How Do You Tell Someone that You Have Bipolar Disorder?
This is a very delicate subject with several types of relationships to consider. There's family relationships, friends, coworkers, and maybe even that special someone in your life that makes up a new relationship. How do you know when to tell them that you have bipolar disorder? What should you expect when you tell them? These can be very tough questions to answer, but I'll let you know what I think. However, ultimately, you will need to trust your instincts on when or even if to tell someone.
Let's start with family first. If you are married with or without children, you need to tell your spouse fairly soon after you have come to terms with it yourself. They may react in several different ways including denial, anger, sympathy, understanding, love, care, or even the "Oh, that's why you do the things you do". You will need to be prepared for any and all of the above. Most likely it will take some time for them to deal with it as well. You may need to give them some space so that they can process it. This can be the hardest relationship because you live with that person day in and day out. They get to see the best and worst in you.
What about children? At what age should you share? To a large degree it depends on the child. Are they mature enough to handle the news? You will ultimately need to decide this one for yourself, and what is right for your family. Grown children can be told in much the same way that your spouse was told. The reactions could be similar to your spouse or completely different. You need to be prepared to 1) handle their reaction, 2) let them have space to process it, and 3) let them know that you are doing what you can to take care of yourself. Parents can be the same as grown children.
What about friends? That depends on the friend. Are they close enough to you to be able to spot the ups-and-downs in your life? If so, they could be a great ally in helping you take care of you. Many times friends can spot the signs of an impending episode like an early warning system. This knowledge can help you take action that can minimize the impact of an episode or avoid it altogether. Friends can sometimes be heard easier than a spouse too. You may easily get mad at your spouse for calling you out, but friends can be a bit different. However, if a "friend" is not close enough to you to spot the ups-n-downs, you may choose to avoid the subject with them.
Coworkers and bosses are an entirely different subject. Unless you have many months or even years of stellar performance on the job, I would avoid the subject with them. The exception is with your boss if you are having symptoms that are significant enough for you to have an adjustment in your schedule or work condition due to your bipolar disorder. You may want to study up on the American's with Disability Act (ADA). It will give some guidelines to follow on the job. To learn more about being a highly respected employee, download my free article at www.ThrivingWithBipolarDisorder.com.
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