This post originally appeared on International Bipolar Foundation’s website: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/30-things-not-say-those-bipolar-disorder
I always enjoy reading “listicles” about “what not to say” and “what to say” to someone with a mental illness. I read them and nod my head in agreement, as I can relate all too well. There are sayings or comments that may seem helpful, but aren’t in reality because they inadvertently minimize our thoughts and feelings or may make us feel even more anxious. I devised my own list and wanted to share it.
Here is my list, in no particular order:
- “Everyone has something.”
- “You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.”
- “You always look for an excuse.”
- “How are you managing?” (And other loaded questions).
- “Be nice.”
- “Calm down.”
- “I’m not very happy with you right now.”
- “Why can’t you just be happy?”
- “You have every reason to be happy.”
- “What happened now?”
- “Why can’t you have one day where you feel good?”
- “You’ve been like this for so long.”
- “Maybe you need to change your medications.”
- “Maybe your medications aren’t working anymore.”
- “You should discuss this with your doctor.”
- “What does your doctor have to say about this?”
- “What did your doctor say?”
- “You should exercise.”
- “I’ll motivate you.”
- “Don’t be lazy.”
- “Everyone has stress.”
- “Stop making excuses.”
- “You’re making yourself anxious.”
- “Stop anticipating.”
- “You’re making yourself nervous.”
- “Why can’t you make a decision?”
- “So-and-so said it would be nice to see you.”
- “Don’t worry about it.”
- “Everything’s going to be okay.”
To add some context to some items on the list, being indecisive is as frustrating for me as it is for my family and friends. It’s hard to make a decision because I am sitting there weighing the pros and cons of each choice and get lost in the process.
I don’t want my anxiety to be seen as an excuse to get out of events. Believe me, it’s no joy ride experiencing panic attacks and being afraid to leave your house because you are anxious. If someone cannot attend an event because of how they feel, it shouldn’t matter if it is as a result of a physical illness, physical injury or due to anxiety or depression. We should put mental illness and physical illness on equal planes.
I am not making myself anxious. I can’t predict when I am going to become anxious. I likely won’t believe someone who tells me everything is going to be okay because I am a realist and I will just ask, “How do you know?”, even though I know that anxiety-free periods do exist. I just don’t like trite sayings.
I’ll end on this note: happiness, acceptance and recovery are all journeys. I can’t answer why I am not happy all the time, why I keep having panic attacks or experience depression even though it’s the summer or why all the “why’s.” What I do know is that it’s my journey and I have to own it.