Most of us associate disability with someone in a wheelchair, walking with a white cane or using a hearing aid, but many disabilities are invisible.
These could include mental disabilities such as bipolar disorder (BPD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), depression, and learning disabilities like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia. People with these invisible disabilities are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities just because they are not always obvious to the onlooker.
In this month’s issue, we’re highlighting Bipolar Disorder in particular and what it’s like to live with someone who has it. Choosing your words carefully can heal relationships, help in the recovery, and make for a better quality of life for everyone. But when words are used thoughtlessly, carelessly, or hurtfully, they can pierce a person’s spirit, ripping away at self-esteem, and making a person feel belittled. And especially vulnerable are people who have bipolar disorder.
Here are three examples of what not to say to someone with bipolar disorder:
- 1. I thought you were taking your medication. Confronting a chronic, serious illness is an ongoing process, and there are bound to be ups and downs. There are no quick fixes. The more you take the time to learn about bipolar disorder, the more you will understand how difficult managing such a condition can be.
- 2. You sound a little “off” today. Most people with a mental illness already know how they feel. Being told you are sounding “off” is not constructive, nor is it a substitute for true compassion.
- 3. Don’t take everything so personally. For someone with bipolar disorder, a promised phone call that never comes may be taken much harder than you might imagine. Likewise, saying things that ignore or make light of their sense of self-esteem should be avoided.
Here are some helpful words you can say instead:
“I’ll be your friend no matter what.”
“I’m always willing to listen.”
“I’m sorry you’re in so much pain.”
“This too shall pass and we can ride it out together”
“I love you, and I care.”
You can help improve the quality of life of someone with a mental disability by choosing to be kind.
Best of health,