The life of a supporter to a loved one with bipolar disorder is not an easy one.  Most of your energy is spent caring for your loved one, your family, and others.  Then who cares for you?

Some supporters have gotten so caught up in living in the "bipolar world" because of their loved one that they give no thought to themselves.  I'm not talking about codependency or anything, but I am talking about putting other people's needs before your own.

The problem is, if you don't take care of yourself first, how are you going to take care of anyone else?  You must care for your own needs first.

The answer lies simply in BALANCE.

You need to balance your professional, family, social, and personal responsibilities.  In there somewhere needs to be room for you.

You also need to have balance physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Think of it as a chair with four legs.  If one of the legs should break, the chair can still stand; however, if two of the legs are broken, so is the chair.

You need to care for yourself, because you can't count on anyone else taking care of you.  It's nice when your loved one takes care of you, and that will happen during normal periods.  What happens, though, when your loved one is unstable – when they go into a bipolar episode, and you are called upon to care for them?  Unless you are stable yourself, you will not be able to care for your loved one.

You must care for yourself and your own needs.  You must feel secure in yourself, in who you are, and in your own capabilities.

Do things that you enjoy.  Take time away from your "caretaker" responsibilities.  Take a day off and visit a spa and just be pampered!  If you can't afford a spa, just get a manicure – you'll still feel pampered, and that's the point.  Read a book or watch a DVD.  Get together with friends.  Go out to lunch and enjoy the time by yourself.  Learn something new.  Take up a hobby.

There was a time when you had hopes, dreams, and wishes.  Don't give up on them just because you are a supporter to a loved one with bipolar disorder.  You can still care for someone else as long as you care for yourself first.