This Does Not Mean Bipolar Failure


I want to talk about what happened to my mom one time, and the lesson that can be learned from it. At that time, my mom started noticing some things that were “off.” She wasn’t feeling too well, so she asked a friend to describe what she noticed about changes in my mom’s recent behavior (she was afraid that she might be going into a bipolar depressive episode).

Well, I’ve told you before that my mom has systems in place, right? So the first thing she did was call her therapist and asked her for an emergency appointment, and she was able to see

her later that afternoon.

Then she made a list of the symptoms her friend had observed, and she took that list with her to her therapist. Her therapist said that my mom was in a “rapid cycle” of bipolar disorder. Rapid cycling means that your episodes happen more frequently than usual.

In my mom’s case, this is her “bad time” of the year anyway, so we were watching her more closely than usual. That’s why she was using her system. And she did the right thing, that when she noticed that something was “off,” or didn’t feel right, she called her therapist and then went to see her. By doing that, she avoided a full-blown bipolar episode. These are what we call “mini-episodes,” or “relapses.”

But then my mom felt as if she had failed. So is a relapse a failure? NO. Especially if you’ve followed your system and done everything right. Remember that with bipolar disorder, there are things you can control, and things you can’t control. You can’t control the chemical imbalance in your brain. But you CAN do something about it when the chemicals fire off unexpectedly. You can do exactly what my mom did. She didn’t fail. She did exactly what she should have done. And that’s not failure. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

I’m proud of her for the way she handled the situation. There was a time in the past when she didn’t have a system, and she would have gone into a full-blown episode. But because of what she did this time, it shows me that she is following her system, and did the right thing.

We can call this rapid-cycling, or we can call this a mini-episode, or we can just say that my mom just experienced a phase of bipolar depression. But the point is, she did NOT go into a bipolar depressive episode. Because she followed her system.

Your loved one should have a system in place as well. And you should be a part of it. You can help them by watching for signs and symptoms of an episode. Even if they don’t notice that they’re “off,” you can, and you can point it out to them, and encourage them to seek help (early).

And as long as they follow their system, they shouldn’t be going into episodes, either. At least not as often as they did before their systems were in place. But you can’t predict what their bipolar disorder is going to do. Because there still isn’t a cure for the disorder, episodes are

going to happen from time to time.

They can be minimized, though, and mini-episodes, or relapses are NOT failures. Relapses should actually be expected, but if you catch them early (by watching for signs and symptoms of episodes), you can keep your loved one from going into a full-blown episode.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,


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