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What do you give the bipolar person who has everything? Well, it depends on your relationship and their sense of humor, of course. Maybe you just want to drop a gift card in the mail, but maybe you can do something a little more thoughtful – isn’t that the idea behind the whole holiday gift-giving rigamarole? To demonstrate that you think of and care about someone?

Well, then, I’m glad we agree on that.

In the spirit of helping all you folks who love someone nutty, I’ve compiled not one, but two lists of gift suggestions! The first list is stuff that costs a few bucks; the second is a list of stuff that is free or low cost.

Buy-It Bipolar Gift List

For entertainment only.

For entertainment purposes only.

  1. DIY Therapy book: who needs a professional, anyway? OK, so most of us really do need a proper therapist, but this is a damn funny book.
  2. Neurodiversity T-shirt: heck, get a matching set! Nothing says “I love you as you are” like supporting neurodiversity. Which is completely natural, when you think about it from an evolutionary perspective.
  3. Moodscope Plus subscription: $10/month gives access to extra analysis tools and the ability to see more of your data. I find it a worthwhile service and it has given me a lot of insight.
  4. MedicAlert subscription: emergency identification is a really good idea, and there are a number of options.
  5. Sassy,  funny pill cases are all over Etsy, and to do one better, lovingly hand customize the pill case by lining it with sticky-backed felt (or other slightly heavy material) to reduce the noise of pills rattling about.
  6. Martian Popping Thing stress toy: a classic. I was devastated when mine died of old age. Well, maybe devastated isn’t the right word – sorely disappointed?
  7. Wellness Journal supplies and materials: an extra-nice (leatherbound is ideal) journal; pictures of you together, favorite places, and other special moments; pens and colored pencils; glue dots and photo corners; and encouragement.
  8. Classes in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, T’ai Chi, or Yoga: practicing gentle, mindful movement and developing meditative and relaxation skills is incredibly valuable for people with mood disorders.
  9. High-end sex toys to stave off hypersexual indiscretions. Go for the good stuff so it will last through at least a couple manic episodes. Hey, I’m just being honest here.
  10. Something-of-the-month subscription (non-alcoholic), my favorite being Vosges’ 13 Moons. Maybe there’s a sex toy of the month club? (yes, yes there are, and oy, the comment spam and weird search referrals I’m gonna get for this post…) It’s a great tonic for depression to have something enjoyable to look forward, or a pleasant surprise if you forgot it was coming.

Low-Cost Gifts for Bipolar Friends & Family

Say you’re broke (like me) but want to show your love on this overly consumerist holiday. This list suggests some items that you can buy or make on the cheap, but take the time to do it right.

seamonkeys, by rogerajohnson, CC-BY-SA. They cost a little more than $1.25 these days.

seamonkeys by rogerajohnson, CC-BY-SA. They cost a little more than $1.25 these days.

  1. Remember those corny homemade gift certificates you made for your parents in elementary school? Make a set that includes offers to do tasks that are hard to do when depressed (dishes, groceries, etc.), fun things to do together, an “out of jail free” card for when they just can’t handle a social engagement — be creative! Have fun with construction paper, markers, scissors, glue and heck, even glitter (why not?) while you make a nice set of thoughtful ways to help support wellness.
  2. Make or buy a cheap starter kit for something wholesome: forcing paperwhites or other bulbs (great for those whose illness comes with “seasonal features”), learning to knit or crochet, making homemade soap or body products, setting up an ant farm or sea monkeys — you get the picture. It doesn’t have to cost much, or anything at all, but it should come with a promise to do/assemble/learn it together. Connectedness is very important for everyone’s wellness.
  3. Create a visual reminder of positive affirmations, and make them honest genuine statements about the person. An idea board, a collage, a quilt, whatever – just make it with love, and make it something that can be hung in a prominent place and seen every day.
  4. Write a “love letter.” Write it by hand, in ink, on nice paper, with your best handwriting. Plan what to write before you actually write it so that you can make a pretty, clean copy to give. Your love letter is something the recipient can pull out when feeling poorly and re-read for some comfort. Tell the person how much you love them, how important they are to you, what you love about them, and the positive things you look forward to experiencing together. Make it really heartfelt; it will be treasured. If you cry when you write it, you’re definitely doing it right.
  5. Soothing bath salts for calming down incipient mania: no, no, not the street drug, the kind you actually put in your bath! Easily made with a little salt and essential oils – look online for recipes. The materials will make huge batches, so why not give everyone on your list a pint jar of your own designer bath salts trimmed with sparkly ribbons?
  6. Playlists for mood episodes: if you know the recipient’s taste in music, this can be awesome. Thematically, soothing & upbeat are both good choices, as are songs that convey a message of caring and love (without being too gooey). At least 60 minutes is ideal – a soothing playlist is all the better when it can outlast the body’s 45-minute limit on pumping out panic juices. Burning a CD is probably the easiest way to give this gift, but there are other methods if you’re clever with teh Interwebs.
  7. Commit to a mutual wellness goal, e.g. taking walks together twice a week or competing on daily step counts or being Health Month buddies (free for up to 3 goals!) If you’re both doing it together, you’re both more likely to succeed. Maybe it’s just having a date every so often – socializing is important for wellness.
  8. Sign up for the free version of Moodscope and share your scores. Agree to contact one another if either has very low or very high scores that might suggest a problem.
  9. Read up on bipolar disorder. Educating yourself about your loved one’s condition is one of the most thoughtful and meaningful gifts you can give. The library is free.
  10. Be an advocate. Speak up on mental health issues, volunteer or donate to advocacy organizations, and tell people that it’s inappropriate to call the weather, a girlfriend, or anything else other than a diagnosed sufferer “bipolar” because it’s a serious illness and misusing the term further stigmatizes the condition. Don’t perpetuate the stigma by being flippant about mental illness; help work against it.

Disclaimer: be smart and make gift-giving choices that are appropriate to your relationship with the person or you will almost certainly come across as an ass. For example, bosses should not buy sex toys for employees. EVER. Pill cases might be best given by family members or BFFs. Journal supplies, Martian Popping Things, Sea Monkeys, and mutual wellness goals are appropriate for nearly everyone.