10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone with Bipolar Disorder
Ask anyone to describe bipolar disorder and you’ll likely get the answer: mood swings classify “bipolar.” The media has been a main contributor to the downplaying of the disease. Silver Linings Playbook anyone? It’s no surprise, the disorder’s proclaimed as the more “favorable” mental illness to have. As someone living with bipolar disorder, I can tell you that it’s not. There’s much more to bipolar than just “mood swings.”
Mental illness cannot be split into a Venn diagram or listed on a pros and cons chart. Living with ANY mental illness is a lifelong struggle, with its own unique set of challenges.
Having control over a psychiatric disorder takes considerable effort and mental strength, but it’s another ballpark when you have to deal with comments over what is a delicate issue: YOUR mental health. There’s annoying and downright ignorant comments to those that are immensely hurtful.
These are 10 things you should never say to someone with bipolar disorder (or anyone living with mental illness).
1. “Weren’t you doing it all for attention?”
Since when does mental health have anything to do with vying for attention? It’s not all about you.
2. “Are you gonna stab/kill me?”
Why… Yes, yes I am. What do these people actually expect you to say? Admit you will stab them? The thing is, this question usually follows what is usually super typical conversation.
There are quite a few who jump to the conclusion that “crazy” people, people who have been labeled by a psychiatric professional, are automatically KILLERS. It’s ludicrous and quite frankly, if we were all killers, they wouldn’t ask these kinds of questions. Why? ‘Cause they’d be dead.
Jokes aside, mental illness is a serious issue. Some people with mental illness do hurt others. It’s evident in the rise of shootings and mass killings, especially in America. But a majority of people with mental illness are NOT dangerous. Most are more of a danger to themselves than to anyone else.
Compassion > ignorance
3. “I have trouble with my spending habits too.”
Appreciate the empathy, but a bipolar’s reckless spending versus someone who’s not able to budget efficiently is like comparing apples to oranges. It’s common for people with bipolar in their manic state to spend until they have nothing left. Most fall heavily into debt. Only once they’re back to baseline, do they realize the damage they’ve done.
Those with poor budgeting skills are able to learn from their mistakes. But for someone with bipolar, they can enter mania again and again, each time losing control over their impulses.
4. “Are you on drugs?”
“Are you using meth?”
I don’t use meth, nor would I ever. But after another five minutes, my inquirer asked me again as if he believed in my drug induced state I would slip and tell him I was indeed a bona fide meth addict.
Although I was irked, I can’t blame him. Drug use and psychosis is much more familiar than psychosis from mental illness. And the effects are strikingly similar; you’re up for days, functioning at top speed, and spewing nonsense.
If it looks like a cat, walks like a cat, sounds like a cat, it’s a cat right?
Not quite scientific method.
5. “Do you want to have fun?”
This question is formulated by no other than the infamous male brain. It’s their “smart” way of asking if you want to have sex.
A majority of people with bipolar experience excessive levels of promiscuity during their highs. But I can tell you that that’s not us. That’s us high on a chemical imbalance.
Blackouts are common during mania, so when I’m back at baseline and confronted with this question, it’s completely out of the blue. And utterly rude.
I wanted to have sex with you? I must’ve been high.
6. “You’re a slut.”
Hypersexuality is a common symptom no one likes to talk about. It’s an immense source of shame and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cheating is common and maintaining a strong relationship is difficult with a partner who continuously delves into uncontrollable sexcapades.
The sex is 100% unemotional. And the impulsivity is difficult, if not impossible to control. People have a hard time understanding that.
7. “Do you really have to take meds? You’re fine, you don’t need them.”
Some of my friends have my best intentions at heart and if I had a grasp on my mental illness I would believe them. I used to think I was fine too. Maybe the doctors have gotten it all wrong. Mental illness is on such a spectrum anyway, how can they be sure I tip the scale? However, a handful of hospitalizations later, I’m accepting of my diagnosis.
Only someone with bipolar understands what happens once they’re off medication. No one is alongside you in the hospital, no one is there to clean up your messes, whether it be from the highs or the lows. It’s up to you to acknowledge the fact that your brain chemistry is made differently. It’s up to you to take preventative measures.
8. “I’m so glad, you’re not sick anymore.”
I don’t like hearing this. And what’s worse, I’m always going to be “sick”. And for the most part, I don’t feel like I’m sick when I’m manic. At least I feel incredible.
But nobody notices when you’re truly sick. The other kind, the quieter kind. The kind where you spend your days sleeping. The kind where sunny days and cloudy days all seem the same. The kind where everyone thinks you’re “better” because you seem “calmer”. It’s the sickness that pushes you to silently attempt suicide. It’s the sickness no one sees.
9. “Are you manic right now?” or “Were you manic then?”
Remember, nothing is ever like what it seems. You don’t know mental illness, until you know mental illness as in you’re a medical professional with trained experience or you are living it. Even close relatives will never really know what it’s like and although they may mean well, they have no idea what you’re going through.
I can’t begin to count the times when someone has asked me whether I’m currently having an episode. Being reasonably mad does NOT mean I’ve experienced a lapse.
I’m still a normal person. With normal emotions. Everything apart from a calm exterior DOES NOT signify an episode.
10. It’s all in your head.
Technically yes, it is all in my head. But it’s much more than I can control. While meditation and regular exercise can help regulate my moods, there are times where the chemical imbalance is just too far off. You can do your best to persuade someone with bipolar, depression or even schizophrenia that it’s all in their head. But their reality is different from yours. Their illness is REAL. And NOT just in our heads.
It’s easy to show compassion. And it does make the world go round. If you’re concerned about someone you know, let them know you’re there for them. Even if it’s just to talk.
Thanks for reading. I know this post has a different feel from my past posts. It’s definitely a lot more personal. I want my blog to be a resource for all things I have to offer. As an advocate for mental health, I want to provide my views and support for others out there. Look forward to new positive and uplifting posts regarding mental health and motherhood!