While there’s no handbook on how to cope with all the challenges, we asked parents who’ve lived through the diagnosis for their best coping strategies:
Make sleep a priority
Adequate rest is important for the entire family! Explains one parent: “In the early years of my son’s journey, we tried many options and the learning curve has been steep. Getting consistent and adequate sleep is a must for my son. We all must adjust our schedules to make sure this happens. If not, we might as well head straight to the hospital because a manic episode is on its way!“
Manage the stress
Managing the stress in your child’s life is critical. “And, what may be every-day, normal stress for you and I, can be a trigger for those with bipolar,” says one mother. “Don’t schedule other life events on top of known stressors i.e. going on vacation right after finals set my son off once. Breaking up with a girlfriend and losing his fast-food job in the same week induced a manic episode.”
Don’t take it too personally
Remember, it’s the mental health challenge and not the person. “I know there are many parts of bipolar disorder and my son’s journey that I can’t control and I have to let go and let God,” says this parent. “I know the only thing I can control is my response to things and my response has a direct impact on how my son responds or reacts. Most days, I can recognize what is his illness speaking and choose to respond to the illness and not take it personally.”
It’s very important to not feel that you’re alone and one way to do that is to reach out and get connected with others who know what you’re going through. “My monthly mental health parent support meeting is my lifesaver,” says this mom. “I get great suggestions, advice and the chance to vent to other parents in similar situations. I would tell other caregivers to find their local mental health organization because they have many great resources.”
Realize your limitations
The responsibility and weight of trying to advocate and do what’s best for your child following a diagnosis can be overwhelming. However, if you take on too much, it’s not healthy for anyone. “I have to realize my limitations,” says this mom. “I would love to be “that” parent who champions for their child and miracles happen. I have a full-time job, other children and now grandchildren, parents who are aging … but I can’t save the world.”
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