Life for the caregiver of an individual who suffers from bipolar disorder can be all-consuming. The task of providing support for a loved one with bipolar disorder can become so intrusive that you end up totally engulfed in the responsibility. Gone are your nights out, your time with friends, and your peaceful nights at home. Gone are your own goals, ambitions, and dreams. If you're not careful, life can become one long string of temper tantrums, drama plays, and hospitals triggered by your loved one and defeating any attempts of your own to have a separate life.

So how do you avoid this trap? Should your loved one be abandoned to the psychiatric hospital system? Is that the only way to keep your life sane? Daily trips to the clinic for treatment, strict medication regimen, and special diet are very much a part of the treatment of many chronic ailments not related to mental illness, and most people don't consider committing loved ones suffering from a physical illness to a 'facility' in order to gain their freedom.

How would you handle it if your loved one suffered from one of the many chronic, health-threatening illnesses that aren't mental or mood related? Would you put your loved one into a group home and abandon them there? Of course not! So if abandonment isn't the answer, and immersing yourself into the care of your charge to the point of losing yourself isn't the answer, what is?

The answer lies simply in balance. Step back and take a good look at your typical day. Is there any time in it just for you? Try to remember what it is that you used to do before you lost control of your life. Did you read, play computer games, or watch movies? Did you participate in group activities such as clubs, a lodge, or the scouts? Were you involved in your church, perhaps in the choir or leading the youth activities? Rediscover the joy of these activities!

Take some time every day away from the caregiver position. And at least once a week, take an entire day in an activity that you enjoy. 'How?' you may ask. Get the community involved. Most communities have day programs where your mentally ill loved one can participate in group activities with his or her peers. And while they are there the time can be used to provide you with some much needed time off. No, these programs do not care for the one you love as well as you do. It would be unreasonable to expect that they do. But these programs are highly regulated and closely watched. They can dispense all the needed medications and can watch for warning signs that might indicate the onset of an episode, possible over or under-medication and a host of other problems. They can provide you with referrals for services that you may not have even known were available in your community. So quit being a martyr. Be sure that you take care of yourself well enough to be there for your loved one in 10 or 20 years. If you have stressed out to the point of loosing your own coping skills, who will take care of your loved one then?