My fiancé was diagnosed with bipolar II when he was a young teen. After a whirlwind of a childhood, his therapist at the time finally concluded he was suffering through hypomanic and depressive episodes. So from a young age he began medication and therapy geared toward his diagnosis. Over the years he has tried many medications, some working for a bit and some not at all. He is 23 years old now and takes Quetiapine, which has been mostly working for about 2 years now. He is overall stable and healthy. He works a full time job, he has a good sleeping schedule, and he has a great group of friends.
Of course there are times when he has episodes, it’s part of his disorder. Sometimes they are severe and other times they can be resolved by us talking. Most recently, he had a pretty severe episode due to an attempt change in medication. Because he was taking such a high does of Quetiapine before, going on the lower dose of the new medication caused him to have a psychosis episode. He was basically severely paranoid of everything, he couldn’t eat because he thought someone was drugging him. He struggled through it for awhile until his psychiatrist was finally able to see him and put him back on the Quetiapine. This was probably the most severe episode I ever saw him have. He was completely distraught for several days, and for the rest he just looked so scared. I held him when he cried and I stayed awake several nights to make sure he was alive. If there was any point in our relationship where I was worried I might lose him, it was then. And it was hard, don’t get me wrong. But finally seeing him pull through, have a good nights sleep, eat a full meal, and go out in public, was the greatest thing. I couldn’t begin to describe it.
I think something crucial I learned from this episode was how to give compassion. During most of the time, he didn’t want to talk about how he felt (that may just be how he is) so it was a lot of me just comforting him. It was hard to do because I’m more of a talker, but it really helped me learn more about how to help him, which is great.
As I had mentioned in my last post, I have talked to a lot of people who have loved ones with bipolar disorder, and their view of it is so negative. I’ve seen people leave their spouse in the middle of a manic episode because they didn’t like the way they acted. For me, I don’t get it. Of course I don’t know their whole situation, but from living and loving someone with this disorder, I do kind of know what episodes are like. While it’s not a fun time, I could never think of leaving them alone during this time. And again, while everyone’s situation is totally different from mine, I think it can be very harmful to leave a person alone during a manic or depressive episode. That’s just something to keep in mind if you are going through this. While taking care of yourself is important, you have to remember how someone with this disorder might view you walking out on them.
Being there for someone can be hard and can drain a lot out of you. It can also be really rewarding. Taking time for yourself is good, but reminding your loved one you are still there while doing so is the best option. It can be you going for a walk, but reassuring your loved one you’ll be back. It is also expressing how you feel, at an appropriate time (not during the highest point of their episode). Keeping an open line of communication is going to be the best way to have a healthy relationship.
I encourage you to try this in your own life, and while it may not work right away, see if things progressively get better. And I know, it’s hard some days, but always keep the great days in the back of your mind. Because it always will get better.