It is often the case that those around a person with bipolar disorder spot the disorder before the person themselves does. That’s pretty understandable as our actions are always louder from the outside. Not to mention our brain, which is supposed to be paying attention to our behaviors, is the thing that’s sick. So, you know, we miss stuff. Crazy tends to obscure reality.
But what if you think a person has bipolar disorder and the person won’t listen? In this case, there are really only three things you can do.
I’ll illustrate using my fictitious, suspected bipolar, Joe.
I Told Joe I Thought He Was Bipolar, But He Wouldn’t Listen
Understand that no one wants to be bipolar. I am bipolar and I don’t want to be bipolar. The societal stigma around mental illness is strong and it’s extremely hard to admit that we might be one of them. People don’t even want to admit to grey hair, so admitting to a mental illness is generally right out.
Use Logic When Talking to Joe About Bipolar
People are scared to talk about mental illness and everything tends to get emotional before the first word is uttered, but if you’re trying to make Joe come to a realization, you can’t afford that. If you’re emotional, Joe is going to get emotional. That will not help.
Try to educate yourself about bipolar disorder before you start the talk. Print off the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder and figure out why you think Joe fits that diagnosis. Confirm your thoughts with others around Joe and enlist their help. Name specifics.
An example would be:
Joe, I think you might have been exhibiting hypomanic symptoms two weeks ago because you barely slept for a week straight and didn’t eat. Then, right after, you got really depressed and didn’t leave your bed for days.
Use logic and reason when talking. Try to take the emotion out from your end as there will be more than enough coming from Joe. (More advice on this conversation will be in a future article, but until then, avoid saying these things.)
Joe Didn’t Listen. He Still Refuses to Get Help.
Honestly, that is Joe’s right. We crazies don’t have to see doctors. True, I would recommend seeing a doctor, but this is a free country which means Joe gets to be as crazy as he wants to be. Joe has to see a problem before he sees any value in a solution.
Now there is only one question that matters: is Joe a danger to himself or others.
Joe Isn’t Endangering Anyone
In most cases, Joe isn’t doing anything except ruining his life. Well, that’s his right. If you’ve talked to Joe and tried to encourage treatment without success, it’s time to decide if you want to stick around and watch Joe possibly self-destruct.
Sorry, but you can’t change anyone, bipolars included.
Joe Is Endangering Someone
If you really think this is the case then you have to call in the cavalry. You’re going to call his doctor, or a helpline or even 911. If there’s serious danger, you have to take serious action. It’ll be really unpleasant and might destroy your relationship, but in extreme cases that may be the only option.
Some Bipolars Don’t Want Treatment
People with a mental illness are just like everyone else – some of them want to change, some of them don’t. Some heroin addicts want to change, some don’t. Some people with bad fashion sense want to change, some don’t. But you can’t change any of these people unless they want to change.
No matter how much you care about Joe, this might just be something you’re going to have to accept.
Check out Natasha Tracy’s book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar and connect with her on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.