Q: My partner does not always seem open about sharing their experience with bipolar disorder. How do I speak openly with them about their condition and my concerns?
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Q: Besides attending couples’ counseling and individual therapy, are there any other specific strategies you use to keep your relationship balanced?
Q: How do you support your partner when, in the midst of a hypomanic episode, they tell you that they want to end the relationship and move out on their own? How can you tell if that’s what they’re truly feeling, or if it’s a result of their episode?
Q. Do arguments about issues in your relationship with your husband ever trigger manic or depressive episodes? How do you deal with any issues you may have if you feel that discussing problems will trigger an episode?
When I get depressed, I suffer from severe pain deep in my muscles and not many things help it. During a particularly rough few months, two different massage therapists asked me if I had considered trying running as an outlet. They each told me that my muscles felt like they needed that kind of release. No, I told them, my body is not meant for running. They both disagreed. Then my therapist asked me if I had ever considered running to get the endorphins going and release some stress and tension. He thought that might help with the pain.
From the time we can talk, people begin asking us what we want to be when we grow up. My answers were usually one of the following: ballerina, model, actress, doctor, nurse, painter, art therapist, occupational therapist, photographer, illustrator, writer. I wanted to help people and make the world prettier for the most part. In college, I changed my major like I changed my outfit before a big date – often and always looking for the “perfect” one. More than that, I was looking for that something that would make me happy and feel that my life is worthwhile.
In a previous article, (Read Part 1: The Happy Salad) I wrote about how eating healthfully helped my emotional stability and listed some ways that helped me lose weight and feel better. One common argument against eating healthy is that it is too expensive. Many people with bipolar disorder (as well as a lot of the world) deal with unemployment issues and/or are on fixed incomes. There is a myth that you can’t eat well without spending a fortune.
In the past 16 years, I have been on a lot of different medications – all of which have affected me differently. Some caused me to gain weight due to feeling hungry all the time and overeating, sometimes they caused me to retain water, and who knows what triggered weight gain with some of the others.
I have a secret. I am a superhero. In some ways we all are superheroes. I can hear the critics now, “Bipolar disorder is a curse. Only suffering comes from a disease like that.” Bah, I say. Bah. Life is what you make it. Bad things happen; good things happen. Babies are born; loved ones pass on. We lose jobs; we get new ones. Life stinks, then it gets good again. I get depressed for a while and then my mood swings up again. The key to all of this madness is that it is not madness. It is a gift – IF you let it be.
When I first met my wife she was invisible. Sometime after her bipolar diagnosis she was led to believe that her illness was not something to be discussed, it was something to be ashamed of. Most people that knew her diagnosis tried to be supportive of her “moodiness” offering her advice like: “If you find a good man, you won’t be unhappy anymore” or “If you went to church more and prayed more, you wouldn’t be depressed.” There were others who couldn’t see past the word bipolar disorder and disappeared from her life.