Understanding Bipolar Disorder - A Review

On the one hand, bipolar disorder can sweep like a tornado through a family, disrupting every aspect of daily living and relationships.

On the other hand, family members can be one of the most significant resources for a person's recovery and stability.

In my own case, my wife is the one who described the symptoms that helped my psychiatrist recognize that I have bipolar, not major depression. But once that happened, what did she, as a family member, as the member of the team with day to day, hour to hour access, receive by way of help and guidance?

Nothing. Not a word. Butkus. Like, not even a pamphlet.

Nope, nothing. She worried. She worked from home to protect me at my sickest. She shouldered every responsibility. She thought through and recommitted to and excelled at "for better for worse, for richer for poorer.

Eventually she got to Family to Family, NAMI's program for education and support of people whose family members have a mental illness. And that helped. It gave her a skill set. It let her know she was not alone. It was more than a brochure.

What she needed was Aimee Daramus's new book Understanding Bipolar Disorder: The Essential Family Guide. Daramus, a clinical psychologist with over twenty years of experience in mental health, from psych units to private practice, has written the definitive guide for family members of people with bipolar. She takes you by the hand and leads you from a chaotic landscape to a steady path.

Step by step, the information is presented in the order that it is needed. It's a good book to read over the course of a year, and to reread for a refresher as time goes on.

  • Bring something to occupy your time in the ER, where mental illness is gets to wait, sometimes for a very long time.
  • Get release of information forms signed, so that the doctor can communicate critical information with the family.
  • Let people have their own emotions and opinions; share them rather than argue over them.
  • Develop emergency plans.
  • Adopt specific lifestyle measures.
  • Don't expect to get it all right all the time.

My wife and I worked out much of this on our own. And Daramus is right, ten years later, we do not get it right all the time. Weekly family meetings help. Daramus's book reminds us of pieces that we still don't have in place.

The language is clear, simple, calm. The formatting makes it easy to follow. The anecdotes are relatable.

I bought two more copies to give to friends who could use the help. How's that for a recommendation?

clip art from Microsoft
gif from tenor.com
book jacket from Amazon.com

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