The depression associated with bipolar disorder can be severe and disabling. The burden on family and friends is often intense. At times it will be difficult to remember that the person who’s depressed is ill. The behaviors of depression can put great strain on relationships and families: “She just lies in bed all day.” “He doesn’t help out with any of the chores.” “If only he’d snap out of it.” “I feel bad too sometimes, but I still get up and go to work.”
Without intending to, it’s quite easy to add to the person’s sense of failure, hopelessness, and being a burden to those around her. Things that can help get you through are:
• Understand as much as you can about the illness.
• Try to be a part of the treatment team. Be able to communicate with the person’s therapist/psychiatrist/case manager. This will involve keeping releases of information up to date.
• Try to validate and support the feelings of your family member or loved one.
• Avoid blaming them for the way they feel. Don’t say things like: “Maybe now you’ll stay on your medications!” “See what happens when you drink?” “I said you were taking on too many projects.”
• Push, but don’t nag. Try suggestions like: “Here, let’s go for a walk, and get some sunlight.”
• Let him know he is loved and that you care about him.
• Join a support group, and gain strength from others who’ve been through similar experiences.