We received an email from someone who has two bipolar family members. The writer had noticed how often bipolar people on our forum stated that a loved one's behavior was not helpful or even created more problems. The reader asked, "What IS helpful behavior? What does 'be supportive' really mean?"
So we asked our community for their views on this important subject. Some of the common threads in their answers include:
- Believe that we are ill
- Learn about bipolar disorder
- Respect us
- Love us
- Don't make fun of us
Remember -- every situation is unique. You will receive deeper insights from reading the individual answers from our community members. Take from this material what you think will work in your circumstances, but your success depends on you and the bipolar person in your life. It will become evident as you read that this isn't a matter of "taking care" of that person as if he or she were a pet. Work with your loved one to find the best ways to help and support him/her at different times and in different moods.
Note: The material from the About Bipolar Disorder Forum may have been edited for grammar, spelling or syntax, but the content remains unchanged.
- Show Me You Care
Message to family members -- show me you care by helping me deal with how I'm feeling. I need you to treat me with a lot of care. You don't have bipolar disorder, but you can see how it affects me. You can learn the best ways to respond to me.
- Believe in me
Speaking to family members and friends, Lia writes, "...even though I have bipolar disorder, believe in me. Learn about my bipolar disorder. Learn about my medications. Learn when to know you should step in and help me, and how to help me. The more you know, the more you will be able to know when I can make my own decisions."
- I Help Him by Trusting Him
Staci's husband has bipolar disorder. She has found that she needs to trust him to take care of some things -- things she used to do for him -- on his own.
- Help Me With Loving, Supportive Understanding
Here is a wonderful list of what to do -- and what not to do -- to show love and support to a spouse who has bipolar disorder. Examples: "Accept when I say I can't, even if I could the day before." "Do not challenge my diagnosis, just because I don't act like somebody's great-aunt who had bipolar. Everybody's symptoms are their own."
- Give Me the Respect I Deserve
Community member Angel writes that an important way a spouse can help someone with bipolar disorder is to treat the person with respect, and gives some examples of respectful behavior.
- Help Me by Learning About Bipolar Disorder
The misperception that bipolar manifests itself the same way in every individual can be infuriating. Everyone is different -- everyone is unique, both as a person and in the way his or her bipolar disorder presents itself. Forum member Winter writes about the need for family members to learn about bipolar disorder.
- Respect Me and Love Me for Who I Am
Becky says family members can help by treating her like anyone with a chronic illness, learning about bipolar disorder, and respecting that her condition sometimes creates moods and behaviors that need understanding, not criticism.
- Understand Me, Hold Me, Forgive Me
Community member llb asks her spouse to forgive angry outbursts when her bipolar disorder is speaking, to hold her when she is scared, and to know when she is truly suicidal and when she is only venting.
- Help Me by Being Patient
Forum member LWM6 writes that family members of people with bipolar disorder need to be patient. Bipolar people can be easily distracted, have difficulty with concentration and focus, and be forgetful. Expressing anger and frustration will only make a bad situation worse. Have patience.
- Be Honest With Me
Forum member CrowsRCrows asks to be treated the same way as any other person -- almost. If her behavior is annoying or obnoxious, tell her without anger. If she seems out of control, care enough to tell her so.
- More Suggestions for How Family Members Can Help
Short answers from several About.com Bipolar Disorder forum members on the topic of how family members can be helpful and supportive.
- Complete Forum Community Discussion