Bipolar is not only hard on the person suffering from the disease, but it’s also difficult for their loved ones. This is especially true for their spouses. Unfortunately, my husband suffers from Bipolar.
Before I start with my thoughts/feelings on this horrible disease here is some background on it.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding all mental illness. This is especially true for Bipolar. Bipolar is more than just mood swings. When most thing about Bipolar they think the patient just is either really happy (Manic) or really sad (Depression). While they do suffer from manic and depression episodes, there is so much more to it.
There are different distinct forms of Bipolar.
Here is a list of them and a quick summary of the symptoms. Of course, there are more and can vary from patient to patient.
- Bipolar I disorder involves periods of severe mood episodes from mania to depression.
- Bipolar II disorder is a milder form of mood elevation, involving milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with periods of severe depression.
- Cyclothymic disorder describes brief periods of hypomaniac symptoms alternating with brief periods of depressive symptoms that are not as extensive or as long-lasting as seen in full hypomanic episodes or full depressive episodes.
- “Mixed features” refers to the occurrence of simultaneous symptoms of opposite mood polarities during manic, hypomanic or depressive episodes. It’s marked by high energy, sleeplessness, and racing thoughts. At the same time, the person may feel hopeless, despairing, irritable, and suicidal.
My husband is diagnosed as Bipolar I. He is in his 40’s and just recently correctly diagnosed. They were diagnosing him as having severe depression disorder. Since he was diagnosed incorrectly, he was on the wrong medication. This made the Bipolar worse; it has also caused him to be in and out of the hospital many times in his life (we won’t discuss how many).
Bipolar does not just affect the patient; it also effects their loved ones. It is definitely not easy to be married to a person with Bipolar. At times, it can seem like you are married to a child. I have to do things that normally an adult can do on their own.
There are things you can do to help your loved one have a “normal” life. Please use love and compassion, though. Can you imagine how humiliating it is for an adult to have to have someone else care for them? Here are some things I do for my husband.
These are the top 5 things I help him with.
- Doctors Appointments
I have to keep track of doctors appointments (He tends to make the appointment but not go). I will let him know on Sunday’s what is in store for the week. Then the day before an appointment I’ll discuss what time we leave etc. I’ve started going with him to make sure he goes.
Medication is a big one. They HAVE to stay on their medication to keep the symptoms under control. There are times they need to be tweaked as well. As their loved one it’s important that you keep track of their behavior and know the signs. I have to keep track of what he’s taking and make sure they stay refilled. He will take them but does not want to stare at the pill bottles. I have an AM/PM weekly pill container I keep filled for him. I will gently remind him “did you take your meds today babe?” Most of the time he’ll take them in front of me, so I know he took them.
Remind him to eat. My husband does not have much of an appetite even when on his medication. He can easily go for days with just munching on some crackers. He knows he has to eat at least once a day. That one meal is a huge one, though. It’s full of protein and vitamins that can keep him sustained until the next day.
Sleep. Oh, blessed sleep. Did you know the lack of sleep can make their symptoms worse? Sleep is something my husband struggles with. He can’t always sleep. When he does, he has nightmares. He’ll spend long hours in bed just trying to sleep.
Routines are a great way to help a Bipolar person cope. When they know what to expect, it helps to keep them calm. The smallest bit of stress can make my husband flip out. When he’s on his medication, he can calm back down quickly. There are other times he stays angry over the smallest thing for hours.
I hope these post and future ones help you with your loved one with Bipolar or at least help you understand it more. If you do have a loved one that suffers from Bipolar, I’d love to hear your tips for helping them cope.
*some information shared is from WebMD.*