A Family Perspective of Caring for Someone with Bipolar Disorder Part 1
I wanted to add something a bit different to the blog today. I’m very close with my family and wanted to show their perspectives of my struggles living with Bipolar.
My Husband’s Perspective:
“I had been in the hills of Scotland on a mate’s stag do, and I’d had no signal since we had left behind the last town a couple of days before. We’d driven back towards civilisation to visit a nice looking pub we’d passed on the way. Looking forward to catching up with my girlfriend, I turned my phone on. It got signal, then the texts started to arrive. They started out asking how I was getting on, but then descended into ranting about I didn’t care and how she was sitting on the floor on her own drinking whiskey. The messaged said that if I cared I’d have messaged back by now. Uh-oh! I didn’t know at the time that this was a low. I didn’t understand what had gone wrong. I hadn’t warned that I’d be out of contact but hadn’t realised that I wouldn’t have signal where we were staying.
This sort of thing is fortunately kept in check by meds now, but I still have to bear it in mind. The main change that living with someone with bipolar has made to my life is that I need to make sure there is somebody nearby who can help on a crisis. If I go away, we plan who is going to be near to make sure there is someone to call if needed. Having caring family around helps a lot with this! The other side to this of course is coming back home to discover that it’s spotless because ENERGY! It make it more interesting; you don’t know exactly how each day’s going to pan out. Well OK, maybe that’s not a good thing. However, I think it makes us stronger too. If we can cope with this, we can cope with a lot more that life has to throw at us!
I suppose I’m well placed to have married someone with Bipolar, having already lived with a close friend who also has it. Living with someone before and after diagnosis also gives an interesting point of view. I like to think of it as a wave, like a sine wave in maths. The centre of the graph, the X axis, is where most people live their lives emotionally. The peaks and troughs are where I see people with Bipolar living – always in highs and lows.
The thing about a sine wave is that it always cancels out. The time spent below the line is the same as the time spent above the line. It’s just that following someone with Bipolar means that the lows are that much lower, and difficult to deal with. However, that means the highs are much more extreme (and potentially fun) to be around. I think what I’m trying to say is that although ‘normal’ people seem to live on a straight line, we all follow that up and down curve to an extent. It doesn’t matter whether we look like we’re on a straight line of a graph or a curve going up and down all the time, we all average out to ‘normal’ people. Although with pre and post diagnosis things are quite different, I wouldn’t change a thing about my friend or my wife. They’re just as important to me wherever they are on my graph, however high or low their peaks and troughs are.”
My Mum’s Perspective:
“You were always strong willed, determined, and sometimes a raving tyrant of anger! You were quiet at school, in primary and early secondary, but not shy. Always creative, especially with reading and writing. You were a tomboy who never wore dresses and a typical teenager; you wanted to shock everyone with your clothes. In your teenage years, you became reclusive and spent hours in your room. Then the next thing you wouldn’t stop talking and rant for hours. I noticed this when you started work, some nights it was like verbal diarrhoea! It was like someone had turned the on switch but there was no off switch.
It is hard, difficult to deal with. I didn’t want to accept anything was wrong with you. The year you moved out things became very difficult. You wouldn’t eat, you were very thin. Then you became very depressed. But you do have long periods when you’re stable; a normal young woman. You can go for long periods of time with just a few small dips and highs. But when you go down that’s really down, that’s it. I find the lows worse to deal with than the highs.”
After this chat I received this text message from my Mum:
“There are times when you are speaking to a friend who is struggling and to trying to encourage them and being normal and speaking to your dad and interacting with normal conversations. Then when I saw you tonight just phasing out during our meal and so focused. Your face and eyes it scared me and your mood has changed so dramatically it was as if you were no longer with us! I want to cry now. So poorly, so poorly I want to help so much what can I do as a mother it is heartbreaking. Do I let my daughter read this or am I being selfish and looking at my needs as well, but I love her so much and want to mend her but what do I do and how do I do it? I want to make the right decisions when she is poorly. What do you do? What is best? What do you say? I’m scared of saying something wrong. Scared of doing something that will make things worse it’s like a balancing act or walking on a tightrope.”
Our relationship has changed for the better since this conversation. Speaking to my Mum recently she had this to say:
“I don’t think like that anymore. It doesn’t help either of us for me to be walking on a tightrope with you. Now if you upset me, I tell you and treat you and talk to you the same as I do with your brothers’. I’ve learnt that there is not much I can do to help. Material things, taking you out doesn’t help you. What I need to do is listen to you and be there. I can do practical things like helping you clean the house and taking you food shopping. It’s taken me a long time to learn this, but I can’t change your illness or take it away.”