Why you need a support group when you have Bipolar Disorder
When you have bipolar disorder you need support in a variety of forms and levels depending on where you are at physically, mentally, emotionally, and even financially. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at, we need other people. Bipolar disorder is not a one person sport. You need a team to help you through life. Sometimes you need them more than others, but you need them.
So who makes up a support group? It is definitely your doctor, counselor, or other professionals that are helping you. But it could also be your family, an official bipolar support group, a group of friends that know you have bipolar disorder and know how to help you, or any combination of them. Your doctor and other "professionals" are trained in how to help you, and an official bipolar support group usually also has a trained group leader. However, family and friends may not know how to help you. Therefore, you must train them. You know yourself better than anyone, so in your mentally healthy moments take time out to determine how those that care about you can help you the most if you are having an episode, or even what to do if they see you spiraling into one.
Many of my friends can see me starting to get manic or depressed long before I suspect it. You may wonder what the advantage of that early warning could be. Well, it could mean the difference between needing hospitalization or not. You see, if your friends or family can see an episode coming on and can alert you to it, then you have options. You can call your doctor for a medication change, or call your counselor so that they can help you through any emotional events that may be making the symptoms worse. You can also work on your own emotions and using calming, de-stressing, or any other techniques that you have been taught to keep your episode as minimal as possible. In this case knowledge is power, power to maximize your control over the episode, or advert it all together.
So how do you train your family and friends. First, you have to ask them if they would be willing to help you. If they are, then you can train them. You may ask, "What do they need to know?" They need to know what to do in the extreme manic and depressed cycles first. If you are out of control manic or suicidal, then they need to be able to assess that and get you hospitalized if necessary. You need to tell them what symptoms constitutes a need for you to be hospitalized. They need to know that they should ask you if you are feeling like hurting yourself if you are depressed. They have to know it is okay to ask that question.
Then they need to know what to do if you are hypomanic or depressed, but not suicidal. You would not need to be hospitalized in those situations, but they need to know how to help you. Maybe if you are hypomanic, you need to give a trusted individual your credit cards. If you are depressed, then they should not let you isolate yourself. Wallowing in depression is a short hop to being suicidal, but being engaged with others can help you stay out of the hospital. You know yourself best so you need to decide what help at what stages you need, and then train those that have agreed to help you on what those steps are. Make sure you have 3 or more people that can help, otherwise you will overwhelm the 1 or 2. We can be a terrible burden in our bad times, and caretakers need to have breaks or help, and having 3 or more people can take care of them too.
You may still be wondering what to teach them so I will give you an example that I use. I have a rating system: 1 - 10, with 5 being "normal", 1 = suicidal, must go to the hospital, 10 = being manic (hypomanic for me). If I get to a 2 or 8, my friends will "make" me call my doctor for help. They have been known to dial the number for me and then hand me the phone. These steps may not be easy, but they are appreciated especially after the episode because I realize that their helping me kept me out of the hospital, or in worse case scenarios, have kept me alive to the point I could get to the hospital. You may ask why I use the rating system. Usually, if you are depressed it takes too much energy to talk about how depressed you are, and if you are manic, it is a nuisance to describe how you are feeling. With the rating system, we have an agreed upon description of what each number means, and they can simply ask me what my number is. It is a code between you and your support group that lets them know where you are at. It is even more helpful, if they know what to do for each number. For me 3 means to be in more contact so that I don't isolate myself, 7 means talking to me about overspending. And 4 - 6 is a fairly normal range for the "normal" ups-n-downs in life and does not require any special attention.
I hope you gained some useful tips, and for more information visit me at www.thrivingwithbipolardisorder.com
You can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/thrivingbipolar
I wish you the best in all your pursuits.
Author: Cassandra L. Good