At Christmastime we see and hear the sentiment “Peace on Earth Goodwill Toward Men…”
But when you’re dealing with a loved one with bipolar disorder, don’t you sometimes wish you
could have “Peace on Earth” all year round? Yes, when you have a loved one with bipolar
disorder, there will inevitably be times when there won’t be peace between you. Unfortunately, there will be times when your loved one won’t even be at peace with themselves.
That’s one of the problems when they’re first diagnosed, in fact. Usually they are finally
diagnosed because they are either in, or just coming out of, a major bipolar episode. During a bipolar episode, especially a manic one, they can do things they’re not very proud of. This
can leave them not feeling very good about themselves.
In fact, just the fact that they have a mental illness can affect their self-esteem in a negative way and cause them to feel bad about themselves, so that even long after they’re diagnosed with bipolar disorder they may still struggle with self-esteem issues. In fact, poor self-esteem can be one of the indicators of having bipolar disorder to begin with.
Because your loved one struggles with their own self-esteem, they probably have a poor self-image as well, so they probably have a problem seeing you for who you really are. This leads to a problem with trusting you. That is, they will naturally not trust you. This will lead to problems in the relationship, of course. Which probably explains at least one of the reasons why you may fight so often.
Another reason could be that their problems with poor self-esteem and lack of trust lead to insecurities. They find it hard to believe that you really care about them in spite of their bipolar disorder. They know that sometimes their behavior is not acceptable (like getting agitated and angry, or some of the things they do in a bipolar episode, for example), but they still do it anyway, then they get mad at themselves for doing that behavior, and then take that anger out on you – it’s just a vicious cycle of bipolar behavior.
Definitely NOT “Peace on Earth,” is it? Problems with anger and rage can be a symptom of a bipolar manic episode. This can be controlled by medication that will control the mood swings and hopefully prevent episodes. But the issues behind the emotional side of your loved one’s anger, like their anger at having bipolar disorder, for instance, can be worked out in therapy.
Therapy will help them learn how to appropriately channel that anger and rage and how to handle those negative feelings in the right way, and not to take them out on you.
Medication can also help in some instances; say, for example, if anxiety and stress are the root cause and have led up to the anger and rage, then medication can help curb the anxiety. The important thing is for your loved one to get treatment for their bipolar disorder. Without treatment, there is no hope for them to ever get better – for them ever to find peace with
themselves, much less for there to be peace between the two of you (i.e., less fighting).
And I’m sure you would like there to be less fighting, as most supporters of a loved one with bipolar disorder do. They report that fighting is one of the most common symptoms of their loved one’s disorder and the cause of dysfunction in their relationship.
Many supporters take their loved one’s anger personally, which they shouldn’t do. Don’t take it personally. In most cases, they really aren’t mad at you, but just mad in general, or mad at their disorder, or mad at themselves, etc. And if you take it personally, you may be apt to want to get mad at them right back, which will just cause more fighting and just make things worse, not accomplishing anything.
Your loved one needs to learn how to deal with conflict in a relationship in a healthy way (i.e.
communicating about it), instead of fighting about it, which also just makes things worse. So that’s another thing they can learn in therapy. Therapy will also teach them how to have a healthy relationship with you in spite of their bipolar disorder, and how to communicate effectively with you, which they may also need to learn.
It may be very difficult for you to even imagine there being peace with your loved one, but don’t
give up hope. With treatment (medication and therapy), it is possible that your loved one can learn how to cope and deal with their bipolar disorder issues.
First, they need to come to terms with their past. For one thing, this means that they need to let
go of things they can’t control. They may seem to you to be a very controlling person, and this too may be a source of contention between you. They may even try to control you, because they
feel like they have no control over anything else in their world. I’m not saying this is right, just that it might explain some of their behavior.
This is something else that they should be working on in therapy. Hopefully, by working on past issues, it will help them to deal with the present easier, and they will stop being so controlling.
As they progress in their therapy, this and other issues will get better, and there will be more
peace in their life and between the two of you.
Well, I have to go!