How to Help a Loved One

“My boyfriend, 19, has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder by his doctor (mixed, I believe). I’ve been doing a lot of research and am well-informed about the disease. But my main worry is this: how do I help him? What can I do? He often distances himself when he’s facing a depressive episode – there have been occasions that I didn’t even know about it. But I want to be there for him, and I tell him that I am. He tells me that he wouldn’t make any sense, and I offer to simply listen to him, and it frustrates him to try to explain. I do everything that I can–I do little things to try to cheer him up even a bit. But what else can I do? He is not medicated. I and other friends are encouraging him to see the psychiatrist he was referred to, but he never does. He often says that he’s afraid to change, that the medications he’ll be put on will make him a different person.”

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First of all I want to congratulate you, it sounds like you are really trying to make a difference and you are already doing a lot in the right direction.  It is hard for someone with bipolar to open up about our illness because it is such a personal thing to have to go thru.  It is also very hard to explain how we are feeling whether it be manic or depressive sometimes and it’s even harder to explain why we are feeling that way or what has brought us to that point.  You have already shown how much you really care about your boyfriend and your relationship by taking the time to do the research about this illness.  That’s more than most people do.  The most important thing you can do is educate yourself.  The more you know the more helpful and understanding you can be toward your boyfriend.

How do you help him? What can you do?  I honestly think you are doing it from what you are describing to me.  The best thing you can do when your boyfriend is in a depressive state is let him know you are there for him if he needs you and then step back and don’t push.  Just simply “be there”.  Sometimes your presence alone is enough.  IF he tries to seclude himself then give him the time he needs.  He’s obviously going thru something he needs to work out in his own time.  Like I said, Just let him know your there for him if he needs you and then give him his space.  He will come to you in time.  Offering to simply listen is good.  Sometimes we need to just hear ourselves explain it out right for it all to become clearer in our heads.  It may sound confusing but it’s a process, its even more confusing all jumbled up inside our minds. Sometimes we need someone who is willing to just listen and let us talk it out.

Doing the little things you can to cheer him up and make him feel better is a nice touch.  That’s a good idea.  Anything to get our mind off whatever issues have gotten us down is always a big help.  If he is not medicated, I’m afraid you’re in for a bumpy road.  Keep encouraging him to go to that psychiatrist but do it subtlety.  If you do it persistently it could backfire.  As far as being a different person, in a sense that is the goal.  You don’t want to keep being the depressed, ill person that you have been, right?  You want to get better and be a better person.  You will be different in that sense.  You will be stronger.  And in some ways you will be different because you will have a new outlook on life.  But in essence, you will still be the same core person you’ve always been just better.

In short, keep doing what you’re doing.  It sounds like you’re doing a great job.  Don’t stop encouraging him to see a psychiatrist.  Let him know that the subtle changes the medication will make will only be to his health and he will feel much better like a new man but still be himself just stronger.  I wish you the best.

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