April 8, 2012

Communication is vital

Last night I had a lesson in the importance of communicating with my boyfriend about my mental illness.  It's not that I've hidden anything from him, as a matter of fact I told him up front before we even started dating that I have bipolar disorder. It's just not something we discuss. As is evident by this blog, I'm actually quite outspoken about mental illness, and we've often discussed bipolar disorder in general and in relation to a friend of his who committed suicide many years ago. I have never talked to him about how my mental illness could potentially affect him.  I've never thought about preparing him for my episodes. I've been so stable over the past year since we've been living together, it was never really an issue. The three years before that, we lived about an hour apart, so I was only with him on the weekends. I was able to hold it together if I was having a problem, so there was never really anything to talk about.

I've had a few depressive episodes since I've lived here, and a couple mild manic episodes. All of which I was able to deal with holistically, nothing he really didn't understand. It seems as though depression is easier for "normal" people to understand than out-of-control manic behavior. Mania can be scary to both the observer and the person who is in its throes. If your support group/person is not aware of how you experience mania and what you need when it's happening, they could inadvertently do the wrong thing. It's very important to discuss what type of behavior is to be expected and needed before anything happens.

Last night I was triggered into one of the worst agitated mania episodes I've had in about six years. It took me about a half an hour to remember everything I've learned, but once I utilized my holistic tools I was able to get it under control within about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, poor Greg was beside himself. He'd never seen me like that and did what he instinctively thought was the right thing to do. He didn't want to leave me alone and kept holding on to me or doing that patting thing he does when he thinks he's being comforting. Exactly the opposite of what I needed. I did not want any more tactile stimuli and I wanted to be alone. I knew I'd be ok, but didn't know how to reassure him, nor did I want to upset him further by telling him to leave me alone.

This morning, when I was more "sane," I explained to him what happens when I have an agitated mania episode and what I need him to do, or rather what I need him not to do. I urge those of you with a mental illness to discuss with your loved ones ahead of time what type of support you need instead of waiting until it's too late. Be specific, and understand that what you say may cause further concerns. But as long you keep the lines of communication open, you should be ok.

Just like many of us have formal advance directives about what to do when we can't care for ourselves,  it's vital to have two-way communication about what we need from our caregivers when we aren't able to clearly explain what we need at the time we need it most.

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6 comments :

  1. I would love to hear about your holistic stuff you do as I believe in everything that is a tool that can help. Commincation like you said is such the biggest tool.

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  2. Such good advice! Thanks Sheri! This is something I really need to work at being better at...communicating my needs better before hand. My twisted brain has this twisted thinking that he should just know what I need from him :/

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  3. Kristy, as an adjunct to my antidepressant, I see a Healing Touch Practitioner weekly. I've learned how to use essential oils, herbs, breathing, chakra connections, and meditation to help manage my bipolar episodes and to help with sleep. I try to do about 15 minutes of a self-chakra connection every morning, either that or simple meditation. I've learned to set intentions most days, and try to live mindfully (being almost hyper-aware of my behavior when necessary). There is more information in my links or under "alternative therapies" in my tags. I'd also be happy to answer any questions you might have if you'd like to contact me. I'm a huge proponent of holistic care.

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  4. Annie, I don't think that's twisted thinking. When we've been in a long term relationship, we tend to think the other person should know exactly what we need. It's a hard subject to bring up, but in the long run it's easier than trying to talk about it in the middle of a crisis.

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  5. Good reminder here. I struggle with this a lot and end up just yelling at the man to leave me alone when it's finally reached that end point. But sometimes, man, I DO just need to be alone. Gotta work on both recognizing it and allowing it.

    Your boyfriend sounds like he really cares for you, even if he was doing something he shouldn't. :)

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  6. Thank you Bren. And yes, I'm very lucky, he's awesome!

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