Monday, April 14, 2008

How to tell family or friends I have bipolar disorder?

If you have bipolar disorder or other medical conditions, do you tell your family and friends about it? Why and why not? If you do tell them, how do you do it?

Sometimes I wonder how best to tell my family or friends that I have bipolar disorder. I am not sure whether they will understand or whether they will accept me or reject me. The people I love, and who love me, will see me at my best. When my symptoms reappear, they may see me at my worst. Bipolar shapes my thoughts, feelings and actions. My behaviours can at times be very confusing to myself as well as my family and friends, as I am very different when I am manic and when I am depressed.

My diagnosis with proneness to bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) was a relief to me personally as it helps me to understand my confusing past, and to know that my condition is actually a medical condition that can be treated and not due to a weakness in my character or my lack of faith in God. So I am now able to seek medical and other helps to manage this condition so that I can live a more stable and useful life.

I realize through my recent relapses, the importance of having the support, prayers and understandings of my family and friends, besides professional helps from Doctors, Counsellors and Support Group. So whenever possible, I will share with them my condition. I give them articles, pamphlets and books to read about bipolar disorder so that they will understand that my behaviour is not always under my control. It will also help them to understand why I am sometimes so different. Thank God that so far my family, church friends and other friends have mostly accepted me. I lost some friends along the way but I am learning to move on in my life and to make new friends.

Some months back, a church friend told me that he used to wonder why I was at times very warm and friendly but at other times very cold and indifferent. After understanding my condition and different mood swings, he was able to understand why. He is very compassionate kind and understanding. He even offered me a listening ear should I need to talk to someone when I am feeling down.

My Doctor suggested to me recently, that I should tell my family and friends that I am like a bear :-) For certain period of time in a year, I will hibernate :-) Bears hibernate during winter in which they pass the winter in inactive.

But not all my family members or friends are that keen to really know what is bipolar disorder and how it affects me and my relationship with them. I guess some are too busy with their own life while some simply think it is not an issue. I am thankful for those of my family and friends who are willing to take time to read up more in order to understand what is bipolar disorder and how it may affect me, my life and my relationship with them. I am thankful for their willingness to also talk to me to understand what I have gone through and what I am going through now. They have become very understanding, kind and supportive and I thank God for all of them. Some friends are kindly helping to recognize early symptoms of my manic or depression. They are also helping me to look out for early signs that I am overly stressed or strained as they know that these will trigger off my depression. I really appreciate their help because very often they will notice these signs and symptoms earlier than me.

I am reading and trying my best to understand bipolar disorder and how it affects my thoughts, feelings and actions. I am learning to recognize triggering factors, recognize early symptoms of possible relapses, what can make it worst, what can help to get better, what are the medical treatments and other helps available, so that I can live a more stable and useful life.

It is only in understanding bipolar disorder that I can learn to manage it. And when my family and friends understand bipolar disorder, they will be more able to understand me and help me. They will be more forgiving and understanding when I do inappropriate things during manic or depression. My church friends will also be able to pray more specifically for me.

I have found the following articles on the internet, mostly in public domain, to be very helpful in helping myself, my family and my friends to understand what is bipolar disorder.

Note: You need the Adobe Reader to read these PDF files. Download Adobe Reader to view and print the PDF files.

From the website of National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

About NIMH Publications

* They are free.
* They come in HTML (the standard Web format) and PDF (Portable Document Format).
* Some are “easy-to-read” (short introductions to a topic). NIMH also publishes booklets (detailed information on mental disorders and research) and fact sheets.

1) Bipolar Disorder

NIMH Bipolar Publication Cover

A detailed booklet that describes Bipolar Disorder symptoms, causes, and treatments, with information on getting help and coping. Date: 2001 (rev)

  • Introduction
  • What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
  • Suicide
  • What Is the Course of Bipolar Disorder?
  • Can Children and Adolescents Have Bipolar Disorder?
  • What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
  • How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated?
  • Do Other Illnesses Co-occur with Bipolar Disorder?
  • How Can Individuals and Families Get Help for Bipolar Disorder?
  • What About Clinical Studies for Bipolar Disorder?
  • For More Information
  • References
a) Download this Free Booklet : nimhbipolar.pdf

b) Read the full article on this blog under "About Bipolar Disorder".

2) A story of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness): Does this sound like you?

A Story of Bipolar Disorder publication cover

An easy-to-read booklet with a personal story of bipolar disorder — includes a checklist of symptoms and tips on getting help. Date: 2002 (rev)

Download this Free Booklet: A story of bipolar disorder.pdf

The article starts by asking "Are you feeling really “down” sometimes and really “up” other times? Are these mood changes causing problems at work, school, or home? If yes, you may have bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness. " Then it goes to tell the account of James’ story on how he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It said:

Many people who have bipolar disorder don’t know they have it. This booklet can help. It tells you about four steps you can take to understand and get help forbipolar disorder.

Four steps to understand and get help for bipolar disorder:

1. Look for signs of bipolar disorder.
2. Understand that bipolar disorder is a real illness.
3. See your doctor. Get a checkup and talk about how you are feeling.
4. Get treatment for your bipolar disorder. You can feel better.

Download this Free Booklet (A story of bipolar disorder.pdf) from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and read further.

If you are reading this and you have bipolar disorder or other medical conditions, do you tell your family and friends about it? Why and why not? If you do tell them, how do you do it?

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