Even with all of the ups and downs that can challenge our relationships, our strengths—like our positive outlook, ability to keep moving forward, and tendency to live fully in the present—are benefits to others and something to be grateful for. This love is something to be grateful for.
Bipolar disorder, like any health condition, can introduce challenges to a relationship. If bipolar is not well managed or if previously reliable management strategies or medications become ineffective, mood episodes can rear up and pose new obstacles not just for the person with bipolar but also for those around us. I have found, though, that there are many ways in which knowing and loving a person with bipolar can improve your life. It’s all a matter of perspective. Personally, I find the following three benefits to be most rewarding:
#1 They will change your outlook on your life and life in general
When you care for a loved one who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you learn to stop taking things for granted. You will have a better appreciation for not only your own mental health but also for the well-being of those around you, too. You will have a renewed sense of appreciation for stability and wellness; and you will likely make changes to your own habits once you see how important it is to prioritize wellness.
Of course, it is difficult and painful to see someone you care about struggle in life. But when you see them overcome challenges and remain positive in the face of adversity, you learn firsthand the power we each have to surmount our own personal obstacles in life.
(As an aside: I must mention that by no means do I believe that bipolar is a negative diagnosis; I am extremely proud of my diagnosis. If I were granted the choice, I would still choose my life with bipolar. I recognize how bipolar disorder colors my life with not just the bright, positive crayons, but with negative crayons, too. I can see how some might think it would be better to live without the crayon box as a whole, saving only the pretty and positive colors. That said, I hope that loved ones search for and celebrate the benefits of living with a full box of crayons. It is only with all of those colors available to us that we can create such beautiful, unique, colorful lives.)
#2 They will help you to appreciate the present moment, and to learn how to live a more present life
We who live with bipolar do not have the luxury of permanent stability. Caring for a loved one with bipolar disorder will make you a lover of the “present”—especially when the present moment is one in which everyone is feeling good, stable, and healthy, of course. But also when that is not the case.
When you stand by us, you will learn how to appreciate the moments in which we are in good health and are stable; and you will learn to find meaning in the more trying, unstable days. You will learn to appreciate being “in the moment” more, whether that moment is joyful, positive, stressful, negative, or humdrum.
The present moment is all that we truly have, and this is a lesson every person diagnosed with bipolar disorder learns rather quickly. And because you love someone who conquers life with bipolar disorder, you, too, will learn not just to love the present moment for whatever it is but also how to actually be present.
In a world that is overrun by smartphones and ubiquitous technology, as a society, we have lost the ability to remain in the present. But fear not! Your loved one will help change your perspective on reality. Through their episodes, you will learn to be in the present more often—regardless of whether the present is “good” or “bad.” You will learn to face challenges instead of run away from them. And these skills are desperately needed in today’s society.
#3 They will help you learn to adapt quickly to changing situations
This ties in closely with number 2. Along with appreciating the present, you will also learn how to adapt quickly to changing situations. Loving someone who is diagnosed with bipolar is akin to loving changing situations. Because a person with bipolar disorder can frequently go through episodes, some of which are not as outwardly positive as mania can be, you will learn how to go with the flow and adapt to whatever each new moment brings.
Furthermore, you will learn how to work well not only with changing environments but also with diverse people. Those of us who live with bipolar often have different ways of being, depending on our mood. We might behave one way when manic, another way when depressed, and another when we are enjoying stability. By experiencing life with a loved one who has bipolar, you will have the benefit of experiencing the full spectrum of human emotions, passions, fears, joys, and sorrows.
There are so many different people in the world; sometimes, we might feel alarmed when we meet someone who behaves differently than we might otherwise expect. But because you have loved someone with bipolar, when you encounter “different” manners, behaviors, quirks, ideas, and beliefs in other people, you won’t be caught off-guard. You won’t react out of fear; you will respond with compassion.
In short, because you love someone who has bipolar disorder, you will be the master of adaptation. (You can go ahead and write that under the “skills” category of your resume.)
Sure, loving someone who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder can bring new challenges. But it is through your skills of adapting, of being present, of turning negatives into positives, that you will come to realize something profoundly important: This love is something to be grateful for. Your loved one will not only help shape your outlook on life itself but also help you learn how to be a better, stronger, more loving human being.
Jasper Benitez is a past TEDx Speaker who enjoys speaking about the topics which many find difficult. At the age of 19, he was hospitalized under what is known as a "Baker Act." After spending several days in the hospital, he walked out with bottles of prescription medication, doctors appointments, and stacks of paperwork that disclosed a diagnosis—Bipolar Disorder Type 1: Mixed Severe with Psychotic features. Along with the diagnosis, he had to learn to accept the reality that he could no longer fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer. He also received a medical discharge from the U.S. Army National Guard just a few short months before he was set to ship out to Basic Combat Training. But even after having lost the many opportunities which he had spent years working hard to obtain, Jasper refused to give up. Instead, he chose to stay in the fight and make something of himself. No, Jasper is on a mission to provide mentorship to students, parents, and adults as they navigate through difficult processes such as being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. By living authentically and speaking with transparency, he seeks to motivate others to live in their truth. Jasper serves as an example that the labels you are assigned do not necessarily equate to being a barrier to your success.
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