Mood Disorder Wellness Hinges On The Afflicted

Many challenges exist for the Depressed or Bipolar person in their quest for wellness. The challenges faced by our loved ones trying to help us can seem insurmountable. It’s been a commonly stated belief (at least among the crap that I’ve read and professionals I’ve talked to) that wellness hinges entirely on the afflicted. I strongly believe in this point. We are the ones that need to make necessary lifestyle changes, take our meds, go to the doctors, actually communicate with them, work to understand our own brains and their bullshit, and then incorporate all of that crap into pursuing wellness while juggling whatever else life is throwing at us. That’s exhausting just typing it.

But then we have the loved ones on the sidelines who don’t know how to help. How do you navigate the chaos and turmoil? How do you help that person strive for more?

There are no simple answers. And there no simple answers because each of us is an individual who have our own likes, dislikes, and personality. What’s important to me and drives me towards wellness may mean jack shit all to the next guy or gal.

The following general points should provide some thoughts on a developing a fairly personal approach that will hopefully help chip through the walls to a loved one.

1. The approach must be personal. If you’re the loved one of someone who is struggling, you’ve already got a good idea of what is important to that person. Those are the things that you want to leverage to help guide them towards wellness. It may be a career path, relationship with a family member, school; whatever. It doesn’t matter. The point is, it can be used as leverage to help steer the chaos in a general direction.

Tact entirely matters- which feels very strange for me to say. Do not be dishonest in your approach otherwise you’ll alienate the person as soon as they figure it out. But use the truth to help pull them back. Ensure that what you are saying is done so in a way they can understand and relate to.

An example on selling suppositories:

Right: This suppository will provide relief for XYZ condition for 12 hours.

Wrong: Cram this up your ass for relief from XYZ for 12 hours.

They both say the same thing but in entirely different ways. An example of how I’d approach a Bipolar person:

“Look, I know things are going to shit right now; but if you educate yourself and commit to getting well, you can get back into college and finish your degree once you’re rebalanced. But you’re not going to be able to do that while your moods are bouncing back and forth.”

Continue to calmly reinforce that THEY HAVE THE POWER as often as you can. Remember that you’re trying to hammer through the wall of fucked emotions that mood disorders create. That does include the helplessness, powerlessness, and pointlessness that depression instills in the person. It takes time and persistence to hammer through that bullshit.

2. Once you are through, you want to have a solid path for them to walk. Once they’re hearing you, you want to get them going on the path before the depression and self-doubt has time to destroy the progress. The longer they’re able to think about it; the more they will convince themselves to not do what is necessary to get well. It’ll come as any flavor of excuse ranging from “What’s the point? It won’t work.” to “I feel fine now. Why should I?” So what’s the path?

a. An appointment with the person’s doctor or psych to discuss the situation, where the person fell off their plan, how to get back on.
b. Develop a plan of action on what they need to do to minimize damage to their lives from unwellness.
c. Implement the advice from the professional. Push the person to follow through and stay on the course.

I’m also in favor of getting folks to support groups with like-minded people. They don’t typically require contribution but it can be very helpful to be around other people going through similar if not identical circumstances. I generally encourage people to go to a few meetings for their respective mental illness just to listen. It can also offer a much needed self-esteem and confidence boost if the person is able to contribute positively to other members of the group, in the event that they decide they want to be social in the setting.

An unoccupied unwell mind can be a serious liability.

3. You have to learn patience. Patience, patience, patience. Hard to have patience when you’re watching someone you love unravel to their core and meltdown. To quote Shakespeare: “It sucks ass”. (Author’s Note: Quote may not actually be attributable to Shakespeare.)

For years I had virtually none. My range was either utter apathy or “let’s get this shit done”. But that doesn’t really work in life, does it? No. It takes time to build anything worthwhile. So goes the same with the battle for stability. There are times that it is impossible to make any real gains. You have to be able to identify those times, maintain some distance, and do your best to ensure they cannot do anything drastic while unwell.

Then, when the person hits a more level plane, you can start pushing again to try and make progress. Avoid exhausting yourself trying to swim against the current all the time.


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4 Responses to Mood Disorder Wellness Hinges On The Afflicted

  1. K says:

    I’m struggling with this right now with my husband. He’s still undiagnosed, does not want to talk to anyone, etc. and is in a very bad (I think mixed) episode that has been going on and getting worse for over 4 months. In this time period, he’s started texting a female co-worker and refuses to show me the messages, freaks out when I ask that he stop, and then during moments of clarity comes to the realization that he is doing something wrong, that he would be furious if I was doing and promises to stop. He has not. I’ve stopped looking at our bill because right now all I can say is I know it is not him making these choices. He gets to the breaking point at least once a week where he says he is a piece of shit, I deserve better, that he should just leave (a little over a month ago, he tried to leave but I begged him to stay until after our daughter’s birthday) and until he could make a decision in his level headed state of mind. He isn’t level headed yet but he has chosen to stay. Last week he had a very bad depressive episode and promised he would do whatever I wanted, whatever I thought he needed to do to get well. But nothing has materialized from that. I can’t bring up anything that he has done to hurt me a) because I feel horrible making him feel worse than he already does – why/how would you punish someone who beats themselves up already so badly and b) because I know right now I’d be talking to a wall. He just gets angry and says he’s sick of me babysitting him. His past explanation for the texting (and god knows what else he’s doing because he has these bouts of guilt where he says he feels horrible every time he “comes back” from an episode and thinks about all the mistakes he’s made and ways he’s hurt me) is that he purposely was trying to hurt me because he felt like I was always trying to control him. I don’t see anything wrong with setting a boundary and in his right mind he doesn’t either because he says he needs me to guide him toward good choices when he’s in a manic or depressive state because he can’t. But in those episodes he hates me. Hates me for controlling him, hates me for ruining his fun, hates me for being depressed or upset with him. Hates me for being hurt. Then he hates himself even more. I’m seeing a therapist myself but to be honest, I don’t see the point. I love my husband very much. I want to help him. hearing him say that he is tired of hurting me, tired of not having any control over his thoughts or actions…seeing him so hurt…it kills me. Especially because I don’t know how to help. And I feel horrible for saying this, but he hurts me so much regardless of whether it’s purposeful or not. I need to make this stop, not just for him, but for myself too. How can I get through to him?

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, K. You’re going to need to start masking your real emotions to him and dealing with them either in therapy or in private. The emotions you want to project are indignation or anger. The moods of a mood disorder carry the strength and weight of a tidal wave. A soft, subtle, or emotionally vulnerable approach will only give the person’s moods “permission” to roll you over.

      Now, yes a mood disorder makes it very difficult to interpret one’s decisions and actions correctly. But we still do have a choice, even though it may be near impossible to make correctly. My brain may be screaming at me to pick up a gun, put it to my head, and pull the trigger; but do I decide to do it? Do I listen to that thought process or do I force myself to tell my brain to shut the fuck up? Hopefully the latter.

      As a third party; you can help force his brain in the proper directions.

      1. Make an appointment for both of you to visit a psych to discuss his moods. You want to go with him so he can’t misrepresent himself to the doctor. Just do it tomorrow. And don’t ask. If you ask, it will let his unstable brain play with the decision. “Hey, we agreed to go to the psych for your drastic moods; I made an appointment so you can start getting the information you need to be well.”

      2. Demand he stop talking with this coworker of his. If he says anything about it- point out “I am your wife. If you are saying things to her that you cannot share with me then you probably shouldn’t be saying them. I don’t care how you “feel” about the situation- you’re still making the choice to talk to this woman and disrespect me.”

      3. You will be loved, you will be hated. A person suffering with an undiagnosed mood disorder is going to run the spectrum. Know that those feelings are not his real feelings. You have to learn to let those barbs slide off your shoulders. If you let yourself be controlled by them, you will not be able to make headway with him. You have to be strong and have a thick skin to get through this. You have overly emotional reactions are going to help fuel his; for better or worse. So working on your poker face is going to help you a lot.

      4. When he feels hopeless or angry; remind him you love him. He may be pissed off about it right then, but it will stick in his mind for later. Use a plan of action to point him towards wellness; visiting the psych and his own education are the most important points. Remind him that a lot of people have mood disorders, are able to recover, and have mostly normal lives. It takes work and dedication. It also takes learning to not listen to his brain when he is severely unbalanced.

      5. You may want to look into couples therapy with someone who has experience with mood disorders. I wouldn’t bother with a normal one. Also; look into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for him. CBT addresses negative behaviors and helps people change theirs. If he says he doesn’t want to go to therapy; point out that it’s not a “you go and sit around and bitch about your problems” type of therapy. You go in, say I have a mood disorder and need to learn better ways to handle it; and they will help teach him tactics and strategies to minimize the shitloads of damage he’s doing to his marriage and family.

      When you try to intervene when he’s unwell, try to keep things focused on reality and the truth. “You told me to help you in these difficult times. So stop listening to your brain for now, and listen to me.” And keep hammering away at that point until he finally accepts it.

      It sounds like he understands something is wrong but he may need shoved to get going on the path. Make him promise to at least start learning and talk to the doctor. Then you can call back to that when he swings as well. When he’s depressed and thinks he should leave- “You promised that you would talk to the doctor and work on this; focus on following through with that first and foremost.” When he’s angry/up- “You promised that you would do these things for our family and marriage. It was your choice to make.”

      Both approaches provide greater arguing leverage because you’re not dealing with emotions; which a mood disorder warps. You’re just dealing with facts established when he was in a healthier mentality. That’s a good thing.

      If at any time you feel like you are in danger or he is talking about suicide or something similar; don’t hesitate to get authorities involved.

      Write any time.

  2. k says:

    The thought of standing up to him about the co-worker makes me sick to my stomach. The first time I stood up to him about it was the night he tried to leave. I am literally nauseous now just worrying about being firm and telling him it has to stop.

    Would showing him any of what you’ve said help or hinder the situation? I just wonder if seeing that someone who is in his shoes is saying, “hey, this is what you need to do and this is what your wife needs to do to stay sane and help you” would help or just piss him off more?

    I’m so lost. I’m trying to stay strong. He keeps telling me how strong I am. It’s ironic. Because I feel pretty weak. I have gotten better at realizing that all of his fucked up emotions aren’t him, they are the disorder, that his fucked up choices aren’t him, and letting the hate bounce off of me when he’s angry but sometimes it is hard. I wish he would try the CBT because he has said over and over how he feels like he’s falling deeper and deeper and has no control over anything. He would benefit (and me) so much from learning ways to address and change the negative behaviors.

    My therapist is definitely helping to give me a place to express the emotions you’re pointing out that are triggers for his moods, which has been a great thing, but sometimes it is just so hard to turn off my over emotional self at home around him. I know it in no way helps him or me so I’ve been working on it HARD. I just find it so difficult to be “mean” to him. I keep thinking that it will push him to do something stupid like hurt himself or something else hurtful to me. That’s the co-dependence talking, worrying about controlling someone else’s emotions and thoughts. I know this.

    The way things are now, we won’t last, and if we don’t last, he’s said that he won’t as an individual either. It’s hard not to be sad when I think about how much I miss the man I married and have no idea how to get him back. And thinking about him talking to someone else makes me sick to my stomach. I just don’t understand how he can say in his clear mind that he knows it’s wrong, promises to stop, and then a few days later is back to the same old thing. I have to be honest, I’ve thought about showing up at the job and confronting her personally but wonder if that’s TOO extreme and would do more harm than good. I just don’t know anything really.

    • Dennis says:

      K; I’m going to go ahead and email you. Instead of just showing him what I told you, it will be better if I just write him a letter myself for you to hand off to him. So I’m going to send over a test email to ensure it’s not landing in your spam folder. Reply to me via email if you receive it and we’ll go from there.

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