My fiance, who is 39yrs old became seriously depressed at the age of 20. After dealing with this for several months he decided to speak with a psychiatrist about getting on medication. He was prescribed Zoloft for the depression and was hopeful about this. However, it was no more than 2 months later he had his first manic episode which required hospitalization and a different medication. After trying several medications it was decided Lithium was most beneficial for what he was going through. Since his first manic episode until now he’s had 6 manic episodes (ages 20, 24, 27, 30, 34, 38) with his most recent being the longest, the worst and the only one he came down from without having to be hospitalized.
Since this last manic episode, it seems he has a whole new understanding of Bipolar, the seriousness of it and the importance of taking his medication. To give you an example…Started seeing hypomania in Dec 2017, by January 2018 it was worse, he left our home the first week of January and stayed gone until May 2018. During this manic episode, he did come back to the house at which time his emotions got the better of him and he destroyed our home, inside and out (broke car windows, house windows, tore 4 bookshelves down, flipped all the furniture including the dining room table, flipped the dryer, etc). He ended up being arrested for this and charged with malicious destruction of property. In addition to the legal charges he also went through almost $45,000 which was in his savings account.
We have been discussing different protective measures we can take to prevent the consequences and damage. We’ve come up with him making me his power of attorney so I can have him hospitalized if and when symptoms are present, we are also going to go to the bank and see what options there are as far as someone like myself cutting off his access to money when he’s manic and signing a consent with his psychiatrist allowing me to contact her if and when he is manic again. I am wondering if anyone has any additional ideas for me.
While I am not a specialist in treating Bipolar Disorder, I have worked with clients who have been diagnosed with it, and I hope that what I write is helpful to you and your fiance. Bipolar is definitely a heavy diagnosis and I’m glad that your fiance is realizing how serious it is and is willing to put in safety measures. Having an authorized release to talk to and to be contacted by the mental health professionals who will be working with him is a very good idea as well as implementing safety measures in order to maintain financial stability. I would recommend creating a journal/manual that lists what coping skills are helpful to him, what people are good to contact if he needs support, and different healthy outlets of energy. When someone is having mental health distress it is difficult to think about all of the things they have used in the past to help de-escalate and cope. In having a personal “user manual” it creates a routine and a reliable source for help. I would also recommend reading about Kevin Hines, he has Bipolar Disorder and is a strong advocate for suicide prevention and Bipolar management. I have attached his webpage for Resources below and recommend reading “The Art of Wellness” on that page in order to get an idea of how he works on maintaining himself daily.
A perspective that I have to offer is to think about someone who has Type I Diabetes. They were born with their medical condition and they did nothing wrong to deserve getting it. However, their life is made more successful when they daily make choices to take their medication, monitor their health, and to make healthy intake choices. They need to accept their diagnosis and what needs to go into staying healthy. With Bipolar Disorder it is something that the person did not choose to have and it is not their fault for having it. However, once they know they have it then it is their responsibility to do the best they can to make healthy choices in order to be safe and to promote healthy mental functioning. There will be times with someone with Bipolar can be doing all they can to stay healthy and stable and they will have to be hospitalized despite that. That is also not their fault. Just as someone with Type I Diabetes can be doing all that they can to maintain their health but can still need to go to the hospital for treatment and medication adjustments at times.
I would also recommend for you Sarah that you have a counselor to talk to for support as well. The partner with Bipolar Disorder tends to get a lot of focus and care and the other partner can easily burn out from the stress of assisting the diagnosed partner. Your own self-care needs to be a priority in your life and I would recommend creating your own manual/journal to list out the things that help you alleviate stress and who to contact if you need support. I hope this was helpful and I wish you and your fiance luck and continued healing in your journey together.
https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheets (This website has worksheets on coping skills and mental health support. They could be good resources for building a journal/manual)
Melissa McGinness, LPC