needs some objective advice. The thing about therapists is that you can tell them anything – ANYTHING – and if they haven’t heard it before, they’ve been trained on how to respond to it. But you have to trust them and no, you don’t have to do it right away, but if they are to become a part of your support system trust must be built.
2. Family and Friends
Your family has been there since the get-go. For example, mine knows what I was like before the madness came and they know me now. You’ll find that the friends that stick around through the depressions and the mania are the true friends you had before all the madness started. What is great about close family and friends is they can, for lack of a better phrase, “keep an eye on you.” Sometimes you don’t see the signs that you are slipping into mania or falling into depression, but often times they can. This is a great thing because they can alert you and you can alert your therapist and psychiatrist. And unlike a therapist, they can be “on call” at any time, not just during office hours.
How and when you reveal your mental illness to your partner is another blog post altogether, for this one, we are assuming that he or she knows and loves you. I personally had a great partner. My ex -boyfriend has been in the trenches with me. He was part of the reason why I thrive as much as I do. Like family and friends, a good partner can sense changes in your mood maybe before you can and if you live with your partner they may be able to see shifts in your moods and behaviors before anyone else. Again, the great thing about this is that once you are aware of what is going on you can take steps toward wellness.
Now, you will probably see your psychiatrist least often, but he is an important part of your support system. The closer the relationship you can have with him the better. I don’t mean trading Christmas cards, but you should keep him abreast of your symptoms. Ideally you should be able to get a hold of your psychiatrist in a crisis without having to wait for days or jump through any hoops. The better he knows you and how your illness affects you the better able he will be to treat you and prescribe the appropriate medications.
5. Support Groups
Sometimes it is just nice to find some people who understand, who get it. They’ve been there. They know how it feels and they also know how to help. Support groups come in all shapes and sizes so don’t give up if the first one you try isn’t the right fit. There are people out there just like you and they can help.