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Keeping bipolar to yourself

First I'll start off with saying I have bipolar II. I was diagnosed when I was 17 but have chosen not to go down the track of medication as I don't like the looks of a lot of the side effects. Luckily for me I've once gone about 2 or 3 years without too many cycles.

When I was 15/16 the depression started out of no where and for no reason and my friends just thought I wasn't enjoying school but thought it was ok because I would always cheer up.
I turned to self harming because thats how I could express my feelings without being judged. When I couldn't hold it in I opened up to my school counsellor, she got my parents involved without my knowledge, I wasn't told of the whole confidentially conditions back then. They wanted to kick me out of school and get professional help but my parents sat me down and told me it was just a phase and my hormones would sort themselves out. They told me to go to the counsellor and tell her I was lying to get attention. Of course by now all of the teachers knew and kept asking me if I was alright. At the end of the year I got sick of it all and left. I joined a church in the hope that someone would be there for me and for short periods of time they were. Even after I was diagnosed I have never actually told anyone that I have a mental health issue, I think it was just assumed by the few people that I did open up to. Sooner or later they gave up on me because they couldn't 'fix' me so I just bottled everything up.

I have been dealing with it well I think til now (I'm 24), noticing my cycle triggers and when to stay away from others who won't be able to put up with the symptoms like talking so quickly and jumping from one topic to the next ten without finishing any story, having random changes of plans and trying to do as much things as possible and the constant questions of what's wrong?
There have been some instances where they've thought something was up, some putting it down to (including me ex) being my period. Haha one of the few things I laugh at now.

But lately I've had this urge to want to explain to a few friends. They seem to be getting frustrated that I'm not spending enough time with them and ignoring them. However I'm just trying to stay sane and keep to a schedule which is difficult when the depression hits which has been triggered lately when my friends get mad at me.

I've lost a lot of friendships over the years when they get sick of the mood swings. Although in the last two weeks I've lost two friends with the other few about to turn their back (I've noticed the withdrawal signs by now to prepare myself and not set myself off too badly). Interestingly enough I lost a friend after she had a go at me about my moods mere hours after talking about mental illness and how bad it is to ignore people with it just because you can't put up with them.

Ok wow. I honestly came on here with the simple question of how to tell people about what you're going through without them rushing to call 000 or tell your whole family who already don't want to know? Or that they won't just walk away after you've started trusting them?
I attempted to tell one person, but as I started to explain that I'm not ignoring them on purpose they have a go at me for not letting them be there for me and that maybe I should just let them know when I was feeling better.
Probably an odd reaction, but i was angry at the same time as upset and wanted to just yell at them that it wasn't as simple as that and I won't ever just feel better.
Has anyone got any advice for me?

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

Welcome to the forums Lifehasitssides. Smiley Happy


If you sit your friends down and tell them the issue, being truthful and honest, then you'll know who your true friends are if they stay by your side. If they just get mad at you. Wait for them to finish, listen to what they are saying. If they walk away, then forget them, they're not really friends if they do. 

Here are some links that might help with bipolar. Getting Help for Bipolar and the facts. Also, if you look here you might find some other helpful links; Mood Disorders


I hope this helps and sorry I can't write more. School awaits.



Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

hey there lifehasitssides.. wow, it;s seems like a pretty extreme reaction that you've had from people when you've attempted to explain your mental health history! I'm so sorry that you experienced that...

Have you thought about prefaceing your conversations with what you *do* want from your friends to do...? So for example:
"I feel like want to explain to you a little about what has been going on for me not because i expect you to "fix" anything for me or to "save" me. I just want for you to listen and empathise with my situation, 'put yourself in my shoes' just so that our friendship might make better sense to you...

Something like that?

Let us know how you go if you try to have another convo with a mate...


Online Community Manager

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

RO has some good stuff on Bipolar. The Black Dog Institute also has fantastic info on Bipolar- including mood charts. Print some off and give it to them. Give them time to absorb it, then once they've read it and when you are comfortable with it, sit down and talk to them about it so the misconceptions can be cleared up without too much fuss. Like Loki said, they will either fall into the "I can't see past the label" or "You are still you, who just happens to have Bipolar. It doesn't define you. I'm staying" catagories. If they go, it's not your fault. Have you thought of joining a support group?


Good luck and let us know how it goes... Smiley Happy   

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

hey lifehasitssides,


Choosing when and who to tell about your bi-polar can be really difficult. People don't always respond to things the way we would like or expect them to. Sometimes it might even seem simpler and safer to not say anything at all. But it sounds to me that you don't want to lose any more friends because they mis-interpret your behaviours when you're at different points in your cycle or they feel like you're mistreating them when you're actually trying to look after yourself.


Some of the information that's been shared with you here might be good to give your friends so they can read about bipolar to get a better understanding of it. It also sounds as though you have a good sense of your cycles so it might be a good idea to pick a time to tell them when you know you're feeling pretty stable. Another practice I've seen work is, before you tell them, run through a few different scenarios in your mind and practice your responses to them. It can be really anxiety producing to reveal something like this to someone and if they don't react how you expected it can lead to high emotions and conflict. If you have a few calm responses ready then it may help you cope with their reaction.


Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

Thankyou all so much for the wonderful advice. I've been explaining to one friend that I want to share something with her and telling her what I expect from it. For example I just explained that I didn't want fixing or pity or anything, I just wanted them to understand that most of what I do isn't on purpose and is never to hurt them. We've made a time next week to sit down so I can explain it to her and how I work. She seems positive and non judging for the moment so it's given me a little more confidence.

Shadow - I've never thought of going to a support group, I wouldn't know where to start. And the I would be worried my parents would find out as I still live at home and I've got such a great relationship with them now.

NigioC - that's a really good idea, in the next week I'm going to think of some non defensive responses for them.

Here's hoping its the last of losing friends Smiley Happy
Thanks again and I'll let you know how I go

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

Check your local community website or go to the local youth centre and see what's advertised. Your treating health professional will also have a list of groups. Ask them about it. I'm sure your parents won't mind at all about you going to a support group. Smiley HappyThey would also be valuable resources for your parents as it would allow them to find information and get support as caring can be incredibly exhausting.  


Good luck!

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

Hi Lifehasitssides,

I'm so glad to hear you had some positive conversations and that you're going to try a few more approaches now. This is such great news Smiley Very Happy

Take care!

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

Hey everyone. I thought I would give you all an update. I sat down with my friend last week, last minute so I knew I was in the right frame of mind. I am so proud of myself and my friend for how it went. At times I was a little all over the place because its hard to know where the line is, I decided let's not go into the deep depression history and just decided to tell her what bipolar was and what I wanted from her. She took it so well and am over the moon that I won't lose her as a friend simply because she thought I was being a horrible friend.
I would love one day for her to be the one that I can share my feelings and thoughts with her but don't want to burden her with anything.
I've encouraged her to research on anything she wants to know and feel free to talk to me about anything she needs to. I think she understands that I'm there for her but at the same time sometimes it may be hard for me.
So overall a wonderful experience for me, still not ready to tell anyone else though, time will tell.

Thanks again

Re: Keeping bipolar to yourself

That's awesome!

What a great outcome. I'm so glad that went well for you and your friend. Let's hope that lays the groundwork for more, fiture encounters like that.

I also think it's great that you invited your friend to research and ask questions, if she needs to. That can be really helpful for people who are wanting to provide support to someone with a mental health difficulty but are worried about how to do it best.


Good on you!