There are a lot of things you should not say to someone living with bipolar. Off the top of my head, here are a few:
#1. It isn’t even a real disease.
Can I please call ‘bullshit’ on this one? It is a chronic illness, diagnosed by doctors. Ask anyone who has been hospitalized for their bipolar disorder and see how real it is.
#2. I think I have bipolar, too. I can never decide what to wear.
There will be people, quite a few, that in an effort to show empathy will blindly make what, to you, are incredulous analogies. They will pretend they, too, have bipolar disorder; some of them will not even know what it is. Be patient with these people.
#3. You cannot be happy one minute and sad the next.
Seems impossible, right? Well, those of us living with rapid cycling bipolar disorder know just how true this is. Try to educate these people on the disorder. Knowledge is power, as they say, so how about we make a stronger today.
#4. You do not have depression like a “depressed” person does so get over it.
What does a depressed person look like, exactly? Morose? Sleeping all the time? Playing sad music on repeat? Those are some indicators of depression, but there a lot more as well. Loss of or increase of appetite, sleeping too much or too little, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed (you have seen the depression commercials, I am not telling you anything you do not know). Well, bipolar depression is like that, maybe worse because the higher (mania) you get, the farther you will fall.
#5. Smile more. You are too positive to have a mental problem.
Being positive is often a mask for a much deeper hurt. Smiling harder does not make it any easier. It will not keep your depression away and it will not save you from your highs. Smile when it is authentic. Be real with other people and with yourself.
#6. I know someone who had bipolar disorder and she killed herself.
Thanks for the pep talk, girl I just met. You should never encourage suicide to anyone. Ever. Bipolar people have a little edge towards suicide. It is the number one cause of death among people living with bipolar disorder. So please, do not give us any more ideas.
#7. Mania sounds like so much fun!
It definitely does, I will not fault you there. The grandiosity you feel is amazing. The buzz you feel of just being alive is amazing – until it is not. Suddenly lights are too bright, the sounds too brash. You spend money you do not have. Have sex with people you barely, or do not, know. The fires you have to put out in the wake of a manic episode can be overwhelming. Trust me, mania is not fun.
#8. Why do you take medication for something that is simply made up?
Aaaaaggghhh! It is not made up. It is a psychological chronic illness with certain characteristics that are common in the bipolar disorder illness. In an effort to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder medication is prescribed, some of it heavy duty, some of it not so much, but most of it effective to some.
#9. I wish I had bipolar disorder so I could get my hands on some Klonopin or Xanax.
Wait a minute, did we not just question the need for medication? Now you want some. It does not work the same for you as it does for us. Many people who live with bipolar disorder also live with anxiety disorder. These are often the medications prescribed. But if you are not living with an anxiety problem these drugs can make you a little loopy, but for us it evens our stability.
#10. I totally understand.
Do you? Really? Because as I started this journey it has only progressed into what it is today. I have scoured the Internet, read countless books including memoirs. I have questioned who have come before me to this illness for help. I do not think you can understand it until you live it. Ask us, us bipolar disordered people, any questions you have and hopefully we can answer them and stop the stigma.