Saturday, June 28, 2014

Riding the Waves

In life, there are surprises around every corner. Living with someone with bipolar disorder, you have to be prepared to adapt to the constant changes of their moods. I have learned that having a loved one with bipolar disorder can be a rough ride, but it has its rewards. 

When my wife is in a manic phase, I find some of her antics to be very endearing. Her excitement can be contagious. She becomes the life of the party because she is chatty, charming and funny. I remember nights when we would stay up late just talking and joking around with each other. We could talk about almost anything and find it funny. We would laugh so hard that we could barely breathe and have to wipe the tears from our eyes. Sometimes it would be something as simple as saying words or phrases that rhyme. We would take turns trying to one up each other. It was almost like a game. As the night would progress, each additional comment would get more hilarious and ridiculous. Those are the fun times.

She would become full of energy and often start new projects. She would create wonderful things.When she comes up with ideas she becomes so focused that she does not want to stop for anything. The task she is working on cannot be interrupted. She would work around the house or do special projects until the wee hours of the morning. She would rarely stop to take a break. When I would wake up the next morning, she would have had only a couple hours of sleep or be just crawling into bed after being up all night.

But then again, there were times when she would be very overwhelmed. The thoughts and ideas would run through her head so quickly and it would be hard for her to stay focused. Sometimes she would have to lie down and close her eyes because the racing thoughts were too much. As fatigue set in she would become confused and forgetful. This would lead to anxiety and frustration. She would become easily irritated. Her temper would become short. She would become angry and irrational. Over the years I have learned to stay clear of her when she got to this stage. Nothing can be said to her that would smooth things over. It was easier just to leave her alone and wait until she came around.

After the energy wanes she usually falls into a depression and spends most of her time in bed. This can last for days, weeks, or months. I have learned to cope with her depressions. I’d try to make things easier for her. I would get her books to read or puzzles do by herself while I was at work. When I was at home we would spend time in bed watching movies and playing board games together. The children and I would cook the meals and do the work around the house. I would try my best to motivate her to shower and get out of the house. Most of the time, I was unsuccessful.

I was used to her cycles and knew that she would eventually come out of her depression if I waited it out. I would get caught off guard when her mood would switch back into mania. She always seemed surprised that I could not keep up with the changes. It always takes me longer to adjust and catch up to her. These moods would come in cycles and we are never quite sure when they would change. Each and every episode is a little different so it is hard to know what to expect. They are usually mild and do not last long. The lows she experiences are more frequent and longer lasting than the highs. 

Since her diagnosis, she has tried different medications that help stabilize her moods. Although she still feels the highs and lows, it is not as extreme as it was before she was medicated. As we learn more about her disorder, it makes it easier to cope. We are now learning how to adjust to our new lifestyle. Life has become much easier.
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