A friend of mine just got back from vacation in Florida and was telling me about it. She was on the beach collecting shells and found a smooth, polished stone. She explained to me how these stones start off as rough and what we think of as normal looking stones, but after time and the ocean tides, the stone gets washed until it is smooth and polished. The key phrase here is “over time.” That’s what made me think of bipolar disorder. Because if you’re thinking that your loved one is taking a long time to get better, you’re right. And that is normal. Because you can’t get stable from bipolar disorder overnight. Just like that washed stone, it takes time for the “ocean tides” to “wash” your loved one into stability.
Let’s compare the two: First the stone starts off as a normal looking stone – rough and unpolished, unsmooth. That would be your loved one before stability. Then the ocean tides begin to wash over the stone and start the process of reshaping the stone. That would be your loved one getting used to their medication and changing, adapting to the bipolar lifestyle. Then, a little more time goes by, and the stone begins to get smoother, with the tides washing the rough edges right off. That would be your loved one learning how to manage their bipolar disorder. Then, after enough time has gone by, that rock has weathered the ocean tides, and emerges a smooth, polished stone. That would be your loved one reaching stability.
No, stability doesn’t happen overnight. And it’s hard, as a supporter, to be patient, I know. And you do have to have a lot of patience as a supporter during this process. You have to watch your loved one as they struggle first with their diagnosis. Then with their mood swings. You have to watch them when they are in episodes, and that can get very hard. When your loved one is depressed for a long period of time, and it seems like nothing you do is helping them, what do you do if they won’t go for help? That’s one of most difficult things that a supporter has to go through. Or if your loved one won’t take their medication. Because these things lead to bipolar episodes. Then you’re back to square one. And it’s hard to watch this happen. But remember the ocean tide – it goes out and comes back in again, over and over and over. Remember that stability is a process that happens over time.
When your loved one goes into a manic episode, things can get very difficult. They can get very impulsive, making rash decisions, being promiscuous, doing risk-taking behaviors, going on spending sprees, etc. It’s usually in a manic episode that your loved one will display behavior that has consequences to it – perhaps legal or financial (or otherwise). Then you have to deal with the fallout, and that can be especially difficult for you. You may have to deal with some negative feelings at this point; for example, you may start to feel that this isn’t fair, and thoughts like that. But hang on, and remember that polished stone. Remember the process. After awhile, you will see your loved one start changing. If they do the things they need to do to be stable – such as taking their medication religiously, seeing their psychiatrist and therapist, eating a healthy diet, sleeping right, exercising, being productive, etc…
Then eventually, they will have less and less episodes…And, just like the polished stone…
Your loved one will be stable!
Well, I have to go!