Saturday, July 26, 2008

Being a Spouse/Partner to Someone Who's Bipolar

I don't know how many people who read this blog have a spouse or partner who's bipolar. But one of my regular readers and "commenters" does. And yesterday in response to the post on irrational anger, she wrote that she's often the recipient of this type of behavior.

I'd like to say, once and for all, "It's not fair for someone who's bipolar to treat a loved one or friend badly and blame the illness for his/her behavior!"

I'm surely not perfect. And there were years when I exhibited behavior (mostly medication- induced) that was symptomatic of bipolarity, and I didn't know it. No matter how many books I read, at the time I didn't find any in which behavior like anger and irritability were considered symptomatic. (There are now books in which this behavior is discussed.)

Had I known earlier about these patterns and symptoms, I would have changed earlier. I didn't know then; I do know now. And I have significantly changed my behavior.

In my case, I use deep breathing to calm down when I find myself getting angry and/or irritable. If I can't stop the behavior with the person involved (unless I believe my anger is justifiable and it's not a symptom of illness), I give myself a "time-out," meaning I explain that I seem to unjustifiably angry and need some space. If I still feel angry (and I'm at home), I play my harmonica or one of my other instruments.

It would be less than honest not to admit that I have lapses of which I'm not proud. We all do, but personally, I'm tired of seeing and/or hearing about "bad behavior" and having people blame it on their bipolarity. It gives bipolarity a bad name, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a real cop-out!

What do you think?


P.J. said...

I agree!! I don't like it when people 'blame' their behavior on their illness, or their past. If they recongize there's a problem, it is their resposibility to find better coping mechanisms!! That being said, I especially don't like it when OTHER PEOPLE blame MY actions on me being bipolar. The other night, for example, I met a singer that I had been listening to since I was a child. I had my picture taken with him. I was SO excited!! I phoned a musical friend of mine, who I thought would appreciate who I met. He heard my obvious excitement and automatically assumed that I had either "taken too many or not enough" of my meds!!! What, so I can't show extreme emotion anymore because I'm now medicated?? Honestly!! AND, if I get upset about something at home, my husband will sometimes say, "Just go take another bipolar pill"!

I just want my spouse to be patient and to love me the way I need to be loved. I want open communication that is free of judgements, and steady enough to guide me in the right direction. I need him to keep my reality in check, because I tend to over-analyze too much.

Ask your spouse what he wants from you... you may be surprised!!

Gianna said...

I completely agree and it's something I've written about numerous times.

We are always responsible for our behavior...

Wellness Writer said...

Dear PJ,
I completely agree. There are times, when I, too, am just enthusiastic. And my feelings would be terribly hurt if my loved ones and friends confused that enthusiasm with bipolarity. Rather, I believe it's a strength to be able to openly express emotions.

I can certainly understand why you would be "thrilled" to see a singer you've loved since childhood. And your friend's comment must have been truly upsetting.

And sometimes, being upset or angry is the "appropriate situational response." To suggest that you wouldn't feel that way if you took more medication is diminishing and unfair.

Thanks for presenting the other side of this.


Wellness Writer said...

I agree! "We are always responsible for our behavior." And if it's inappropriate because of bipolarity, there are so many methods of changing it or reigning it in a bit.


naturalgal said...

I think this type of behavior leads to the diagnosis of bipolar.

I don't think anyone should put up with this behavior.

BUT...if a person is truly bipolar and truly having a manic episode do you truly think they can help themselves? (This is an honest question.)

Many people do crazy things while in a "manic" episode. I think this goes back to a discussion we had a few months ago.

I don't know what the answer is.

But isn't part of the problem that people are not in the right state of mind?

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Naturalgal,
A good question, but one I can't answer. I've only had one "manic" episode and it was medication -induced. We need to hear from those who truly experience manias and have overcome them.


KJ said...

Thank you for this post. I hope you know how much I appreciate your kindness and thinking of me. I think nauralgal asks good questions and ones that plague me. I have always believed that people are responsible for their own behaviors, but then I worry that someone in a manic episode or even a severe depressive episode are they as naturalgal presented which is are they in their "right mind". I would also like to hear from those who have experienced and overcome manias. Well thanks again so much.

Lorna said...

As another wife of someone with bipolar, I find this post very helpful. I'm glad to hear from somone with bipolar saying that it is unacceptable, and that unacceptable behaviour can be controlled to a certain extent. Thanks, Lorna

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Lorna,
I'm glad it helped. The only caveat I should have added--for someone who may not be a regular reader of my blog--is that I came to this illness from depression, not from mania. And the only true manic episode I've had was medication -induced.

I'm not sure how controllable "manic" behavior is, although I suspect that if people do breathing exercises, meditation, and/or yoga (all proven to be effective in controlling the symptoms of this illness), they certainly should be able to lessen irritability, rage, and anger.

If psychiatrists and others focused more on helping people control their symptoms, then everyone --those who are bipolar and their spouses--would have an easier time of it.