1. Not everything has to do with bipolar. We have bad days just like everyone else. We get mad, sad, frustrated, upset, but it doesn’t have to be due to our illness. In fact, it’s kind of patronizing to accuse us of having a mood swing when we’re really just having a crappy time of it. We are allowed normal feelings!
2. We don’t appreciate being asked if we’ve taken our meds. Again, we experience hardships just like everyone else on the planet, and sometimes we react poorly. Who doesn’t? We also have times when we’re happy, even overjoyed, and it doesn’t mean we’re manic or off our meds. But it seems like some smartass always has to say it: “You’re not acting like yourself. Did you take your meds today?” Seriously, would you ask a diabetic if she took her insulin? A cancer patient if he went to chemo? No? Then why is it OK to say these things to us? We are not irresponsible children, we are adults equipped with the same constellation of emotions everyone else has, only a little more intense at times. Rule of thumb: if it’s not something you’d say in polite company, don’t say it to us.
3. Don’t take it personally. Our illness has nothing to do with you, and neither do our actions when we’re under the influence of a mood episode. I know it’s hard to understand when someone with bipolar is screaming obscenities and saying hurtful things to you, but it’s really not aimed at you in particular. To be honest, we really don’t have a lot of control over ourselves at these times, and while that’s not an excuse for bad behavior, it is a reason. Of course, there are those who are mean and nasty even without bipolar disorder, but the vast majority of us are decent people who occasionally lose our shit, along with our manners. Please forgive us if you can, and remember—it really isn’t you, it’s us.
4. Crazy is not a spectator sport. I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t want the world to know we’re ill, which is why we so often retreat inside ourselves when we’re depressed. (Mania, of course, is a whole other story.) I for one can function well enough to pass for normal…that is, until I’m so sick that death would be preferable to going on like that. I don’t want people to see the crazy. I don’t want them to know there are days when I don’t even get out of bed, let alone shower and get dressed and go out. I also don’t want anyone to know the black thoughts that come sometimes when I can least afford to let my mind wander down paths best left unexplored.
(And by the way, I’m the only one who gets to call myself crazy. That’s just how it is.)
There’s more, of course, and I’ll probably tackle those in a future installment. Thanks for reading.