Help For Significant Others:

 

So you love or care about someone who suffers from manic-depression and you haven't a clue as to how you can help them, and yourself, deal with some of its more disturbing aspects. Well, read on because in this section I hope to provide you with some hints about what you can do to help your loved one, and things not to do as well. Yes, there are some things you can do to help, but it is just as important to know what NOT to do. You'll find many links here as well. Links that will aid in your understanding of the many moods your loved one may be experiencing, sometimes in very rapid succession. Just remember, you are an important part of a team in this enterprise; a team consisting of the person who is bipolar, their psychiatrist and mental health workers, and yourself. It takes a teamwork approach to manage this disorder and here will be as good a place as any to get started in providing help that really helps. 

 

When you've read the information here, you might find it helpful to join our support list for significant others. You can read a bit about that list and then join it by going here. The list is called FI-SO, for FyrenIyce Significant Others. The moderator is a perfectly lovely woman by the name of Kim. It's a small, intimate group where your privacy and concerns are carefully guarded. Please consider joining. To join the group click on the link at the bottom of this page titled FI-SO.

 

Please be aware as you read the following items that these are just suggestions for helping your significant other cope through an episode. They are not intended to be used indefinitely and without good cause. We donít want you walking on egg shells all of the time, but sometimes it might be of use to you to have an idea of what seems helpful to us during a depressive or manic episode. 

 

 

What A Significant Other (SO) Can Do To Be Supportive

  1. When your SO is depressed, offer love and hugs, if your mate is receptive to that. Sometimes a hug is better than words.
  2. Practice active listening if he/she wants to talk. Really listen.
  3. Ask if your SO prefers to be alone and quiet, then respect their wishes.
  4. If you canít deal calmly with a mood then leave the room.
  5. Ask your SO how they are feeling before commenting; get them to clarify the feeling.
  6. Help with chores without your SO having to ask.
  7. Reassure your SO that they are loved and that their illness hasnít changed that.
  8. If your SO wants to accomplish a certain thing then help them to do that if possible.
  9. If your SO is having problems with medication then encourage them to discuss it with their doctor. The key word is Ďencourageí, not order.
  10. Take suicidal thoughts seriously.
  11. Let your SO have time to recover from a manic or depressive episodeóthere is a natural healing period. Be patient.
  12. Let your SO know if they seem to be showing signs of an impending episode, but do this with concern and without an accusatory tone of voice.
  13. Work out advance directives or an emergency plan with your SO concerning what to do if depression or mania strikes.
  14. Consider joining a support group for significant others.
  15. Remind your SO of important appointmentsówe can be forgetful.
  16. Before a moodswing hits, ask your SO how you should react to minimise damage. Donít assume you know.
  17. Reassure your SO that he/she is a good and valuable person. We can get very down on ourselves.
  18. Sometimes having code words or keywords to describe what a mood is can be helpful, but be careful not to over use them as they can become just another trigger.
  19. If your SO is agitated or hyper try to minimise those things you know upset them or adversely affect their mood. This can be noise, lights children etc.
  20. Educate yourself about bipolar disorder, but donít go diagnosing your SOís every mood or action. Remember, you can know all about the illness in an objective manner, but you donít live it as your SO does.
  21. Help us to talk about recovery whenever you can. Encourage positive steps taken.
  22. During a mood try to help your SO identify what kind of mood it is: anxious, paranoid etc. Then talk about it to allay fears.
  23. Be patient if intimacy declines a bit during an episode; it will improve as the mood improves.
  24. Offer to go to your SO's appointments with their psychiatrist or therapist if they find that helpful.
  25. Try to learn what "triggers" your SO and minimise the times those triggers come into play.
  26. Give your SO time to straighten things out in their head before communicating them to you. Be patient with that process.
  27. Remain consistent in your responses to various moods. It confuses us if you react one way one time and another way the next.

 

What A Significant Other Shouldn't Say Or Do

  1. Donít tell your SO to snap out of a depression; they canít.
  2. Donít let your SOís depression or mania reflect on you; itís their mood, not yourís.
  3. Donít assume your SOís mood is always due to being bipolar; we can be normally angry, sad etc.
  4. Donít ask if your SO has taken their medication everytime they show any sign of moodiness. We have good and bad days that arenít bipolar-related.
  5. Donít abandon your SO.
  6. Donít present them with a list of doís and doníts.
  7. When your SO expresses angry thoughts donít take it personally. You probably arenít the target or the cause.
  8. Donít talk down to your SO. Weíre mentally ill, not stupid.
  9. Fight fair; never use your SOís illness as a weapon to score points.
  10. Donít think itís only your SO who needs therapy; be open to the fact that you too can benefit from the same.
  11. Donít assume that your SOís illness is their problem. It affects the whole family so communication is essential.
  12. Donít throw previous mistakes in your SOís face; we all make mistakes. Your SO probably feels badly enough already.
  13. Donít tell your SO they can do without their medication. You may not clearly remember how bad things can get and they may not either.
  14. Donít tell your SO what you think before having asked them what they need most from you at the time.
  15. Donít use your children against your SO; instead, help explain the illness to your children in a sympathetic manner.