When you were young, did your parents tell you that you could do anything you wanted to
(within limits)? Oh, I don’t mean things that would get you in trouble or anything…I’m talking about things like that if you wanted to, that you could become a doctor… or a lawyer… or even the President if that’s what you wanted! The point is that they probably saw your talents and your unlimited potential, and probably tried to steer you in the right direction…Offering encouragement and hope that you could do anything you set your mind to doing, to accomplishing. That’s positive reinforcement. That’s a good thing for a parent to do. That’s a good thing for a bipolar supporter to do as well.
One of the things that I teach supporters is that you should be supportive to your loved one and not let their bipolar disorder hold them back. But it shouldn’t hold you back, either. You should still be able to do anything that you want to do, too. If you still want to work a full-time job, for
example, you should be able to do that without having to worry about what your loved one will
do without having you around to “babysit” them. If you do, that’s called codependency.
If they get in trouble without you around, perhaps they are too dependent on you to keep them out of trouble, and that isn’t a healthy thing. You should be able to trust them to be ok when
you’re not around, at least as much as to be able to work at a job outside the home. However, I know one woman who tried to work, but her husband would call her 10 and 12 times a day at work, until she was let go from her job because they said they just couldn’t have that happening there.
Your loved one needs to have something to do while you work so that they don’t do things like
that. They need to be productive in their own right so that they aren’t so dependent on you. They need to have their own strong support network, for example, and their own social network as well. They could even have their own job – either part-time, or at least a volunteer position, just something that gets them out of the house – or even a home business might work for them.
You should also be able to have your own friends that you can see when you want. It’s healthy for you to have a social life outside of your loved one so that their bipolar disorder doesn’t
overwhelm you. It’s something you need.
Go to lunch with a friend every once in a while – it will do you good. For your own mental and emotional well-being, you should be able to go out and do things on your own. You shouldn’t feel trapped by your loved one. And you shouldn’t feel guilty at leaving them alone at home, or fear for what might happen. They should be learning how to manage their own disorder, and to be independent to some degree. They shouldn’t need you to such a degree that you can’t do what you want to do, or it isn’t healthy.
If you feel as if your loved one and/or their bipolar disorder is holding you back, then you need to talk to them about it. You need to be able to do the things you need and want to do. And they need to have things that they do on their own without you as well. Perhaps having them go to a Day Center might help, or scheduling other activities for them that you aren’t involved with. Try giving them a To-Do List of tasks to accomplish for when you aren’t home and which they don’t depend on you for help with. Try encouraging them to take up a new project – one that will take more than one day to accomplish. Perhaps some community involvement might interest them.
The main thing is that you be able to be independent, though, so that you get a break from your loved one’s bipolar disorder, as you need that.
Well, I have to go!