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Riding the Roller Coaster of Bi-Polar Disorder

Updated on August 1, 2013
John Everette profile image

Former spouse of a woman with a bipolar mental illness who learned much about the complexities of mental illness.

world turned upside down
world turned upside down | Source

Loving someone with a bi-polar disorder, or being married to a person with a bi-polar disorder, is a lot like riding a roller coaster in the sense that the everything can be nice and calm, for the most part, as you and your loved one live life, but then your loved one's illness comes along takes control of your loved one and takes you both on a roller coaster ride of emotional, and physical mood swings.

One of the keys of living with a loved one with a bi-polar disorder is seeing the illness apart from your loved one. Seeing it as another entity sharing your loved one's body. An entity whose goal is continued control of your loved one. Control that you must help your loved one resist as much as you can whenever and however you lovingly can.

Now not everyone with bi-polar disorder is the same. There is a wide spectrum of mental disorders associated with bi-polar illness as well as within the bi-polar category of mental illness. There are also personal issues involved that have grown out of one's response to their illness as well as the responses by others to their illness.

For that matter, not every bi-polar roller coaster episode is the same, but like all roller coasters there is a commonality, a pattern that you need to be sensitive to so you have some idea where you are on the ride.

Like a roller coaster ride, a bi-polar episode may start out slowly with subtle changes in your loved one. Changes you need to be aware of

1. Speech patterns
2. Sleep patterns
3. Activity level
4. Facial expressions
5. Distractibility
These may be very strong indicators that the illness is taking over and needs to be addressed. At the very least it needs to be brought to your loved one's attention that something is not right.

Like most illnesses the sooner it is detected, the easier it will be for you to exercise what little control you may have on the situation, and the sooner your loved one could get some kind of help.

Now, I can not speak for rapid-cyclers since my wife's bi-polar cycles were fairly inconsistent I mean that she had gone for about five years with no apparent episode only to be then experience a succession of episodes on a almost yearly basis..

If you miss the early signs of bi-polar disorder in your loved one, you might as well get ready for the ride, because you are already in the roller coaster. The roller coaster has already climbed its first hill and going over the other side. You all ready have lost most of your chances to having any say or control; depending how long your loved one has been off his/her medications.

Now it is a waiting game. You wait for the roller coast to begin climbing another hill, and your loved one moving from one mood to another. This is one of your last remaining windows of opportunity to make your loved one aware that something is wrong. That her illness is in control and that he/she needs help .

However, your loved one's illness is probably way ahead of you by now and is using every trick at it's disposal to maintain and increase the control it has over your loved one It uses every twist, turn, rise, and fall of the roller coaster ride to keep you off balance because the ride is no longer a ride, but a battle of wills between you and your loved one's illness over your loved one.

Now the ride begins to be "fun", .

Now anything and everything is possible.

Now is the time when moods and mood swings become more intense. When things are said and done in anger, to trigger anger. When your loved one’s emotions get out of control while you have to control yours.

Now is the time when your loved one's other issues may come into play, not just his/her illness. Among those issues may be the issue of control for not only does the illness steal away much of the control your loved one has over his/her life, but so does the medication, the treatments and hospitalizations. Your loved one may even feel that you take control away from him/ her

Many of the medications used in treating bi-polar disorder, and any other mental disorder that may be going on alongside it, are as disabling as the illness itself.

Treatments, such as Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may even be more disabling in that they not only takes away a sense of control but memories and identity that your loved one, (my wife, for instance) feels that they need to fight to regain.

Hospitalizations can also be disabling in that your loved one is taken out of 'normal" life for a time, and made to go through changes as doctors and medical professions seek the right combination of medications to address your loved one's illness. With each hospitalization, though the search tends to become more difficult as the body, when deprived of a medication for a mental illness, builds up a tolerance for that medication, so that an even stronger medication needs to be tested and used.

Your attempts at making life less stressful, less cluttered, may be seen as signs of taking control away from him/ her. My wife, for instance, felt comfortable in wall to wall clutter. It gave her some weird sense of control to replace the control that she felt the hospitalizations. medications and the treatments, she had endured, took from her. As a result she came to see me as a control freak because I needed neatness in order to think straight and stay focused on day-to-day life, as well as her illness and all the other issues that came with it.

Now is the time, when the roller coaster ride is at its craziest, you must try to take advantage of every window of opportunity that may present itself to convince your loved one it is time for him/ her to seek help or let you take her to get help. This is the time when you need to be:

1. Honest
2. Patient
3. Calm

Depending on how many hospitalizations your loved one has been through, if you are not honest, he/ she (their illness) will see right through any trickery you might consider.

You need to be patient because your loved one needs to make the decision. Your loved one needs to exercise what little control he/she may still have over the illness.

You need to be calm. This is not the time to take control. This is not the time for force, it will only get you into trouble Force will more than likely come soon enough, but not by you.

.Force may come at the zenith of the roller coaster ride when others such as EMT's and police become involved. This is when your loved one (their illness) must demonstrate that they are a danger to themselves or others in order to get help.

The involvement of others does not necessarily signal the end of the roller coaster ride. It may only signal a pause as you near the end.

Now you have to deal with the mental health system which include contests between the rights of the patient and the rights of loved ones and family members.

symptom
normal
mild
moderate
severe
talkativeness
like others
lots about anything
hard to slow down
uninterruptible
racing thoughts
nothing unusual
many ideas
rapid
fragmented
sleep
7-8 hour
5-6 hours
4 hours
2 hours
irritability
controllable
unfortunate
frequent
hostile
from "Why am I still depressed"

Who tends to be in control

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    • John Everette profile imageAUTHOR

      John Everette 

      2 years ago from North Aurora, Illinois

      Thank you for your comment to my article. As things turned out for me and our adopted daughter, my wife took herself out of the family the last time I managed to get her to the hospital. That is when she decided that she was her illness and everyone else had to adjust, especially me. From the hospital she was put in a group home. That was in 2012. In 2013 she filed for divorce.

    • profile image

      Sage Pen 

      2 years ago

      My experience with bipolar disorder is limited but, great with depression, other mental illnesses and depression combined with multiple mental disorders. Depression takes the family on roller coaster rides too, as does someone with multiple mental disorders. It will at times become a living hell. You can find yourself fearing for your safety or even your life or that of other family members. When the situation is that bad the one suffering the mental disorder needs to be removed from the family for their safety. Some disorders include constant inability to tell the truth or to see life as others see it. Stealing may be part of it as may sociopath behaviors. The more you can learn about the illness(es) the more you can understand what you need to do either to help the affected person or those living with him/her. The DSM-5 or what ever the current number is is a good thing to have to learn as much about your loved one's illness as you can. It will help you understand and deal with the illness and patient.

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