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Why is no one asking me about it?

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by Gaston » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:40 pm

I am sure folks are divided to a degree on this one, but I fall into the group which would want to be asked about bipolar. No one seems interested. It kinda hurts to be honest.

I have great relationships with at least four lifelong friends. We all talk every day, and have known each other in and out for most of our lives. My diagnosis was three years ago, but it was always clear, I think, that something was unusual about me.

When I was diagnosed, I shared the information and always made myself accessible about it. There was a little interest, but I got the feeling that they either went out of their way to respect my privacy or were secretly dismissive toward the diagnosis. It was the same way with my mom and sister (although we aren't close; they haven't seen the episodes and all the ups and downs). My sister flipped out and kept telling me which prescriptions to take or not to take, and always advocated seeking out more opinions. She lives on the opposite side of the country from me, and we've seen each other once in seven years. It was frustrating to say the least.

My friends have been supportive since, but they're not inquisitive. It does bug me, when I think about it. I want to talk about the disorder and how it's shaped my views and behavior over the last ten years. How it explains so much, and how I always knew something was desperately wrong but felt powerless to do anything about it. I want to talk about how hard things have been, and how great things have been, too. I want to share this incredible perspective I've engendered through therapy and medication. I want to share how these things have changed my life.

Sometimes in one-on-one situations, I'll open the floor with a broad declaration of how being officially diagnosed has helped me understand myself better. I know this sounds a little self-absorbed, but honestly, it would be a source of enormous consolation to know that these people with whom I am intimate had a desire to wrap their heads around my condition and its implications.


Maybe they're just being respectful. I get that, if that's what's going on. I might be giving off a vibe which broadcasts a defensive posture, or which advertises an unwillingness to share. But you guys are hearing me now, right? I really do want to talk about it. It has been the defining characteristic of my behavior and attitudes, and I have so much to say.

Sometimes I think they disbelieve the diagnosis. I've never asked, but now I think I will. It would be helpful for me to know, either way. I guess I'm kinda scared of the answer. What if they really did secretly think I was not bipolar and I was just trying to get attention or something? None of this is verifiable without question, and truly none of it is of much relevance to me in the long run, but I'm still curious. I'm a student of human behavior like all of us.

Now I think I sound paranoid = ]. What difference would it make, anyway? And in all likelihood, they probably agree. I've had second and third opinions on the diagnosis and I've always been spoonfed lithium because of it. I'm sure, the doctors are sure, and if the rest of the people in my life aren't sure, they sure aren't saying anything to my face about it.
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by Pancake » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:50 pm

Sorry, I can't relate specifically to your feelings. I'm always happy to talk/educate if asked, but I don't care if people aren't asking. The only time I take issue is if they have an attitude problem purely because they found out, and then it's not me with a problem.

So, questions. Have you always/often felt like this, or is it rearing up now for some reason? Is your insight feeling a bit... Spiritual? Manic?

I don't do social skills very well. If it were me, if be inclined to discuss it in therapy, try to work out why I'm feeling that way, and based on that decide what to do. I mean, I know I sometimes get a bit tied up in my own thinking, and if it's obsessive thoughts, they'll pass.
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by mom6 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 7:36 pm

I'm not sure I WANT my BP to be the defining characteristic in my behavior and attitudes, but I get that you want to talk about it. I did too for a long time....I wanted to educate people and I finally had an explanation! Now though I am doing damage control and trying to bury it for various reasons. Reality and people's prejudices have taken a bite out of my ass.lol. I think it is great to be so open about it, just remember that once people know, they KNOW. Imho.
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by cottontail » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:06 pm

I think they are basically not interested to be honest. My mother says why do people with a mental illness want to talk about it all the time. I say because no one listens to us. I just really think that if you are 'well' they think ok evrything is fine and if you are not well they just dont want to know it is all to hard. Harsh appraisal I know but that is what I think.
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by AvantGarde » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:24 pm

Hi.

Last week something came over me and I was filled with anger of mental health services across the world for the way they treat mental patients (or clients, like my tdoc likes to say). From the general disregard for our privacy and human rights, to complete disrespect to what our history is and what we have to contribute.

So, anyway, I was ranting to my mother about all the shit me and my other 'mental health patients' friends have been through, and I asked a simple question: "Who will fight for us if everyone is looking the other way?", she looked at me and had no answer, but I saw a sad look in her eyes.

Basically, folks don't want the responsibility or even being associated with craziness in any form. The media, hollywood and society alone, and I'm going to say M. Night Shamalyan (sp?) too, are responsible for the way we are treated and respected or not. People fear mental illness, for one because they're afraid of going crazy, on another hand because they're afraid of us. This is no news, but it's like mental leprasy. People are always afraid it's contagious for some reason, or that they'll be in danger or something.

I'm one who always says I have a mental illness, but I realized it was to convice myself that people don't suck more than to show other people that we can appear normal. So, I haven't told people in a while now.

I don't think it's because they don't care about us, I think it's because most of what happens is too far away from their reality. If it is close, there's a chance that they'll have to take on some of the responsibility to make this world a bit better, and most don't want that.
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by Steponme » Sun Jan 14, 2018 1:40 am

I don't really tell people that I'm bipolar. Unless I'm really close to people, I don't think it matters if other people know. I've had a few friends ask if everything was alright with me just because my behavior was so bizarre, so I explained to them what was going on. I don't consider bipolar to be part of who I am. Maybe other people feel differently, but bipolar disorder is just a condition I have. It doesn't define who I am as a person, which is why I don't feel the need to tell people.

If I want to talk about bipolar disorder, I just come on this forum where I know people will understand and relate to my experiences.
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by Gaston » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:41 pm

I hadn't really thought of it in terms of people being frightened by what they don't understand, but I find that perspective useful.

At my last job, I noticed something odd that seemed to happen in my social surroundings. I'd worked there for six years and knew everyone pretty well. I got along with my cowokers a good 90% of the time. It was a bigger place; I'd meet and mingle with 25-35 of the same people daily. Smaller town as well, so everybody knew everybody's everything. That being said, I'd always been a private guy, so nobody knew everything. I was well-liked, if a bit misunderstood.

No one (myself included) had been aware that I officially had bipolar until January of 2016. I received my diagnosis then, was put on lithium, and over the next few months everything started to click in that miraculous way that it does for some folks. I was so pleased with how things were going, I decided to share the news with a few acquantances at work with whom I was close.

It might have been the depression that followed. I was, after all, manic when my Dr. put me on the meds. Six months later, I was full-blown depressed, and I mean depressed. I didn't make much eye contact for months, was minimally communicative, and must have looked like my family had been killed in a car crash.

It might have been because my good friend in management left the job around the same time. He was the kind of fellow just about everyone likes; very personable and understanding, and always has a smile. He was my top confidant, but he was offered a job out of state and he took it. I could always come to him with ridiculous explanations or zany jokes and we'd lighten each other's moods. There was likely a consensus that he was playing favorites and others might have wondered why I might get slaps on the wrist in unfavorable circumstances. The truth is, we just both went out of our ways to understand each other. In the months following his departure, I started to notice changes in the attitudes people tended to employ toward me. They were a little sharper and typically less respectful all-around.

Or it might have been that, by June, everyone knew I was bipolar. There were very few relationships at that job which were untransformed because of this common knowledge. I reveled in the conversations which resembled those I'd had before I'd shared the news. I couldn't be sure if it was me who was all of a sudden being the asshole, or the rest of the world. Lithium made me a smarter and more poised thinker, and indeed I reshaped the structure of my conversational approaches as a result. I was unhappy a lot of the time at that job, but it wasn't because of the medication. It was because the medication helped me realize just how much I was wasting my time there, and how incompetent the methods of operation actually were. I was always making positive changes to process, or execution, and asking myself to think of better ways to optimize our systems. I never asked for credit, or a raise, or even attention, really. I just wanted to make mine and everyone else's operations smoother. I was like this with or without medication, but the medication made my eye sharper and my reasoning sturdier. I wonder if it also made me less personable. Is it possible that all 25-35 of them essentially signed off on me when they found out? Is that kind of knowledge really that powerful?

Any of these things might have been responsible for the dramatic shift in attitude I received from my coworkers. I never received nasty looks or anything; just a glaring 180 in terms of how I was being 'handled' by (nearly) everyone. Often, I felt like I just wasn't being taken seriously. I felt like I'd been kicked out of the club informally but retained my membership nominally as a gesture. Hard to be sure which, or if all of those factors led up to this interpretation, but I definitely felt like an outsider toward the end.
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by AvantGarde » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:42 pm

Stigma is pretty powerful. No matter how much we show that we're fine on meds, people will always see us as the defected human of sorts.

An old friend of mine that I met a few weeks ago by chance, kept looking at me with this pity look that really bothered me. To be fair, I was pretty crazy the previous time she saw me. But people don't know about our roads, so they fill the gaps on their own.

I don't think there's an easy solution for this. It would have to be a pretty massive marketing campaign for these behaviors to change, I don't think it will happen any time soon.
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