Advice for Newbies

Once you’ve been a caregiver for a bi-polar person for several decades, your perspective will change. People who are dealing with a newly-diagnosed bi-polar person have enough to deal with; so if you’re participating in a caregiver support group that meets occasionally, you have to be clear of where you are. Newcomers to the unending joys of caregivers to the bi-polar will be at sea still; that the moderator may ask the more experienced among you to stop being so, umm, blunt.

This is why this blog is about multi-decade caregivers. I have little practical advice for anyone who is a newcomer to caregiving for the bipolar because that’s a distant memory but here goes.

If you are a newcomer to caregiving for a bi-polar adult, you may be in the shock phase, or in the grateful phase now that your partner or parent is over the crisis that finally got a doctor into the picture. You will be so grateful that the person is in treatment that you make the mistake of thinking he or she is better.

Get over the immediate crisis, pick up the pieces and get on with your life. You will reach a few points in the next few years where the person may become toxic on medications, so watch out for that. No, seriously, watch the blood levels because these are strong medications and need to be respected because they can knock a patient off her or his feet if the levels creep too high. The result may be psychosis or falls and kitchen accidents.

What will happens is that once the meds kick in, you’ll have comparative relief. The extreme highs of the person’s mania and oceanic lows are mediated — and you think it’s better. Incorrect. It’s merely less bad in the way that if you have both hands on two bunsen burners until your palms start burning.

Now remove one hand. Doesn’t that hand feel soooooo much better?

What the meds to is make it hard for the patient to alter affects quickly. In other words, they change direction like a bus rather than a sports car. They can still reach those manias and depressions but not as quickly, and therefore not as often. They will still lack common sense, good judgement, a sense of proportion or any ability ability separate needs from wants; i.e. the rest of the universe from their egos. The medications will do nothing to correct this.

Here’s that point again

The meds reduce the rate at which mood varies, and a few other things such as sleep patterns, anxiety and restlessness. All of the underlying personality issues are not correctable through medication. Their inherently poor thought processes, lack of judgement, insight, and character issues such as narcissism and immaturity,  are not treatable through pharmaceutical therapy. What the meds to is add inertia to mood.

The severely mentally ill never really get better. They only get slightly less bad. You will be holding your breath for the rest of your life, waiting for the next artificial crisis. Imagine Woody from Cheers having power over family finances and you’ll imagine your stress levels. It will be the most unsatisfying, frustrating relationship you have in your life by any measure so be dutiful bit distant is my advice.

I know how cruel this sounds but you have every right to live a satisfying life, too.


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