An Experienced Partner Lends Practical Support in ‘Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder’

 

Partners of people with bipolar disorder face unique challenges, but Julie A. Fast and John D. Preston, PsyD, know how to help. Fast spoke to us about how her own experiences with bipolar prepared her to write their book, Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner.

WebPsychology: What is your personal experience with bipolar disorder?

Julie Fast: My first symptom was a euphoric hypomanic episode at age 17. I thought the real me was finally shining through. When I went back to my high school life, I simply couldn’t understand what happened. Where was that Julie? She came back often, and then the mood would be gone. I searched for this happy person and believed that my mood was real until I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar two with psychotic features in 1995 at age 31.

WP: How did your experience prepare you to author this book?

JF: I lost my first marriage to a wonderful man due to my bipolar disorder. I simply changed and didn’t know what was happening, so I moved on.

I looked across the room at a bar one night and saw a cute guy staring at me. Because I was hypomanic, I walked over and just sat right next to him, then moved in with him one week later.

Ivan had some depression. [After we got married,] he started acting very strangely. This started a one-year odyssey of him being extremely manic and psychotic for three months and then another three months in a severe suicidal down swing.

It was the hardest time of my life. He almost died, and no one was really there to help me. They had no idea what to do. I, as a partner, had no idea what to do, and I didn’t even know I had another form of bipolar disorder.

One year after his diagnosis, I finally saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me in 20 minutes. Two years later, I wrote my treatment plan that is in all of my books, and we have both used it daily ever since.

This is why I have so much experience with the illness. I was a partner of a person with bipolar disorder for 10 years. We eventually parted, but have remained friends.

WP: How did your and your co-author’s different backgrounds work together to shape the course of the book?

JF: Lucky me! John Preston was assigned as my coauthor when I got the book deal. He is still my dearest friend, advocate, teacher, mentor and supporter. We complement each other, as I write the books, and he offers the technical information I need, especially around medications.

WP: How can this book be used by a couple?

JF: This book is for the partner. I wrote it from what I experienced as a partner of a person with the illness. It’s a huge bonus if the person with bipolar disorder is willing to do the exercises in the book, but the book is written in a way partners can understand.

Partners have to first learn what their loved one’s bipolar looks like and what problems are arising from the bipolar before they can create a plan that works with their partner. It’s about self-education.

I remember being in the trenches when Ivan was so sick, when doctors ignored me, when I cried myself to sleep every night, when I had to watch Ivan 24 hours a day because he was so suicidal. I said, “When I get through this, I will write a book for partners because we need help.”

WP: What success stories have you heard from readers?

JF: Tens of thousands, if not more, success stories, and they all say the same thing: “Thank you for helping me see what bipolar disorder was doing to my relationship. Once I was able to see my partner’s symptoms and use the ideas in the book, I didn’t walk into the same situations over and over again. You saved my relationship.”