People in our lives who have bipolar disorder can be valuable teachers from whom we can learn a lot about ourselves. One bphope.com reader shares his experiences of life through a lens of highs and lows from his son:
#1 Brutal honesty
“To a person with heightened bipolar sensitivities, they will react strongly to even the slightest hint of edginess, pressure, or criticism—so hearing even a hint of disapproval or unsolicited advice can feel like a sledgehammer pounding on delicate nerve endings.” And they won’t hesitate to point out your impatience. Learning from this can result in being more patient, a better listener and a more balanced person in all areas of your life.
#2 Connecting with someone who understands extremes
“Most people have an emotional thermostat that is boringly narrow. They never experience the highest highs or the lowest lows. Yet if you’re exploring life with someone who has a bipolar bandwidth of emotion, it can help you break out of your cautious narrowness, allowing you to be blessed with far more spontaneous, creative moments.
#3 Seeing the world differently
“[My son] often points out cloud formations in the sky that look like dragons, dolphins, flowers, and faces. He tells me about fascinating background melodies in the music on the radio or subtle color patterns in the clothes worn by people walking down the street—patterns I’d otherwise fail to notice.”
#4 Great understanding of people
“He describes what it feels like when the brain is manic and what kinds of thoughts enter his mind when the whole world looks bleak. As a result of these deep conversations, life is a lot fuller. I learn valuable clues about what my clients, friends, and other family members are going through when their moods go up and down.”
#5 Learning to acknowledge limitations
“… I’ve found it also takes a responsive psychiatrist, flexible and empathic teachers, a behavioral coach, and several other helping professionals to keep things on track. Every day I’m humbled by how much we don’t know about bipolar disorder and I’m grateful for each small step of progress that researchers, activists, support groups, and others are making to help improve how families cope.”
#6 Less judgmental
“Nowadays, when I see another family struggling with imperfect solutions for the moodiness of a loved one, I’m less likely to judge them and more likely to appreciate just how much we need each other’s stories, experiences, and trial-and-error efforts.”
#7 Appreciating a meaningful adventure
“Life is anything but boring when you’re in daily contact with a family member who has bipolar disorder. You quickly learn that things can change instantly. You will probably see your family member gain and lose a few friendships, a few jobs, a few credit cards, and a few roommates. You might even hear him or her question the meaning of life and whether it’s all worth the struggle.”
#8 Opportunities to do better
“In the midst of all this instability and uncertainty, one thing that can remain solid and constant is your profound commitment to each other. Even after an upsetting argument, a flurry of harsh words, or someone storming out of the room, there is always the opportunity for a new beginning. There’s always the opportunity to clarify what you can do better the next time so you don’t drift apart from each other.”
#9 Appreciating the love
“Dad, I know it’s not easy, but there’s something amazing about how we work things out each and every time. I’m hoping we’ll always make sure to reconnect and be there for each other.” At a moment like that, you realize that you’re part of an exquisite journey—a journey of love that allows you to be of service to someone who truly deserves to be treated with respect.