Family and Friends

This means life is never boring, but never normal either.
My mum suffers very badly with mania, and unless medicated is manic.
Unfortunately, she isn't med compliant, so has manic episodes on average about every 18 months. 
I spent years without support, or even talking about how my mum's illness was affecting me and my family, and I suffered, in turn my children suffered, and my relationship. 
I have realised that you need to share, you need to talk about this illness, and you need to make people aware what a debilitating illness, not only for the sufferer but for the family too, Bipolar Disorder is. " - Candy

 

When I went from primary school to senior school we had a 'last day' assembly and we were asked to say who our heroes were, a lot of kids said Footballers etc. When it came to me I said "My Dad is my hero, he has bi-polar disorder and can be really ill sometimes, but no matter what happens he always tells me he loves me and does everything he can to make me and my brother happy, he's the most special person I know".-Cassie, Age 15

 

For family and friends and those caring for someone with bipolar affective disorder it can be an emotional, stressful and frustrating time. Bipolar affective disorder can have a dramatic affect on the lives of everyone involved and it is important that family and friends are armed with the available information and support to help their loved one manage their illness, and importantly to look after their own mental health and well-being while caring for someone with bipolar affective disorder.  The excerpts included on this page are written by people affected by bipolar affective disorder and provide invaluable insight into the effects bipolar disorder can have on the family of those with bipolar affective disorder.

 

How Can You Recognise The Signs?

As a carer of someone with bipolar disorder it is important that you are familiar with the symptoms of mania and depression (see About Bipolar Affective Disorder), this will help you recognise the signs of an episode and hopefully enable you to help prepare for what might follow.  


Is There Anything You Can Do To Help?

Caring for someone with bipolar disorder can be a painful experience, it is not easy seeing someone you love suffer, likewise it is not easy to accept the the things they may do because of the illness.  There are no hard and fast answers as to the best ways to help because bipolar disorder affects each individual differently, likewise some people may feel more able to cope with the consequences of it than others.  Not being able to, or knowing how to help may lead to feelings of helplessness and guilt for the carer, when a person doesn't appear to want your help this may also create feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger.  If you are able to care for someone with bipolar affective disorder there are both emotional and practical ways in which you can offer support.

Emotional

Listening, it often helps people to talk about their feelings, even if you cannot fully understand them, just having someone who is willing to listen can help.  Sometimes a person may express themselves in different ways, such as crying and while it can be frustrating when they are unable to tell you why, it is also helpful to have these feelings validated.

Physical contact, such as a hug or holding hands and offer reassurance to a person in distress and help them feel safe.

Encouraging a person to do something they may find difficult can help with motivation and self esteem.  Encouragement is different from pressurising someone to do something.

Showing your appreciation and offering praise can make a person feel more confident and motivated.

Practical

Helping someone to manage their medication, such as reminding them when to take it and how many to take.

Help with everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning, managing finances.

People with bipolar affective disorder may find it difficult to talk to professionals about their true feelings, supporting them to access services and discuss their needs can help to ensure they get the best care available to them.

It may be useful to be involved with a relapse prevention plan, this may include such things as recognising warning signs, and what to do when they appear.  Advance Directives can be a useful tool in helping you and the person you care for decide on treatment options and care if a crisis situation occurred. (Legal briefing: Advance directives - Mind)


Caring For Yourself

One of the most important things in caring for someone with bipolar affective disorder is taking care of yourself.  Carers of people with mental illnesses often feel alone and isolated, it is not easy to tell someone a partner, parent or child suffers from mental illness, a carer of someone with bipolar affective disorder is subject to stigmatisation and discrimination just as the person with bipolar disorder is.  It is important that as a carer, you consider your own needs too, such as having your own hobbies, having someone you can talk to such as a local carers group.  You do not have to be alone in caring for a person with bipolar disorder, the links below will provide you with advice and information about the support that is available to you as a carer.

"Partners of those with Bipolar are sufferers too. Although we don't experience the frightening array of symptoms and the lack of control that mania and severe depression brings, our suffering is often on a different level; we have to make sure there is enough money to pay the bills despite a manic spending spree; we have to explain away the broken and damaged possessions; we have the stares and the pointed fingers, being ignored in the corner shop because of who you're married to and they've all read the papers and know what damage mentally ill people do; we have to keep our children aware of what's going on with mum/dad but at the same time, try and shield them from the angry outbursts, the bigoted attitudes of outsiders; we have to protect our partners from stress as much as possible which may bring on another episode so this often means we shoulder extra pressure ourselves but with no support; often we have to accept that our partners will have acted irresponsibly whilst manic, they may have cheated on us, they may have said hurtful, awful things to us and about us; we live with the daily thought that today might be the day it all gets too much for our loved one; it may fall on our shoulders to help decide when the time is right for hospital; and we also have to learn to cope with the guilt and shame that our own thoughts bring when thinking about our loved one and the life we imagined is all but destroyed. More often than not our own health will suffer too. And underneath all of this, the person you love is still there, sometimes very well hidden but they are still there and you have to decide whether you can continue living not just with your partner but with the illness as well."-Amanda, Wales


Useful Links For Family/Friends

How to cope as a carer 
Carers factsheet, How to access services,  information for carers
How to help someone who is suicidal These Mind factsheets offer advice on what help is available to you as a carer of someone with a mental illness, also offers useful advice on what you can do to help look after yourself and the person you are caring for.
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers is the largest UK provider of support services to carers.
Carers UK offers information and advice to carers about their rights and how to get support as well as campaigning for recognition and equality for carers.

 

 

Bipolar4all Homepage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I also lost my daughter.  She didn't want to leave with me and wanted to stay with her step dad, my husband.  I insisted she left with me and she did for awhile and then moved back with her father.  She was a teenager and at a time when she needed me I wasn't able to give her what she should have had.  We get on well now but I never forget that my illness has affected all my family.  My behavior was erratic, I became obsessed with spirituality and witchcraft.  I believed that every good deed I did would be returned to me threefold.  I tried to do good and felt I was rewarded when I did good.  I would do things for my brother who was ill, I would scrub my brothers house from top to bottom but my own house was a mess.  My children were living on pot noodles and soup.   My memory didn't work properly, I neglected myself and would forget to do things for my children, they were always late for school. " -Ablaze, Dundee

 

"I love my dad, he's the best in the world and I am going to look after him when I go to work and design cars, cos he looks after me now"- Dom, Age 9