Bipolar Disorder Community
have you ever explained bipolar to a normal person
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Bipolar Disorder is also known as "Manic Depressive Disorder". This forum is for questions and support for people with, or for loved ones of people with Bipolar Disorder. The forum covers topics ranging from Aggressive Behavior, Affect on friends and Family, Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Appetite Changes, Chronic Pain, Denial, Depression, Difficulty Concentrating, Euphoria, Guilt, Manic Depression, Medications, Mood Swings, Poor Judgment, and Sleep Disorders

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have you ever explained bipolar to a normal person

I have a couple close friends I've known for 3-4 years now.....
I guess about six months to a year ago I started telling them about my bipolar and how it affects me and suff
one of them asked about how my boyfirneds hd delt with it
...my other fireind wanted to know if it was an actually disorder or not and what the symptoms were
she had a close friend with it plus her cousin also suffers form it so far I've just been explaining it little by little
noramlly when your friends are real close they don't seem to mind....just woundering if anyone else has tried ex-plaining bipolar to a normal person and what their reactions where
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Avatar_f_tn
I have had good and bad reactions.  I am selective in who I share my diagnosis (that's one of the reasons it's so easy to talk to friends here - no judgmental attitudes).  I have close friends of mine for 10+ years that say, "Yeah, we KNOW that - we have KNOWN it for years!!!"....others like even my Mom have distanced themselves from me.

The harsh reactions are mainly from people that don't understand; are fearful; and/or just don't believe it's real.   The last one is the most frustrating to me.  To say it's an "excuse" or to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "it's just you - deal with it"... it's frustrating because we don't CHOOSE to deal with this stupid mess.

It's VERY hard to explain to others - at least for me it is - because I don't understand it all myself.  It's an evolving self-awareness when you are becoming stable.    You see things that you didn't notice before and it's a little shocking (to say the least).  It's easy to put things in a box like - [ ] depressed   [ ] manic.....people expect you to be able to check one of the boxes and not go back and forth between the two.  Not to mention that the media makes us look completely psychotic ALL of the time (granted I AM psychotic some of the time when I am not stable) - which hurts us in explaining it to others.   I recently went off on a co-worker that was talking about someone "Acting Bi-Polar".... I went OFF!  "exactly what does a BIPOLAR person look like or act like???  ME???"... she shut up.  

The best thing to do is stick to your friends that don't mind - the others let them deal with their issues.  Maybe they will come around after they see you becoming stable.  
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585414_tn?1288944902
Actually when I was manic, before my current recovery I would actually disclose to far too many people sort of a "tell your life story" thing. As for disclosure now I can't say that any people who are friends don't know about my psychiatric disability. But then again many of them are diagnosed themselves and some I met in recovery groups. The interesting thing is that many who weren't through me actually came to terms with their own issues and sought help. Of course not every person who would benefit from a talk therapist needs psychiatric help but "normal" is hard to define to me. Many people seem troubled or repressed. I believe we should be judicious whom we disclose to in general but friends should be among them. The more we educate people the less ignorance there will be. NAMI friend and family support groups are great for this.
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909415_tn?1390585342
Just a comment,,  I've noticed that where I work (in a medical setting) that some of the nurses refer to someone having bipolar disorder as "crazy".  So much for compassionate care right?  I've kept my problems to myself.  Depression, I've been diagnosed with,,bipolar no, but I haven't had the nerve to reveal even this or that I take medicine for it because #1 they already have a working knowledge of the disorder #2 they've already formulated their opinions about it.
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Avatar_f_tn
I suggest you have your friends google it then you talk to them about what form you have.
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Avatar_m_tn
I think your boss should be someone who you should disclose your diagnosis to as well because they really need to know what's going on so they can give you accommodations if necessary and so they don't mistake your behavior for something else.
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Avatar_f_tn
OK - two fold response.  You absolutely should disclose to your employer, IF you wish to have your disability known and want/need accomodations for it involving your work.  It can help you with some of the issues we deal with at times.  (I do HR where I work)...on the other hand, I don't disclose it because of stereotypical views (I work for a small family owned business) and that like Rogelio63 mentioned, people do think bipolar equates to "crazy" and in my case, I handle all of the HR, Accounting, etc....it's a private thing that I keep to my self.

Also - the comments about being afraid to - for a better word - "confess" to being bipolar is very real.  I struggle constantly with that issue....of course years ago when I was improperly diagnosed with depression - it was taboo, too.   Maybe we will overcome the stigma one day.

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Avatar_f_tn
LOLOLOL usually write a book but here goes.  Yes, have told old friends, twenty years and counting.  Only time any family or friend understand they need to help by gobbling up as much info they can is when I am really really bad, lol.
zzzmykids
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899491_tn?1243777227
Your right about disclosure.
If you want reasonable accomindations its a good idea to tell your employer first.
If they don't know they can't accomindate.

Can't use your illness as a defense when you become very manic and decide to walk off the job...the employer have reasonable and legal reasons to fire you.

Here are some good information on reasonable accomindation and each parties responsiblity.

http://www.ada-il.org/resources/reasonableaccomodations.doc
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Avatar_f_tn
I know first hand that Bipolar has its manic and depressive states, and normal periods.  This is why I take medications, to stabilize myself.  It is a biochemical imbalance in the brain.
As for explaining Bipolar to anybody, first consider telling just a little bit to the listener.  Then see how that person responds to what you have said.  If not good, then drop the subject.  If they are genuinely interested, then share some more information.  I personally share my information on a light note.  I use the opportunity to teach another about Bipolar, what it is and what it is not.  I even get a belly laugh over some of my crazy antics as do my companions.  It is not worth the weight of depression to make the effort to explain Bipolar.  Of course people would be turned off when you just have only a sob story to tell.  Many Bipolar folks are intelligent, creative people and many have high IQ's.  Remind yourself of this often.  And read everything you can about Bipolar Disorder so you can talk the facts.  Knowledge makes you free.  Freedom to choose, freedom to change, freedom to explain fully about Bipolar itself, not just what you are feeling at the moment, freedom to feel whatever you are going through at the time, without shame.  We have enough to deal with that we don't need shame and embarrassment.  Heck, Diabetes is inherited but you don't see people moping about with this disease.  Same goes for Bipolar.  It is also inherited and we just need to deal with it as best we can.  It is not the end of the road in life.  It is an opportunity to get to know yourself better and to help others know you, if they are genuinely interested.  Being fun and positive can eliminate a lot of nervousness in others.
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952564_tn?1268372247
The thing that gets me is that I explain to people about things, and then they don't understand. For example, I explain that I am having problems with confusion and disorganized thinking, it is frustrating for me and it is embarrassing to have to disclose this to the people I work with, but I have to because they get on my case about being "messy". I tell them things that will help. For example, I tell them I need a work space where I can be disorganized and work through it slowly when I'm having problems, and since I can't have it at my desk because it is in public view, I ask for this work space to be away from public view. I tell them it doesn't need to be big, just a space that is mine when I'm having trouble. So what do they do? Nothing, and then get mad and tell me to get organized because I'm being "messy." I'm not messy! I'm having episodes of extreme confusion! What am I supposed to do?  

So I have no idea how to explain it to people. Most people don't care and don't want to know.
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Avatar_f_tn
It is hard for people to understand something that they cannot relate to in any way.  It is like trying to teach a cat to bark like a dog.  It isn't a character flaw in these people, they just have never experienced the things bipolar people do.  No need to hate them for this.  I would suggest that instead of trying to "communicate" your illness with these other people, that you get involved in a group therapy or BP support group where you will definitely be understood.  Also when you find yourself having trouble functioning at your job, you need to contact your doctor.  Your meds may need to be tweaked a bit to help you calm down and be able to concentrate better.  Work more closely with your doctor and his staff.  They know you fluctuate in mood, and they can help you through it.
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585414_tn?1288944902
Think of what accomodations could help you get around this and put them in writing. As long as its a "reasonable accomodation" it should be acceptable. Then speak to your supervisor about it. Explaining it at the time may not work but thinking what could help make things easier and more productive would. Everything that you describe sounds like something many people experience. Its a matter of thinking what could assist you with it and putting it in writing. When I was working part time and had the same issue you mentioned I was accomodated by having a desk that was in the back. Some neatness was expected but a volunteer assisted me with understanding how to put things in order. After a while I found that using desk organizers and file cabinets and large envelopes helped keep things in order. I carried that over that system to at home where I still have to store papers that are confidential for some minor volunteer advocacy I do.
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Avatar_m_tn
Oh yeah I thought I should add, I had to actually explain what bipolar disorder was to someone who'd been diagnosed with it.
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Avatar_f_tn
It is hard for my husband to understand and we have been married for over thirty years! My Mom @83 and Dad@85 and mother in law@85 probably understand the best.  They have been the recipients of my manic rages more than the others. My mother in law her oldest grandaughter and my first niece has BP1 so she has read what I have given her and listened well.  My parents remember my teens and twenties as being very trying and exhausting and even painful.  But they have understood the compassion I have shown them more than others as well.
As I said before, my long time intimate friends, most really don't have a clue, they love me unconditionally and have known me through no diagnoses or meds, highs, lows and stable, so they may not no the label of BP2 but they know me and just think it is like me to be odd...as my husband and girls put it.
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952564_tn?1268372247
Thank you, you are always so supportive. I did actually put it in writing and why and it was given to my supervisor and the co-workers I am talking about. That didn't work. I guess they considered it unreasonable or something. I just need to work with my doctor or something to figure out a strategy. One of the issues here is that I work with one person who is an extreme neat-freak and one person who is not but who suddenly goes on these torrents of almost anxiety ridden need to clean. The neat freak roams around the office constantly saying hurtful things about "this place is such such a mess, I just want to kill myself." She likes to use the phrases, "kill myself," and "shoot myself" any time anything isn't going her way. This always makes me feel horrible and want to cry because she uses such terms so freely and with disregard to what they mean. They will go through the drawers and things that I work with and move things around and then I really get confused. I feel like I can't do my job unless I'm like them, and I am not like them.

I'm sorry... I don't mean to vent.... it is just I can't seem to get anyone to understand. Everyone I know always goes on and on about how messy I am and I just can't seem to fix this problem.
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Avatar_f_tn
I've only told a few close friends. It wasn't easy. Some of them were more undestanding than others, but I tried my best. I was really nervous about it too. It wasn't really bad. Some of my friends tease me but I know they're only joking around.
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Avatar_m_tn
You can do like me and mess with people in regards to your symptoms if they never understand.

Like I have good vision but am pretty much blind at the same time due to cognitive problems.  My supervisor will be like OMG U MISSED THAT SPOT *point* and I'll be like WHERE and he'll be like THERE and I'll be like WHERE and he'll be like OMG WTFFFFFFFF and then I joke and tell him I think he's just messing with me again and he grabs the mop from me and does it himself.
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Avatar_m_tn
Well I mean uh I actually don't see it in the WHERE THERE bit but then I mess with him saying I think he's messing with me again.
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952564_tn?1268372247
LOL.... Well, I don't know if that will work. I don't know how patient these people will be with me in the long run. It makes me really nervous. I know what you mean, though.
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Avatar_m_tn
Well I think it all depends on your boss and such like mine has a sister who is on disability for like a list of mental problems that takes her like a minute long to list off although this depends on the person in essence since I had nine pages when I wrote down everything but I can still work.  I felt sorry for the person doing my evaluation who I handed it to because she said she has ADD and can't even sit through a minute long youtube video.  We also joked before that there must be a prerequisite for mental illness to be able to work there.
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Avatar_f_tn
Just a question, Do you think that the wrong label  is put on some people by the DR, also i am curious to know what they did before for people when Dr did not know about all of theses labels like BP hyper active i do know that back before mental hosps were built people were thrown in jail like animals, so I had a daughter that was hyper back then they were putting children on something called reidlin?? i never took my daughter to the Dr for that but my sister in law had a boy that was hyper and they put him on it, i think it hurt him in the long run, my daughter outgrew hers but this was back in the 1950 and 1960 prople did not go to dr very much also i was a child that grew up during the depressin and we never seen a Dr and my dad had a tree limb hit him in the eye and the ole country Dr came in his buggy and put him on table and took his eye out, so my question is what did theses peple do back before Dr came on the scene and are the DR always right about some of these labels they put on people  thank you  jo
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Avatar_f_tn
Doctors are people too. Sometimes they do make mistakes and misdiagnos people. It can happen. Sometimes people have to get a second oppinion but I think most of the time the doctor is usually right. After all they know what they are doing. Most of them do.
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952564_tn?1268372247
It is true that people did not go to the doctor back then and didn't talk about these things. Back then if you had a mental illness it went untreated. Being untreated can lead to many different things, such as homelessness, prison, addiction, suicide, and death. Having bipolar is not just a "mental" problem. It is a biochemical problem. The effect of manic episodes on the brain is very difficult and causes damage. Depression causes physical pain as well. People with bipolar have trouble with things such as holding jobs and keeping relationships.

Back in the past people with problems like bipolar or schizphrenia were often locked up, shunned, treated like monsters. They were treated with insulin shock therapy (very deadly,) living in filth. Or they were on the streets, (still today many homeless people suffer mental illness.)  If you want to look into a world from someone's eyes who suffered mental illness from that time, read The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath. Sylvia was on the road to a brilliant life when she fell ill. The journey in that book is heartbreaking. She survived it, but later it was her mental illness that took her life.

Also, people with bipolar are more likely to commit suicide. The statistics at this time are something like 30%, higher for those untreated. We here do not want to be those statistics. I know I don't, anyway. It is a big battle. So, it isn't that we're given a label. Just like diabetes and cancer are not a label, bipolar is an illness of the body that effects the mind. We all see ILADVOCATE and how he is in recovery and that's what we're all woring for. Sure, a doctor could be wrong because yes they are human. And hopefully there will someday be a treatment that is better than what we already have, and hopefully someday a cure for all these bad things in the world.
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