Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that has affected approximately 7 million Americans, about 2.8 percent of the population. Usually, the illness causes the patient to go through cycles of mania and depression.
For people with bipolar, life can be a constant struggle. They are vulnerable, and that’s why support from people who care about them is a big deal.
If you’ve seen, first hand, what a person with the condition goes through, you’re probably not sure what the right things to say are.
Here’s how you can speak to a loved one with bipolar without being insensitive:
1. You’re Doing Great!
Dealing with bipolar is a constant struggle, and it takes a toll on everyone involved, not just the patient.
For someone with the condition, knowing that they’re affecting others makes things worse. This may plunge them further into depression because they can’t help feeling like they’re not in control of anything.
That’s why encouragement is vital. Regularly telling the person that they’re doing great and to keep going can make a huge difference in how they handle their illness.
Understandably, the individual may not be putting in as much effort in their treatment as you’d like. That happens a lot.
However, negative words won’t help. Encouraging the person to keep going shows them that they’re not entirely helpless and that they can do it.
Let Me Help
It’s hard to watch your loved one going through the challenging episodes that come with the illness. You’ll definitely want to do something to make the situation better.
But the truth is that by yourself, you can’t really help unless the person lets you in. Sometimes they may push you away. When that happens, remember that they’re not stable. Whatever they do, it’s dictated by their condition.
Your loved one needs your support and help. Talk to them in a way that lets them trust you enough to help them.
3. I’m Ready to Listen
Sometimes as much as you’re willing to share the burden of the illness with the person you care about, there’s isn’t much you can do.
Rather than saying to them that you understand what they’re going through, ask them to help you understand what it’s like.
The thing is, you don’t know what your loved one is experiencing. You wouldn’t because you’re not in their shoes. And even though your words are meant to be affectionate, they may come out as insensitive.
It’s a lot better to let them tell you what they’re thinking. Show them that you’re there to listen.
4. Your Illness Can be Treated
Like other mental illnesses, bipolar is a lifelong condition that may come and go or be treated into remission. Through treatment, you can manage the disruptive symptoms and lead a relatively normal life.
Generally, medications and psychotherapy are the standard treatment for bipolar. Natural remedies like cannabis, meditation, choline, and fish oil are also used to manage the symptoms.
In the case of cannabis, it’s advisable to take it raw to avoid activating THC, its psychoactive compound.
It’s important to frequently assure your loved one that their condition is real and treatable. Let them know that they aren’t broken, just ill.
It’d be good to discuss the treatment and therapy options with the individual to get them eager about getting better.
5. It’s Nobody’s Fault
When the depression mode kicks in, it can be intense. Just as the manic mode can make your loved one spirited and all over the place, the depressive side can leave them sad, hopeless, and detached.
It’s normal for the individual to come off as suicidal or to blame themselves for their condition.
Your job as their carer is to show them that what’s happening is not their fault and nobody else’s either. No one asks to be sick, but it happens because many things in the universe are out of our control.
During such episodes, it’s hard to make your loved one see reason, but they do understand what you say, and your words can either help or make things worse.
6. I’m Always Here
A person with bipolar may struggle with thoughts of abandonment because they think they’re too much for anyone to want to be with them.
You may not be able to fix what causes those thoughts, but you can help your loved one defeat those thoughts by not wavering in your support.
7. This Doesn’t Define You
It’s difficult to understand just how disabling bipolar can be when you don’t have the illness. For people with the condition, living a normal life is a constant battle. That’s why your words of encouragement matter a lot.
When your loved one is fighting to be in control of their life, let them know that the illness doesn’t define them. Let them know that they’re still themselves, with all their hopes and dreams.
Try being that voice that counters the negative whispers that come with the condition.
You may not even realize it, but you can be insensitive to a person with bipolar disorder by the way you speak to them. Not that you’d purposefully do that. It’s just that sometimes we think we’re helping when, in fact, we are making them feel worse.
The best way to support someone with the condition is to avoid making assumptions about their situation. Just show them that you’re there.