Bipolar in a relationship
“It doesn’t make sense, I don’t make sense”
“One minute I’m ok and then I’ve gone somewhere else”
“Other people think I’m crazy”
“People don’t understand what it’s like to be me”
“Sometimes I have unstoppable energy and then I’m feeling flattened, depressed... it’s hard to believe it’s the same me”
“Life is lonely, I’ve cut myself off, it’s easier that way”
“I wish it could be different I wish I could be different...”
An insider view of the world of someone who is beleaguered with mood swings, in a life where “up or down” is rarely predictable and only predictably forever changing, where will, determination, drive and effort are always at the mercy of a toggle that can seemingly switch with the randomness of a roulette wheel.
Maybe you clicked on this article because of your own mood swings or those of someone else. Either way, they can be very challenging to live alongside, whether you experience them first hand or as a loving partner or friend. Since it is unlikely that a person’s “bipolar” nature will fundamentally change, it is important to learn how to live with mood swings so that you minimise the destructive impact they have on quality of life.
An individual person can benefit from learning to use coping skills for emotion regulation so that he or she has a “plan of what to do” when a distressing emotional shift occurs. It is wise to accept that these can happen randomly so that you can be prepared and have some ideas about “what to do” when you urgently need help. For example, you may experience a sudden and overwhelming emotional response to a small trigger in the workplace or at a social gathering, situations where it may not be easy to remove yourself. In this case, a skill can enable you to “hold on” until you can leave the situation, and then a further skill can focus you on the self-care that you will undoubtedly need whilst your emotions adjust. To live without a skillset when you are “bipolar” is like walking into a battlefield without a shield.
A partner, family member or close friend might benefit from accepting that a loved one’s mood swings are a deeply complex part of their personality, not something over which they have much control. To someone who is pretty level and balanced in terms of their feelings and outlook on life, this can be hard to do because they don’t experience the emotional turbulence; this can make acceptance challenging.
A relationship may feel very imbalanced and out of control if one partner is highly sensitive and emotionally volatile. Both partners may feel estranged from each other without any clear way of bridging a gap that is growing between them and where a problem starts to escalate into a crisis.
Relationship counselling with coaching support for using skills in emotion regulation may be a useful approach to try if you are experiencing this type of difficulty in your own life.
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About Claire Sainsbury
Claire Sainsbury is an integrative counsellor and coach with a special interest in helping people change unhealthy life habits to promote a better quality of living.