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Bipolar is a mental illness may affect as many as 60 million people worldwide. More than half of all patients begin seeing symptoms between the ages of 15 and 25, but it can begin at any age. (source: Latuda.com)
I have shared a few times about how my husband suffers from Bipolar 2. It's hard on both the patient and the spouse. Especially if the spouse is the only caregiver. Being a caregiver for someone with a mental illness is hard. You never know what the day will bring. I saw a quote recently that hits home a lot: “Having Bipolar means waking up not knowing whether Tigger or Eeyore will be making your decisions for you.”
My posts about Bipolar so far have been from my point of view, or a general overview of the illness. My husband wanted me to create a post from a patient's point of view. He is well aware of the struggles and triggers he suffers from and the unhealthy coping mechanisms he has. We hope that this post helps Bipolar Disorder patients not feel so alone, and perhaps help you to understand more what a loved one may be going through.
Daily Struggles of living with Bipolar Disorder
- Gets lost in memories of the past too much
This is the biggest trigger for him. He concentrates on things that happen in the past. It doesn't matter how many times he'd old you can't change the past, he just can't let it go. I frequently tell him “You can't change the past. Being stuck in the past robs you of your present and future.”
- Does not take medication as prescribed
Medication is very important to help stabilize something with a mental illness. He has medication for his heart (congestive heart failure), mood stabilizers for the Bipolar and sleeping meds. He hates ALL medication and hates to take them. The only way he'll take them is if I personally hand them to him.
- Lack of contact with family
He has family members he never speaks to. They do not understand Bipolar and can not accept that he's not going to be the way they want him to be. Yes, he's made some bad choices in life but haven't we all at one time or another?
- Severe depression
His depression is so severe at times he can sleep for almost the entire day. If he's not asleep he will sit on the couch and just stare into space barely talking. You can tell something is “off” because there is no life or sparkle in his eyes.
- Suicidal thoughts
From time to time he does have suicidal thoughts. He never acts on them. Thankfully when these come about he knows it's time to go into the hospital to get more professional help. The suicidal thoughts make him think he doesn't provide enough for me and that I'd be better off without him.
When he is in a manic episode he starts to show symptoms of being narcissistic. Thankfully this does not happen often or last very long.
Guilt is a huge trigger for him. He was in a bike accident with a friend. He survived with some major injuries, the friend he was with, unfortunately, did not make it. He has guilt over surviving because his friend was in the Military. He has also beat stage 4 Cancer. His sister who was married with 2 young children passed away from her own battle with Cancer.
- Not liking the public
He would be content to stay in the house 24/7. I make him get out every once in a while even if it's just to the store 2 blocks away. When it's time to go grocery shopping, we do it at like 2-4am when no one else is there. When asked why he doesn't like going out he says “It's too peopley out there”.
Personal Triggers of Bipolar Disorder
Stress is a huge trigger for a lot of complications for everyone. When it comes to Bipolar he can have a wide range of symptoms from anger, depression, anxiety just to name a few. Stress is a big trigger for my own health concerns so we try to have a stress free life as much as possible.
- Lack of understanding from friends
There are many people in our families and friends that think if he would stay on his medication that he'd be “normal”. They are under the impression that Bipolar can be 100% controlled with the proper medication. This is far from the truth. It's difficult to find a regiment that works, and what works today may not tomorrow.
- Lack of proper treatment
There is a lot of stigma and lack of understanding even in the medical community about mental illness. It has taken a VERY long time to find the proper team of professionals that he connects to that he feels really care about him and his needs. Most of the time he feels like just a number.
Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Movies are a great way to escape and unwind. However, he takes it to a whole new level. He quotes movies when he's having a conversation he doesn't want to deal with. One of two favorites are “I trust everyone, I just don't trust the devil inside of them”- The Italian Job and “I'm just a man in a can”- Iron Man.
I can typically tell what kind of mood he's in when he listens to certain songs or artists. Some are very bad for his mental state of mind and I literally do not let him listen to it. He'll play it and I'll say to him “Nope! Not that one”. We discuss all the time how I save him from himself.
Those that suffer from a mental illness, especially Bipolar should not drink alcohol. It makes their medication ineffective and is a known depressant. It also affects the quality of sleep and sleep is extremely important for Bipolar patients. He knows he's an alcoholic and has sought treatment for it many times. I've been known to hide his alcohol from him when he goes to sleep.
When he is in a manic mood he'll chain smoke. He typically smokes a pack in 2 days. When he's manic he'll smoke a pack a day!
- Sitting in the dark in silence
This one annoys me constantly. He's totally content to sit on the couch in the dark with the television off. I make him turn on lights or the television. Why does he do it? It goes back to being stuck in the past. He'll just zone out and get lost in his head.
Sleeping is his favorite past time. I often say if sleeping was an Olympic sport he'd take the gold. He doesn't always actually sleep but he will stay in bed for hours at a time.
We hope this post gives you a better understanding of the struggles of living with Bipolar Disorder. Of course, everyone is different but a lot of it is the same. If you have a loved one that has Bipolar, showing them love and compassion goes a long way.