Being both bipolar and a support person to another bipolar, I’m familiar with both sides of the equation. Therefore I believe I’m in a very good position to share my thoughts and give some insights.
If you’re bipolar, listen up! Cut the crap with the self-pity, the omnipotence and the self-absorption. Admit you have a serious health issue. Stop being a navel gazer, up-your-arse, negative, unbearable and nasty piece of work. Your support people love you. Stop for a fricken second, just a fricken second, to think that you’re wrecking their lives when you insist upon not taking your meds, not changing your lifestyle for the better or not allowing a kind, loving relative or friend to help you manage your screwed-up finances. You can do heaps better than that. I know how much you’re suffering because I’ve suffered that much myself. I’m aware it isn’t pretty. In any case, in the middle of so much pain, you can still find enough self-awareness to make a change. Tell a loved one you love them, apologise for the hurt you cause them and remember that being bipolar doesn’t define you. It’s part of you, not the whole “you”. I know, you’ve got to deal with it, as I deal with it myself, but I’m sure that you can do that and more.
If you’re a support person, you’re not alone. What I found works for me is 1) compassion; 2) compassion; 3) compassion; and last but not least compassion. Not “idiot compassion” – if you don’t know what that means, google it up. Listening, just listening, goes a long way. Now, I’ve got a few little “pearls” for you as well. Sometimes you use hurtful words when you talk to your bipolar loved one, shame on you! Find yourself a sounding board if you need to vent – preferably a counsellor or a support group. Don’t wear your friends out; some of them may even misunderstand your plight and a) give you stupid advice that you must leave your partner; b) throw your son out of the house, c) tell your mother to drop dead. That isn’t the way. Some friends can be very understanding: those are the ones who just listen. Take time out if you need to. Find a safe space where you can refuel. Set clear limits as to how far you can go for your BLO (Bipolar Loved One). Don’t believe that you’re invincible, unbreakable and unflappable, because you are NOT. If your BLO is a family member, don’t forget that bipolar disorder runs in families and you may be bipolar yourself.
If your partner / spouse happens to be bipolar, and you decide you absolutely have to leave them for your safety and sanity, it’s sad and regrettable. But you come first. If there’s no “you”, there’s nothing. Run for your life if you must, but don’t abuse the hell out of someone who at some point must have been very attractive and worth everything in your eyes.
To both: Not all bipolar sufferers are the same. Remember it’s a disease, so considering that all BP patients are the same would equate to considering that all cancer sufferers have the same personality traits. Bipolar disorder isn’t a weakness or a defence mechanism that sufferers “switch on” whenever they feel like it, and on purpose. It’s one hell of a disease.