It isn’t easy being close to someone dealing with a mental illness. The highs and lows can be difficult to manage, putting a serious strain on your relationship and your own mental health. Therefore, it is vitally important that you monitor your mental health and take steps to protect yourself where necessary. As long as you ask for help when needed and set boundaries, there is a lot you can do for supporting someone with bipolar disorder.
Supporting Someone with Bipolar Disorder
In the case of someone with a serious bipolar disorder, offering support is no easy task. Like all mental illnesses, bipolar disorder is taxing. Both on the affected individual as well as their immediate friends and family. Fortunately, there are resources available to help you and your loved one work through the worst of it. Here are a few steps you can take to help support them without causing harm to yourself.
Get Your Own Therapist
If you’ve decided to take an active role in supporting someone with bipolar disorder, then the first thing you have to do is find your own therapist. There will be some less than pleasant experiences that occur when your loved one is going through a mood swing, and you will need a professional to help you process them and maintain perspective. In fact, going to therapy yourself may even make it easier for your loved one to feel comfortable with receiving the help they need.
Do Your Research
Learning more about bipolar disorder is essential. It can help you to identify trends and have a better understanding of what is going on. You can start by researching the topic on the internet as long as you are careful to only trust verified sources of information that are backed by peer-reviewed science. You may also look for published works on the topic or choose to speak to a local psychiatrist.
Be an Active Listener
Many patients with mental illness feel that they aren’t adequately heard. If you really want to support them, then you need to be prepared to listen carefully to how they’re feeling. Remember that it is very real for them. You may choose to counter some of their more negative thoughts with your positive perceptions of them, but you have to be careful not to dismiss their feelings. This is an important part of cognitive behavior therapy, but it is always better to leave it to the professionals if you’re uncomfortable toeing that line.
Have a Plan for Serious Episodes
When your loved one is in a relatively balanced state, make a plan for dealing with their most serious symptoms. This helps them to feel a level of control that they may not otherwise feel and demonstrates your willingness to support them. Keep in mind that they will likely be unhappy with the plan during an episode. But you need to stick to it as much as possible to show them that you are dedicated to helping them. If psychosis is a part of their response, consider targeted cognitive behavior therapy.
Remember Your Limitations
Mental illness is insidious, and it can affect a person in ways you may not even imagine. Therefore, you need to be prepared to call for professional help. Because you cannot deal with every possibility. In case of emergency, keep a list of phone numbers. These should include every professional resource available to your loved one. If the situation becomes unsafe, then you should have a plan for removing yourself safely without putting your loved on at risk.