Saturday, February 21, 2015

How To Help Someone With Bipolar Disorder Who's In a Depressive Episode

Understandably, friends and family feverishly worry about a loved one who is manic/depressive and in a depressive episode. There are several tips and suggestions to help you adapt to that person's depression, which is just as hard on loved ones as it is on the bipolar patient.

From my experience, here are a few:

1. Please, whatever you do, do not ask us why we're depressed. While there may be triggers which precipitate a depressive episode, most of the time, we don't know why this feeling is looming over us. Ignorant questions irritate us further.

2. Try not to veil understanding of how we are feeling unless you're educated on bipolar disorder, because there's no possible way you could comprehend how we feel unless you've experienced it. It's a very dark place, and one we wish no one else would have to visit. Don't say, "Everyone gets depressed," because you have no idea how this type of depression presents itself.

3. Trust that the mood will pass in time. Please don't ask us when. We're just as anxious to feel normal as you are for us to feel normal, though we don't know what "normal' is. We only know "stable," and for those of us who "rapid cycle," stability doesn't last very long before we find ourselves either manic or depressed again.

4. Suggestions such as "Go out and get some fresh air and you'll feel better" don't work. Don't say, "Go exercise, go for a walk," because literally, we can barely move. We don't really feel like doing anything. Friends asking us to go out or do something helps a lot, so if you have free time, see if you can get us out of the house for a while, even if it's just to talk. Don't think your problems or feelings are any less important to us than our own, but we may have trouble iterating it. Just because we are wrapped up in negative thoughts doesn't mean we don't or can't offer constructive, happy thoughts to others. We try our best not to be selfish, but we have to be in order to take care of ourselves. Understand that most days, we need to sleep. A lot. If we're in bed until 2pm, or take a nap, don't chastise us as being "lazy." It is a struggle to get up and function.

5. Most of us mask our symptoms in order TO function and fit into regular lives. We're all good actors. Inevitably, we crash, though. Sometimes, we cry. Sometimes we get angry. Sometimes, we just want to go back to bed. If we cry, we often do it in solitude so as not to draw attention to ourselves or be pestered with questions.

6. Hug us if we ask you to. There's a power of the human touch which alleviates negative emotions and uncomfortable physical sensations, and it releases seratonin into our brains, which we need. If we're at our lowest and you still love us, let us know that. We already feel unlovable. (A lot of that has to do with the amount of criticism we receive BECAUSE we're depressed.) We want to be loved and cared about. We are still good friends and loved ones.

7. We take a lot of medication in order to survive. Please don't criticize our medications, how often we take them, what we take, or why. Don't assume "less is more," because that's not your call. It's between the patient and the psychiatrist. Don't wish we could be free of medications, because that's the quickest way for us to kill ourselves.

8.  Most of us don't want to die, but in the depressed moments, sometimes we wish we could. It is not a character flaw or a reflection of how we feel about other people. If we're in serious suicidal danger, take us to the hospital. If we just feel hopeless and pointless as individuals, kind of leave us alone, unless you have positive reinforcement to offer.

9.  Help us get the right emotional support and therapy we need. It's just as important as the medications.

10.  Make us laugh. A good belly laugh about something does wonders.

11. Empathy? Yes. Sympathy? No.

12. We'll talk when we're ready to talk.  Kind of like wearing a hotel's "Do not disturb" sign around one's neck, it's not an insulting slight against you if we just don't feel like socializing.

13. Please don't tell all your friends and other family members that your loved one is depressed. This isn't a gossip column.

13, Give us consideration that it takes an incredible amount of energy to stay on-task. As is same with mania, our brains are all over the place and it's close to impossible to start a task in depression or finish 18 tasks in mania. It's frustrating to not have the energy or interest to get things done that need to be done. We may only leave the house if we absolutely need to, and that has to be okay.

14.  It doesn't really help when you tell us, "Quit crabbing and feeling sorry for yourself. Other people have things harder than you do. Count your blessings." We already know this. We don't feel sorry for ourselves. We don't want pity, nor do we pity ourselves. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it's aggravating. We're doing the best we can.

15. One of the WORST things you can say to us is "How did you get bipolar disorder? What happened to make you this way?" That's a grave insult. We don't ask you how you got cancer, or diabetes, or that ugly mole on your neck. Bipolar disorder is not a transmittable disease. You won't catch it from us. It's an incurable brain disease. The latter sticks in our minds and adds to our hopelessness that things will never get better.

16. Your agendas and priorities for us will not likely match our own agendas for us. Take that into consideration before placing demands on us we cannot accomplish. We're neither misbehaving nor defying others' wishes.

17.  We can love you and hate you at the same time.

18.  If we have children, we are terrified that they'll develop bipolar disorder or other mood disorders as they grow. We watch them like hawks. Sometimes, they are not only the ones who love us the most unconditionally, but also our best barometers of our own moods, especially if we are very close to them. They understand us, why can't you? Taking care of our children is more important to us than taking care of ourselves. We'll deal with ourselves after tending to the needs of our children to the best of our abilities.

19. Our tempers are short. Don't take it personally.

20. We may not shower, eat, or get out of our pajamas for a few days. Deal with it.

21. You getting depressed because we're depressed compounds our depression and makes us feel like everything's our fault. You can't change our brain chemistry, so please just accept us for who we are in the moments we're in.

22. It's not you, it's us. Don't make it all about you.

23. Encourage us when we DO get something accomplished. It took a lot of energy and determination.

24. As has been said before, bipolar disorder is not an excuse. It is an explanation.

25. Perhaps most of all, just love us, even though we're biochemically flawed. We miss "us" as much as you do. We'll get better. Right now, we're sad. It just takes time.

That's the tip of the iceberg and are all truisms for people with clinical depression as well. While I'm speaking from a bipolar point of view, Be kind, be patient, be available. Don't be a jerk over something we can't control. There are a dozen other things I should be working on at the moment, but this seemed more important to put out in the open, because my depression is interfering with my functioning, and this took me two days to compose, when normally, I can rattle stuff like this off in half an hour. Ideally, someone will find this list helpful and honest.











4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Omg. Couldn't have said it any better myself. I'm actually in a long depressive rut right now. Thx Annie from Annie. Lol

Andrea Miklasz said...

Annie,

I'm glad you found the blog useful and I hope it made you feel a little bit better that you're not alone in this.

Love, Annie

Wendy said...

I love this. I'd like to share it on Facebook, if that's okay with you.

Andrea Miklasz said...

Wendy, Thanks for your feedback and yes, please feel free to share this blog on Facebook, but please give me my copyright credit c Andrea Miklasz, www.theoffbeatdrummer.com. Be well! :)