We constantly hear blanket statements given in the form of advice, usually said with the confidence that it will definitely work for us.
Most times we hear these from professionals, who often refuse to listen when we say that those things don’t help us. The thing that they don’t seem to understand is that while something might work for *most* people with Bipolar / depression, it’s not going to work for everybody.
The person suffering from Bipolar and their carer/s often know the illness better than anybody else, and become adept at knowing what will help them when. It’s a shame professionals don’t seem to respect this.
Without further ado here is our list of blanket statements that haven’t helped us!
–> “Going out and socialising with friends and family when depressed is beneficial; be sure not to cut yourself off”
When Anon’s depression gets worse going out to socialise doesn’t help her at all, yet we have had this piece of advice shoved down our throat by just about everybody.
The stress of socialising and the effort of pretending to be okay really takes a toll on Anon. When we spend our time indoors, really only leaving the house several hours a day to walk our dogs, she is able to relax & give her brain time to rest.
–> “There is such a slim chance of a medication having a negative side effect it’s really not worth worrying about; you just need to ‘bite the bullet’ and try one”
This completely undermines the strength of Anon’s fears of medication side-effects. You wouldn’t tell someone with a fear of snakes to just “bite the bullet” and go pick up a snake that *probably* wasn’t venomous and *probably* wouldn’t bite them…
Many of the social workers and psychiatrists we have discussed side effects with have also lied, making out that side effects are extremely rare and very unlikely to happen. Anon has even been told that psychiatric medications cannot cause weight gain, despite experiencing this every time she has been put on Seroquel.
–> “Sleep hygiene is all you need to get a good night’s sleep”
Sleep hygiene includes things like avoiding stimulants (eg. coffee) before bed, only using the bed for sleep (as oppose to reading or watching TV) and avoiding napping in the day.
Some of this advice is impossible for Anon to follow. When she is manic for example we are grateful for any sleep she can get. When she is in a depressive episode her sleep drastically increases; she can sleep 14 hours at night and still need naps in the day. When she tried to fight the tiredness she struggles to function, her eyes sting and she gets extremely irritable. Far better to just have a short nap, and it doesn’t affect her sleep overnight.
Finally having the TV on in the bedroom actually helps Anon feel tired. Our last social worker told us not to use the TV in the bedroom, but to read instead…we quickly discovered this stimulates Anon’s brain and makes her feel more awake.
Different floats for different boats.
–> “It would be a good idea for you to start going out on your own, without Gog. It’s not normal to spend so much time with each other”
Having a social worker say this is extremely confusing when you’ve just had a GP / hospital staff / psychiatrist tell Gog to be with you 24/7 as you’re too unwell to be alone.
We also resent the fact that because Anon has Bipolar, all of a sudden it’s “not normal” that we spend most our time together. We know several couples who work and live together, and are very rarely apart…yet because they aren’t mentally ill it is perfectly fine for them to be together 24/7!
We really enjoy each other’s company, and enjoy spending time together. That doesn’t make us wrong, it means we love each other and allows us to handle Anon’s illness better.
–> “Why don’t you think about joining one of the clubs available through our service, such as the weekly cooking club?”
Anon is not a people person, and she has become less so as her illness has gotten worse and professionals continue to treat her badly. We have long since accepted that some people are social butterflies whereas others, like Anon, prefer to spend occasional time with close family and friends…unless they’re manic 😉
The fact of the matter is weekly appointments with strangers, where Anon would have to put on her ‘happy face’, would massively increase her stress and anxiety. It’s fine to not be a particularly sociable person; Anon loves spending time with the people she is close to, in short bursts, and that is enough.
Secondly committing to a weekly appointment is very difficult for us because Anon’s ability to cope varies drastically day to day. Not only does it depend on how her mood is but it also depends on how her psychotic symptoms are…some days she is hallucinating almost continuously, and oddly enough has a big impact on her anxiety levels.
Obviously many people might find the advice above helpful, and it might work for them. But everybody is different. Dishing out the same advice over and over when the patient is telling you it doesn’t work is unhelpful.
Again, the person suffering from Bipolar usually has a better understanding of their symptoms and what will help them than the average professional. It’s important to listen 🙂