Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Things NOT to say to someone with bipolar

The other night I went to my local emergency room for blackouts and possible seizures. I went because I was in the midst of a blackout. I had already seen my neurologist and had an EEG and MRI that showed “red flags. So since I was home I figured I would make a trip to the ER.

I proceed with the intake process as normal being treated with respect and my condition with concern. But then came the moment when I had to list all the medications I was on and why. “Um, I’m bipolar.” It was if I had told them I had the plague or some kind of wife beater. The staff’s demeanor made a one-eighty turn.

If you have bipolar, someone has said at least one of these things to you. Probably more. If you know someone who has the illness, you may guilty yourself. Hearing them can be painful, infuriating, depressing - even destructive. Saying them, I assure you, is NOT going to be helpful.
I went in for a blackout and seizure and left with a diagnoses of a headache. My blackouts results in memory loss.

"You're just overreacting again." Well yes, I am. Overreacting is a symptom of bipolar disorder. Hearing harsh words that would be painful to anyone, I may well respond with extreme anger or dark depression. Even a sad movie can make a person with bipolar disorder overreact, and so can a lot of other things. But I'm not "just" overreacting, and it's not as if I can always take a deep breath and stop it. My illness can make that very difficult.

"Anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger." That's always garbage, no matter what you're talking about. Yes, it's true that some people who learn from bitter experiences can come out of it stronger. BUT - would you want to hear that while your child was seriously ill, or just after being fired? Would you say it to a mother with ten starving children in a country torn by war? Then why are you saying it to someone with an illness where 20% of patients attempt suicide? Bipolar disorder can kill. Don't forget that.

"Everybody has mood swings sometimes." That's true. For one thing, 8% of American adults and 4% of adolescents have Major Depressive Disorder, having periods of depression. And of course, even among those who do not have a diagnosable disorder that has mood swings, people have changes in mood. These are usually the result of changes in health or circumstances.

But only people with bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, schizoaffective disorder and related severe mental illnesses have repeated and severe mood swings between mania or hypomania and depression.

"You are psycho." Or it might be "you are nuts," or crazy, cuckoo, deranged, bonkers, or any one of a dozen negative words that range from meaning as little as "silly (cuckoo)" to as bad as "completely unable to think clearly or behave properly (deranged)." Other phrases are things like "you're out of your head," or "you're off your rocker."

"Isn't that what serial killers have?" Actually, no, it isn't. A serial killer is far more likely to have Antisocial Personality Disorder and/or be psychopathic. (There are differences of opinion in the psychiatric community about these terms.) Bipolar disorder has been found not to be a common trait among people who fit the criteria for serial killers.

"Everyone is a little bipolar sometimes." See "Everyone has mood swings sometimes" above.

 "I wish I was manic so I could get things done!" If you think that's all there is to mania, you are seriously uneducated, and you need to read Symptoms of Mania right away. The immediate retort that comes to my mind for this one is, "I wish you were manic, too, so you could finally understand what I'm going through!"

"You're acting like a maniac!" Related to "You are psycho" above, this one is extremely offensive. Try reading Mania, Manic, Maniac to set yourself straight.

 "But you seem so normal!" Yes, maybe I do. Maybe I'm between, or maybe I'm good at hiding what I'm feeling. Or it might be that I'm in a hypo manic episode and only the good things about it are visible at the moment (see What Is Hypomania?). But suppose you have cancer or diabetes or Crohn's disease. How would you feel if I said, "You can't be sick, you look so normal!" I'm willing to wager than you'd be angry, too.

It must be your time of the month." Want to make a bipolar woman incensed? Say this to her. Better yet, don't. While it's true that monthly hormonal changes may affect mood, passing it off as being nothing more than PMS is just - wrong. Get your facts straight.

These are just a fraction of the things people say that can have an extremely negative effect on a person with bipolar disorder. Are you guilty? Quit it. Do people say these things to you? Feel free to have them read this article.

1 comment:

  1. Lithium and anti-convulsive medications such as Depakote,
    Lamictil and Neurontin are often used in combination to
    achieve mood stabilization. Doctors have been noticing that often
    when a patient's depression is cured, the insomnia still remains. Diagnosis can be difficult and Manic depression is classed as a chronic relapsing illness so it best to work with an experienced Psychiatrist and continue treatmet even when you're feeling better.
    My page ... depression quotes



Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

Blog with Integrity\\ Auhor Lupe Picazo

Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome them