Kid Gloves or Tough Love?

Question: Suppose I have a bipolar loved one. What should I know about how to be a supportive presence in this person's life?

Answer: Bipolars come in different forms.  The symptomatic bipolars, those who suffer conspicuously, may need more from you directly than those who have taken it upon themselves to live vigilantly, healthily.  Not much can be delicately ministered to someone who believes that mania is an ideal human state or that suicide is a reasonable life option.  These bipolars need intervention, which can take the form of an outcry from those who love them or a strong, constant presence that will not recede, until the bipolar is treated or out of the proverbial woods of a particular threatening symptom.  Because of their one-size-fits-all approach, hospitals are generally not ideal healing grounds for bipolars, but sometimes they can take the burden off of friends and family, who should not have to watch over the well-being of a bipolar sufferer noon and night.  When the symptoms are arrested, either by a balancing of medication or personal perspective, loved ones can enter the bipolar picture again and resume their good will, without becoming veritable nurses or police officers.

     Facing one's bipolar plight head on is the beginning of teaching those around him or her how they can be instrumental in the maintenance of good mental health.  Fear of relapse can be a paralyzing influence during recovery for bipolars and bystanders.  That is where acceptance of the condition, moreover, love of the condition helps the bipolar cause for everyone.  Bipolars are not at war with themselves as many believe them to be strictly the victims of a chemical imbalance; they are extremely sensitive creatures that need to eat healthy food, practice healthy physical habits, and forge healthy relationships.  If a bipolar can become a healthy, honest, symptom-free, sometimes even medication-free bipolar, then the healthy presence of an aware friend, family member, or lover can be expressed through unabashed dialogue, genuine curiosity, and direct questions about how the bipolar is managing his or her life, day to day.

     My sense is that bipolar mysteries tend to be foremost in the consciousness of those on the outside of the disease.  Mystery, if unsolved or unconsidered, can lead to fear, which is the undoing of any healthy life practice.  When everyone in a bipolar-aware community rids his or her mind of fear of what the disease can become at its worst, then there is a good chance that bipolars and non-bipolars can begin to share an asymptomatic life together.  The best kind of bipolar disorder symptoms are the ones in the past for bipolars and friends of bipolars, alike.

-The Blue Bear  

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