Living with someone who has bipolar disorder can be difficult, to say the least.  It can also be frustrating, disappointing, discouraging, and any number of other negative adjectives.  If you base your own feelings on your loved one's successes and failures, you can have more negative feelings (and even physical ailments) because of it, because you may fall into the trap of blaming yourself.  Just remember: It's ok not to know what to do.

 

I know you care about and love your loved one, or you wouldn't be their primary supporter.  However, that does not mean that you should take their burdens onto yourself.  You need to separate your loved one from their disorder, but you also need to separate yourself from the disorder (and sometimes from your loved one). 

 

You also need to keep your own identity outside your loved one's, and outside the "bipolar world" in which you live and that sometimes can seem to overtake everything, so that you don't burn out.

 

I'm sure you want to be the best supporter you can be for your loved one.  However, you cannot expect yourself to be perfect, or to always know the right things to say or to do.  All you can do is your best.

 

Face it, the world does not expect you to be perfect, and neither does your loved one – so if you are expecting perfection from yourself and are discouraged or disappointed in yourself (or even feel guilty) because you don't reach those standards, understand something:  It's OK not to know what to do!

 

That's only human.  Everyone has to deal with that, even people we call "perfectionists."

 

As part of their treatment plan for bipolar disorder, your loved one should have developed a strong support system.  You, of course, are part of that support system, but there should be other people on there as well.

 

Do not be afraid to ask other people for help when you're not sure what to do.  Ask another person in your loved one's support system; or your own friends and family; maybe a clergy person; or you may even have your own therapist.

 

There is no need for perfection (or perfectionist-thinking) when it comes to being a supporter.  There is no "perfect" supporter.  Everyone just does the best they can in the situation. 

 

There are things that you can have in place, such as: a support system (your loved one's and your own), a Safety Plan for emergencies, good relationship with your loved one's doctor, psychiatrist, and therapist, etc.  However, you cannot expect yourself to be perfect and to meet your loved one's every need.

 

You may not always know what to do in situations involving your loved one and their bipolar disorder, but that's ok.  You do have other sources you can go to for help.