I was talking to a friend the other day about how lucky I was that my boyfriend is just as good as my parents at doing the one thing most important to my mental health: Keeping me in check.
There are lists upon lists out there about things you can do for a loved one suffering from Bipolar disorder. Most of them are really good tips, but the most important one for me normally doesn’t show up on those lists, because it’s not always pleasant, and newly diagnosed people sometimes don’t react to it well and therefore it doesn’t always seem productive.
You see, I’m aware of my big mood swings when they happen. It’s hard not to notice when you nose dive or are suddenly ten times more active than you normally are. It’s those small ones that get me, the ones that I think are triggered by daily events because I can’t see it as clearly as someone watching from the outside. I don’t always consider all the facts, because the change felt natural from the inside, and after all, I still got everything done that I needed to do.
Those smaller mood swings are important though, if your swinging that much it needs to be addressed and your medications need to be adjusted. They might not feel like a big deal on the inside, but they can be long term, and they can also be a big deal for those around you. And those around you are normally the ones who notice them first.
I used the words “keeping me in check” at the top of this post, but that sounds harsher than it really is. It’s a gentle nudge, a firm yet kind acknowledgement by your loved ones that something is off.
I’ll give you an example, I was talking to my boyfriend on the phone just a few months after we started dating and I said something about what a terrible time I was having sleeping, something that I hadn’t put a lot of thought into because I’m recovering from being sick, and Chris asked me if I had considered that I might be manic.
Oh. Well, now that he mentioned it, that would also explain my anxiety.
I went and got my medicines adjusted that week, because my doctor agreed after I talked to him about my sleep and my anxiety that they were off. Three weeks later and one more adjustment, I was stable again and good to go.
It was what I needed, because it would have taken me a lot longer to see it on my own. My parents did it a lot when I was younger and in my teens. It doesn’t have to be a harsh conversation just a “have you considered?”
My advice to anyone who might want to bring it up to a loved one is, do it gently and rarely, only mention it when you are sure that something isn’t right. Some people refuse to hear it, and if that’s the case, you’ll want to back off and wait till they’re at a point where they’d be more willing. Also, know that this tip is only for loved ones, it’s not for people you don’t know very well.
To those who have bipolar disorder, like me, try to take to heart when other people kindly suggest that something might be off. Know that they’re trying to help. If they’re wrong and you’re reacting to a terrible week at work, let them know, but tell them thank you for being concerned.
Sometimes a little teamwork isn’t a bad thing. In fact, sometimes it can be just the nudge you need.