With all of the time we spend taking care of ourselves, it is easy to forget our significant others deal with a significant amount of stress due to our chronic illness.
Our romantic partners are fully exposed to our symptoms, which can include everything from irritability and anxiety to suicidal behavior and hospitalization.
My Significant Other
I owe a lot of credit to my husband. We have been married for almost four years now; we have been together for a total of six.
He has been essential to my wellness and recovery. He is there for me when I am angry, depressed, exhausted, and just plain sick.
He is not fully exposed, however, to the type of information and support I receive about bipolar disorder.
Although I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while I was with him, I am the one writing endless blogs, talking to doctors, and spending time volunteering with mentally ill hospital patients.
I expect him to learn about my illness, but often forget that he might not know how.
Mental illness is common in my family. We are open about it. We have a lot of information.
I often forget that my husband was not raised this way
Sometimes, we need to help our loved ones help us.
Tools for Caregivers
The best resources for caregivers are the ones that are written especially for them.
It is a lot easier to understand how to support someone with bipolar when the language is written for the caregiver.
Look around the Internet and in your local community for resources especially for this special population.
Below, I provide three starting points.
This is one of the most easy to understand websites I have found for caregivers of people with bipolar.
They cover most things a caregiver would need to know, from what bipolar disorder is in plain English, to causes and triggers, and how to help during a bipolar episode.
Caregivers need to know how to help and work in harmony with their loved one.
They also need to know how to take care of themselves.
This is so important.
The focus can often be on keeping the person with bipolar well. However, the caregiver needs support and resources too.
It can be exhausting to live with someone with bipolar. It is not an insult; it’s a fact.
Keeping healthy, developing successful problem solving skills, getting a support system, and dealing with caregiver challenges are covered.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is always a good resource for caregivers. From the NAMI HelpLine, available weekdays from 10 AM to 6 PM ET, to educational programs like Family to Family and NAMI Basics, this organization is a great tool.
- Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder by Julie Fast
On her website, Julie explains that this book for caregivers is one of the first of its kind. If you are looking for a handy print option written specifically for a partner or supporter of someone with bipolar disorder, check it out.
Call the number above if you are dealing with a crisis situation—it is not only for bipolar “consumers”.
What I’ve Learned
Sometimes I am self-righteous, blaming my husband for not knowing more about bipolar disorder. I have to meet him halfway and tell him where to get the information. I know more about the bipolar community, and if I want him to help me more, I need to communicate that.
We might be in a bipolar relationship, but we are still in a relationship. We need to ask for what we need.
Let us never forget that caregivers deserve support, help, and understanding, too.
Do you have a spouse or significant other? Do they need more support and understanding of the illness? What great things do they do to help you?