For Your Spouse- NAVIGATING BIPOLAR: Prevention & Contingency Plan Template
NAVIGATING BIPOLAR: Prevention & Contingency Plan [As used by my Husband and Myself]
*NOTE: THIS IS BASED ON A TEMPLATE FROM LITTLECHAPEL.COM, THIS IS NOT ENTIRELY MY OWN ORIGINAL MATERIAL. GO TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY AS WELL!*
WHAT CAN BE DONE FOR ME:
1. Once a Month Couples Therapy
2. Learn about triggers: the things that can or usually do set off an episode.
A. Learn also about the things that seem to encourage stability – good eating, regular exercise, walks outside, singing, mundane repetitive tasks, learning, church/spiritual counseling
I.Mood swings are often affected by specific triggers and the lack of them are similarly affected by other things. Noting what seems to calm me or what occurs or doesn’t occur in periods of calm can help you determine the correct environment to soothe me when you need it.
3. Learn to talk about the disorder: Intrinsic in learning about the disorder is learning how to talk about it and to your spouse
A. If I am in the middle of an episode the key is to remember that it is not me talking to you, it’s the disorder. Fighting with a disorder is pointless and responding in anger will only result in both parties making statements we might later regret. It’s better to be prepared with statements that are intended to diffuse a situation, rather than escalate it.
B. Ask the mood questions: Are you anxious? Are you depressed? Etc. Follow up with:
I. Do you want to go on a walk outside?
II. Can I hold you?
III. Everything is going to be okay. I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere. I believe in you and have faith you will overcome this.
C. When in doubt, if my mood swings prevent me from being able to answer the questions, don’t shut down, but rather keep the flow of communication open. It’s the only way to ensure that we both don’t create walls that, after a time, can seem impenetrable.
NOTE: Don’t be afraid, don’t put up a defense against me, don’t brace yourself for something bad. Be there to talk and support. It may not be pleasant, personally I can be downright mean when in a bad frame of mind. But when I get past it, we’ll both be glad we’re there.
4. Listen attentively and laugh as often as you can: Often, listening is all a person who is suffering needs: to know that someone is listening to them. Not making suggestions, not always trying to fix things. Just being there.
A. Ask “Do you want my advice? Or do you just want me to listen?”
B. Humor is said to be the best medicine, and it’s true that it can help to
loosen anxiety’s grip on me: “Laughter dissolves tension, stress, anxiety, irritation, anger, grief, and depression...” So be you. Make fart jokes and do impressions. Eventually it will put a smile on my face no matter what mood I’m in
5. Keep track of appointments — a bipolar sufferer who is feeling better might be inclined to skip therapy appointments. Don’t let me. Taking an active role in helping me manage the disorder is appropriate and possibly even necessary.
A. Individual therapy minimum once a month
B. Couples therapy minimum once a month
C. If I have an episode, mandatory therapy once a week for a full month
even if I start feeling better
6. Develop coping mechanisms and rules: find ways to cope with the results of the symptoms
A. My major symptoms pre- depressive episode
I. Skipping the gym to go lay down
a. Come ask if you can hold me
b. Hold me and let me cry it out
c. Encourage me to come to the gym with you
II. Extreme irritability
a. Ask me if I want to go on a walk outside with you
III. Worse case scenario: Hurting Myself physically: knives, hitting myself/ Major aggression, urge to hit and break things
a. Create a calming corner: space in our home where we can pad the walls. Honestly think reading nook for the mentally ill. Mood lighting, books, gospel music, plushy pillows and blankets
b. You maintain control over all weaponry. Maybe we can get a small safe that only you know the password to
c. If my behavior suddenly becomes unmanageable, even life threatening, here is a plan to have in place:
i. Who to call: Mom (xxx)xxx-xxxx; Sister (xxx)xxx-xxxx
ii. Who to call: Dr. C (xxx)xxx-xxxx
iii. WORSE CAE SCENARIO! Find out which hospitals are connected with Dr. C and if
the terms of our medical coverage will suffice at those locations. Hospital Info: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF:
1. Take care of you: as much as I need your support, you are no help to me if you don’t take care of yourself. Remember an airplane’s emergency instructions: always put your oxygen mask on first, before you help others. This is true in any situation of caregiving.
2. Sometimes taking time for you means taking time away: a trip for a weekend without each other, an overnight at a friend’s house. Just some time where you are not worried about me and can focus on you.
3. Find a support group: put together a group of the people you trust most in your life as a part of a support group. I would be happy to talk with them, explain to them the situation and what you need from them if they agree to be your support group.
4. Remember why you love me: I am not my illness. I, and you, are so much more than that. Keeping photos or other momentoes on your person will remind you about your love for me and help you to keep the bonds of marriage strong, even during the lowest lows.
5. Protect yourself: if I ever get to a point either you, mom, or Dr. C can’t pull me out of using the prevention methods listed above, you must protect yourself and our children when we have them. Take the kids to either of their grandma’s houses then return and start with this:
A. Encourage me to seek out or return to the treatment we have set in place. How? By calmly pointing out what you are seeing. Use ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ when you are talking to me. For example: “I can see that you are hurting. I want you to feel better. I have found out what may be troubling you. I think that a new treatment plan will make you feel better. I want you to know I believe in you and that you will be better. I have this information I would like to share with you.” Starting sentences with ‘you’ sounds accusatory, a tone best avoided when trying to explain your position.
B. Last option, hospitalization or care facility
NOTE: Ultimately, a marriage is give and take. Mental illness can make it feel like there’s a lot more take from me than give and for that I am truly sorry. But it’s important to always remember why you took those vows and what they mean to you. I am not my illness. I am a person who needs love and care, just as you do, just as we all do. Take the time to learn what you can do to help me and tell me what you need too! Above all else, keeping the lines of communication open is the surest way to keep our marriage healthy and happy.