Book Review: ‘When Someone You Love is Bipolar’

You may remember that I bought myself a book to learn more about bipolar disorder from a first person perspective. That was back in October, I think.

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When Someone You Love is Bipolar: Help and Support for You and Your Partner

A few days ago, I finished reading this book and now, I feel ready to share a few brief thoughts…
I’ve never written a book review before and, if I tried, I could end u over analysing things while boring you to death! Instead, I’ll keep this brief.

At the start of 2012, I met someone who suffered from bipolar disorder. As we tried to begin a relationship together, I realised that she was very much in denial about her condition. For as long as I knew her, I’d spend my spare time reading about this condition on sites including Wikipedia, in an attempt to educate myself. I was there for her but came across as too strong in trying to help her (almost telling her she needed help) and eventually pushed her away.

Shortly before we went our separate ways, I found this book through a search engine and always kept it in bookmarked within my browser. It wasn’t until October (eight months later) and five-months after meeting a beautiful woman with bipolar that I decided to make this purchase. We’re still very close friends to this day, if nothing more.

In the last two months then, I’ve managed to sit down and reading all 250+ pages in the evenings. Up until the reference section, where you can find website links for various support groups and mental health-related organisations around the world.

This book is written in the first-person, from Dr.Cynthia G. Last, who recognised her own symptoms of this mood disorder years before she was prepared to accept them. What you get from reading this book is a unique insight that you won’t gain from reading any fact sheets or pages outlining the main symptoms of bipolar disorder. Each chapter walks you through ways in which you can reach out to your partner, loved one or friend without pushing them away. It’s too easy to come across as brash and uncaring when talking to someone with manic depression (I’ve been there). This isn’t a diary format so, Dr.Last doesn’t fill each page with ‘triggering’ discussion of her own suffering. She shares some of her experiences sporadically but, this book is more about helping you to care for someone you love; sharing conversations between couples and highlighting areas where your words could make a difference.

Understanding bipolar disorder is far from easy. It would be too simple to tar all bipolar sufferers with the same brush. Because, once you look past the condition and accept someone for who they are, you realise that they are still a perfect human being and we’re all a little different to one another, regardless of whatever ‘label’ someone may try to plant on your forehead. For this reason, I do take issue with the book’s title, suggesting that someone is their illness but then, that is a mistake that’s generally made.

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on can...

Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night. Oil on canvas, 73×92 cm, 28¾×36¼ in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For its final chapter (after talking about dealing with the highs and then the lows), this book closes with a section on how to care for yourself, which is highly important. If you’re anything like me, this is something you’ll take for granted. If this one thing I wish Dr.Last had explained in this section though, it would be how to explain to your partner that you need to seek your own help, without leaving him/her with a feeling of guilt.

If someone you love and care about has bipolar or, maybe you’re sufferer yourself then, I highly recommend this book for its unique insight. I’ll keep my copy to hand, in case I need to refer back to certain at some point.

Thank you for reading.

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