I Am Laurie: How Bipolar Disorder Altered My Life

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Rather than fearing the future, successful couples say they have used periods of wellness to prepare for episodes that may lie ahead. In the grip of mania, a person who has bipolar can easily wipe out joint checking and savings accounts. Without a second thought, they may leave the family with no money for groceries, let alone a mortgage payment. Some couples also agree to give power of attorney or extend other means of limited control to the well spouse—this for occasions when the spouse with bipolar is ill.

This way, both spouses can agree at what point to seek help for the spouse who has bipolar. With this approach, emotions are taken out of the equation, if and when the spouse with bipolar refuses help later on.

Living with bipolar disorder

Often they can help the spouse seek help before the mania or depression spirals out of control. Karp, when those symptoms appear. When a person is acutely ill, it may become necessary for the well spouse to take the other to physician appointments, make certain the person is taking his or her medication, even watch over the individual for safety. All this is in addition to taking over all the other household duties, such as paying bills or caring for children. They may begin to feel like their own identities are being buried—they are losing themselves or jeopardizing their own health.

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Spouses must learn to draw a boundary line, or risk losing themselves, Dr. Karp explains. Furthermore, Dr. Karp argues that sometimes people have to do the emotionally counterintuitive thing and withdraw. Spouses, he says, must learn to take care of themselves before they can take care of others.