7 Do's and Don'ts for When I Tell You I Have Bipolar Disorder


If I divulge the illness I battle with every day to you, please realize this: I either feel it is very necessary, or I trust you. That’s all, folks.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Telling someone of my illness is like taking a chance on possibly changing an aspect of my life with one little confession. For instance, if you’re a friend I confide in, there’s a chance you won’t be accepting and might distance yourself, therefore resulting in a loss of friendship I cherished enough to tell of my deepest secret. Another example would be telling a manager at work, with the possibility of losing my job. Even though I am protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are always loopholes, and I realize this as I tell of my struggle to be the best possible version of myself to achieve my goals at work.

If I am brave enough to open up and tell you this information and brave enough to confide in you about this internal struggle that I keep to myself in order to avoid judgement and backlash, here are a few things I’d like you to do.

1. Please don’t make a shocked expression.

2. Don’t say things like “Really? I never would have guessed!” because even if you don’t mean to, you’re basically saying I don’t come off as the “crazy kind of bipolar” that you have always been told to believe.

3. Do look up my diagnosis. If you are not aware of the definition, symptoms, behaviors, etc. of my illness, do us both a favor and do some research.

4. Do give me the impression that you’re accepting without exactly saying “I accept you.”

5. Do tell me you’ll be here if I need you and also ask of ways you could help should I need it.

6. It’s OK to ask me questions — hell, all I ever want to do is talk about my self-destructive disorder because I usually can’t.

7. Lastly, and most importantly, do not, I repeat, do not treat me any differently than you normally would! There is nothing more discouraging and mentally destructive than to think a person you’ve confided in thinks of you in a different way. At that point, I’ll worry myself sick that you don’t like me. I’ll tell myself that your whispers are about me and how “crazy” I am. These things will spark a spiral of symptoms, sending me deep into the abyss of a relapse that will take so much time and effort to pull myself back from.

At the end of the day, I am still the same person I was before I told you. I’m not magically someone different just by two little words… bipolar and disorder.

Support me, try to understand me, and love me no less than you did the two seconds before I told you who the real me is.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Bipolar Disorder

A closeup of a teenager holding a pencil while doing homework.

Dear New York State Board of Regents, 'Bipolar' Is Not an Adjective for Your Exam

Dear New York State Board of Regents, Today I took the United States History exam. I was prepared for it and ready to succeed. I practiced each part of the exam including multiple choice, thematic essay, documents and document-based questions (DBQ). I got to the multiple choice section, knowing most of the answers, and feeling confident and [...]
A little boy with a backpack about to cross the street.

I'm Coming Out of the Dark About My Child's Mental Illness

I have debated long and hard about sharing this, but in the end my passion for increasing awareness on behalf of my children won out. I have a child with serious mental illness. He sees a psychiatrist, takes psych meds and we have discussed inpatient treatment. I believe it’s just a matter of time before [...]
hand writes with a pen in a notebook

Why I Revisit a List I Wrote While I Was Manic

“We’ll all float on OK.” — “Float On” by Modest Mouse One memorable night of my first admission in a psychiatric ward, I sat up with another patient, Joey* and gave him my CD to listen to. Joey had come back to the ward from day release, drunk and in a dark place, refusing to [...]
umphrey's mcgee

Safe Inside the Jam: Mental Illness and the Jam Band Community

“Music has always been my protection against the world, from a very young age. I feel safe inside of a jam.” — Trey Anastasio, Guitarist and Vocalist for Phish Like many people, I love Trey. Trey is a hero. I feel like Trey and I could be friends. However, I feel it for a different reason than [...]