Being a supporter of a loved one with bipolar disorder can be frustrating, but it can also be very rewarding as you see your loved one get better.  In this article, we will be discussing five ways for you to become an even better supporter.

1.      Do Not Make Bipolar Disorder Your Only Focus in Life

At first, when your loved one was initially diagnosed and you were learning all you could about bipolar disorder, it was your main focus; however, it still shouldn't be the main focus of your life – the main focus of both of your lives should now be stability, or the management of your loved one's bipolar disorder. You have to understand and realize that bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness and, although there is still no cure, it can still be treated with medication and therapy.  Still, it is not what defines your loved one. Your loved one is a person with a unique personality, has interests and goals, and is capable of living a stable, healthy life. Surround yours and your loved one’s life with all that life has to offer, not bipolar disorder.

 

2.      Learn New Techniques for Being a Better Supporter

As a lifelong supporter for a loved one with bipolar disorder, it is important that you are always learning new ways to be a better supporter. This means that you have to read good books on the disorder, search the Internet for good web sites, talk to other supporters, friends, and family, and (if you can) talk to your loved one's doctor, psychiatrist and therapist.  The information is out there if you devote time to find it. Having the information will not only benefit your loved one, it will benefit you in the long run.

You will need to understand that learning new techniques for being a better supporter is a lifetime, ongoing process. New techniques are being developed all the time and the only way to learn about them is for you to be looking for them. Be on the search – the Internet websites are constantly being updated, and new books on bipolar disorder are coming out all the time.  You can also go to your public library and research articles on the disorder.

3.      Avoid Being Co-Dependent

Never, at any point in your loved one’s life, allow yourself to become co-dependent. You are a supporter, not an enabler. You can’t allow your loved one to get away with things like manipulation, saying they can’t do things when they can, and not taking responsibility for their own lives. It is absolutely necessary that your loved one takes responsibility for themselves, their actions, and the consequences of their behavior during bipolar episodes.  They are also responsible for taking their own medication, going to their own appointments, and remaining an active and productive person despite the fact that they have bipolar disorder.  Although you can help in these areas, you should not be doing these things for them (that would be enabling instead of supporting them).

 

4.      Don’t Let Your Guard Down

As a committed supporter of a loved one with bipolar disorder, it is imperative that you never let your guard down.  People with bipolar disorder can easily slip into their old habits, like not taking their medications, not exercising or eating properly, isolating, or exposing themselves to too much stress, all of which can lead to bipolar episodes.

Always be aware and knowledgeable of your loved one’s bipolar status by making careful note of any changes in mood, and watching for triggers, signs, and symptoms that seem to be leading to a manic or depressed episode. Do your best to not allow this to happen. The consequences, as you most likely know, are devastating to both you and your loved one.

5.      Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is probably the most important and essential advice you need. In order for you to properly support your loved one, you have to be healthy, happy, and financially secure. Take time for yourself by exercising and spending time with friends and family. Spend time doing all the hobbies that you always have enjoyed. Eat right and take pride in your work. Essentially, you must maintain and keep a well-balanced life. Doing so will not only keep you on top of your own health and well-being, it will set an example for your loved one to try and follow, which can ultimately be a blessing for them. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won't have the energy and health necessary to be the best supporter you can be to your loved one.