If you have a family member that has Bipolar Disorder, you have probably experienced the turmoil and destruction of mania. You need to know that Bipolar Mania can rip families apart and create financial burdens that are felt long after the mania has subsided. As the caregivers and support systems of a person with bipolar, we are always looking for ways to help our loved one stay stable and to reduce the consequences of inevitable bipolar symptoms. The way to facilitate that is to know what the symptoms are and how they manifest themselves in our family member.
I get letters and messages almost every day from spouses almost exclusively when their partner is having a manic episode. The pain they are experiencing is excruciating and the stress is insurmountable. They look to me for support and answers. Unfortunately, I can only offer my experience. I don’t have any quick fixes or definitive actions that would help their specific situation. I am not a doctor or a therapist. I can not diagnose or tell them what to do next.
What I can do is offer insight. A glimpse into what is going on. Understanding your family member and bipolar disorder mania will help you make decisions for them, yourself and your family. Learning about symptoms and what is really going on in their heads will hopefully help you to stop saying or doing things that have no impact on the episode. Thus reducing your own personal stress and allowing you to concentrate on creating a strategy that will work for you and your family.
7 THINGS FAMILY MEMBERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BIPOLAR MANIA
1. They feel awesome. They feel invincible. They feel like they are embracing life and want to live it to the fullest. They feel very creative and ideas are abundant. Their brain is running full speed with no breaks.
In their minds, everyone is their friend, and they feel tremendously sexual. They only care about satisfying themselves and continuing their euphoric state of being. Absolutely nothing else matters. That includes people.
They are in a drug like state with or without using alcohol or other street drugs. They are incapable of recognizing bad situations or consequences. Including knowing that they are really sick. Their brain is telling them they are fine.
2. They don’t hear you. You may think that they aren’t listening to you and if you could get them to listen to you, they will understand and stop being manic. You are so wrong. You know how in the Charlie Brown cartoons the voices of the adults are garbled? That is how your bipolar family member in a manic state hears you. They see your mouth moving but it’s all blah, blah, blah. Their brain won’t let them process anything that contradicts perpetuating their blissful state.
3. The more emotional you get, the less they will want to be near you or take your calls. Your feelings actually make them cringe and it is physically uncomfortable for them to be around you. Remember, these people have experienced depression and maybe even had suicide attempts. They don’t want to go there and feel like they deserve this feel good state of mind as compensation. They see you as a Debbie Downer who is trying to take away their absolutely fabulous good time. They will avoid you at all costs.
4. They will want to connect to strangers. People that don’t have any feelings invested in the relationship. They do not want anything to do with consequences or reasoning or commitments. They feel like family and friends are trying to tie them down and make them conform to a boring life. They don’t want to feel guilty so they break free and seek out people they think understand them. Other people who do not know anything about them but the fun-loving person they present during mania.
5. They will be cruel, calculating and sneaky to be able to continue being manic and not face the consequences. They are really smart and know how to get their way. They know what to say and what to do. They will know how to break you, get you to question everything you know to be true and make you feel bad for saying the wrong thing. They are especially proficient at turning the tables on you. You will get so muddled, you won’t know how to handle them anymore and you will agonize over what to do next to help them.
6. They will want to change jobs, partners, locations and even countries. Their brain is telling them to flee. It is an instinct deep within the bipolar person that surfaces during mania. They NEED change and excitement to keep their high going. They want to start new and fresh. With no attachments. They never want to be viewed as boring or conformist. They need to go somewhere where no one knows them.
7. You will not be able to help them or make them see clearly. For my husband, mania ended with either hospitalization or incarceration. A clear shock to the system and a return to a medication regime was the only thing that was able to get him to stop for a moment and evaluate what was really going on in his head and how his brain was lying to him.
Can someone come out of mania on their own with no intervention or medication? Sure. But once mania gets to the dysphoric state outlined above, it may take years for the cycle to naturally and destructively, end. And it will end with a gut wrenching depression. Because what goes up, must come down. And then they will need help to get them through that episode.
I hope these 7 observances will help you better understand what is going on in your family member’s head when they are experiencing bipolar mania. Knowing that will help you create a strategy that will hopefully yield results and reduce the fallout from a manic episode.
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