The Starry Night

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Failed relationships amongst people with Bipolar occurs for multiple reason, almost all of which are rectifiable, so there IS HOPE.  1) Ignorance – educate yourself about Bipolar in a way that you can accurately relay it to others besides just explaining how you “feel” or what you “do”. Gain more of a medical understanding. From there, consider how and when to educate others – my Journal entry, “Do You Hear Me? Are You With Me?” may be helpful. 2) Alienation – Persons with Bipolar have a low tolerance for distress and difficulty with emotional regulation. All people when highly stressed, revert to unhealthy coping skills and make unhealthy choices.  When we do so, we alienate (push away) others. As we make healthier coping skills habit, learn distress tolerance and emotional regulation techniques, employ tactics for reducing our overall stress-load and make amends for past harmful actions, we ill see improvements in our relationships. Although originally designed for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is fast becoming the method most successful in treating a variety of disorders marked by emotional dysregulation, including Bipolar Disorder. DBT is an interactive educational therapy, usually presented to a group in a class with the support of individual DBT coaching to learn application of the techniques to personal circumstances. However, even if it is not available in your area, you are not without options. There is a DBT workbook just for persons with Bipolar. You can also check out http://www.dbtselfhelp.com. Therapy in general is a key component of treatment for Bipolar. 3) Withdrawal – Whether because we feel misunderstood, we’re afraid of hurting others or of embarrassing ourselves, or because getting out just seems like too much effort, we CHOOSE to withdraw. Isolating ourselves is probably the worst thing to do if we want recovery but the easiest thing to cling to if we want to avoid change. Recovery requires change. Change necessitates loss. Loss leads to grief. The process of grief, until resolved, is unpleasant. When the pain of remaining the same is more than the pain of change, it is then that we begin to recover. For most o f us, recovery is stop and start. Far too many people stop here and don’t start again. That is called choosing misery. Misery is the opposite of joy. It is an attitude in action, reject and retreat. Misery is not to be confused with sadness, an emotional response to stimuli. It also is not depression, a neurobiological response to a chemical imbalance caused by genetic defect, neurological damage or the exhaustion of our ability to cope. Being miserable is a cognitive response, sometimes a subconscious one, to our emotions. 4) Personality Disorder – The Personality Disorders Described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) were designed to reflect the natural tendencies of all persons when highly stressed. When unhealthy patterns of relating to others becomes habitually, usually due to diminished coping resources or prolonged high levels of stress, and create disorder (a repeated inability to function in a way beneficial to one’s progress toward self-actualization) in a person’s life, such person usually meets the criteria for a Personality Disorder. It should be easy to see why persons with one of the major psychiatric conditions is also likely to have a Personality Diagnosis. However, it is SO common that many psychiatrist don’t bother making a separate diagnosis. Most therapists operate under an assumption that such a diagnosis exists, with certain ones being more common to each of the various Axis I diagnoses, which in turn often gives them a clue to appropriate areas of focus for intervention. Whether a “full-fledged” Personality Disorder exists or not, our common patterns of relating that arise from our struggle with Bipolar, rather than the actual symptoms of Bipolar are more often the cause of our failed relationships than anything else. This is one of the most compelling reasons to enter long-term therapy with an appropriately trained professional. Armed with this knowledge and these suggestions, you can put an end to loneliness as soon as you are ready. I am on the journey myself. Come join me.

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