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If you read 11 Things Not to Say to Someone with Bipolar Disorder, you might be wondering, what the f*ck can I say?
While it varies greatly by the person and situation, there are some key words and phrases that have had a huge impact on me and my life and may help someone you know who is struggling with the disorder as well.
1. “That sounds really difficult. I’m so sorry that you have to go through this.”
If you’ve never known anyone with bipolar disorder and someone has just shared with you that they have it or that they are struggling right now because they are in an episode (whether manic or depressive), this is your best bet. Letting them know that you hear them and that you are empathetic to what they are going through, even if you don’t understand it, is extremely meaningful.
2. “Thank you for sharing this with me/opening up to me. I feel honored that you trust me enough to share something so personal. I’m sure it’s very difficult to talk about.”
It is so difficult to tell anyone about a mental health condition. Even more so for disorders that are so often stigmatized and misunderstood. Acknowledging that difficulty and letting them know that you are a trusted person for them to share with relieves a lot of pressure and allows them to open up.
3. “You’re not crazy, you’re just having a hard time right now.”
My partner says this to me at least once during every episode because at some point I’m abso-f*cking-lutely certain that I am completely losing my mind.
4. “The way that you’re feeling is temporary, it isn’t forever.”
This is especially beneficial in depressive episodes (but can be helpful in mania too) because sometimes we need to be reminded that there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel.
*Also helpful for panic attacks.
5. “You’re not incapable or weak, you just need some extra support right now.”
I often feel like I am a burden and powerless in fighting my bipolar dragons and really don’t like it. I want to think that I am completely in control and don’t need everyone else’s help. But the truth is, there are times that I do need a lot of extra support from my team (my partner, my therapist, my psychiatrist) and this reminder calms me down a bit and makes me feel a little more in control of myself and my illness.
6. “You’re not alone. I’m here.”
I often feel alone in my bipolar world because I feel like others don’t and couldn’t possibly understand what I’m going through. It means a lot to me to have someone who cares remind me that I am not alone in this whether just by saying the words or by sitting with me physically when I’m struggling.
**Another helpful one for panic attacks.
7. “It’s okay, we can postpone or cancel if you need to.”
Being flexible with plans is crucial. Even though the right treatment can make life easier and so much better, bipolar disorder still hijacks my mind and body at inopportune times and it’s nice to know that family and friends are understanding of my need to cancel or postpone plans at a moment’s notice.
8. “You’re doing way better than you think.”
I always feel like I’m a step behind everyone else and struggling desperately to keep up. Hearing that someone sees me, is empathetic of my struggle, and that I’m really not doing as bad as I think has been a lifesaver more than once for me.
9. “You are not your illness/diagnosis.”
This is so, extremely, important. It’s so easy for me to define myself by my illness, sometimes I need the reminder from someone on the outside that it is not who I am.
10. “How can I support you?”
When someone asks me how they can support me it lets me know that they are really there for me and that they really care. It’s not an empty gesture as “let me know if you need anything” can so often be. It gives me the opportunity to voice my needs as opposed to someone else assuming that they know what I need.
You can make a big difference in the life of your bipolar warrior very simply by just being there, listening, and imparting a few kind words.
Are there other words that have helped you? Or that you’ve found helpful while supporting someone you love with bipolar disorder? Please share in the comments so we can all support each other.
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