How can i help my bipolar girlfriend
How to Manage Romantic Relationships
Romance and bipolar disorder
The shifts in mood associated with bipolar disorder can cause extreme changes in behavior. During manic episodes, a person with bipolar disorder can have an unusual amount of energy and may not be able to sleep. When experiencing depressive episodes, a person with bipolar disorder can seem tired and sad. They may not want to go out or do things.
These major shifts in mood can make communicating and socializing difficult. While the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, they can still take a toll on relationships, perhaps especially romantic ones.
Read on to learn ways to manage a romantic relationship, whether you or your partner have bipolar disorder.
If you have bipolar disorder, you may already be familiar with the impact your condition can have on a romantic relationship. You may feel nervous about starting a new relationship and finding the “right” time to tell your partner you have bipolar disorder.
These concerns are understandable, but it’s important to keep in mind that you can have a healthy romantic relationship. For the best chance of success in a new relationship, be sure to communicate openly and follow your treatment plan.
What you can do
- Tell your partner about your disorder. Do this before you make a long-term commitment to that person. Describe what they can expect when you’re experiencing a mood shift. It’s also helpful to tell them what you usually do to manage your moods. This way, your partner won’t be surprised when you experience a mood episode. They may even be able to help you get through it.
- Stick with your treatment plan. Perhaps the best way to reduce relationship stress is to follow your treatment plan. This can help minimize your symptoms and reduce the severity of your shifts in mood. Discuss your treatment plan with your partner so they can help you keep on track.
- Keep an open line of communication. Tell your partner when you feel a mood shift occurring so they’re not alarmed by a sudden change in your demeanor. Also, be open to them when they tell you that they notice that your mood is “different.” Many times, others can see changes in our mood when we cannot.
- Be honest. If you’re having a severe episode and struggling with your symptoms, don’t hesitate to notify your partner and ask for help when you need it. For example, if you’re experiencing a depressive episode and don’t feel like leaving the house, explain this to your partner instead of making an excuse to stay home.
Dating someone with bipolar disorder can be challenging, because you can’t control when your partner experiences a mood shift. To help your relationship succeed, focus on communication, support your partner’s treatment plan, and don’t forget to take care of yourself.
What you can do
- Educate yourself. This is the first thing you should do when you start a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder. Read about the condition so you understand what your partner is dealing with — and what you’ll be dealing with.
- Ask about their experience. Ask your partner how they act during shifts in mood and what they do to manage their moods. It’s also beneficial to ask them what you can do, if anything, to help them during these episodes.
- Try to be patient. It can be frustrating if your partner’s mood shifts interfere with your dating plans. When times get tough, take a deep breath and remember it’s the condition — not your partner — that’s causing your frustration. Take a break if you need one, whether that’s taking a walk around the block or spending a weekend away from your partner.
- Be open. It’s important to communicate openly with your partner. Tell them how you feel, but never blame them for their disorder.
- Support their care. Your partner’s best chance for managing their condition lies in following their treatment plan. You can show your support for them by helping them stick with the treatment plan created by their doctor.
- Get support when you need it. Sometimes, you may need some help coping with your partner’s condition and the effect it’s having on your relationship. Make sure you have your own support system of friends, loved ones, and counselors who can provide advice and encouragement when you need it.
While taking these steps can benefit your relationship, bipolar disorder may still occasionally cause strain in a relationship — even if both of you know what to expect. That’s not unusual. But keep in mind that whether you have bipolar disorder or are dating someone with the condition, it’s possible to establish and maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship.
Keys to success include maintaining an open line of communication, making sure the person with bipolar disorder follows their treatment plan, and getting support when you need it.
8 Ways to Help Your Bipolar Loved One Cope
Depression and bipolar disorder are often family diseases.
Everyone sharing a kitchen and a bathroom is affected. In fact, in his book “Understanding Depression,” J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., M.D., writes that “depression … has a much greater impact on marital life than rheumatoid arthritis or cardiac illness. One study found that only severe forms of cancer affected a family as adversely as depression or bipolar disorder.”
My manic depression could have easily wrecked my marriage and my relationships with my two children. Instead, we emerged as a tighter, stronger unit. How? Here are eight ways Eric, my husband, helped me cope — tips for families on how, exactly, to hang in there with a loved one who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
1. Educate yourself.
I remember the afternoon of my first severe panic attack. I phoned Eric at work as my breath grew shallow and my heart pounded as if I were having a heart attack. I was sure I was dying. As soon as he walked through the door, he stared at me suspiciously. My limbs were in place, and I seemed to be functioning just fine. What was the problem?
“You don’t understand,” I explained. “I thought I was dying! It was the most frightening experience I have ever had.”
What convinced my spouse that my bipolar disorder was an illness, not a weakness? Research. The reams of paper that I printed out and asked him to read. The psychiatric evaluations he witnessed. The group therapy and family sessions he attended. And the conversations with other spouses of persons with bipolar disorder.
Education is always the starting point. Because until a spouse or daughter or friend of a manic-depressive understands the illness, it is impossible to say and do the right thing. Do your own research by going online to National Alliance of Mental Illness or to Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, or by doing a Google search of the words “bipolar disorder” (or checking out the bipolar resources here at Psych Central).
2. Learn how to talk to your loved one.
Eric doesn’t say much when I’m clutching tissue paper, crying my eyes out. And he’s hesitant to speak when I’m manic (not that I would let him get in a word). When I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, he reminds me why I need to. And when I’m revved up, he’s the voice of reason telling me why a spontaneous trip to New York isn’t smart.
Anna Bishop, wife of fellow blogger James Bishop (findingoptimism.com) has some wonderful advice for the loved one of a manic depressive on what to say and when:
When James becomes ill he turns into a different person. I say goodbye to my husband, so to speak, and hello to bipolar James. In a depressive episode he becomes highly irritable and usually itches for a fight. Early on he will often make comments to bait me. “All I do is work, work, work, to support your lifestyle and your precious social group.” You can imagine what a red rag to a bull that comment is.
At this point I have 2 options: 1. Take the bait, have a messy fight and accelerate his downswing, or 2. Grit my teeth and say “it’s the illness speaking”. If I can do that then I have a much better chance of diffusing the situation. A comment like “You sound stressed about work — let’s talk” has better results and sometimes can even stop the mood swing.
3. Make some rules.
You know all the fire drills in primary school you prayed would happen during the math pop quiz? All those times the school administrators rehearsed what, exactly, would happen in the case of an emergency? Families of bipolar persons need them as well: a plan of action for those times when the bipolar person is sick.
In order to design such a strategy, the manic depressive and her loved one must compile a list of symptoms — like the smoke and burning smell of that make-believe fire in the third grade–and what action should follow them, like “call the doctor.” Each family will have a different list of symptoms and a different model of recovery, because no two illnesses are exactly alike.
Eric and I have agreed that I will call my doctor after two consecutive nights’ sleep under five hours, or after three days of crying spells. A friend of mine told me that he and his wife have agreed that she will see her psychiatrist if she hasn’t gotten out of bed for three days.
4. Plan for emergencies.
As part of the above plan of action, you should consider what should happen when the bipolar person is very ill. “When you are dealing with a disease that has the potential to become life-threatening, the last thing you want is an improvised response to an emergency situation,” writes Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D. in his book “Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families.”
Part of your plan should include a list of people who you can call for help. Of course, it is recommended that the bipolar person be working closely with a psychiatrist, and that he know how to get in touch with the psychiatrist after hours, and in case of emergencies. It’s also a good idea to know which hospital the psychiatrist works with, or if the doctor will work with any hospital in the area. Ask friends, doctors, and family members for their recommendations about hospitals and mental-health practitioners.
Also, the red tape of insurance issues is often too overwhelming to process at the time of the emergency, so get familiar with the details of your medical insurance coverage for psychiatric illnesses right now. Know the terms of hospital coverage, especially, and how much the patient is expected to pay out of pocket for various services.
“When people are talking,” writes Rachel Naomi Remen, “there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.”
When I think back to the days when I was very ill, crying and shaking at the dinner table and at preschool functions with the kids, no response was as appreciated as when someone simply listened. Suggestions came off as condescending, even though I know they were meant to be helpful. Advice was annoying. Many times I just needed to be heard, to be validated.
Don’t hesitate to say nothing. Because silence often speaks the most loving message.
6. Go gentle.
I can’t count all the times I have tried Eric’s patience with the reckless highs and debilitating lows of my bipolar disorder. When I get fired up and want to sign up for 60 new activities — not to mention losing my car keys, cell phone, and purse — it’s difficult for him not to get annoyed. But because he places my exasperating behavior in the proper context of an illness, and sees them as mere symptoms of a disease — rather than careless and self-absorbed actions — he is better able to go gentle with me.
Moreover, a little kindness and gentleness toward your loved one–especially at those times that you feel incapable of affection and care– goes a long way to aid recovery.
7. Laugh together.
Humor heals in so many ways. It combats fear, as it loosens anxiety’s death grip on your heart and every other living organ. It comforts and relaxes. And recent studies indicate that humor also reduces pain and boosts a person’s immune system.
“Laughter dissolves tension, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, grief, and depression,” says Chuck Gallozzi of personal-development.com. “Like crying, laughter lowers inhibitions, allowing the release of pent-up emotions. After a hearty bout of laughter, you will experience a sense of well-being. Simply put, he who laughs, lasts. After all, if you can laugh at it, you can live with it. Remember, a person without a sense of humor is like a car without shock absorbers.”
Humor also aids communication, and if there is one thing besides education that is absolutely essential for a healthy relationship with a bipolar loved one it’s good communication.
8. Get support for yourself.
Caregiving is draining. Even when you are protecting yourself with the armor of regular sleep, healthy meals, and essential time-outs from your sick loved one, caring for a person still takes a toll on your physical and mental health.
“It can be exhausting to live with a hypomanic person and frustrating to deal with a seriously depressed person day after day,” says Dr. Mondimore. “The changes and unpredictability of the moods of someone with bipolar disorder intrude into home life and can be the source of severe stress in relationships, straining them to breaking point.”
That’s why you need support as much as your loved one. You need to talk to people who have lived with a manic-depressive, and be validated by their experiences. Spouses and family members of bipolar persons should consider therapy for themselves, as a way of processing all the stress. You may also benefit from checking out support programs for spouses and loved ones of the mentally ill, like National Alliance for Mental Illness, that are available today.
Don't Go Crazy: How Treatment Partners Help People with Bipolar Disorder
March 30 is celebrated as Bipolar Day around the world. With this disease, it is important to monitor mood changes, which can be difficult to do alone. The founder of the Bipolar Association, Masha Pushkina, has collected stories of people who are helped by treatment partners.
At the initiative of public organizations bringing together scientists, doctors and activists, every year on March 30, World Bipolar Day is celebrated. The date chosen was the birthday of Vincent van Gogh, an artist who, according to researchers, was the embodiment of a "bipolar genius."
With bipolar disorder, a person lives either in a state of high emotional uplift and excitement (mania), or in depression. According to world statistics, about 2% of people suffer from bipolar disorder in various forms. This means that in Russia there are at least three million bipolar people - this is about half of St. Petersburg.
In most cases, this condition responds well to medication. But, unfortunately, many do not seek help or do not know how to find it. Without treatment, the disease progresses and ultimately leads to sad consequences: loss of family, job, disability in general, and in almost every seventh case, suicide.
These consequences can be avoided. The peculiarity of bipolar disorder is that the onset of remission depends not only on the doctor and medications, but also on the behavior of the patient himself. Very often, bipolar people provoke seizures "with their own hands." The mood of people with BAD (bipolar affective disorder. - Note ed. ) is very unstable, the balance is fragile, and mania or depression can be “started” in dozens of ways: the psyche is easily shaken by psychoactive substances, alcohol, lack of sleep, too intense work, travel and even love. So, a short time after the next course of treatment with powerful drugs, the person again ends up in the hospital. And each new attack reduces the chances of a long remission, affects social status, and even more painfully - self-esteem.
The experience of people with mental disorders around the world has proven that you are much more likely to cope with difficulties when you are supported by people who understand your problems and condition, but do not look at you as a patient. As practice shows, such a person can be not only a partner or close relative. An old friend, and even a person with whom you have never met in person, can help you get through the darkest times. Masha Pushkina, especially for Afisha Daily, spoke with several bipolar people about those in whom they found their support. The result is a story not about illness, but about friendship and trust, which can defeat even madness.
Yana, 31 years old
Housewife, collects books and is fond of confectionery
Purposefully, I didn't find out about the ways of support anywhere, everything turned out quite naturally. I have been sick for 15 years. The first person who looked after me was my best friend, and now it's my husband.
When my hypomania (a mild degree of mania, which is characterized by a constantly high mood. - Approx. ed. ) accelerated into a full-fledged mania (this state is also characterized by a one-sided attraction to some topic, sometimes accompanied by delirium. - Note ed. ), it became clear that I needed to be looked after. A friend began to pay attention to repetitive patterns of behavior in one phase or another, and we decided together to find out what helps in such cases. I think my friend was afraid to take responsibility for my condition, but she turned out to be generous and selfless. When I got married, a friend passed this knowledge on to her husband, and he already supplemented it, based on his own experience. The husband initially knew with whom he connects his life. He says it didn't scare him.
I have obsessions during my manic episodes. My husband does not argue with me at this time, but he also does not feed them, trying to redirect my stormy energy in a different direction. You can’t argue, because the result will be the opposite: I will finally get stuck on the idea, I will consider that I must prove it at all costs, even if the whole world is against me, and there are enemies and conspiracies around. If this does not help, the husband agrees to discuss all these things, but at the same time tries to slow down their implementation by offering to draw up a specific and detailed plan. Sometimes it takes me a long time.
For example, I always want to move somewhere. Right now, and why aren't we packing our things yet? My husband tries to make me write down what are the pros and cons of different cities, what attracts us to them. As a result, I sit for hours on different forums, make lists, think about how we will arrange our life, calculate the budget for different countries of the world. There is also a manic passion for travel, but after preparation, we usually implement these plans. And many years ago, in a fit of mania, I bought an apartment - with a mortgage, with hellish payments. Then it took a long time to resolve this situation, but, fortunately, everything worked out well.
My husband began to chart my mood. I also manage it, and we check the results so that they are objective. Quarrels due to the fact that the husband takes on the role of the elder often arise in the manic phase (never in depression). Then I become very suspicious, any attempts at control cause rage. But now the husband has learned from experience, so he does not react to attempts to unleash a conflict. With obvious attacks of rage and auto-aggression, he uses holding therapy (long strong hugs. - Note ed. ). We have seen this in autistic children, this is how their parents influence them.
When I'm depressed, he doesn't comfort me because it's pointless, but he tries to give reasonable arguments that this period has always ended and this time will also pass soon. We look at mood charts for the past months, discuss the duration of the attacks: two weeks have already passed and, judging by past experience, it should get better in a couple of weeks.
Such support from the husband helps in many ways. When I was being treated by two doctors, taking all the medicines, I didn’t have such support, everything was very bad. Over time, I stopped disappearing from home in a manic state and inflicting serious injuries on myself. All my super-ideas remain on paper in the form of graphs and tables, I don’t even have time to start putting them into practice, so that later I don’t have to deal with the consequences with the whole family.
Alisa, 27 years old
To be honest, I don't always find understanding from my healthy environment, I often faced condemnation, devaluation of problems. But from a person who has a similar experience, you won’t hear “don’t invent”, “you can’t feel so bad”, “take a walk and it will pass”.
It just so happens that my best friend also suffers from bipolar disorder. I did not look for support in specialized communities where patients communicate, we met by chance. My friend is much older, he has much more life experience, and he was able to become a real mentor for me. Not once did his actions worsen my condition - I hope that he can say the same about me.
When I'm on the rise, I feel uncomfortable when he tries to slow me down and reduce my passions. But as soon as this state passes and I again take a sober look at the situation, each time I thank him for trying to stop the revelry and disgrace. My friend himself is currently not being treated, but he never imposed his position on me, and when I turn to doctors, he supports me in this.
I told the doctor about this source of support - he is all for it. Before meeting a friend, I had suicidal attempts, but during the entire time of our communication I never tried to say goodbye to life. When you know that there is a person who will understand everything and share warmth (while even my own family repels me), that there is a place where you can come in any condition and where they will accept me without unnecessary questions and teachings, this is a source of great strength. and hope.
When I was expecting my second child, I was depressed. My husband did not yet fully understand the features of the disease and did not want to admit obvious things - this added problems, and my emotional state became extremely difficult. It seems that only thanks to the participation of my friend, I did not do anything to myself and successfully endured the pregnancy. The child was named after him.
Sergey, 49 years old
At the height of the depression, I was looking for any available support and ended up in an online group of anonymous debtors (people who have taken on large loans). One of the participants drew attention to my condition and said that I urgently need medical help. Despite the fact that she lives in the USA, we began to communicate regularly via Skype. Olga literally brought me to the hospital and helped me prepare for the treatment.
Americans are a pragmatic people, many young and healthy people have folders with wills and instructions in case of their death. They also approach mental difficulties calmly and thoroughly. It is common practice for the patient to draw up detailed instructions in advance. In the United States, there is a practice of issuing Treatment Agreements for people with mental illness (Treatment Contract). This document is needed so that family, friends and doctors recognize the symptoms of deterioration in time and take into account your experience and wishes in the treatment. Typically, such a document contains: a list of trusted people; signs of a normal state; signs of an approaching episode; symptoms of mania and depression; actions that trusted people should take to help a person get better and keep him from destructive acts; plan of action in case of an emergency (for example, a suicide attempt). who and what will be done in case of his hospitalization, so that he can be treated without anxiety for household chores.
In a period of severe depression, there is a struggle inside a person between the craving for death and the desire to live - and many external things can outweigh in one direction or another. Every clue is important to help you get out. It is very difficult for one to cope with all this.
I madly didn’t want to go to the hospital and wouldn’t have made up my mind myself, until the last I hoped that somehow everything would go away on its own. But under the supervision of a friend, I drew up a preparation plan: warn the customer at work, arrange to look after my cats. Reported to her about every step. But then he could no longer simply “escape” [from hospitalization], because he felt obliged to both her and the doctor. During depression, one's own life has no value, but the people dear to me, the promises made to them, do.
At the most difficult moment, Olga became my “outer brain”, which told me what to do when I didn’t understand anything myself. After I was discharged from the hospital, I turned to four friends for support. Usually we call each other once a week, I tell what my condition is. It is important not only to chat online, but also to hear the voice, you can understand a lot from it. Friends immediately pay attention, if I suddenly disappear and stop calling, then something is wrong.
I think it is possible to find such a person if you set yourself such a goal. Take a closer look at people in support groups, religious or other communities - those who understand what compassion and mutual assistance are. This must be an internally mature person, ready to take responsibility for you in a difficult situation. If this person has similar problems, then he will better understand your experiences. For this reason, relatives are far from always suitable: they themselves can panic, seeing how bad you feel, choke you with their anxiety, overprotection.
It is necessary to establish the frequency of communication and observe it. And of course, in no case should you parasitize on someone else's kindness. The support system works when you yourself take responsibility for your life, and do not outweigh it completely on another.
Anna and Valeriya, 21 years old
Anna: After a major depressive episode four years ago that almost ended in a suicide attempt, I started looking for information on [support]. I managed to find a guide in English for relatives and friends on how to behave with such a person. I have sent this list to all my friends so that they have an idea of what is happening to me. For the past few years, Lera has been monitoring my emotional state on a daily basis, and if, in her opinion, it goes beyond the norm, she tells me about it. Lera just asks every day how I'm doing, and if she sees that I'm reacting strangely, she wonders if something happened. At first, it was very difficult, because, in principle, I did not like to regularly share personal experiences. But by regularly receiving feedback, I can imagine the dynamics: do the pills help, how long do the side effects last, does the depressive phase go into a moderate and severe degree, do I lose my critical thinking during hypomania.
Valeria: We gradually established a very trusting relationship. Anya studied the topic of bipolar disorder up and down, and I read the articles that she sent me. The diagnosis did not change anything for me, because it remained the same. After that, we already discussed some formalities (for example, who to call in case of an emergency).
Anna: I asked Lera to watch for hypomanic manifestations in which I lose an adequate assessment of my actions: impulsive night walks, alcohol begin.
Valeria: My friend is a very responsible and conscious girl who takes care of herself, her health and her wallet. Before buying something expensive, she asks for my advice - and then we are already sorting out the situation. We can entrust accounts to each other and not worry. I also know where and to whom to run in cases of exacerbation.
Anna: I react badly to prohibitions and reminders of illness. Yes, I periodically have to turn to relatives for help, change treatment or take long breaks, but I expect mutual respect so that they don’t look at me through the prism of the disease.
When the mood is unstable, harsh phrases like “the disease speaks in you”, “these are not your real emotions” cause persistent rejection, even when they are true. The line between accepting a loved one's illness and identifying him with a diagnosis for healthy people is extremely thin. Therefore, those who were able to grope it deserve great respect.
Anna: In the last year, I go to see the doctor with my parents. When the doctor notices that I may not be able to do it alone, she duplicates the instructions and advice for them. I, in turn, am a friend. The doctor has repeatedly emphasized that the change of episodes is more noticeable from the outside.
Valeria: We don't have any kind of hierarchy in relationships, so there is no pressure when one makes decisions for another. This is not eating each other's emotional resources, but complementing and supporting.
Anna: The main danger in a relationship with a person with a serious illness is to fall into codependency. This format is equally bad for both the "controller" and the "subordinate". Unfortunately, I have been in such relationships before. It is worth maintaining mutual respect and treating each other as equals. Illness should not dominate a relationship. In difficult episodes, it temporarily comes to the fore, but you should always remember that you are not a disease.
Anna: I have memory problems: I don't remember some episodes. In such cases, I can ask Lera for help. If you remember the last weeks, then these are regular reminders to call the doctor. In mixed episodes, this becomes an acute problem, because I can suddenly change my mind or forget. Against the backdrop of a severe episode, I may develop psychosis, and this is the most dangerous thing in the disease. Thanks to our format, I manage to avoid such exacerbations almost always.
The advantages of observation from a loved one are an early response and the fact that he knows the patient's usual behavior very well and can notice even small changes. The main disadvantage is that normal friendly communication risks turning into constant monitoring of symptoms. Not every mentally healthy person is able to remain within the boundaries of reason.
It is important to agree in advance, before an attack, what is an undoubted sign of a worsening condition (for example, persistent insomnia), and what you do not need to pay special attention to (for example, loud indignation at something that you do not like). In a difficult situation, often a loved one begins to behave not as an equal, but as a “healthy” and “knowledgeable”. Not all relationships stand this test.
There is also a variant of "buddy" (when two people with mental disorders look after each other. - Note ed. ) - it is good precisely because it is the true request of the patient and more equal relations without mixing roles. But I don't know the buddy support system.
To choose a person you can rely on in a critical situation, take a closer look at your surroundings. Above all, a high level of trust is needed. Your assistant should be open to nonjudgmental and open dialogue and at the same time emotionally stable and resistant to stress.
Support is essential for every person - very often we as mental health professionals need it. And with bipolar disorder, this problem is especially acute. At the initial stages, those closest to you often ignore the presence of the disease, and friends advise you to either "pull yourself together" or, conversely, "relax", sometimes with the help of alcohol. When it becomes obvious to everyone that the “condition” will not go away on its own, urgent hospitalization is already required. The saved patient receives the "stigma".
Psychiatrists then make it the responsibility of the uninitiated next of kin (parent or spouse) to monitor any changes in the patient, and they really try to do so. At the level of "laughing out loud - hypomania has begun, upset - depression." As a result, psychiatrists begin to treat quite normal human emotions based on complaints from relatives... and the circle closes.
For this to change, mental health literacy must play a major role. Relatives, in order to be able to help, need to understand well what is happening with a loved one. In many, including state clinics, groups for training relatives either already exist or are being created.
The support of loved ones in case of emergency is especially important. In deep depression or mania, a person is not able to independently control his behavior, this decision is made by relatives, sometimes without his consent. In the case of bipolar disorder, this should be the last option when all others have been exhausted.
7 rules for a fulfilling life with Bipolar Disorder
Founder of the Bipolar Association, author of the books Bipolar People: How Bipolar People Live and Dream About and Bipolar Disorder: A Survival Guide.
For three years I have been leading a community that brings together people with mood disorders and their loved ones. These are very different personalities - from schoolchildren to company leaders, but they all have a common problem: sharp and often unpredictable swings of emotions that affect all areas of life. Many understand that medication and psychotherapy can help curb mood swings. But not everyone is ready to admit that the results of treatment largely depend on themselves - their daily activities and lifestyle. Bad habits can trigger disease attacks and slow down treatment, while good habits help maintain balance.
1. More order, less chaos
I know very well how hard it is for a creative person to keep within limits. After all, you really want to ride on a wave of mood: either hang out all night long or work 20 hours in a row on an interesting project, or spend weeks watching TV shows without leaving your room. But a chaotic lifestyle is exactly what shatters an already unstable psyche.
The more order in the life of a bipolar person, the smoother his mood. In addition, if you are used to a certain regime, it will be much easier for you to maintain it even in depression - automatically, without gigantic volitional efforts.
The most important components of the daily routine:
- Quality sleep. At least 8 hours per night, at the same time. During periods of depression, it is normal to sleep more, but for a couple of hours, not twice.
- Stable operation. Even if you are a freelancer, try to work around the same time and the same number of hours in a row. Night shifts, and even more so their alternation with day shifts, are categorically contraindicated.
- No gadgets or activity before bed. The bipolar brain can be very difficult to calm down, thoughts are spinning in it without stopping. To fall asleep normally, you need to exclude external stimulation an hour or two before bedtime. A common culprit for insomnia is gadgets with bright screens.
- Regular walks or outdoor exercise. Even if you have to literally force yourself to get out of the house, the sun and fresh air improve your mood - it's a fact!
2. The support of loved ones saves
When you either shock others with crazy ideas, or lie low, turn off your phone, it's easy to lose friends. But the support of understanding loved ones is what can save you at the most difficult moment.
First, it is an outsider's perspective: if a friend knows you well, he will notice suspicious changes and advise you to take action. Secondly, when you are understood and supported, it is easier to get through difficult times.
It is very important that during the days of deterioration there is a person who is aware of what is happening and does not blame you for it. Discuss with your loved one in advance what measures he can take if he notices something is amiss. And don't forget to thank him when you feel better.
If your relatives do not recognize and do not understand your problems, look for support elsewhere. For example, in support groups that exist both in real life and online.
3. Mindfulness is important
Many associate mindfulness with yoga and Buddhist practices. But this is a universal skill, very useful for people who are constantly captured by a storm of emotions. It is needed to notice changes in mood in time, track what could have caused them, and separate emotions from facts.
One popular technique is to keep a mood chart. Every day, you rate your mood on a 10-point scale, enter information about medications and triggers (that is, events that provoke deterioration in you).
There are many smartphone apps for developing mindfulness and other self-control skills. I can recommend Brain.fm, Daylio, Mood Tracker, Woebot, DBT.
appbox fallback https://apps.apple.com/en/app/1305375832
Price: Free The psyche of a person with bipolar disorder is much less resistant to excessive stress. Stress can trigger another mania or depression. Just take it for granted and do not demand great feats from yourself. It is possible that trials and “coming out of the comfort zone” really harden someone, but this is definitely not about people with mood swings.
But that doesn't mean that you don't need to work on your stress resistance: it can be increased within reasonable limits if you take a feasible load and give yourself time to rest and recover as soon as you feel worse.
The key principle here is self-care. It is especially important during depressive periods, when energy is at zero and any little thing can bring you to tears. The best thing to do at a time like this is to take a break and relax, reducing things to the bare minimum. This is much better than heroically dragging them to a nervous breakdown.
In hypomania, it is important to be careful not to pile on projects that will simply crush you with their weight as soon as the wave of euphoria subsides.
5. Complete meals on schedule
Rapid fluctuations in blood sugar contribute to mood swings.
So it is important to eat a normal lunch on time, and not snack on sweets and fatty fast food on the go.
In addition, it is common for people with bipolar disorder and depression to eat mountains of goodies when they are in a bad mood, or to eat at night when they cannot sleep. Over the years, this habit leads to very unpleasant consequences, from excess weight to diabetes.
When taking medicines, you need to be especially attentive to the diet, because many of them increase appetite.
In addition to the quantity of food, its quality is also important. The Mediterranean diet is considered the most useful for nourishing the brain - more greens, fish and fruits, and less starchy, sweet and fatty. And if you do not live by the sea, nutritional supplements - omega-3 acids - can replace the lack of fish.
6. Exercise for the mind
Mental abilities are much less affected in bipolar disorder than in other mental illnesses. But people who are prone to prolonged depression almost always complain of a deterioration in attention, memory, and logical thinking.
During mood swings, the brain works "with a scratch". I want to “stupid” all day and flip through social networks. But in order not to become irrevocably stupid, it is necessary to regularly give yourself mental tasks, even small ones.
Remember the expression "cognitive rehabilitation" - this is a specially designed training of cognitive functions. And to put it in very simple words, exercises that help restore and maintain mental abilities at a good level.
Here, for example, is one of the popular programs.
7. No drugs
Bipolar disorder is probably the only disease that can be enjoyed, albeit with health risks. After all, the bipolar brain often captures a feeling of euphoria without any external reasons. But this means that additional doping (strong alcohol, a lot of cigarettes in a row, all kinds of prohibited substances) is doubly dangerous. From it can literally "break the roof": in people with a tendency to manic episodes, stimulant substances can cause a real psychosis. It can manifest itself in the form of hallucinations, panic attacks, memory lapses, suicidal thoughts, aggression, and a host of other unpleasant things. In addition, people with mood disorders are many times more prone to harmful addictions than healthy people.