If you are married to someone, or have a significant other with bipolar disorder, probably the most important thing you can do is educate yourself about the illness. Living with a person with bipolar disorder will at times be hard. In a manic or mixed state, people can say and do very hurtful things. When someone is profoundly depressed, a condition that can drag on for months and even a year or more, the strain on the relationship becomes profound.
Just as managing stress and paying attention to daily routines are important for people with bipolar disorder; these are also helpful approaches for the spouse/significant other. Some specific areas to pay attention to include:
• Develop a strong support system (religious, friends, family, NAMI or other support group). This will help nurture hope and compassion. It can be incredibly powerful to talk with someone else who has been through a similar experience and hear them say, “You’re going to get through this. I know, because I did.”
• Maintain a healthy sleep pattern
• Regular exercise
• A healthy diet
• Use humor. Sometimes a good joke in the midst of a bad situation can give a sense of control to what otherwise feels out of control.
• Know what your limits are. Realize that it’s okay if you can’t be everything all the time for your spouse/significant other.
• Avoid becoming your spouse/significant other’s therapist or doctor. If he’s becoming symptomatic, direct him toward his practitioner(s). Make sure you always have permission to communicate with his treatment team.