8 Ways

by Tamuira Reid

According to an article written by Therese J. Bouchard for the site, World of Psychology, there are “8 Ways to Help Your Bipolar Loved One Cope”.

1. Educate yourself. Education is always the starting point. Because until a spouse or daughter or friend of a manic-depressive understands the illness, it is impossible to say and do the right thing.” -TB

I try to imagine your rage as something beautiful. Lightning raging across the sky. Wind raging across a thirsty desert. But all I see is you, Giant Man. Trapped in a body with a broken mind. What does it feel like? I don't recognize you in these moments, not even in the eyes. They go grey, flat. Like still water or trapped rain.

2. Learn how to talk to your loved one. “[He] doesn't say much when I'm clutching tissue paper, crying my eyes out. And he's hesitant to speak when I'm manic. When I don't want to get out of bed in the morning, he reminds me why I need to.” – TB

I feel like I've lost my mind, T.

Then let's find it.

It's not funny.

I'm not laughing.

Go fuck yourself.

3. Make some rules. “All those times the school administrators rehearsed what, exactly, would happen in the case of an emergency? Families of bipolar persons need them as well: a plan of action for those times when the bipolar person is sick.” – TB

You cut the deck and wait and cut it again. We open our Pepsi's and sit on the floor in our underwear.

We learned to play cards like this in rehab. To kill the boredom. To pass time thinking about anything other than how much we wanted to use.

When I went into treatment for my drinking problem, everyone warned me not to fall in love. Rehab booty is bad booty. Ridiculous, I thought. Who the hell finds love in a place like this?

It was my 25th day. Morning meeting. Bunch of newly sober drones reading from the Big Book. I was knitting a scarf for Linda, because she finally kicked dope and was leaving and had no chance in the world really but we all liked to pretend she did. A scarf with blue and black squiggly lines. That's when I heard it. Your voice. It cut through the room on some silvery thread. I looked up and saw you, Giant Man, with a stream of light pouring down on you from a hole in the cabin ceiling. Perfectly illuminated. It was so cheesy and over-the-top but there you have it. Fuck, I remember thinking. Oh fuck.

If I could go back to that morning and change it all. Stay in my room instead of going to morning meeting. If I'd gone to the center by the beach instead of the rehab on the mountain.

Go fish, you say and smile.

4. Plan for emergencies. “When you are dealing with a disease that has the potential to become life-threatening, the last thing you want is an improvised response to an emergency situation,” writes Francis Mark Mondimore, M.D. in his book “Bipolar Disorder: A Guide for Patients and Families.”

You scratch your arms. You scratch your face until it is red and torn. You scratch and howl at a moon that is not there. Trying to fight off a piece of yourself. I say, come sit with me a while. I say, it will be over soon, not knowing this is true. The neighbors hit the wall on their side, kick it. They are tired of the noise. They are tired of this shit. So is he, I want to tell them.

When you were six your neighbor and his buddies took you fishing for the first time off the coast of Ireland where you still lived. You had on a little wool cap and sunscreen and held tight to a borrowed fishing rod. They drank beer and laughed and talked about the things men talk about when their wives aren't around. You had to pee but held it because you didn't want to miss anything. The ocean looked huge and you wondered if the fish ever got bored swimming around all day with no TV to watch or comics to read. When a fish was caught it was thrown into a cooler near your feet. You looked down at them, shimmery and cold and gasping for air. With all your strength you lifted the cooler and dumped them back out into the water. They landed with a thud, like the one your body made when you jumped into a pool. The men put their beers down and stared at you or maybe they screamed but the fish were free now.

5. Listen. “Don't hesitate to say nothing. Because silence often speaks the most loving message.” – TB

After rehab, you move to New York to be with me and take the window dressing job at Donna Karan and your Giant Man hands dismember the mannequins instead of dressing them. Snap off pretty plastic arms and legs. You try to fit in, try to fold yourself into the world of normal people doing their normal things. Waking up. Going to work. Buying lunch from the halal guy on the corner, the greasy rice leaking through the Styrofoam and onto your pants. Sometimes you don't even get on the train but sit on the station bench instead for hours like it is your job. Like staying alive is your job.

I can't do it.

Can't do what?

Work. I don't know. Think? I can't think.

I think you're being lazy and bills are coming in and now I have to do the thinking for both of us.

And I'm sorry for that. I'd like to tell you I'm sorry for that.

6. Go Gentle. “A little kindness and gentleness toward your loved one–especially at those times that you feel incapable of affection and care– goes a long way to aid recovery.” – TB

I stop caring about you sometime between January and May. When the weather changes and the leaves come back. You go on the new meds and can't have aged cheese or avocado and I sit at the table in the kitchen, watching you watch me. We try to drive the crazy away but it has us by the throat, sleeps where we sleep.

7. Laugh together. “Recent studies indicate that humor reduces pain and boosts a person's immune system.” – TB

The hypnotist snaps his fingers and then there you are again in the office, sprawled out on the sofa like a beautiful smashed bird. And for a moment, you are unaware of who you are and what you are returning to. Hi, I say. Your hand feels light in mine and I remember that day so long ago when we rode the subway for the first time and it shot out of the tunnel at 125th street and sunlight hit us from all around and we kissed.

But then it's back to the real world of our apartment, all five bolts locked, and you, Giant Man, stand in front of the Giant Ikea Bookshelf – the one you built in a manic episode (I just need a project, a fucking project!) – pulling the thesaurus down from it's spot, conundrum, you whisper. Mystery, secret, head-scratcher.

Head-scratcher. Yep, totally you, I say.

8. Get support for yourself. “It can be exhausting to live with a hypomanic person and frustrating to deal with a seriously depressed person day after day,” says Dr. Mondimore. “The changes and unpredictability of the moods of someone with bipolar disorder intrude into home life and can be the source of severe stress in relationships, straining them to breaking point.” – TB

You call me from the fourth treatment center. I feel like Seabiscuit. Champing at the bit. So ready to get out of here. I'm like a new person, T. I have great meds, man. I mean, they work, like I feel them working.

You will call me in the years following this, from the next center and the next, from hospitals with crap beds and the psych wards with horrible fucking food and the places in-between that neither of us want to remember. In and out of doors for the rest of your life.

Your calls have mostly ended. Sometimes I think I hear your voice in my sleep, all big and Giant, and I want to ask where you are but I don't because it matters and it doesn't. The only real thing is you aren't here anymore.