Review of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder
Author, Jessica Lynn Gimeno
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d blog about relationships and bipolar disorder. I just finished reading an excellent book, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder (2ND Ed. By Juile A. Fast and John Dr. Preston, PsyD), and I had to share it with you. This is a great resource for anyone who is in a relationship with someone who has bipolar disorder, whether that person is stable or in the midst of a bipolar crisis. This book is also enlightening for people with bipolar disorder because it helps you understand what your partner feels like. It shows you what it’s like to live with someone who has a mental illness. If you have this illness and wish your partner could understand what you feel like, share this resource with your significant other.
The testimonials provide unflinchingly honest insiders’ perspectives to both viewpoints-the person with bipolar and his/her significant other. In short, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder is insightful and never boring—it’s full of examples, testimonials, and step-by-step exercises. I’m not going to delve into every lesson I learned from the book because there are so many. So I’ll just give you the highlights.
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM THIS BOOK:
- How to identify your partners triggers—triggers are situations, events, or behaviors that lead to depression, mania, psychosis, and anxiety. By knowing your partner’s triggers, you can modify or prevent triggers from happening.
- How to recognize symptoms in different areas of your partners’ life including: school/work, relationships with others, sleep, medications, and sex.
- How to create a “Holistic Treatment Plan”—the book walks you through this step-by-step and helps you put a plan into place so you and your partner can tackle mood swings head on before they become out of control. With this plan, you can prevent future symptoms such as hypersexuality or manic spending sprees.
- How to have difficult conversations about sticky topics—such as how to talk to your partner about money or how to talk to your partner’s family if they are against treatment. If you have children, this book also discusses how to talk to your kids about your partner’s illness. I love the scripts Fast and Preston provide for initiating these difficult, but necessary, conversations.
- How to take care of and protect yourself—as an example, the book has solutions for protecting your finances and credit score if your partner has manic spending sprees. The book also has ideas for managing the stress you may be feeling as a caretaker.
RESPOND TO BIPOLAR DISORDER; DON’T REACT TO YOUR PARTNER
The biggest takeaway I got from the book is that when a couple is having a “Bipolar Conversation,” such as an argument caused by a mood swing, it’s better to respond to the bipolar disorder instead of reacting to your partner. The book gives dozens of examples of bipolar conversations that can take place during episodes of depression, mania, paranoid depression, and anger and irritation. Fast and Preston note that when someone is in the middle of a mood swing, he/she is not thinking rationally and it’s extremely counterproductive to react out of your own justifiable anger or sadness. Instead, one should respond to the illness—not react to the partner. Learning how to do this takes time. Thankfully, the authors provide exercises to help readers learn how to respond effectively. Learning how to stop a bipolar conversation or even prevent it from happening (by recognizing the leading comments listed by Fast and Preston) can go a long way in keeping a mood swing from getting out of control. Equally important, handling bipolar conversations well can save your relationship.