Sharing about bipolar with others can be a very personal and vulnerable decision. I often have clients ask my opinion about who they should share with and how to go about doing that. I think it can be helpful to pull apart these questions to assist them in getting to their own answers to these questions.
When thinking about sharing one’s diagnosis with others it can be helpful to consider some of the following questions: What are you hoping to get from sharing? What specifically would you like to share? When might be a good time to share? Who would be helpful to tell? What kind of support would you like from that person?
The National Institute for Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great resource that provides in-person support groups as well as an online community to assist in processing these sorts of questions.To explore ideas on answers to some of these questions, check out this blog post about disclosing mental illness to others:
Sharing one’s diagnosis can be helpful in many ways. For example, it can increase access to support, which is necessary in times of crisis as well as stability. It can also provide opportunities to reduce stigma and shame, and also has the potential to enhance connection to others in your life. From my experience, however, it seems to be helpful for clients to consider some of the questions mentioned above and create a plan, versus sharing impulsively, without one’s full consent.
Sharing can also come with its own set of challenges. For those of you who have shared your diagnosis with family members or friends, you may have come across someone who has responded in a frustrating, or maybe even hurtful way. Thinking through how you may cope or respond if someone does respond in a way that might be upsetting ( knowing you are not alone in some of these experiences) can also be valuable. Jess Melancholia writes specifically to some of her own personal experiences and offers to suggestions on helpful ways to respond. Check out her blog post here: https://www.bphope.com/blog/when-friends-and-family-dont-understand-bipolar-disorder/
If and when the time is right for you, sharing your diagnosis with others can contribute to supporting wellness and managing symptoms of bipolar. If you are considering or planning to share about your diagnosis, I hope you know you are not alone in this and there are resources to support you in navigating that decision and planning for that next step. I would encourage you to check out the resources mentioned above. I found April Michael’s story to be particularly poignant, which speaks to the value she has found in sharing her experience. She stated,
“Sharing my story has always been part of my journey to mental health. Stigma is perpetuated by silence and fear of the unknown. Bipolar disorder remains unknown if we hide away our experiences instead of talking about them. And staying silent perpetuates the myth that we have something to be ashamed about.” https://www.bphope.com/blog/why-sharing-your-story-matters/
Melancholia, J. (July 2016). When Friends and Family Don’t Understand Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from:https://www.bphope.com/blog/when-friends-and-family-dont-understand-bipolar-disorder/
Michael. A. (October 2016). Why Sharing Your Story Matters. Retrieved from: https://www.bphope.com/blog/why-sharing-your-story-matters/
National Alliance on Mental Illness. Disclosing To Others. Retrieved on February 2, 2018 from: