Bipolar depressive disorder (BPD) is an illness characterized by its peaks and valleys. A bipolar patient may feel like themselves one day and the next day they can encounter a debilitating depressive episode. While this creates instability and challenges for a BPD patient, it is also an obstacle for those that love them.
As with most chronic or debilitating illnesses, it can be easy for the patient’s loved ones to see their disorder first, and the person second. This can be isolating for the patient and damage the relationships around them. There is a way to both honor the patient and recognize how the disorder affects them without erasing the individual.
1. Knowledge is power
The basis of empathy is simply knowing. If you have no knowledge of what your loved one is experiencing, then it’s there is no possibility for you to empathize or understand them.
Once you discover the diagnosis, take the time to find information for you to better understand. Use reliable sources like WebMD or Healthline to read about the symptoms, health risks, interventions, and possible side effects of any medication. Getting this information from reliable sources gives you an objective overview of the disorder.
Additionally, check out online forums or social media from those who are vocal about BPD. What are they posting about? What concerns them? Looking through this information provides an inside view into the day-to-day experience.
Finally, talk with your loved one if they are willing to share. Express that you want to better understand what they are experiencing so that you can be as supportive as possible. Do not force this discussion – it may take time for them to be able to put their feelings and actions into words.
2. See the human first
Defining a person by their disorder is damaging to not only the patient, but your relationship with them. While their diagnosis may be a