Bipolar: You Are a Teacher


Remember when you were in school? Was it a positive or negative experience for you? I hope it was a positive one. Do you still remember your favorite teacher? Why? Because they had some special quality that you admired? Because they made a boring class fun? Because you learned so much from them? These or any number of answers could be the reason why you still remember your favorite teacher.

But I want you to think of being a teacher in a different way today. I want you to think of yourself as a teacher. You are, you know. If you have bipolar disorder or are supporting someone
who does, you are teaching every time you go out the door of your home. You teach others what it is like to be someone with a mental illness or to support someone who does. There is an expression: “You teach people how to treat you.”

If you have bipolar disorder and are stable, you will act a certain way. In fact, I know someone who has the disorder, but if you didn’t know better, you’d never know it. That’s stable behavior.
And if you can be like that, you teach people that people that have bipolar disorder can be just as “normal” as they are. You teach them that adversity can be overcome. You teach them that bipolar disorder is NOT a death sentence! You teach them that someone with the disorder can be high functioning. If you have started your own home business, you teach your clients/customers that you are a good business person (in spite of having bipolar disorder).

If you are a supporter, you can teach other supporters. Just by virtue of the fact that you don’t complain about your situation, makes you a good supporter example. You teach them that bipolar disorder can be lived with on a daily basis. You teach them that the disorder doesn’t have to rule your life. You teach them that being a good supporter is possible. You may even teach them some of your methods or strategies for dealing with it.

But in either case, whether you are someone with bipolar disorder or supporting someone who does, you are being a teacher – Because you are teaching them what bipolar disorder looks
like. You are putting a face on the disorder, in other words. And people need to see that to truly understand the disorder. Now, that can be good or bad, depending how you look at it.

If you have it and are stable, you teach people that someone with bipolar disorder can act normally. If you have it but aren’t stable, you paint a different picture. You teach them that it’s a struggle to be stable. Your bipolar behavior may make you stand out. And you may be the only person they know with bipolar disorder, so they will judge all other people with the disorder
by you and your behavior.

Stigma is a horrible thing, and has hurt many people with bipolar disorder. But if you can keep your bipolar behavior positive, you can teach people that you can cope with having it. That anyone can.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,



  1. I was diagnosed in 2006. When I had a Manic Episode.I had always been treated for Depression never,had an Episode till I was 48 yrs. old My Doctor started me on 2 new Meds. I have not had an Episode since.I take my Meds everyday & see a Therapist Monthly.No one knows that I am Bipolar unless I tell them and some think I’m joking ,others don’t believe it.
    I have been stable for 4yrs.and my Dr.& Therapist use me as a example to others that you can be Bipolar and lead a normal stable life.

  2. I really enjoy alot of your emails, but this one stands out to me because I am at a crossroads as to what to do (besides collect my diability pension and have a good daily routine set out).
    The part you wrote about stigma particularly stood out for me to do with teaching because I ounce lived in a city in Northern Ontario where I wrote an article for the northern paper with the help of my peers, about the stigma. I’ve been considering re-writing it and having it published again , not sure where or which paper or magazine yet, but I have started it. Thanks

  3. Hi Dave!
    You are so right in your postings! Thank you for sharing your insight and knowledge with others! I am a supporter of a bipolar adult son. He has just moved back home. It is difficult but also manageable. It is important to show others that bipolar is a manageable disease. I’m starting a support group in November at a local hospital for people who are supporting someone in their lives that they love that have bipolar. My hope is that we will share resources and things that we have each found to work with our loved ones. The stigma needs to be broken and I am very thankful for your quest to break it!

  4. I want to ask one thing to david oliver
    do you think , i need life long medication?

  5. I like the phrase “You teach people how to treat you.” I am a supporter of someone who was diagnosed bipolar. I myself struggle with severe clinical depression and OCD. I will carry that thought with me into tomorrow and forward. However, I must take exception to the way you characterize a person’s going out in the world as them bearing responsibility for all others like them. A bipolar person in the middle of an episode paints a face on the illness just as a stable person does. Both faces are part of this illness, both are equally valid. To say that because you may be the only bipolar person others meet and therefore it is incumbent upon you to be as normal acting as possible for the sake of all bipolar sufferers places an undue inhuman burden on the shoulders of the person who is least able to bear it. Yes, we teach people how to treat us. Maybe it’s time we looked to broaden the struggle to include normal people who sterotype whole groups of folks based on an encounter with just one. It’s a long slog through mud but it’s similar to the onus borne by the first African Americans to work and play alongside white people in America. They endured, some prospered, others suffered and struggled as they tried to read signals in a foreign culture. Let’s hope we keep making strides toward an illness- and color-blind nation where all are judged by the same criteria: How we treat other people.

  6. Yesterday!!! what visions of loveliness!!!

    I was reading your block on discovering the Identity of the “Teacher” You always teach others how to “treat you”. That was the very best advise ever and so crystal clear!!!!

    In memoriam of my Aunt and Her Son (who was very spiritual) he often spoke of many spiritual battles on may face in life; it’s all in how one receives the “students”. They are either coming to make you better or sick depending on what you teach em. That is something Mommies teach their sons very early in life whether an unreasonable female boss or a spouse. That is what Daddies teach their daughters about Spiritual Men in leadership positions or even their husbands – teach em how to treat you and how you’d want to be treated.

    They are the patients, students, and clients

    You are the Doctor, Teacher, and Advocate. something I take seriously when dealing with those who are often in the “helpee” side.

    We are were once children so as Adults we know how to treat children etc. Thanks for your outstanding help today!!!! May those we invite in our lives continually remind us of what we teach them to do to us!

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