I don’t often tell people in real life that I have bipolar disorder. As would be expected, that’s on a need-to-know basis, and most people don’t need to know. As far as family and friends go, a few know, but most don’t. They do know, however, that I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression (mostly because I post links and stuff on Facebook, not so much me telling them directly), which is enough to explain any odd behaviors on my part. Even with new doctors, I avoid mentioning it unless I’m specifically asked why I’m taking certain medications. (A couple doctors didn’t bat an eye, but another acted flabbergasted before telling me, “that’s okay…that’s okay, don’t worry about it.” Awkward.)
Recently, one of the few people that knows brought it up. The ones that know generally don’t mention it — they sometimes ask how things are going, if everything is all right with me in such a serious way that I know what they’re referring to, but that’s the extent of it. My answers are usually “things are fine,” “things are okay,” or “things are a little tough right now, but they’ll be okay soon enough.” +0 points for transparency.
“I don’t think you have bipolar disorder,” this person told me. I had regretted telling this friend, who was more of a pal and less of a close friend (if you know what I mean), but it was an alcohol-induced admission, one of those times when I had too much to drink and had gotten emotional and said too much. Ugh.
“Okay…” I was taken aback. The comment was out of left field (we hadn’t even been discussing anything related to mental health).
“My cousin has bipolar disorder, and it’s really bad,” he said. “I’ve never seen things bad with you at all, so you probably don’t have that. It’s just something else with you.”
Right. Someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time around me, who has never had an in-depth conversation with me about my mental health issues, knows better than my psychiatrist and doctor.
“Okay…well, things do get bad with me. The psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder for a reason. And…after almost a year and a half, that diagnosis hasn’t changed.”
“Yeah,” he said, “but I’ve never seen it with you. And bipolar disorder is bad. My cousin can barely function sometimes. I really think you’ve got something else.”
I started feeling kinda pissed, but didn’t let it show. “Maybe your cousin has type 1. I have type 2. But it’s not going to look the same with everyone. And you probably won’t ever see anything from me. Not to mention, I’m on medications that help a lot, and that can take a long time to get right for many people,” I rambled.
“My cousin doesn’t take anything, but I feel like I would see it from you if you had it,” he insisted.
“Okay. Like I said, my psychiatrist has diagnosed me. With mixed features. And I’ve actually read the criteria, so I know that it fits.” Plus, in a period of doubt once — when I had myself had convinced that the psychiatrist was wrong, since who wants to have something that’s going to be wrong with them lifelong and take meds lifelong? — the psychiatrist had broken out her copy of the DSM-5 and went through it with me, hitting on all my symptoms that fit the criteria.
“You know, they really do over diagnose bipolar disorder now,” he told me. “I read about it online.”
This was pointless. And ridiculous…why should I have to convince something like this to someone who really didn’t have a clue — not about me, not about bipolar disorder, not about how to be a polite person? “Right. I’m sure they do.” And then I changed the subject, which I should’ve already done.
People always do this sort of thing — when you’re anxious, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with your brain, but you just need to stop worrying. It’s easy enough for everyone else, so it should be for you, right? Same with depression — everyone gets a little sad sometimes, so you just need to get over it.
I don’t really have any point with this post other than to get something that had been bothering me for a few weeks off my chest. I could tell you not to be that person who makes such comments, but if you’re someone who reads this blog, I probably don’t need to say that.
Edit: Also (since I’ve said it a couple times in the comments already), I don’t think people always have bad intentions when they make ignorant comments or push with topics like this. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating, but does make the difference between being ticked off and wanting to punch someone in the throat.