Here’s a handy mnemonic to help you stay focused when caring for your bi-polar parent: VOMIT
Value / Obfuscate / Money / Ignore / Task
The late Steve Jobs said ‘Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life.’ A bi-polar person will cheerfully suck up all of your life and demand more. Print this out and tuck it in your wallet: My time is valuable.
I don’t care what you do but your time is valuable.
You might be a captain of industry or currently unemployed due to the evils of the current recession. You have every right to make choices about what you spend time on. You are not obligated to become a full-time unpaid psychiatric nurse with unlimited duty hours forever simply because that person is a relation. If you find something of value such as working at your job, parenting your children or wanking to lesbian porn, go ahead and do it. Your caregving obligations must compete for your attention.Bi-polar caregiving does not autmatically go to the front of the queue.
‘But it’s family’ may be the phrase in your head that rings with Pavlovian precision. My reply is ‘And?’
Practice lying sometimes. It’s a valuable tool for keeping your sanity. Examples include:
- ‘We’ve a big deadline at work…’
- ‘A friend is coming in to town and we’re meeting for lunch…’
- ‘I’m already bought theatre tickets…’
- ‘Of course I care…’
A wee white lie to help you manage and schedule your many duties is well within the limits of ethical behaviour.
Money is a tool, nothing more. So, get some or use someone else’s. How? Apply for every government program you can to help you take care of your bi-polar relation. These are paid for through taxes and is there to be used if not by you, then by someone else.
Personally I have found this one the hardest because I try to be helpful.
I am guessing that were I a parent, I’d have learned this lesson much earlier than my 40s. I’ve not much experience with children, but from what I can tell, they talk endless rot. They clamour for your attention and once they have it, monologue about what is in front of them as though it was the wisdom of the ancients. Part of the process, I guess. I probably did the same thing and so did you; and parents, if you watch parents, pretend to listen.
This is a bit of a button pusher for me.
I find it maddening when interacting with my bi-polar parent, because my instincts are so strong to assume that an interlocutor is logical. Instead, train yourself to say yes to what ever is being said, and go on with what you were planning anyway, hoping that they change their minds or forget their latest idée fixe like those knobs in the marketing department. (Years ago, an editorial cartoonist named Gable scribbled an image of a person in therapy, except that the patient had struck a pose and was under theatre lights. Conversation, for the bi-polar, is so they can monologue to you, and it’s all about them. They don’t value you, so you must value you.)
Be task focused. Interactions should be about doing things, not just a block of time where you show up and hope to fill the time sensibly.
Reframe interactions so that events are about accomplishing a specific thing. For example, taking your bipolar charge out is a task; not socialization. Because, of course, socializing for that person is a one-way street where they monologue in sort of a one-way therapy session with no floor or ceiling as to their time or effort. So, take’em out, and explain that you have budgeted a time for this, and that time must be respected. Taking the person out is about shopping, or dining or some other accomplishment like a scenic drive up the mountain et cetera.
There’s an obvious exception to this; for a geriatric bipolar person living in a retirement residence, dinners out become welcome break to the monotony. Even then, since you’re actually the one making the event happen, you have some say in what the limits are for this. Explain that you have other things you need to do today and the time you have allotted to this is X.
Oh, and choose a noisy restaurant.