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Eight Things You Can Do To Help

Feelings of low self esteem and unworthiness can creep into your loved ones mind and heart; especially if they are recovering from a manic state and have done things that are out of character. The extreme highs and extreme lows of manic depressive illness can be devastating.  It is always another journey to regain balance once against for an individual who is actively suffering from bipolar; this is especially true for the individual who has not yet found the correct combination of lifestyle and medications to manage his or her symptoms. Here are eight things you can do to help your loved one recover from an episode:

1. Listen: This may sound obvious, but listening is one of the most difficult things to really do. With that said, we are really talking about active listening. Active Listening is a mindful art/science of both listening and responding to the person who is talking to you. You actively focus completely on the person and what the person is saying, filter out your own thoughts and urges to say what you are thinking, and stay in a quiet zone where you are actually hearing the person. Then, you restate or paraphrase the content of what was shared by the other person to confirm that you actually understood them. If they correct you, listen again, ponder for a moment, and then restate and check to see if you got it right. You will be surprised how much this can actually elevate someone sense of being understood, and self worth because someone actually made the effort to understand them.

2. Do not judge: Although a person may have exhibited maladaptive behaviors while in a manic or depressive state, do not judge the person. The human being behind the behaviors is probably just as confused and or upset about the behaviors as you might be. If possible develop a collaborative relationship with the person who is ready to work on changing behaviors. If your loved one does not yet accept that he or she is experiencing manic or severe depressive episodes, or is in need of help, keep the lines of communication open so that when he or she is ready, you can work together. Try not to “lecture”. This one sounds like a “no brainer” but in reality, even when we are just trying to support our loved one by making allot of suggestions, and/or encouraging them to take actions that we know will help them recover or thrive; we want to reflect on how our messages of caring are delivered. Consider writing out what you want to tell you loved one, and then imagining how your thoughts and words might be received. Explore options for delivering your messages and be creative in seeking ways to get your message to your loved one without him or her feeling as if you are talking down to them, or are lecturing. When someone is always getting advice from someone, it can make the person on the receiving end feel as if the “giver” either is, or thinks they are “superior” which translates into the “receiver” being inferior. We want to avoid this if we can.

3. It’s ok to be honest; use good timing- although we do not want our loved to feel judged as a person, it is ok to let them know how their behavior affects you. There is an art and science to doing this effectively so that your loved one understands that the behavior he or she is engaging in is damaging and hurtful, while not feeling rejected by your. It is best to talk to your loved one about such issues when they are stable and are not in the throes of an episode.

4. Remind the person of their achievements: If you loved one is exhibiting signs and symptoms of low self esteem, remind them of their achievements. Keep a list yourself of things that you know this person has done, and for which he or she should be proud of. This is very helpful. When we are becoming depressed and we don’t like ourselves, if we are reminded of the good that we have one and the positive achievements that we have made, we will like ourselves better. And a person must like themselves and love themselves if he or she is going to see the point in making an effort toward wellness and living a balanced life. Recovery is not easy, and a person has to think he or she is worth it in order to make progress.

5. List ten things that you like about that person, and then remind them of the reasons you like them during conversation. Mention on or two at a time, and mention these things often.

6. Be positive and model healthy self esteem yourself. This is very important. Make sure you have your own Self Esteem Booster Box filled with your own personal tools to keep yourself in healthy mental health. By taking good care of yourself, you model this behavior and way of living life to your loved one.

7. Show your loved one that you are with them to support them because we all need to be connected; not because you are superior to them. It might be you who needs a friend in the future. As mentioned above, not only do we want to avoid “lecturing”; when we give our support, we want that person to know that we consider them as equal to us in value. For example, if you help your loved one financially, make sure that you can afford to offer that support, and that you are giving it freely. Try to give the message that you want to help. This is not the same as co-dependence, or enabling your loved one. Some people have a difficult time distinguishing the difference. If your support actually encourages your loved one to remain in denial of having a mental illness, while they refuse to take their medication or see a therapist, then that is not support. However, mental illness is real, and someone who is recovering from a manic or depressive episode might require help. For example, you might be giving your loved one rides to a case manager who is helping him or her with securing medical and psychiatric care. This is healthy support. And, you never know when you might need some support yourself.

8. Help to reduce triggers and stress. If your loved one is able to identify his or her triggers to manic or depressive episodes, you can help tremendously by assisting in offsetting possible stressors. This will be different for each individual. If your loved one lives with you, you might be able to work with him or her to develop an organized and predictable environment. Perhaps you can help him or her manage medications and doctor appointments; or help them with regular meal times. If your loved one has developed a wellness and recovery plan, then he or she will be able to tell you many specifics about what will help him or her feel supported.

Photo by philcampbell

Photo by NASA on The Commons