I suffer from bi-polar disorder. Through my recovery, I received support from both friends and family. Some of the support I received helped and some did not. I researched bi-polar depression intensively during and after my recovery and noted similarities and differences in what I wanted as support and what I found others with bi-polar disorder wanted. However despite the differences the basic components were similar, the differences arose simply out of personal need.
You can support someone with bi-polar disorder by:
Learn about the disease.
Start by learning the symptoms, treatments and problems facing your friend. Your friend has many hurdles to overcome. Recovery from bi-polar depression is difficult. However, with knowledge of the illness you can help speed your friends recovery, help your friend stabilize her moods, and help her resolve any problems created by destructive behaviors.
After my first episode, I felt alone and overwhelmed with guilt. Mostly because of the destructive behaviors that go with bi-polar. I really feel that I would have recovered sooner had someone understood, told me it was not my fault and that I was not alone. But no one understood, including me. The medication stabilized my moods, but I never really felt happy, or fully recovered until I understood my illness and I had someone else in my life that accepted and understood what I had gone through.
Listen to your friend. Listen, show empathy and do not judge. Look for ways to encourage as you listen. Look for signs of relapse, ways to help and show you care.
Your friend may not even be aware when symptoms return. Watch her behavior, check her progress and develop a plan for when a crisis occurs. The plan should have your friend's approval. Know what to do if she becomes manic or depressed. Remember do not judge.
Learn How to Talk
Say things like “I care,” “I'm here for you,” “I may not understand your pain, but I can offer my support,” “your brain is lying to you right now … that is part of the illness, “” do not give up “” you can do this. ” Words of encouragement help. Research shows that those that have support experience fewer symptoms, recover faster and have fewer relapses.
Above all, do not tell your friend to “snap out of it” or judge their destructive behaviors as weakness. It took me many years to understand that I would not just wake up one day and I would be better. You just can not snap out of it. Don 't tell your friend this.During my recovery I had friends and family around that felt this is what I should do, snap out of it. I believe their ignorance about my illness led to two relapses and it was not until I accepted that it would be a long, hard process to recovery. I would have to work at it daily. Not only did I have to do these things, but I needed someone to give me affirmation.
Accept you friends limits
Accept and understand the limitations of bi-polar depression. Do not push your friend into doing things that do not feel like doing.
Remember, your friend has an illness. It is a chemical imbalance of the brain. There are ways that you can support your friend as she recovers from her illness. Understanding, acceptance, patience and empathy are key to your friends recovery.