Do you know anyone who struggles with bipolar disorder? If so, I promise you they struggle. If the person is close to you, chances are you have tried to help. I can not speak for them because we are all different. I can tell you what helps me as a person with bipolar disorder.
Nothing frustrates me more than someone who thinks they know what I should do unless they are someone close to me, a psychiatrist, or a therapist or counselor who has had some training or experience with bipolar disorder. The good ones have treated me as an individual and not as a stereotyped bipolar person. That distinction deserves a complete post. Do not think of that person as a bipolar person anymore than you would think of someone with cancer as a cancer person. I still work on not letting bipolar disorder define me. That is why I avoid saying I am bipolar.
If you want to support a person with bipolar disorder, educate yourself on bipolar disorder. Understand it as a medical condition. Talk to your friend or family member when they are not in the middle of or edging toward mania or depression. Encourage them to get professional help. This is important. They will not listen any other time. Even when in good place, they are likely to be defensive. They are unlikely to listen to logic. Hopefully your family member or friend will not have to be hospitalized or pose a threat to themselves or others. At that point, you do have to intervene by getting them to professionals. Do not make light of or be unaware of the statistics. Again, that deserves another post.
I have a group of family and friends who have my daughter’s and my brother’s contact numbers. They are my safety net. They are the ones I will likely listen to when I am edging toward a hypo-manic episode although I usually argue with them. I was diagnosed twenty-six years ago. I did not always trust them or anyone. You may ask why manic and even hypo-manic states are dangerous. Those are the times I may make rash decisions with long range effects, spend money impulsively, get into bad relationships, burn bridges I later wish I had not, think I am right about everything, and talk over everyone. I understand when people judge me based on those times and not normal times, but I wish they would not.
I am not ashamed that I got professional help, was hospitalized, am medicated, and still trust only a psychiatrist to prescribe. I am often told meds are not good. I know how wrong they are and how much they are putting their friend or family member in danger if they tell them that, but I do not try to educate them. Sometimes someone tells me they to do not think I have bipolar disorder. I take it as a compliment unless they actually think they know more than my psychiatrist, my family, close friends, and I. I do as well as I do because I stick to meds and take care of myself even when I am in a good place. I never think I no longer have bipolar disorder. I have tried and true strategies that usually work for me. My mantra is eat, sleep, take meds. Sometimes no matter how hard I try I go too high or too low and then rock back and forth between the two until I come back to center. Over so many years of coping I know I will get my balance again. I did not always know that. I am writing this because I am struggling a bit. Lately I have been full of energy and motivated but not so much now.
Do not expect to understand. Just let your friend or family member who is quietly struggling know to you they are an individual not a bipolar person. Do not think they could behave differently if they tired. Do not dismiss them or their disorder. If you are tempted to, research the statistics. Statistics