About 5.7 million adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder, but the illness is often misunderstood and rarely talked about. Like other mental illnesses, bipolar disorder faces a stigma that can make it difficult for people living with it to openly discuss it or access the resources they need.

The Mighty wanted to hear from people who live with bipolar disorder about what they wish others understood about the condition, so we reached out to the International Bipolar Foundation, a nonprofit that works to end the stigma surrounding the disorder and supports those living with it. The organization asked its readers to share one thing they wish others understood about bipolar disorder. Here is what they had to say.

1. “When I’m upset, it’s not always because of my bipolar. I can be upset about having a bad day at work, not having a good night’s sleep or anything reasonable. I’m a human, just like everyone else, and I try not to let bipolar run my life.” — Faith Amber Rios

2. “It can be exhausting and overwhelming to be in your own skin.” — Casie Brown-Bordley

bipolar disorder quotes: It can be exhausting and overwhelming to be in your own skin.

3. “We do not choose to feel the way we do. We aren’t “crazy.” We have an illness. We deserve to be treated with respect, just like anyone else.” — Courtney Lovitt

4. “I know I’m hard work to be friends with, but the ones who stick around mean the world to me and have kept me alive.” — Tess Vandenberg

5. “Articulate, creative and talented people can have bipolar disorder.” — Danielle David

6. “I wish people understood its complexities. It’s not necessarily up one day and down the next. There are also times when you feel completely normal.”  — Emma Brooks

7. People with bipolar are great people to hang out with. We do not need pity; we just need you to understand we are different.” — Sam Kay

bipolar disorder quotes: People with bipolar are great people to hang out with. We do not need pity; we just need you to understand we are different.

8. “Everyone who has normal mood swings is not ‘a little bipolar.’” — Kaitlyn Wolff

9. “No matter how hard you work at keeping yourself balanced, you can still get thrown off.” — Kymberly M. Price

10. “Even if on the surface I look like I’m coping, it can take a huge amount of will, the cumulative effect of years of therapy and damn hard work to keep functioning and doing everyday things.” — Tracey Katz

11. “It’s a broad spectrum disorder. No one person with bipolar has the exact same symptoms as another.” — Amanda Stanford

12. “I hate when I tell someone I have bipolar and they get a look of terror in their eyes.” — Christine Kirton

bipolar disorder quotes: I hate when I tell someone I have bipolar and they get a look of terror in their eyes

13. “We are not bipolar disorder. We have bipolar disorder. And most of us lead fairly normal lives.” — Amber E. DeCorte

14. “The mood swings can come suddenly and without warning.” — Susan Foster

15. “When I’m down, it’s not a reflection of how others are treating me, it’s just the wiring in my brain. Sometimes I don’t know how to feel because the illness and the medications are difficult even for me to understand.” — Art Wartenbe

16. “Sometimes, I just want to be left alone. Other times, I need a puppy pile.” — Buffy Franklin

bipolar disorder quotes: Sometimes, I just want to be left alone. Other times, I need a puppy pile.

17. “People should not feel guilty because they cannot ‘fix’ it. Company and love are the best things they can give me.” — Joseph A. Golden

18. “You are you, even after a bipolar diagnosis.” — Sharon Willheit Frederickson

19. “I can’t help it. I can’t always just ‘calm down.’” — Rachael Lee

20. “You would never say, ‘Wow! This candy is so diabetic.’ So why would you use ‘bipolar’ as an adjective?” — Brandi Hall McBroom

bipolar disorder quotes: You would never say, Wow! This candy is so diabetic. So why would you use bipolar as an adjective?

21. “I’m a productive member of society. I’m not some crazy disease that needs to be locked away. I can do things just like everyone else. I’m strong and funny, and there isn’t anything more wrong with me than the next person.” — Alisha Roney

22. “Though it may not seem like it at times, I’m really doing the best I can.” — Mick Goodman

23. “Just because I’m unable to socialize or communicate with friends and family during my low points doesn’t mean I don’t love them.” — Sherry Danielle Fish

24. “[We’re not] crazy or insane. We are just people living with a condition.” — Emma Sinclair

bipolar disorder quotes: We're not crazy or insane. We are just people living with a condition.

25. “I can fully maintain my status as a good mother and take care of my children just as well and give them all the love and care they need. They’re what keep me going on my dark days!” — Debi Burr

26. “‘Bipolar’ is not a person. People ask how my bipolar is doing more often than how I’m doing.” — Viki Carter

27. “I hate not trusting my own thoughts or decisions because I’m afraid they’re results of my illness.” — Tiffany Bezayiff

28. “Being manic is not all fun and games. When I’m manic, I can be extremely paranoid, hard to understand (due to my fast speech) and anxious. I take risks I shouldn’t take. I’ll be broke during the duration of the episode (due to shopping sprees). I have no sense of empathy for those around me (since that would slow me down), and I’m restless constantly since I’m working on something all the time.” — Emmaleah Brooklynn Alkire

bipolar disorder quotes: Being manic is not all fun and games.

29. “I wish people would stop asking me if I am happy or sad.” — Lisa Marie Miller Osban

30. “Not everything is due to my bipolar. Sometimes I’m just an as*hole.” — Sarah Klapprodt

31. “People sometimes don’t get how debilitating it can be because it’s invisible.” — Pamela Jean

32. “You sometimes feel incredibly lonely even though you’re surrounded by loving family.” — Hayley Bootes

bipolar disorder quotes: You sometimes feel incredibly lonely even though you're surrounded by loving family.

33. “Just because I’m having a bad day doesn’t mean I didn’t take my medicine.” — Sarah Howerton Kakkuri

34. “I’m tired of apologizing.” — Heather Souza

35. “I wish when people think I’m having an ‘episode’ that they wouldn’t get scared and hide, afraid of what was to come. It sets me up to fail.” — Katie Kennard

36. “My mood does not always mirror my character.” — Asit Mohanty

37. “I don’t always understand it either.” — Stephanie Lee

38. “When under the strain of bipolar’s strongest symptoms, we certainly can make selfish decisions, but that doesn’t make us selfish people. In fact, because we have struggled and known such depths of darkness, our compassion runs deeper.” — Lyss Trayers

bipolar disorder quotes: because we have struggled and known such depths of darkness, our compassion runs deeper.

39. “For many of us, mania is not an extreme elation or euphoria — it’s anger and irritability and impulsivity and recklessness. It’s a big loss of control of our grip on rationality and reality.” — Lyss Trayers

40. “I’m not a mean person.” — Beth Wilcoxen

41. “I’m standing in the middle of a seesaw trying to stay perfectly balanced.” — Emily Anne

42. “I am still me no matter my mental health.” — Niki Mcbain

bipolar disorder quotes: I am still me no matter my mental health.

43. “I wish more people understood the physical toll managing this disease takes. It’s not just side effects from medications — it’s also the sheer exhaustion from adrenaline rushes, fatigue from depression, etc.” — Toni Jacobs Burke

44. “Being on medication doesn’t mean I won’t have breakthrough mania or depression.” — Michelle Mirabella Fowler-Wise

45. “I can be happy, I can laugh, I can smile and I can feel good about the world and about life and be optimistic about things without being manic or hypomanic.” — David Luzhansky

bipolar disorder quotes: can be happy, I can laugh, I can smile and I can feel good about the world and about life and be optimistic about things without being manic or hypomanic.

*Some responses have been shortened and edited.

**Editor’s note: This headline has been changed. A previous version of the story was titled “46 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood.”

For more resources and information about bipolar disorder, visit the International Bipolar Foundation.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

45 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood

45 Truths People With Bipolar Disorder Wish Others Understood


2012: A Massachusetts woman with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia was forced to have an abortion before being sterilized. 2013: A woman in the United Kingdom has her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section and taken into child services because of her mental health issues.

As a woman who is married and still deciding whether or not I want to have children, the stigma toward pregnancy, motherhood and mental health is concerning. But until two years ago, these were just stories.

It was December, my birthday actually, and I had a consultation with a new psychiatrist. I’ve said it before: I’ve never met a psychiatrist I’ve liked. So while I didn’t go in with high hopes, I never thought this visit would be among the worst in my life.

As I sat in the waiting room, I knew who was waiting for me. It was undoubtedly going to be a man. (They’re always men.) He was going to have glasses. (They always have glasses). He was going to be slightly disheveled. (They’re always disheveled.) He was going to ask me questions about my history. I was going feel guilty and embarrassed. I’d then start to cry. He’d ask me why, and I’d incoherently try to explain myself through tears. It’d be awful, but then it’d be over.

When my name was finally called, I followed him into the office that now felt claustrophobic with the two of us inside. I quickly launched into the gory details of my illness.

Getting a psychiatric assessment is not like having a doctor glance at your mole. You’re sharing your most personal, and more often shameful, experiences of your life.

Imagine your most embarrassing moment. Maybe it was that time you farted during your sixth grade presentation, or when you walked around with your skirt tucked into your tights all day. Whatever it is, remember the fear of judgement, the embarrassment and the shame. Now, imagine retelling every mortifying moment to a stranger on the bus.

And this isn’t a passive audience. Your listener is asking questions: What did the fart smell like? What did you have for lunch that day? Have you ever farted in public before then? Does your family have a history of public farting?

These questions make you relive not only the embarrassing moment itself, but all of the moments leading up to it. Now you regret eating beans at lunch because you should’ve known better. Your family has always whispered about your Uncle Frank’s 1965 broccoli incident.

And as you’re answering, he takes notes. Endless notes. You try to peer over his clipboard to see what he’s scratching, but he holds it close to his chest. With those notes, he’ll make files – files you’re never privy to, even when you ask. (Trust me, I’ve asked.)

It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid – do it quickly and the pain lasts only a second.

When I’m done, we sit silently for a moment as I dig through my purse looking for a tissue. Just as I find an errant tissue, he inhales and asks, “Are you thinking of becoming pregnant?”

I pause, momentarily stunned by the question. I’d seen a lot of psychiatrists, but none of them had asked me this before. After a moment, I reply. “Not any time soon.”

“You know it’s dangerous to become pregnant while on these medications,” he replies, ignoring my response as he makes more notes on his clipboard.

“Yes, I know the risks involved.” My back is up, I’m feeling defensive. “But I’m not thinking of getting pregnant soon.”

“Good, because it’s dangerous and not just for you. We don’t know the risks of medication on the fetus. It could cause birth defects and other issues. It’s not 100 percent, but there’s still a risk. You need to know all of this before you become pregnant.”

“Yes, I’ve spoken to my doctor about it before. But since I’m not planning on getting pregnant any time soon, we figured we could revisit the issue when I’m making that decision. I don’t even know if I want kids anyway.”

He looks up at me, cocks his head to the side and adjusts his glasses before looking back down at his clipboard. “You know your disorder is genetic.”

I nod, feeling my cheeks flush. He interprets my silence as misunderstanding.

“That means that it’s passed down,” he speaks slowly, emphasizing every syllable, “through the family…”

“I know what genetic means,” I spit through my teeth.

I stare at him aghast, floored by the words coming out of his mouth. Apparently he thinks I’m some kind of monster who shouldn’t procreate! Would it be so terrible if I had a kid and they had bipolar disorder? While of course I wouldn’t wish my disease on anyone, my life isn’t horrible. And I imagine if my child did have a mental illness, I’d have the tools to help him or her cope.

I suddenly tried to imagine my life without children. Where once it seemed like a choice,  it now seemed like something being forcibly taken away from me.

In that moment, and for the first time in my life, I desperately wanted children. I wanted a hoard of them. I wanted to raise them to be healthy and happy and then I wanted to thrust their beautiful cherub faces at him as proof. See they’re fine! I can be a mother!

I was so angry, hurt and completely shocked by his implications that I don’t even remember how the appointment ended. All I can remember is leaving the hospital with tears streaming down my face, thinking, It’s my birthday. He ruined my birthday.

It’s been two years since that appointment and I’ve shared this story repeatedly to illustrate the pervading stigma and fear existing toward those with a mental illness. My experience is nowhere near as traumatic as someone who was given a forced hysterectomy or abortion, but I tell this story to illustrate that medical professionals can be deeply uneducated when it comes to discussing mental health and parenthood. These comments came from a man who is supposedly educated in the field. This is a man treating a vulnerable population. This is a man who is using his authority to spread fear and misinformation.

Although my husband and I still haven’t decided if and/or when we’ll have children, the hurt and anger of this encounter lingers. Some days, when I see my friends with their babies, I think, “I could do that. I could be a mom one day.”

And then I hear his voice: But they could turn out like you…

A version of this post originally appeared on Mad Girl’s Lament.

I will never regret my decision to write openly about living with bipolar disorder. Never. There is something to be said for reaching a point in your life when you take an important leap. One you can tell your kids about someday. When it hurt too much to keep it bottled up inside, I realized that was the moment I wanted to let people know I’m not perfect, but I still love my life just the way it is, mental illness and all.

I love the moments right before I fall asleep. My mind replays my day’s highlights, as if to ingrain the smile or giggle or kiss in a corner of my brain, so that I won’t ever forget it. Tucked away safe so that I can unwrap it again when I need that memory.

Lying still, listening to the steady rhythm of the one I love beside me, I think about the day that awaits me when the sun rises. I soak up all the sleep I can because chances are, I was up too late writing the night before. I no longer set an alarm; the sweet voices of my kids will wake me when the sunlight pours into their rooms.

The truth is, even though I will never regret my decision to tell the world about the chemical imbalance in my brain, I still wonder if I chose the right time in my life to open my heart.

Living openly with a mental illness means you’ll always wonder if the world is judging you. You’ll wonder if you will ever be looked over for a job you applied to or a promotion you earned because of the fact the employer knows you have bipolar disorder. You might wonder if you will ever work a regular job again now that you’ve written about the darkest and also the most manic times of your life.

These are the things I’ve been worrying about lately.

The truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that even though I know my husband loves me with his entire heart, someday he might not because my illness might get in the way one time too many. My entire world would come crumbling down around me.

And if my world did come crashing down, if I was left to manage on my own, how would I do that? Again, the future employment picture bubbles to the surface. How would I support myself financially when my loving husband has been the main provider for the last six years? And would my symptoms suddenly break through the surface again, like a volcano that has been dormant but now is ready to explode?

These are the big, scary thoughts that sometimes make me wonder if I did the right thing.

Because the truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that once you’re diagnosed, it’s yours to live with for the rest of your life. It’s yours to manage, to curse, to medicate, to appreciate. There is no erasing a mental health condition. Therein lies both the beauty and the beast.

The truth about living openly with bipolar disorder is that it’s shown me how far I’ve come as a person. How I’m no longer afraid of showing my true colors. I love my brain and all the creativity it has allowed me to express. Even though it may break down from time to time, I love this piece of me that has shown me what I’m capable of. And that is overcoming my fears and insecurities.

For this I say, I’m glad I’ve decided to be open about the fact that I have bipolar disorder.

No looking back. There’s only the beautiful mystery of what lies ahead.

This post originally appeared on Bipolar Mom Life.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Can you tell us about the moment that made you realize it was time to face your mental illness? What was your next step? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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The other day, I was having a conversation with my daughter. It went something like this:

Princess: “Mom, I really hate to say this, but I think I love you more than Dad.”

Me: “What make you think that?”

Princess: “Well, I’ve been thinking. You know how I was always a Daddy’s Girl? I think I am now a Mommy’s Girl.”

And then my heart melted. I assured her she could love both her father and me equally, but she insisted she loved me more. On that day, I did not argue with her. I just basked in the sun of this newfound revelation of my daughter’s.

Hearing your child say “I love you” can melt any mom’s heart, but those words can eventually lose their novelty and specialness. I think I will cherish them a bit longer than most. It’s not because my daughter has been nonverbal — it’s because she was so unstable for years.

There were many days when my precious child screamed, “I hate you!” At the time, it hurt to hear that phrase even though I knew it wasn’t how she really felt. She was angry and confused. One day when she was upset with me over a homework battle, she etched the words, “I HATE MOM” onto our kitchen table. I shed a few tears over that one. We still have the table with those spiteful words embedded in it. My husband has not sanded them out yet, and I’m not sure I ever want him to. They serve as a memorial of sorts. They remind me how far my daughter has come since that day.

With the right medication and therapy, my child is now happy and thriving. Our home has become a peaceful one.

Gone are the days of aggression. Gone are the days when I had to lock myself in my bedroom just to be safe from my own child. Gone are the days when my child was someone I did not enjoy being around. Gone are the words, “I hate you, Mom!”

Those ugly, dark days have been replaced with cuddles. With random shouts of “I love you!” With my precious girl telling me she loves me more than her dad.

Recently in the midst of so much joy and peace, I asked this reborn child of mine why she used to say she hated me. She told me she never really hated me — she hated the way she was feeling. She was confused and had to take it out on someone. Since her life was in such a turmoil and she did not have the words for what she was feeling, it was easier to lash out at me.

I’m thrilled my daughter has learned how to express herself in a more positive manner. It warms the cockles of my heart to hear her say that one sentence I never thought I’d hear: “I love you, Mom.”

daughter kisses mother on the cheek

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Last night was a rough one here at the House of AuSome. My son, Liam, got upset with me because he wanted to watch a certain movie, and I told him it was inappropriate for him. He got mad. So mad that he shut himself up in his room to pout. For an hour.

Liam is never too far from me. He won’t stay anywhere. He follows me around the house. You get the idea. So I was shocked. I let him pout. He even wrote me a letter on strips of paper.

It came time for his melatonin dose, and he still wasn’t speaking to me. I waited half an hour for his gummy to kick in, and I told him I was going to bed. He wrote me a note saying he wasn’t talking to me, and he was going to sleep in the living room.

Handwritten note that says, Fine I don't like you anymore.

Again, I was flabbergasted because we share a room. He can’t sleep by himself, and for any of us to get any sleep at all, this was our only course of action. I told him I understood. I bent and kissed his forehead and told him I loved him. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.

I walked back to our room. As I was standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth, I heard the pitter patter of little feet. Then two little arms embraced me with such force, I staggered for a moment.

I looked down to see his face. All red, tears flowing down his cheeks. He started to heave with heavy sobs. I quickly rinsed my mouth and managed to walk him, still grasping me with all his might, over to my bed. We sat, and he immediately climbed into my lap.

My heart sank. He hasn’t cried this hard since his last severe depressive cycle. That was last year. It could come at any time. We’re on pins and needles, fearing it could come every day.

I started softly asking him questions. “Are you OK? Are you still angry with me? Do you understand why I said no? Do you know how much I love you?” He wouldn’t speak, only answering with nods.

You see, if he were having a meltdown, I wouldn’t be barraging him with questions. I know that would only make it worse. With a dual diagnosis of autism and bipolar disorder, it’s usually one or the other, or one making the other worse. (Example, if he has a meltdown and screams nasty things at us, he sometimes then goes into a depressive cycle because he feels bad for his behavior. Or, if he’s in a manic cycle, he is so high energy and stimming off the walls.)

He started pushing against my body to rock him. And so, we rocked like that for a good 40 minutes. The crying became softer and then stopped all together. I took a moment, and I silently thanked God. Seeing your child in a major depressive cycle literally sucks all the life force out of you. I pray every day that it will skip this season, and we won’t have to watch our son in mental agony.

He asked for the Kindle, and we sat and played a few games together. We laughed. We giggled. I kissed his gorgeous forehead. He told me he was sorry. He told me he was sad because he was afraid he hurt my feelings, and he doesn’t like to do that. I smiled and assured him that I too, (believe it or not) was a kid once. And I too, had been in a similar place with my parents.

He handed me the Kindle, snuggled into my arms and fell asleep. I left him like that for a bit. Staring at his peaceful face. Silently wondering how I got so lucky as to be his mom. With all the struggles, the good days and the awful ones, I wouldn’t trade this child — or my life with him — for anything in this world.

I try so very hard to not let life get me down. We’ve been dealt a hard hand, but we persevere. It’s life, and that’s what you do. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there are days that kick me in the gut, steal my breath and stop my heart.

I give you the good, the bad and the ugly. I don’t sugarcoat. I won’t. I’ll respect my son and his privacy as much as I can while still trying to share our struggle — his struggle — so others know they aren’t alone. And so I don’t lose my mind by bottling it up inside.

About two months ago, my son’s psychiatrist upped his medications. It had adverse effects, and after two weeks, his doctor dropped him back down to the lower dose. But eventually, the low dose began affecting him like the high dose had — he’d cry and grow aggressive. Our doctor said this could happen with a dual diagnosis of autism and bipolar (and ADHD — and then some.) He said sometimes treating one will make the other worse.

He was right. So I took Liam off the medication, with the doctor’s permission. I won’t let my son live that way.

As I sit here tonight, and I see him sitting on the couch, I’m brokenhearted. He’s not playing. He’s not talking. He doesn’t want anyone to bother him. He’s refusing to play with his older brother. He’s merely a shell of the boy that I once knew.

It’s not fair. It’s not right. He is 8 years old. Why in the world does he have to deal with this? Why does his life have to be so hard? I always try to see the positive in life, but today I see none of that. Today I see a little boy who has more on his plate than those three times his age.

Yes, I’m thankful for my son, for our lives and for waking up to his beautiful face every morning. But I’m pissed that this life has to be so hard for him. For me. For his father. Being a parent is tough. Being a parent that has no control over your child’s life is even tougher. I can’t make the Bipolar go away. I can’t take away the pain. I can’t make the cycles stop. Autism has nothing on Bipolar. Bipolar is evil, and it robs my son of the happy life he deserves.

Today I’m wallowing.

Tomorrow I will get up and I will kick Bipolar’s arse.

For my son.

Because nothing else matters, and he deserves to be happy.


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