Periods of chaos are part of life in most families. Living with bipolar disorder adds a layer of complexity to the mix and may be stressful for all concerned but with the right attitude, support and coping mechanisms in place harmonious existence can be the norm.
The same factors that would pose threats to peaceful family life for any family pose greater risks when living with a bipolar individual. Alcohol and drug abuse, lies, reckless spending, rage, depression, hyper sexuality, suicidal inclinations, and hallucinations all have the potential to upset family peace and integrity.
To minimize risk family, friends and sufferer need coping mechanisms. This usually boils down to rather more in the way of routine, organization, forward planning and a sense of humor than normal. There is no disputing the power of laughter to improve ones sense of well being to elevate the mood and help keep things in perspective.
It is important to know that few bipolar patients are dangerous so there is no need to feel physically threatened. Assuming they have been correctly diagnosed and are monitored by health professionals the disruptions to normal family life will be minimized.
Disruptions are more likely if the person has not yet been diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, or for whatever reason doesn’t take the prescribed medications.
The best course of action for any support team is to seek help as soon as possible if the behavior of the individual is beyond what could be considered reasonable or normal even if the individual denies there being anything wrong and sees nothing unusual in their behavior.
Identify triggers i.e. stressful life events that are likely to spark the episodes of mania or depression. These might be memories of events like deaths, anniversaries, traumas, or the like. Keep a record of such events in your journal and learn to insulate your bipolar family member from them.
Living with bipolar disorder requires fighting not only your own irritation but also, and more importantly, the fears of the bipolar person. They have a craving for being in control of situations which is rooted in their fear of losing control and the attention of the family. With a lot of patience love and care family and friends can help abate these fears and provide help and support in social situations.
Manic episodes with psychotic features like hallucinations (voices, sounds etc) can occur with bipolar 1 individuals. What seems real to the patient might be construed as nonsense or bipolar lying to others. It is important to understand that “reality” is different for the sufferer who is simply recalling the experience as perceived. Acceptance of this relativism of reality goes a long way to curbing anger in such situations