Living with someone with bipolar disorder can be frustrating, not because you do not care about them, of course. You might just not know how to make them feel safe and validated, which can leave you feeling helpless. Fortunately, you do have the power to make a difference to your partner, even when their disorder rages relentlessly. Read on to learn more.
1. Learn the Facts.
Don’t rely on what you’ve seen on TV or in the movies to guide you through life with partner with bipolar disorder. Remember that most forms of media tend to focus on the extremes and are not intended to be used as diagnostic tools. Even anecdotal evidence from your partner’s own life may not capture all the highs and lows that lie ahead. Take the time to understand the science behind bipolar disorder and how it impacts the lives of those diagnosed with bipolar.
2. Empathy, Not Sympathy
Sympathy is the feeling of sorrow or pity in response to someone else’s situation. Empathy is the act of putting yourself in another’s shoes and feeling their emotions right along with them. When supporting your bipolar partner, remember to practice empathy rather than sympathy. Good intentions aside, expressions of sympathy can make their recipients feel belittled or powerless. Offering empathy allows you to truly support your partner in a mutually beneficial way.
3. Prepare for (and accept) Highs and Lows
When your partner’s bipolar symptoms intensify, mood swings are going to be part of your lives together. Extreme jubilance comes with the territory, but so does profound depression. Don’t increase the pressure on your partner by demanding they behave a certain way at a certain time. Give them someone to lean on no matter how they feel.
4. Promote Healthy Living
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and intellectually engaging activities can all contribute to the fight against bipolar symptoms. Medication can also help those who suffer from bipolar disorder. You should do everything you can to encourage your partner to stay on their medication, but you can’t get angry or upset if they falter. Your support is more important to their mental health than anything, so avoid overly emotional language or guilty tripping.
5. Don’t Lose Hope
No matter how severe your partner’s symptoms become, remember there is always hope to be found in therapy and medical treatment. Even in their worst state, your partner is the same person you fell in love with, and you are both stronger when you support each other.
Neither you nor your partner has to conquer bipolar disorder alone. For additional guidance, reach out to a professional counselor. This person will be able to give both of you the tools you need to cope with distressing symptoms, even at their peak.