Millions of people are affected by mood disorders such as bipolar disorder. If someone you know and love is diagnosed with this brain disorder, it may seem overwhelming and confusing and even helpless. But keep in mind, that it is a brain disorder that can be treatable, just like other illnesses like diabetes. Here’s what you can do to help:
Take the time to research bipolar disorder
The more you learn, the better you will be able help your friend or loved one in need. Educate yourself about this brain illness, what to expect with symptoms and the various treatments. There is a plethora of information online, or join a support group.
Listen without judging
Although this may seem counterintuitive, often when about their problems and even ask for advice, subconsciously they are just looking to vent and get comfort in talking through problems. If you sense this is the case, just listen and encourage without judgment. Only offer opinions if asked.
Show your support
Let your friend know you are there for her by being specific and authentic in your offer to help. If she answers by saying she’d like to have someone to talk to, then be precise; for example, you could say: “I work during the day, Monday to Friday and go to church on Sundays, but I can talk with you on the phone during evening hours and anytime on Saturdays.” This shows her she isn’t receiving a vague or ingenuine offer of support.
Find out what else you can do
What can be an easy task for you may be a daunting task for someone dealing with a mood disorder; if you know you’re friend is in a state of depression, and would likely not ask for help, offer to do things you know may be getting ignored but would help him feel better. Go over and wash his dishes, take out his garbage and help tidy up; you will have likely accomplished much more than just those things.
Get him out of the house
Go for a walk with him, grab a bite to eat together or take a Sunday drive. When people with bipolar are in a hypomanic or manic state, getting out and about and socializing usually isn’t an issue, but if they are down and lack energy they may shut off the outside world. Offer to pick him up and go for groceries or watch a sporting event together. Giving your pal a fresh perspective will likely raise his confidence and could help release him from a frustrating state of inertia.
Be persistently loving
No matter how often your friend turns down your offer to get out, keep asking. Don’t take her refusal of wanting your company as a personal slight. Social anxiety or other reasons may keep her from making engagements, but she will appreciate being included and not forgotten about.
Offer to go to a support group
If it’s the first time your friend has been to a support group, he might be anxious about going alone so going with a good friend is often easier. Even if he’s a regular group member, bringing a friend can be a refreshing change and help to keep him encouraged. It also does wonders to show you care and your friend has your support.
Don’t treat them differently
Encourage him by explaining that the illness doesn’t define him or your friendship. Discussing the things you have in common with, like a sporting event or family news helps to reassure him that you don’t view him differently. By educating yourself about the brain disorder, you will understand if your friend’s mood may sometimes seem extreme and abnormal, that it is part of the illness and not him treating you badly.
Be supportive of her choice for a treatment plan
There may be times when you have to encourage your friend seek professional medical advice, particularly if she may have stopped her medication. However, if she wants to skip her therapy session or choose something you may view as extreme, like electroconvulsive therapy, remember that unless you’re an expert, someone living with bipolar would tend to know a lot more about it than you, so you shouldn’t judge the treatment plan she chooses.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community