Here are seven signs of illness shared by most of us with bipolar disorder that you can look for in order to help a loved one.
It’s hard to know when you should step in to get someone with bipolar disorder the help they need. Most people want to respect the rights of others and not interfere or seem nosy and bossy.
I’m here to tell you that as a person with bipolar disorder, I NEED the people around me to see the signs that I’m sick.
1. Current behaviors are not in line with past behaviors. For example: A person who has been empathetic throughout life suddently becomes selfish and callous and says, “I never loved you! You’re finally seeing the real me!”
2. The person stops paying attention to what has always been important. This can include being with their children. People who once cared about helping animals will forget to feed them or might kick them out of the way. A person who loves work will simply stop going and say, “It doesn’t matter if I get fired! I can find a job anywhere!”
3. The person doesn’t listen. This will be in comparison to how the person usually behaves. If you see a distinct change in how much a person talks, how much they argue or how they lose the ability to listen, this is always a worrisome sign.
4. You are the problem. When you try to bring up your worries, the person turns on you and says, “Oh, I’m the one with the problem! I’m the issue here? What about you and all that is wrong in YOUR life?”
5. They leave. This is incredibly distressing and shocking for loved ones. Before I was diagnosed, I used to get manic and get on a plane within a few days and be GONE. Then I would wake up in a new country and wonder, ‘What the heck have I just done? What’s wrong with me?”
6. Anger increases. This starts with irritation over the little things. “Why did you put my bag there!” and can turn into physical violence if the episode goes too far.
7. Facial and body changes. This includes eyes, how a person walks, wears makeup and uses clothes to express a mood. For example, someone conservative who suddenly gets a mohawk or wears a very short skirt.
If you care about someone with bipolar disorder, create your own symptom lists around mania, depression, anxiety, psychosis, focus problems, irritation, and anger and start observing the patterns in your loved ones. I recently wrote a blog for the Bp Kids section that can help you with this process. My book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder explains how people can manage bipolar disorder and how a loved one can help. My book Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder is specifically for partners.
Trust your intuition. When you love someone with bipolar disorder, you matter too! Your feelings and reactions to a person’s behaviors are your own. It’s not trying to change someone if you ask for stability around your own life. It is normal for you to expect a person with bipolar disorder to get help if their behavior affects YOUR life.
Teamwork helps those of us with bipolar disorder manage symptoms. We need loved ones to help us reach our goals and find happiness in life.
Bonus sign #8: We get in bed.
The picture on this blog is from when I crawled into bed the other day during a downswing. I hate doing this- so I took a picture of myself and said, “Get out of bed Julie!” Seeing a loved one stay in bed is always a sign something is not right. My family knows that ‘Julie in bed, binge watching videos’ is not a good sign and they have my permission to help me deal with my depression.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community
Julie A. Fast