Support for bipolar is important, but the support for bipolar that you actually need is even more so. We’re all different, and the support we need is different too. The trouble is, it can be hard to get the support we need when we need it. I would say that obtaining this support is actually a skill. So, if getting the support you need for bipolar disorder is a skill, how do we learn it, and how do we practice it?
Types of Support for Bipolar Disorder
People don’t necessarily understand that there are different types of support for bipolar disorder. Depending on who you are, your life circumstances, and the state of your illness, your support needs will differ. Support needs also differ across time — so the support that worked for you two years ago may not work for you today. All of that is perfectly normal, although not necessarily obvious.
Some types of support for bipolar disorder you might need include:
- Help with tasks like cooking and cleaning
- Help with running errands, like getting medications from the pharmacy
- Help with emotional support
- Help with transportation, like getting to a psychiatrist’s appointments
- Help with communication
- Help with treatment decisions
- Help with problem-solving
- Help with remembering to do certain tasks like paying your bills or taking your medication
- Help with finances
- Help with navigating the healthcare system, government programs, etc.
And I’m sure you can think of many more. When you have bipolar disorder, many types of support may be needed. As I said, though, people won’t see all these needs just by looking at you.
Why Aren’t You Getting the Bipolar Support You Need?
A refrain I hear a lot from people with bipolar is, “My loved ones don’t understand how to support me.”
The people who love you may recognize you need support. They may even offer support. The trouble is they don’t generally offer the bipolar support you need. It feels a bit like a miscommunication. Your mother, say, is offering to help you make treatment decisions when what you really need is someone to cook you dinner once a week. She might be willing to do that for you, but she has no idea you need that support.
It’s on Us to Get the Needed Bipolar Support
I get it. It’s frustrating when you can’t get the support for bipolar you need from the people you love. The thing is, it’s not all their fault. Your loved ones can’t read your mind. You’re the only one who can.
When people ask me how to support a person with bipolar disorder, I always say, “Ask them.”
As in, only the person with bipolar disorder knows the best way to support them. Yes, I can throw out suggestions, but in the end, we are all unique, and I can’t possibly know the best way to help a stranger.
This means it’s on us to ask for the help for bipolar disorder we need. I can understand how hard it can be to ask for what we need during an acute mood episode, but we have to do it. It’s by asking for what we need to support our bipolar that we can actually get it.
Get Your Needed Bipolar Support By Doing This
When thinking about the support you need for bipolar disorder, consider these things:
- Start with a list of support you would love to have. Include everything; don’t edit yourself. Consider everything. (I tend to write stuff like this down so I can see it and make it more real for myself.)
- Put your support desires into buckets: critical (can’t live without it), important (must have it soon or frequently), and nice-to-have.
- Start with your critical bipolar support needs. Figure out ways of getting each one. If you don’t know how to get a certain kind of support, enlist someone else to help, like a loved one or even your doctor. Brainstorm how you can get what you need.
- Put a plan into place to get each critical need met. For example, get help filling in the paperwork for new housing. Follow up when necessary. File an appeal if you need to. Don’t hesitate to enlist a loved one to help you put this plan into place. For example, a loved one can fill out paperwork or make phone calls to take that load off your back.
- Communicate your support needs and plans to others so they can help you get it met.
- Move on to your important bipolar support needs one at a time.
- Move on to your nice-to-have bipolar support needs one at a time.
If you get stuck at any time, enlist more help. In addition to your loved ones, this can include:
- Community resources
- Medical professionals
- Social workers
And enlist anyone else you can get your hands on. It’s not shameful to reach out to anyone who could help.
The idea is to admit to your needs, make a plan to meet them, and reach out to get them met. Don’t expect someone to fall out of the sky and solve your problems. Don’t expect your loved ones, no matter how well-intentioned, to know what you need. Only you can solve your problems and get your needs met.
I know it’s not simple to get critical needs met in bipolar disorder. I know it can be hard for some of us to find people to enlist to help. But it can be done. Even if you just chip away at getting one support need met, it’s better than none. Over time, you can work on getting another need met. Over time, you can improve your life. But none of this will happen if you don’t reach out and talk about the bipolar support needs you actually have.
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