Just by the very nature of the work that I do, working with people who have bipolar disorder and their supporters, people talk to me about all kinds of things related to bipolar disorder.
Like how to get their loved ones to take their medications, or how to get their loved ones to seek treatment, and that kind of thing.
But one thing they ask me about as well is whether they should tell people that their loved one has bipolar disorder or not. I tell people that it is a personal decision whether to tell people or not, as there are advantages and disadvantages to telling or not telling.
I recently read a book by Hilary Smith called “Welcome to the Jungle: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bipolar But Were Too Freaked Out to Ask.” It was a really good book written by a young author with bipolar disorder.
In the book, she discusses whether or not you should tell people you have bipolar disorder.
I like the way she puts it. She says: “Being open and well-informed about bipolar yourself will make it much easier for your friends and family to be open and well-informed too. If they have pre-conceptions of or biases against mental illness, talking about it will help them realize where and how they’re wrong.”
That’s one thing we agree upon – being well-informed yourself. That’s one thing I’m always telling people, and why I’ve written so many courses teaching people all about bipolar disorder.
I think it’s important to have the right information and to be well-informed. That way you know how to inform other people, should you decide to tell them. You will have the right answers to
whatever they might ask you.
Hilary goes on to say: “You can’t force people to understand, but you can leave the door open.”
I really like that line, because it addresses the stigma that still comes against bipolar disorder.
We can’t help that some people, usually uninformed people, still hold a stigma against people with a mental illness in general, and bipolar disorder specifically. Unfortunately, it’s up to us to
educate them (should you decide to).
You can’t make them understand, like Hilary says, but you can arm them with the facts and let them draw their own conclusions.
Here’s what Hilary says about telling the people you care most about: “Getting diagnosed with bipolar is a great opportunity to become a more open person, a more honest person, a more caring person. Having all these people care about you makes you realize how much you value them – and how much you can return their love. If you can be open about bipolar, you can be
open about other touchy things.”
She talks about telling them about having bipolar as a sign of your love for them. Undoubtedly, they already know that something is wrong anyway. They’ve probably already noticed different behavior in you or your loved one. Perhaps even commented on the mood swings.
Of course, it is still your decision whether you tell them about having bipolar disorder, but honesty is usually the best policy, and you don’t have to worry about hiding things any more.