I’m going to ask you a question. A hard question, but one you need to ask yourself. What about YOU? Have you ever asked yourself that? “What about ME?”
Sometimes bipolar disorder can take over your lives to such a degree that you really can get to the point that you ask yourself that question. If you have, you need to know that it is NORMAL! You’re not alone – many supporters ask themselves that question.
Do you sometimes feel as if you have a child instead of a partner? That’s a normal feeling, too. You may sometimes wonder why you are in the relationship at all if it only means taking care of someone who is ill more times than they are not. And this may be harder on you than you thought it would be.
Maybe the bipolar disorder cast you in a role you have no desire to play, but you see no way out because there is no one else to do it if you don’t.
Maybe you’re just plain burnt out. That happens sometimes. So what about you? If you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of your loved one. Remember that.
You may be asking yourself, “What about me and what I want from life?” Well, what about you? What do you want and need?
Now that you have the tools to manage the disorder, it’s time for you to become clear about the role you want to play in your relationship. You may feel that the bipolar disorder has taken
the choice away from you. This, too, is a normal feeling.
When your loved one is in an episode, you may feel that you HAVE to play the role of the loving
supporter. That you have to hold things together. But you don’t. Everything you do is a choice.
Whether it’s going to the hospital when your loved one is in an episode, helping your loved one take their medication, or putting up with constant mood swings, there is a choice. It may not be an easy choice, or you may feel like you have no choice, but it is all a choice.
If you choose to stay in a relationship where your loved one is often sick (in an episode), it’s important that you at least know who you are and why you do what you do.
Many of the people who write to me who are married to a loved one with bipolar disorder say that if they knew ahead of time what they would be getting into, they wouldn’t have married that person. Is this you? Do you feel this way?
It’s ok if you do, because others do, but not if you let this feeling turn into a resentment against your loved one, or you stuff it and it bubbles up inside you and reflects how you feel about your loved one. You need to deal with it.
If it’s your choice to stay with your loved one, no matter what (and remember, you do have a choice), then feeling like that is something that you just have to get over, as it will get in the way of being a good supporter.
I know, because I am a supporter myself, that sometimes it’s just not good enough to know that you’re not alone in your struggle against bipolar disorder – that you’re not the only one who feels the way you do…that so much is expected of you, especially when your loved one goes into an episode, because even though you’re the one who does all the work, your loved one is probably the one who gets all the attention.
“In sickness and in health” can be hard to take when it seems sometimes that there just isn’t any “health”! Your role gets so complicated sometimes that you wonder who you really are any more: You often have to be a financial planner, a confidant, a therapist, a nurse, a parent, a provider, a supporter, and any number of roles that maybe you didn’t sign on for.
This is a lot to ask of you. And many times it is a thankless job. And, again, if you don’t take care of yourself first, you may burn out from it. Don’t despair if it’s wearing you out. It wears everyone out.
Again, ask yourself the tough questions: What about ME? Who am I? What do I want out of life? How much longer can I continue on like this? Can I continue on like this? Is this all worth it? Because you need to know the answers.
Well, I have to go!