How can I discuss my BP with my significant other without scaring them away?

I have BP and I’ve been in a relationship for 2 mths with someone who doesn’t have BP. He doesn’t seem to understand why I am the why I am. How do I discuss this with him so that he can better understand what I’m going through? I feel like my BP is going to scare him away.

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Being bipolar and in a relationship don’t always mix. So in order to make the relationship last, we have to work twice as hard as a stable person to keep it together, as does your boyfriend. Your extra effort will come in by taking care of yourself, staying on meds and keeping up with your treatment plan. His extra effort will be displayed by learning about your illness. He’s never going to understand you if he can’t understand the illness itself. The more educated both of you are, the more likely it is that your relationship will succeed.

The important thing is, you both know the situation. You both know that there is a big fat elephant ready to sit on both of you at any time and crush what could be a very wonderful moment. If he is aware that sometimes you have no control over a rage or an emotional outburst, it will be easier for him to take the steps needed to pull you out of those moments.

What he may not know, nor you for that matter, is that as your partner/spouse/significant other /parent/caregiver (pretty much whomever your support system is) is that he often holds the key to ending those moments. That person’s reaction can make or break a quick recovery. However, the two of you need to work together to figure out how that is possible.

My husband and I have been together for 11 years and married for 9 in September. Our road has been a very bumpy one. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t have been for our kids, if we would have split up long ago….which would be such a shame too, because he is my absolute best friend (ok, enough with the cheese…) When we first got together things were fine, I could pretty much hold my own. Then we had kids and got married and added stresser after stresser. It was a tasty little recipe for disaster.

The first time he saw me in what I like to call “a low low” he flipped. Cussed me out, called me names, told me to grow up.

That did NOT help. (we were 20, I can’t really expect that he’d have known how to deal with the situation)

In my latest episode that ended with me driving myself to the hospital, he felt like he needed to give me space. If I wanted to sleep for 18 hours a day, he’d let me. If I needed to cry it out, he’d leave the room. He pretty much took himself out of the equation.

That also did NOT help. BUT the experience did.

By this point we were already 9 years into our relationship, so as you can see, this whole thing is a process. Now that we both know what is going on we’ve found ways to cope.

He’s not exactly the “proactive” type when it comes to learning about this stuff, as your BF of only a couple months might not be either. So I’ve had do most of the leg work. I make it a point to know everything there is to know about BP. I study it, I read about it, I scour the internet. And everything I learn that I feel is important, I share with him.

If I had to pin point the number one thing that holds us together I would have to say communication. Probably sometimes more on my part than his. I need to communicate my moods and their causes to him. (And in order to do that, I have to know how to read my own moods/emotions… this has taken practice.)

(Are you sick of my novel length post yet? LOL *stretches out the finger cramps*)

Here are the things I look for when I am depressed or insanely happy or just pure cranky…

Number ONE, do I have pms? Sounds funny, but I’m seriously a completely different person when I’m pmsing! My husband calls me the incredible hulk because my moods switch so fast. So if I am, I tell him. And I’ll apologize in advance, so he knows I don’t mean to be like that and he also has a fair warning NOT to push my buttons.

Number two…is this me or is it the bipolar talking? Being able to decipher which little voice in your head (you or Anti-you as my son and I refer to the different voices) is really you, or if it’s induced by a manic/depressive episode.

In my experiences I have come up with a set of questions to ask myself at the onset of a “mood” to figure out which voice is talking:

1.      Is what I am upset about something that someone without my illness would be upset about?

2.      Have I been taking my meds?

3.      Do I even know what I’m upset about? (Cuz there have been MANY times when I haven’t had a clue)

4.      Am I putting myself through too much stress or taking on more than I should?

5.      Do I have pms? (Yeah…that one really is a big one)

If I answer no to 1, 2, or 3 … it’s the bipolar

If I answer yes to 4 or 5 … it’s the bipolar.

If I answer no to 1, 2 AND 3 As Well As yes to 4 AND 5…I know I’m pretty much screwed 😉

So when it IS the bipolar controlling the mood and not something that a stable person would be this upset over (ie financial duress, loss of job, death, etc.) then I warn my husband. Again I’ll apologize and tell him I am so sorry for my mood. I’ll tell him not to take it personal, and then I’ll tell him why I think I’m in the mood, even if it’s because I have no clue.

Then he can empathize with me and help me work towards a solution. Sometimes that’s just him holding me, other times it’s him letting me go and getting out of the house with friends or for a good run. (If you don’t run and you are capable, start! It’s one of the best things someone with BP could do!!! It works off manic energy, releases stress, lets your mind run wild while your feet are doing the work!)

But I cannot stress enough that it is all about communication and education. Be proactive, and don’t be afraid to share what you learn with him. Show him websites/support groups where he can see that you are not alone in this. That there are plenty of us out there spending their days scaring their friends and family, but we always make it back to ground level. And don’t forget to remind him that you’re worth (keep in mind actions speak louder than words! And um I don’t mean that in the um…well you know what kind of action I’m not referring to.)

The other important thing to remember is that if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t expect him to understand or tolerate it. You are in control of your treatment and only you can make sure you are doing the best you can to stay healthy.

I know some people have a harder time affording treatment than others. If ever you are having insurance problems, you can check your state and/or county websites and call to get assistance with your meds and/or therapy. Most counties have some sort of program to help those without insurance get the help they need. Also, talk to your PDoc. Tell them the situation and ask them if they could put you on a sliding fee scale and /or offer you sample prescriptions.

I’ve been at the no insurance part of life, but by being persistent I’ve overcome those struggles and managed to care of myself despite the lack of funding.

Good luck with your boyfriend. I hope everything works out with you two!

With Love,
Marybeth

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