This is the second post by Anna on being a caregiver. Click here for the first post, The Depression Dialog.
Know the enemy. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But I’m talking about the illness, not the person who is sick. When that dawned on me, that the illness is the enemy, I started to have more control over my anger and resentment. Why? Because I had something I could fight, and yet still love my husband James. I’m not saying that he isn’t responsible for his behavior; but I could now explain it, or most of it, by his illness.
Our third child was born in 2003 just as things were at their worst. James had left another job, he had a go at crashing his car, and our other kids were showing signs of distress. I had to think about leaving him for a while to protect myself and the kids emotionally. I felt alone, scared for our future and worried sick.
It was at about that time that he was diagnosed with bipolar, which prompted me to thoroughly research depression and bipolar. There is an awful lot of junk out there, so I sifted through until I found some great sources. Then I learned as much as I could. The best thing about this learning process was a much better understanding of the illness, so I was less frightened and more assertive in handling his behavior.
The resources that I relied on most are:
Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder by Julie Fast
This book helped me more than any other. It is written for caregivers and has great, practical solutions, especially in the area of talking to each other. James was on board with the idea of trying the suggestions in the book so that helped. Most of the content is readily applicable to depression.
It’s a love it or hate it book. I love it. I’ll write a review as the last post in this series.
Black Dog Institute
I use this website for finding all kinds of reliable information on mood disorders. The Black Dog Institute is headed by Gordon Parker (above).
The next break through was keeping a diary of James’ moods and things that happened each day. I did this every night for almost 2 years. It sounds a bit keen I know, but it was also therapeutic. After only 3 months or so, I was able to see patterns of behavior emerging. His illness was looking somewhat predictable! The progress over those 2 years was very slow, but just having some noticeable improvements gave me hope. I could stop living from day to day, wondering what would hit next. Also, and even better, I was able to see what was triggering his mood swings. Things like certain foods, certain people, and certain social situations.
Armed with this knowledge we started changing our lives to avoid triggers. This is an ongoing process, but James continues to get better. We completely removed some problem triggers so they no longer have an impact, and he also copes better with the triggers that remain. I hope that we don’t sound perfect. The process is ongoing, and there are still many times when bipolar ruins things. But now that I know my enemy I can “attack” it, and get on with being James’ wife.
Click here for the third post in this series, Trigger Unhappy.