Supporting Your Support Network

Posted on Nov. 29, 2023, 4:03 p.m.

The day you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not the first day you would have shown symptoms of this sometimes debilitating mood disorder. In the period of time between when you first start showing symptoms and the time you find a treatment plan that helps, you and your support network will probably have been put through quite a few ups and downs.

Take a moment right now to empathize with them. As confused as you were about why you behaved a certain way, so were they. They were with you on the emotional rollercoaster, and they stuck by you.

Just because you now have clarity, and hopefully a path to stability, does not dismiss your need to have supportive individuals around you. Up to this point, you may have demanded more from them than you have returned, that  Much has been true for me, it is time to make sure that you are supporting your support network as much or more than they support you.

Spouse and Kids


My spouse has dealt with my many episodes for many years, long before we knew what was going on and well before we were on an effective path to getting me stable (still a work in progress).  Knowing what we are dealing with is part of the solution, but now with medication that causes drowsiness, muscle aches, and many other fun times, it is more important than ever for me to maximize my contribution when I can.

For example, I can currently function until from 9 AM to 1 PM and again from 3PM to 7 PM, so during those times I make extra sure to help out around the house and get whatever work done that needs to be done. Helping out around the house (dishes, trash, general cleaning, etc.) is a generally good thing to do, but also a selfish way to make sure your other half has the bandwidth to support your needs. What you do to support your spouse will vary, but the important thing is to try to balance the extra load you place on them with the help you provide when you can.

The only thing I will say about kids is that they are not part of your support network, and to try not to let your crazy ruin them. Try not to lose sight of the fact that they are children.

Coworkers, Friends And Family


The game plan with coworkers is similar to with your spouse in that you will be compensating for the times you feel too down to work, go out on disability, and otherwise cannot act as a full member of the team. Most of us are judged on what we produce, so when you feel up to it, make the most of your productive times so you have a lot of items throughout the year to point to.

Apart from producing more when you are at your best (to ride out the times you are low), it has benefited me to go outside of my element to create relationships with most of my coworkers. Typically, I like to keep to myself, but if you move the coworkers closer to a friend and decide to have non work related conversations, it will work better if you established a history beforehand.  Just like with my spouse, my intentions are not always 100% pure, but survival is the goal.

Friends and family will usually require extra attention to maintain the relationship, since you are not on an enforced 40-hour/week visitation with them like you are with coworkers. Luckily, it has literally never before in the history of mankind been easier to keep in touch with people. Give your mom/dad/sibling a good morning text message. Facebook your friend from high school. Talk to old coworkers on LinkedIn. Those are just the platforms I use, you and I know that plenty more exist. The idea here is to get into a regular habit of talking to them about non-crises topics relevant to them so that, when it does hit the fan, you have a network of open ears able to help.

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