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Bipolar is a mental illness that affects everyone that has a relationship with them. This is especially true for their caregivers. Being the caregiver of anyone with a serious longterm illness can be frustrating, stressful and lonely. This is especially true when you are caring for someone with Bipolar. The Bipolar caregiver stress is difficult to deal with because it's hard for other people to understand what you go through day in and day out.
Bipolar is an illness that affects people differently. You can have 3 people in a room some of their symptoms would be the same, but a lot different as well. The main reason for this is that there are different types of Bipolar. Even the medications they are on are different. Some people hear that our loved one has Bipolar and either offer advice (That we didn't ask for) or opinions (again that we didn't ask for). For some reason, they also feel the need to share horror stories about mental illness.
Horror stories such as “oh my neighbor's cousins friends kid was Bipolar and just snapped and killed XYZ”. Um, gee thanks? I think? Why do they do this? I don't know! It's not just with Bipolar. It's that way with any kind of illness. The “One up game” of it comes out to play.
If someone mentions to you their loved one has Bipolar, it's an act of faith. It's not something we walk around blasting from the rooftops! Everyone has stress, but a Bipolar caregiver stress level is on a whole new level. With that said, a Bipolar diagnosis is not the end of the world. It just means life is different than you envisioned. It can be controlled and managed but sadly, there is no real cure for it. To add to our stress, something that was working beautifully for a long time can suddenly not work one day and boom downward spiral.
Related Post: different types of Bipolar
There are some things you can do to help a Bipolar caregivers stress level.
If you really want to help a Bipolar caregiver's stress level, here are some things to never say or for you to understand.
1. Wow, I see him/her out in public all the time and didn't notice anything “wrong”.
First of all, there is nothing WRONG with our loved one. Bipolar is an illness that they didn't ask for. It means their brain is wired different than other but it's not WRONG, just different. You also have to understand, they don't want to appear “different” to anyone. They want to blend in, not stand out. It takes all of their strength and mental energy to hide their symptoms when in public. Unfortunately, that means all their frustrations and anger ends up directed at the people that love them the most, their family. You may mean well, but when you tell us you don't notice what we see, diminishes our frustrations, feelings, and what we experience.
2. Don't tell us we don't deserve help or we deserve our stress because we knew what we were getting into.
First of this is downright rude and cruel! I knew from the day I met my husband that he has Bipolar. That did NOT, however, prepare me for what it takes to help him be the very best man he can be. Knowing now how sick he really is, would I change my mind about being with him? Honestly, NO! Every single person on this earth is deserving of love and compassion. There are times life is difficult and my stress is through the roof but that doesn't mean I regret loving my husband and marrying him. He's the love of my life, and I don't know what I'd do without him.
3. Bipolar manifests differently in everyone.
Like I said before, there are different types of Bipolar. While some symptoms are the same, some are different. Plus not everyone has the same exact symptoms. To even complicate it more, one symptom can be more severe than another. It's a true roller coaster for the patient and the caregiver. Imagine not having any control over your mind. Can you just for one second stop and think how scary that is for both the patient and caregiver?
4. Please do not tell us oh just have him/her go to the doctor it will be fine with medication.
First of all, some Bipolar patients are master manipulators. They know how to play the medical staff so no one knows exactly how sick they are. The mental health system is failing in many ways. They tend to ONLY listen to the patient, not the caregivers. This is why the Bipolar caregiver stress is so bad. For example, Every. Single. Time. my husband is hospitalized we tell them we want family counseling before he's released so we know what to do to stop his frequent inpatient stays. They agreed, then suddenly he'd call me and say “oh, I'm being released tomorrow”. It's stressful, to say the least.
Not to mention medication is not the end all to be all. There are different medications, medication doses. Not every medication works for every person. Plus medication only helps manage the symptoms, it doesn't make them go away. My family has never been very supportive of me being with my husband because of his mental illness. They don't like that he doesn't always stay on his medication (a wonderful (note the sarcasm) symptom of Bipolar patients). They feel if he just took them every day the way he's supposed to, he'll be perfectly fine. Guess what? Even when he does take them daily, he still has symptoms. They just are not as severe.
5. Don't tell us to just leave!
Again, Rude! Stop and think about it. How would you feel if someone you loved, walked out of your life because you had a mental illness? That would really help you to stabilize right? No, of course, it wouldn't! We are perfectly well aware of how stressful/complicated our life is. This is especially true if we have children with him/her. Things were not always easy at the beginning of our relationship when I was learning about Bipolar and what it means to have a partner with the disease. We've been married for almost 4 years. It's easier, but by no means perfect or less stressful. I'm his only caregiver (other than professionals). We have no family and very few friends. Not to mention I have my own medical problems and stress doesn't help them either.
6. I saved the “best” for last: Do not say “I wouldn't put up with (insert type of behavior) for a minute:
Really? You don't know what you would or would not deal with until you are in that position. We can not “knock sense” into them or “whip them into shape”. My husband is well aware of how his illness affects me. He will often break down and cry and say to me “I wish I was able to provide for you more”. That breaks my heart because I'm not lacking for anything. All I ask for is his love and loyalty. I have that 100% we are each other's best friends, we are the love of each other's life. We are each other's present and future!
Do you want to be supportive and help a Bipolar caregivers stress level?
There are some simple things you can do to help.
- Just listen to us!
- Drop off dinner. Not having to worry about dinner for a night is more of a stress relief can you can imagine.
- Take the caregiver out to lunch. We tend to forget to take care of ourselves. We need a break and to feel human. We need the attention to be with us for awhile.
Hopefully, this posts helps you know how to be supportive and help a Bipolar caregivers stress.