As a person dealing with bipolar disorder, I’ve heard it all. I’ve heard every ‘joke’, every criticism, every attack; you name it, I’ve heard it. So I’ve decided to compile a list of how to talk to someone with a mental illness, and it all boils down to two things; kindness and respect.

What not to say to someone with bipolar disorder:

I have bipolar too, I’m always happy and sad!

(When they actually don’t)
Bipolar disorder is much more than just feeling happy or sad, it’s a mixture of emotions that are heightened. When we are happy, we’re ecstatic, when we are sad, we’re suicidal, and there’s rarely a breathing space in between.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness, and one in four people deal with mental illness, so although you may feel it to be helpful to think you understand the person dealing with bipolar disorder, you’re in fact, undermining their illness by claiming bipolar disorder is merely just feeling happy and sad.

You must be crazy!

There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness that makes it hard for people to come forward and get help, and this is one of the reasons why. Many people presume that those with mental illnesses are ‘crazy’ and ‘dangerous’ and ‘belong in the loony bin’, when in fact most of us work, have families, and live very, dare I say, normal lives, and then again, what is normal? Does normal even exist? Who is normal?

Do you take medication? They are bad for you

Medication often has a very negative view in society, with people believing that medication causes more harm than good. People often say this to me, saying that medication is making me worse, and I should come off it. Not a chance! I wouldn’t be able to survive without my medication!

Medication has helped me in so many ways, and why should I be made to feel ashamed of that? Some people wear glasses to help them see, others use walking sticks to help them walk, I take medication to help me function. It’s no different that someone who is diabetic taking their insulin, yet those with mental health problems often get stigmatised more.

What to say to someone with bipolar disorder:

What can I do to help you right now?

Whenever I fall into a depressive episode, I always fail to reach out. Even to this day I still feel guilt and shame when it comes to my mental illness, and I have no reason to feel that way. When someone says they want to help me, it makes things so much easier. It makes me feel less guilty, less ashamed, and actually makes me feel as if I am cared for and needed. It’s lovely to be made to feel like you are loved, and not feel like such a burden.

Sometimes even just talking to someone helps me, just to sit down and have a cup of tea with a friend and setting the world to rights feels so good and bottling up issues doesn’t help anyone. So next time you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them, offer them a cup of tea round your house, or take them out for coffee, and talk to them.

We’re not scary, we just need a friend, like anyone else.

That must be really hard, I’m really proud of how well you’re doing, and your pain is valid.

Often we feel as if our problems aren’t worth people’s time, and with mental illness it isn’t taken seriously, so we feel as if our problems are all in our head (oh the irony!).

To have someone say ‘your pain is valid’ makes us feel as if we aren’t making it up, and that we are been taken seriously, and that we are allowed to feel the way we feel. We’re allowed to feel whatever emotion we want to feel, and it’s okay not to be okay sometimes.

To have someone say they are proud of you really is the best feeling in the world. It makes you feel as if your struggles and torments have made you stronger, and for people to see that is great; it’s lovely for people to understand you, to get you, to love you.

I’m with you, and I love you

This one is my personal favourites. My mom says it to me all the time, and it makes me feel so loved. Mental illness can be a really devastatingly lonely illness, and we feel as if we’re the only person in the world who understands it. So for people to simply say those three magic words, ‘I love you’ makes it all worthwhile. Mental illness tells us we are unlovable, awful human beings, when in reality, we are all deserving of love.

To have someone by your side in those terrible depressive episodes can make the world of difference, and it’s good to have a good support system around you.

To anyone struggling today, be it with bipolar disorder or any mental illness, I am with you, and I love you.

"I have bipolar and Bipolar UK support groups are invaluable to me"

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