My boyfriend and I have been dating for eight months, and I was told he was on medication for bipolar disorder. I just didn’t realize how severe it was, and i didn’t have much knowledge on the disorder then. He’s on medication for bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety, and for panic attacks he has a lot. He was diagnosed when he was fifteen, and his father died soon after of cancer, which I believe intensified his emotions to the extent that he starting doing drugs even more and doing reckless things like selling his father’s guitar for money. He was in rehab for a year, and has been on medication ever since. I didn’t know him then. Recently I noticed the signs of a manic episode but didn’t know what it was at the time. He started acting strange almost immediately when Xanax was substituted for Klonopin. He’s in a mental hospital currently and has been for a few days. His mom said he’s not as bad as he was in another episode when he became psychotic. I realize things I’ve said and done in the past with him may have contributed to the onset of the manic episode, since i wasn’t aware of it at the time. I’d just like to know how I can help him, but at the same time not be so overwhelming and mother-like. I don’t want him to think i’m catering to him just because of his disorder, which I’m not. Any help here?

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First let me say that you have a lucky boyfriend. Not every girlfriend would take the time to learn more about bipolar and how to cope with a significant other. I give you mad props for doing so.

Now, as far as helping him without being too overbearing, that’s a difficult thing to do. Time is the best remedy here. Not because it gets better over time. He will always have rough patches, no doubt. However, time will teach you what works with him and what just sets him off. I’ve been married for almost 10 years now and my husband is just now perfecting the art of putting up with me supporting me through the rough times.

What you are doing is a great start. Learning more about the illness is the best first step you can take. It is also beneficial that you are staying observant and noticing his ups and downs. It’s good to keep track of his moods and soon you will be able to see them coming instead of noticing when you’re already in the midst of an episode.

The key to catching them early is learning his triggers. They can be anything from a change in medications to something as simple as a change in the way the furniture is arranged. Another thing to keep in mind is the weather/seasons. Spring and late fall tend to be the worst for those with bipolar.

You’re definitely already on the right track, but one other thing to keep in mind is that he may pull away, then want you right back. It’s the “I hate you, please don’t go” syndrome. We all have it. Be patient. Give him space. Let him know you are going to give him a day or two alone, but if he needs you sooner than that, you’ll be there.

Again, I commend you for seeking out more information and being supportive of your boyfriend. I know it is not easy, especially when he has a troubled past and a history of drug use. I would also suggest remaining close to his mother. Hopefully together, the two of you will be able to assist him in being stable and staying on the road to recovery.

Best of luck to you!

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