“On my bad days she gives me a lot of space,” he says.
Because bipolar can take a long time to diagnose—there is an average six-year delay between onset and diagnosis, according to a 2016 study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry—a lot of damage can be done to a relationship before proper help is found. That’s why Julie K. says she is thrilled there is increasing awareness about the disorder, and that people who are diagnosed in their teens and early 20s are able to enter into relationships much more educated about themselves and their behaviors than she was.
“Thank goodness they can save themselves so much pain and heartache,” she says.
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Keeping bonds strong
Set boundaries early. “Have a conversation about boundaries during a calm period,” suggests Sharon Barrett, a clinical social worker and therapist from Toronto. Communicate clearly which values and behaviors are non-negotiable, such as verbal abuse or overspending, and spell out the consequences. “Without this, follow through, or boundary setting will be ineffective,” Barrett says.