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Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder

Julie Fast.png
Julie Fast.png

Kanye West's recent announcement he's running for President as well as very personal comments he's made about his family, may be shocking to many, but not for those in the bipolar disorder community. Julie Fast, mental health expert and author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, joined us to share some valuable insight into this issues as well as what families can and can't do for their loved one with bipolar disorder.

1. Focus on what you need as a caregiver, not on what a loved one with bipolar should do.

Bipolar Disorder is a very common mental health disorder. If you care about someone with the illness, it’s essential that you understand HIPAA. The law states that healthcare professionals can’t talk to you about a loved one’s illness. It has nothing to do with whether you talk to a healthcare professional. I teach all of my clients and readers who care about someone with bipolar disorder to create a symptom list in the form of an email or printed letter that introduces yourself, offers a very clear bulleted list of the symptoms you see in a loved one and then concludes with why you can no longer take care of that person and if they don’t get help they might die. Never lie and don’t minimize.

You can give this to every healthcare professional who is trying to help your loved one. This does not violate any privacy acts as you are simply talking about your experience with a loved one who has bipolar disorder. Don’t let our current laws stop you from doing everything possible to get help for a loved one who has bipolar disorder.

2. Understand that it’s not your job to change anyone.

Instead, your job is to let the person with bipolar know what you need and let the people around that person know what is bipolar disorder and what isn’t. We get so scared to talk about bipolar because of all these privacy rules, but when you talk about your own experience, you are talking about the effect of bipolar disorder on you instead of trying to change the person with bipolar disorder. This really removes a lot of the defensiveness around the bipolar topic.

3. Never assume that rock bottom is an answer to serious mental illness or bipolar disorder treatment.

Due to the lack of insight that is normal and bipolar disorder and all SMI, there’s no such thing as rock-bottom. That’s a term for addiction. People with bipolar disorder don’t have an addiction. They have a genetic mental health disorder that prevents them from thinking clearly or even taking care of themselves during a serious mood swing. Many people say, “just cut him off he’ll get better.” Or “why do you keep enabling her! Let her go to a homeless shelter and see what it’s like to live on her own!” I always say that rock bottom in serious mental illness is death. Instead, we must have a system in place that creates a foundation of care for the person with bipolar disorder so that their lack of insight is addressed. No one who is manic and psychotic is ever going to believe what you say. The only treatment is medical treatment at the beginning and then management for life. There’s no rock bottom in serious mental illness.

Julie says to remember that bipolar disorder is episodic. It’s not about personality and it’s not about trauma. When a person gets help, the bipolar disorder can be significantly reduced. It goes in cycles. That’s what you’re seeing with Kanye. It’s truly fantastic that we are now talking about bipolar disorder openly instead of speculating on what’s going on. Bravo to Kanye and Kim Kardashian for being open about the bipolar disorder diagnosis. They are positively changing our world.

For more great information, visit Julie's website.