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Living with a mental illness is hard, regardless of what the disorder is.
But when the people you look to for support make thoughtless comments about you and your illness that are callous and hurtful (no matter how well-meaning), it makes life even more difficult and much more isolating.
Support your Bipolar Warrior in their daily battle by eradicating these types of comments from your vernacular. It will mean more to them than you know.
1. “I wish I was Bipolar and had all that manic energy.”
Somebody I am close to and contacted for support said this to me when I was first diagnosed. It crushed me. Having bipolar disorder is not all energy and euphoria. Yes, sometimes the mania can make me feel great and like I have a ton of energy and can accomplish anything and am invincible, but that only lasts for a few days before the crash comes. The other side is not something you want, trust me.
2. “Are you manic right now?”
This is never a helpful question to ask out loud. Just because someone with bipolar disorder is in a good mood, happy, excited, or has a little more energy doesn’t mean that they are manic. They could just be having a good day, which can be hard to come by when dealing with the depression that is also a big part of bipolar disorder. And if they are manic, this question is prone to be responded to with anger and hostility and will more likely push the person away.
3. “Did you take your meds today?”/”I think somebody forgot their meds today.”
This is just cruel and demeaning. Most people with mental illnesses are already extremely self-conscious about their mental health and having to take medication. They don’t need anyone to remind them that they have to take drugs on a daily basis to remain mentally stable. Comments like this are more likely to discourage someone from taking their medication, not to mention making them feel like they have to hide it and be ashamed of it.
4. “You just need to ask God for help.”/”I’ll pray for you.”
You do you. Pray all you want, but know that you aren’t actively doing anything to help. Faith and spirituality have their place and for some people it works, while for others, it doesn’t and in this context comes across as indifferent and uncaring.
5. “Have you tried prayer, exercise, yoga, meditation, a juice cleanse, the ________ diet, magic fruit, vitamins, and herbs? It helped my mother’s, aunt’s cousin’s best friend’s sister to cure her bipolar.”
No, it didn’t. Bipolar disorder cannot be cured. Many (but not all) of these things can be extremely helpful in managing all mental health concerns, but they can not cure a mental illness. Suggesting otherwise by telling someone that the illness that they are battling and everything they are doing to stay alive on a daily basis isn’t enough is dismissive and minimizes that persons lived experience.
6. “You just need to think more positively.”/”Happiness is a choice.”
Yeah, f*ck that. People who are privileged enough to not have to deal with serious mental or physical health challenges have absolutely no business dumping their toxic positivity on those who do.
7. “Just snap out of it.”/”You’re fine.”/”You have a great life and nothing to be depressed about.”
This is a d*ck move. Just don’t. Refer to number 6.
8. “All those pills are just making things worse. You’d be way better off if you just stopped taking them.”
I actually said this to someone who was struggling with their mental health before I was diagnosed and am ashamed of myself to this day. Unless you are a doctor who specializes in the illness and the person is your patient, keep this comment to yourself. This only serves to make people with mental health concerns feel ashamed and unsupported; it also makes them question their own decision-making for their body, life, and illnesses. And even worse, it is extremely dangerous to encourage someone to stop taking medication whether you deem it necessary or not. You wouldn’t discourage a diabetic from taking insulin so why would you discourage someone with a mental illness from taking the life-saving medication that they need?
9. “It’s all in your head.”
Um, well yeah, duh. That’s what a mental illness is. But even if a person was making it up, as insinuated, that’s a mental illness in and of itself.
10. “Everyone has some kind of problem.”
Yup. And if everyone was kinder and more supportive of each other and getting the help that they needed, I wouldn’t have to write this list.
11. “You’re so bipolar right now.”/”Karen is so bipolar.”
Calling someone bipolar who isn’t is incredibly demeaning to people who are actually experiencing the condition, and calling someone bipolar as a label is just as degrading. I hate being called bipolar. Bipolar is not who I am. It’s something I have. It’s a big part of me and my life that sometimes runs my life, but it isn’t me. You wouldn’t call someone who has cancer “cancerous” would you?
This list is not exhaustive but it can be applied to most other mental health concerns and even physical illnesses as well (I’ve heard many of them in regard to my own chronic illnesses too).
Bipolar life is f*cking hard. It’s a fight for life on a daily basis. What I need more than anything else from the people around me is encouragement and understanding. Be that person for those in your life who have bipolar disorder, other mental health concerns, and physical health concerns. In fact, just be that person altogether for everyone you know.
Want to know what you should say to someone with bipolar disorder? Stay tuned for: 10 Things to Say to Someone With Bipolar Disorder.
In the meantime, please share what other comments you have had directed at you, or have heard from others about bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses that have been less than helpful?
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