Talking About Bipolar – Becky's Advice and Tips
With any relationship, it is essential to have strong communication skills in place to promote honesty and an open connection between the two parties. However, it could be argued that this is even more vital in a situation where one or both has a diagnosis of bipolar.
The different mood states that are associated with bipolar may put barriers in place of effective discussion, so it is important to be aware of these risks and to work actively to challenge them.
For example, someone going through a depressive episode may feel as though they are not worth talking to or may lack the motivation to open an intense conversation.
On the other side, someone who is experiencing a manic episode may have the impression that there is nothing wrong with them and therefore there is nothing to talk about, or they may talk in a confusing and accelerated manner and can be challenging to understand.
In both situations, it may be ideal to break down the exchange into smaller and more manageable sections; that way each potential problem or point of conversation can be discussed as a stand-alone, and the persons concerned will not feel overwhelmed.
Discussing Bipolar At the Point of Diagnosis
Talking about bipolar with your loved ones at the point of diagnosis can present unique challenges, and may bring with it some intense emotions.
If you have recently been diagnosed with bipolar or if you want to tell someone for the first time, it can be an idea to plan ahead of time about what you are going to say.
Researching your diagnosis can be beneficial to both and your perceptions of the disorder, and the information you present to your loved ones.
Many mental health charities and organizations will have useful literature on their websites that you can print off or send to people, which may help to answer some of the initial questions they might have.
You could also consider bringing someone close to you to your medical appointments so they can gain a better insight into what you are going through.
Communicating About Your Bipolar Episodes
Another situation where communication is indispensable would be the build-up to a mood episode.
If you are the family member, partner or friend of someone who has a diagnosis of bipolar, it is important that you voice any concerns that you have, and alert the person with the disorder if you feel they are beginning to exhibit symptoms.
Sometimes it may be that the bipolar person does not realize that an episode is starting, and it is often the case that those around them recognize the early warning signs and start of an episode before they realize it themselves.
This is a difficult circumstance and one that needs to be approached with a great deal of care, but this does not mean it is impossible.
It is probably not a productive idea to rush in with both barrels, but instead, it would be better to sit with the bipolar person and gently explain why you are worried, and what you have noticed in their behavior.
Coming out of an episode will also bring with it the need for clear dialogue, as it may be that the events that took place or the behaviors exhibited have had a negative impact on those close to the diagnosed person.
If you feel hurt or have had other adverse effects arising from someone’s episode, it is important that you communicate to them what has happened, and how it has made you feel.
The next stage would be to discuss how to prevent this happening in the future, and the steps you can take to restore the relationship to a healthy balance.
Addressing Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health, and it may be that you come across this during talking to your loved ones about bipolar.
Out-dated, incorrect and stereotypical views of bipolar and other mental health diagnoses are still rife today, and this may be a potential challenge you come across.
Remember, try not to get too upset by the comments made or the misinformation people hold, more often than not it is a down to a lack of understanding of the subject.
Rather than getting emotional at their views, try talking to them about the disorder, explain how you personally have experienced it, and how they might further their perceptions of bipolar and in fact mental health overall.
It may be that you change someone’s views for the better, and help to decrease stigma.
Educate Your Loved Ones About Bipolar Disorder
Planning for potential episodes can be vital in helping towards a stable life, and communication is key here.
Let the people around you know how you might present if you are beginning to become unwell, and you may even consider developing a traffic light document that signals your symptoms.
Loved ones can often help you manage your condition or recognize symptoms in you before you, which can limit some of the damage an episode can bring with it.