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13 'Harmless' Comments That Actually Hurt People With Bipolar Disorder

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It’s common for those who don’t understand bipolar disorder (and any other type of mental health struggle) to say the wrong thing sometimes.

Sure, these kinds of comments usually come from a place of ignorance rather than malicious intent, but does that make them OK? Does that mean they hurt any less, or do they still make us question our value to the ones who said them? And what about comments that are clearly meant to be malicious?

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Regardless of intent, these comments can be raw, hurtful jabs at the hardest part of someone’s life, and so it’s important to discuss them openly in the interest of both education and advocacy. We asked our bipolar disorder and mental health communities for the “harmless” comments people say to them that actually really hurt. Chances are, you’ve heard some or all of these below. If you have, please know they are so far from the mark. From well-meaning attempts to comfort to the outright invalidation of a bipolar diagnosis, you aren’t alone. Your bipolar disorder does not define you, and it’s time for people to realize the power behind their words.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “That is so bipolar.”

“‘The weather is so bipolar. That woman is so bipolar. I’m so bipolar.’ Bipolar disorder is not an adjective. It’s an illness. I also am not bipolar; I have bipolar disorder. I hate being identified as my illness.” — Alyssa H.

“When someone who doesn’t have bipolar disorder says ‘I’m so bipolar’ as a joke. They have no idea how hurtful that is because having bipolar disorder is certainly not a joke. If they really knew the ups and downs, I don’t think they would find it so funny.” — Tricia H.

“Not to me directly, but when they comment that something is ‘so bipolar,’ whether it’s their toddler who won’t stop crying, the weather or themselves because they changed their mind at the last minute. “ — Ashley B.

2. “Your bipolar is showing.”

“I’m bipolar II and live in the darkness. When I’m having a good day and someone makes a ‘playful’ remark that my bipolar is ‘showing,’ it immediately erases all of the happiness and I’m left feeling empty and dark again. It’s so frustrating because those who don’t struggle will never know how it feels.” — Brittany L.

“‘Are you having a bipolar attack?’ Every time I get angry for something, people ask me this. It’s just insulting.” — Ariadne R.

3. “Have you taken your meds?”

“Growing up, I had a family member ask me, ‘Have you been taking your meds?’ whenever I showed any sort of negative mood. It was invalidating for whatever life event I was going through, and also made me question if I had a ‘right’ to feel mostly everything I’d ever felt.” — Sarah R.

“I’ve been medicated since I was 9 years old. My entire life into adulthood (I’m now 34), I’m asked, ‘Have you taken your meds?’ because I’ve displayed emotion my mother didn’t like or agree with.” — Melissa L.

4. “Are you bipolar right now?”

“‘Why are you in such a good mood? You in an episode?’ No, can’t I be in a good mood just for the hell of it? Why must I be in a manic or semi-manic episode to be happy? All of this makes me feel so low, I just wanna crawl into a hole, turn my hearing off and hide.” — Wendy W.

“‘Are you bipolar today?’ Um, excuse me? I’m bipolar every day; I don’t have an on and off button for that.” — Luz C.

5. “You’re crazy.”

“‘You’re crazy; you need to get some help.’ I am actually getting help. I take all my pills as stated by my doctors. So, it hurts when they don’t see that I am trying. They just tease me about it and laugh at me for it, or call me dramatic.” — Bianca O.

“‘Why are you acting so crazy?’ — said many times before and since my diagnosis. I wish someone would’ve seen my symptoms and told me to talk to my doctor.” — Bethany A.

6. “Have you tried not being bipolar?”

“‘Have you tried not being insane?’ Excuse me? For one, I’m not insane; I’m mostly stable!” — Shayla F.

“‘You work full-time and you are a full-time student; you don’t have bipolar, it’s all in your way of thinking. Just change how you think and it won’t affect you anymore.’ I had a friend tell me this. It hurt. The worst part is: He’s going to school to be an EMT and a firefighter.” — Amanda P.

“‘Quit being so manic.’ My mom literally said this to me, and I have yet to forgive her. It just hurt so much.” — Brianna C.

7. “You don’t seem bipolar.”

“‘But you seem so normal.’ Do I? Do I though?” — Kelly A.

“You should get a second opinion. I don’t think you’re actually bipolar. You’re not ‘crazy’ like others.” — Marie A.

“‘Really? I don’t see it in you.’ When I use my 8 years of counseling techniques to not draw attention to myself.” — Cylifornia S.

8. “Others have it worse.”

“‘Other people have had it worse.’ Makes me feel like just because awful things are going on in the world, the things happening inside my mind are irrelevant.” — Jay M.

“For me, it hurts when someone tells me: ‘You’re lucky you don’t have to get up and go to work.’ Or that, ‘it must be nice to be able to sleep all day.’ However, they don’t realize how detrimental it is for me to hear those things. They assume I live some languorous lifestyle when really I struggle every single day. Having bipolar disorder makes it very hard to hold down a job. I can’t afford to go out places so I mostly stay inside, which makes the depression worse. People really need to stop assuming they know what a person is going through. What you see is not what you get.” — Kathleen C.

9. “You were so happy.”

“‘You were just so happy, I don’t understand what happened.’ I hate hearing that. You don’t understand what happened? My brain decided to jump off an emotional cliff, causing me to freefall into the sea of depression.” — Mes B.

“When I’m depressed and people say, ‘I like you better the other way,’ as in manic. It’s hurtful because neither state is healthy and neither of them shows the real me. It’s like they’re saying, ‘I like when you’re sick, but not this part of sick.’ It makes me feel like they don’t really know me or care about my well-being.” — Ashley B.

10. “You’re too much to handle.”

“When people say I’m ‘too much.’ Every time I’m told I’m too much, I end up feeling like I’m not enough and I’m not worth the effort.” — Sarah-Jayne S.

“‘We put up with your issues because we love you.’ This is basically like saying: ‘We wish you were different, but since you can’t be, I guess we’ll put up with it.’ What a load of garbage…” — Kat L.

“I didn’t sign up for this marriage knowing I’d have a bipolar wife.” — Cristine L.

11. “Have you tried praying?”

“You’re obviously not praying enough. Jesus heals all.” — Rebecca K.

“You need to pray more; You need God in your life; If you believe in Jesus, he will cure you.” — Kevlo H.

12. “There’s nothing wrong with you.”

“‘Everyone’s a little depressed and manic. There’s nothing special about what you’re going through.’ This truly hurts. No one person has the right to belittle someone else’s struggle and pain.” — Thando T.

“‘Everyone gets like that.’ No, they don’t; you really don’t understand.” — Amy W.

“‘Oh, you’re not bipolar. I know so-and-so and they’re bipolar. You don’t act anything like them, so you’re not bipolar.’ Thank you, doctor! I’m so glad you gave me that diagnosis! Now, where’s your medical degree from? Because my therapist and my mental health specialist seem to think otherwise; always happy to have a second opinion…” — Ashley F.

“I was talking to a male triage nurse and told him I was bipolar. He laughed and replied, ‘All women are bipolar!’” — Jessica F.

13. “You’re not yourself when you’re bipolar.”

“‘You’re just manic right now; you’re not really you.’ It hurts because no matter what state I’m in, I am still me. Some people claim I am also in a manic state because of something I’m trying to talk about seriously. They cause me to feel inferior by using my disorder against me as a way to try and silence me, mostly because they don’t understand what I’m talking about or don’t agree with it. I think that kind of manipulation stings the most.” — Bridget C.

“I had a boss who would jokingly say, ‘So, which Amanda is here today?’ I have rapid cycling, so I have no idea.” — Amanda T.

What’s your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: August 8, 2018
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