Remember the old expression, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”? It is a good expression. It means to never give up until you reach your goal or solve your problem. It illustrates, too, what I’m always saying – that you should explore all options on the way to finding the right one for you. But what I really like about it is something that people usually
don’t like to talk about – The fact that you can fail.
There was another saying I recall, about that failure is not in the falling down, but in the failing to get back up and trying again. That says the same thing to me. When you’re dealing with bipolar disorder, some things you do, you are going to fail. That’s just a practical way of looking
at it. You can’t be right 100% of the time, or be perfect in everything you do or try to do. So sometimes you’re going to fail. But the important thing is that you don’t give up.
If something doesn’t work with your loved one, try something else. Remember the “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” idea.
For example, maybe your loved one is in a depression, and you say, “I understand how you feel.”
The next thing you know, your loved one is yelling at you, “How can you say that? You couldn’t possibly know how I feel!” So you might feel like you’ve failed to be a good supporter. But all that’s happened is that you’ve learned what NOT to say when they’re in a depression. And any time you learn something, that’s a positive thing. It’s just as important to know what NOT to do as it is to know what TO do.
So you learn from your mistake, and the next time your loved one is depressed, you know not to say that, so you might say something like, “I’m sorry that you’re feeling down. I’m here for you if you want to talk about it.”
Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. But at least they know you’re there for them. And you’re not saying you understand, because they’ve told you that you can’t understand. But you are being supportive in a non-threatening way – you’re just saying that you’re there if they need you. If that doesn’t work, then you just try something else.
What about fighting? That’s one of the biggest problem areas in a bipolar relationship. Say your loved one is angry and raging and fighting with you. You try to defend yourself and fight back, which just makes matters worse. So you learn that this doesn’t work.
Then the next time your loved one gets angry and rages at you, you know not to do that. So you try something else. You may not want to agree with them (especially if you believe you are right), but you may say something like, “I can understand that you feel very strongly about that. Why don’t we agree to disagree? I don’t want to fight.”
If that works, great! If it doesn’t work, try something else. Keep trying different things until you
find what does work for your loved one in your situation.
Remember that everyone’s different. It’s ok to ask for advice, say, at your support group meeting or from a friend, but understand that it may not work in your particular situation. You need to find what is right for you.