A lot of families have plans in place for whole family emergencies - natural disasters, fires, etc. (If you don't, here's a great FEMA worksheet.) What I'm talking about here is an individual emergency, where one parent has to be away from home for awhile. In order for things to run as smoothly as possible, you need to have a plan. The Bearded One and I learned this the hard way after two hospitalizations left him holding the proverbial bag, with no clue as to what to do. (He still made it work, I must add. He's a resourceful guy.)
Three critical steps to planning ahead are to:
- know yourself
- create a plan
- work as a team
Others can't begin to know how to help you if you don't know how to help yourself. This applies to all medical conditions- migraines, epilepsy, heart disease, etc- not just bipolar. You must know what your stressors, triggers and allergens are. You must know your early warning signs and symptoms that a crisis is looming. And you must know the things that you and others can do to help should the worst happen.
Create a Plan
Once you figure all that out, it's time to form a crisis plan. There is a good planning worksheet here to help you lay everything out. It's setup for bipolars, but can easily be tailored to suit your unique situation. Another good checklist can be found here.
Remember to include the following in your plan:
- early warning signs and symptoms
- how to help you
- doctor's contact info
- current drug info, including herbals and over-the-counter meds (Mednotes is an easy to use tool for this)
- preferred pharmacy info
- preferred hospital info (if applicable)
- emergency contact info
- any other info you feel your support system should know in an emergency
When you have your plan written up, be sure to give copies to each person in your support system and discuss it with them; this includes your doctor(s) and/or therapist. Keep your home copy in an easy to find place.
Work as a Team
We've all been there; when one of you is gone, some things fall through the cracks because the other didn't know what to do. For example, I tend to not cook from a recipe. I just look at what I have and make something. This translates to The Bearded One and Punkin' Butt eating lots of frozen pizza and take-out while I'm in the hospital because he doesn't know what to do with all those raw ingredients
The best way to solve this is to work as a team as often as you can while things are calm. If you do the cooking, let the other help you prep. TBO has started writing down the recipe as I cook. If your significant other always pays the bills, start sitting down together to go over the budget. If it helps, create a household how-to manual. I'm starting one for our family that includes a few easy recipes, phone numbers of friends who can help babysit, online passwords, dates bills are due, etc. The more you learn how to do what the other does, the more in control you'll feel should a crisis arise. Speaking of control...
Trust Each Other
When it is you that is in crisis, you have to let go. Trust your partner to take care of things. The only way you are going to help yourself in a crisis is by letting others help you. If you've been working as a team and have an emergency plan in place, it's that much easier to focus on yourself. The first time I was hospitalized, I spent most of my time calling home to help TBO figure things out. What I should have been doing was trusting him and healing.
Don't wait for an emergency to put all this in place. And it doesn't have to be a medical emergency; you never know when you might have to drop everything and leave town for awhile. So start today, this minute. I'm sure you already have some ideas; go ahead and jot them down before you forget. Talk to your partner tonight. Remember, the time to plan is when everything is calm, and emergencies don't give you fair warning.