Bipolar disorder involves episodes of mania and depression. The individual at times may be interesting, energetic, fun, talkative and full of energy. Other times they might be emotionally withdrawn, sad, irritable and feel hopeless.
Bipolar is equally seen to affect the individual and the people they live around, especially spouse. The affected person’s symptoms may cause a lot of difficulty in their relationship. The frequent mood changes may cause stress, sexual dissatisfaction, worries and at times depression in the partner. With the ever-changing moods, sudden outbursts and out-of-the-blue accusations, partners may find themselves in a confused state and find it hard to deal with their spouse.
Many people may underestimate the difficulties of spending lives with a person with bipolar. This usually happens when the partner is not educated about the disorder or the partner may have fallen in love with the affected person when they were in a hypomania episode where the symptoms are more controllable.
There are people who leave a marriage when the other person is diagnosed with bipolar or when the symptoms become unbearable to deal with. Then there are other people who understand the horrors of the disorder and yet decide to stay and support their partners. How do they do that? Let us look at a few techniques used by people whose partners suffer from this disorder
There are people who live with undiagnosed bipolar for years. They themselves and people around may ignore the symptoms thinking of them as a ‘moody’ person. The first step to deal is to recognize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Look out for signs and if needed get a professional screening as soon as possible.
Once your partner is diagnosed with bipolar, learn about the disorder as much as possible. Once you know about the effects of the symptoms on the individual and their behaviour you will be in a better position to actually decide if you want to stay and deal with the disorder or if it is too overwhelming for you.
If you decide to stay, learning about the disorder may be very resource full in understanding, helping and dealing with the partner’s changing mood.
Realize that bipolar cannot go without professional help. Get help from a team of mental health professionals who are available to help you and the patient get over the episodes. Seeking help from family, extended family, friends and colleagues can be of huge benefit. How? One of the most common and major issue with seeking help for a mental illness is a stigma. When extended family and colleagues support the individual, they would be more motivated to take professional help.
The ever-changing moods can drive the partner to extreme stress, anger and exhaustion. If the partner reacts on these feeling, it could lead to conflicts in the relationship and this would only worsen the situation. Set a time wherein there are only both you and your partner. In this time do not talk about the disorder, but instead just talk to the person about their day, past memories anything that makes you both feel good with each other. This would help you get over difficult times in your relationship, improve quality of the relationship as well as make the affected person feel that they are loved and are not alone in this journey.
Look out for objects or situations that trigger your partner’s mood. Once you locate them have a plan to deal with their reaction or avoid the triggers.
Have open communication with your partner. Make sure they tell you what is troubling them so that you both can deal with it. This can also give your partner a chance to tell what makes them feel better so that you can use these things when their mood changes.
There are possibilities that your partner may suddenly throw a temper tantrum on you, accuse you or blame you regardless of whether you are at fault or not. At these times take a deep breath and remember that it is not the person but the disorder that is making them do it. When you realize this you would be dealing with the symptoms and not the person.
Taking care and living with someone with an unpredictable mood change is a tough job. There are chances that you yourself might get exhausted, frustrated and stressed. When you feel you are not able to control things in an effective way. It is always better to seek help. You can go for counselling sessions to deal with your emotions. Join a support group that encourages you or you can simply make time for yourself and engage in something that helps you relax.