While living with bipolar disorder can be an enormous challenge, it also affects the primary support giver—be it a partner, family member or close friend. We look to Lesley Berk, Ph.D., School of Medicine, Deakin University, to offer suggestions for caregivers to better cope:
#1 Get the facts
You need to know what you’re dealing with. Many caregivers need even basic information about what’s happening with their loved one. There are numerous resources, both in print and online to learn about bipolar. Dr. Berk’s website (bipolarcaregivers.org) offers information about the illness and self-care for caregivers.
#2 Make peace with the illness
Acknowledge your grief, anger, sadness, or guilt. Accept that your loved one’s bipolar will inevitably affect your family and plans for the future, and find new ways to enjoy your life.
#3 Take a break
An important strategy in self-support is incorporating “me time.” It’s important to step away from your caregiving role and recharge. This can be a hobby, taking a bubble bath, visiting friends or gardening. If needed, you can recruit other relatives, close friends or paid assistants to help with this respite.
#4 Address your stress
Organize, prioritize, delegate, and get rid of unrealistic expectations about what you can and should do. Encourage the person with bipolar to develop a diverse support network, including mental health professionals, other relatives, friends, and peers. Make sure you have a support system for yourself.
#5 Take care of your health
As best you can, get into the habit of exercising, eating well, and getting proper rest. Pay attention to signs of depression, such as withdrawal, low energy, trouble concentrating, excessive guilt, and irritability.
#6 Enrich your life outside the home
It’s essential to ensure the illness doesn’t monopolize your life. To this end, discover your own interests and activities outside the home, outside the caregiver role and away from the mental health community.
#7 Flock together
While it’s important for helpers to have time away from the illness, it’s equally important to also have a peer connection. By having a network of people to help you, it will help reduce the sense of isolation that can be common. A support group needn’t be face-to-face—try an online group, forum or blog to connect to.
#8 Make time for two
Relationships need to be nurtured with “bipolar-free” activities. Remember there is more to that souse, child, or parent than the happenstance of the disorder, and that your loved one is, after all, your loved one. Thinking about what you get, not just what you give can be helpful.
#9 Set limits
During a period of stability, make it clear that you will walk away from symptomatic behaviors such as shouting or constant criticism. You may also wish to establish responsibilities that must be performed except in cases of severe illness.
#10 Accentuate the positive
Looking for, recognizing, and focusing on what’s good—your loved one’s courage or creativity, for example, or your own empathy and kindness—can make it easier to cope with the situation and encourage a better outlook.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community