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Why It's Impossible to 'Look Bipolar'

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“You seem so chill.”

“You seem happy and calm.”

“I’ve never seen you in a high-energy state.”

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I’ve been told I don’t “look bipolar” by a couple people. But my question is, what does bipolar disorder look like? It looks different in every person. Someone with bipolar may seem very calm and sad, while another will seem extremely energetic and positive. Another with bipolar may seem completely “normal,” despite being extremely depressed or having racing thoughts. One can be symptomatic but appear completely fine.

There’s a thing called mood incongruence: when you smile during times of depression, for example. Or when you seem calm while extremely anxious.

I might not “seem bipolar” because I’m on medication that works these days. I might not “seem bipolar” because I smile while I’m depressed and dying inside. I might not “seem bipolar” because my hypomania seems like normal happiness, while the reality is I feel like I could implode at any minute from the racing thoughts and dangerous urges.

You might be wondering why I felt the need to write about this. Well, I just find that while it’s great I don’t “look sick,” it feels rather invalidating of my experiences. When someone says it, oftentimes in a condescending tone, it feels as though my experience with the illness is completely erased.

Has anyone else experienced this? And how does it make you feel?

Getty Images photo via cyano66

Originally published: March 15, 2018
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