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Unsolicited Advice About Bipolar Disorder

December 17, 2014 Natasha Tracy

Sometimes I ask for advice, but pretty much never about my bipolar disorder. (Unless you include my doctor. Him I tend to listen to.) This is because the people around me don’t have the expertise or experience to advise me about a mental illness. It’s not personal, I’m just not friends with any psychiatrists. But what really ticks me off, is unsolicited advice about bipolar disorder (particularly from people who act like experts but are not, in any way, qualified to do so).

Advice on Bipolar – You’re Doing It All Wrong

Recently, I wrote a personal blog post on how bipolar disorder causes a great deal of hatred in me at certain times. Now, let’s be clear, I know what is happening inside my own brain and mind. And when I say that overwhelming hatred is being created by my bipolar disorder and not my “Natasha-ness” I really do mean it.

In spite of this, a few commenters have insisted on telling me that’s not what’s going on.

One commenter told me that bipolar doesn’t create emotions like hatred. This is a silly thing to say. Bipolar creates emotions all the time, such as depression and irritation. Hatred is almost a natural offshoot of this.

Another commenter told me that I was handling it all wrong and that I should just admit that I hate. Again, this is ridiculous. I know how I feel. I know how my Natasha feels and I know how my bipolar feels, and my Natasha doesn’t hate everything. She’s just not like that.

Unsolicited Advice about Bipolar

People offer unsolicited advice about bipolar disorder quite frequently. But how do people with bipolar actually react to unsolicited advice? Is it any good?And everyone with bipolar disorder has experienced unsolicited advice. If a person with bipolar disorder is truly honest about what he or she is experiencing there is no shortage of people who will say he or she is wrong. I don’t know why there is no shortage of these people but there simply isn’t. (Just one reason why people with bipolar disorder often want to hide what is going on with them.)

And while the commenters above were satisfied just telling me that my emotions and my response to them were wrong, unsolicited advice about bipolar is often far more all disease-encompassing, such as the people who tell you to “get off those poisonous meds” because that’s what’s really making you sick or “bipolar isn’t real; you’re just using it as an excuse” or "if you just kept busy, you wouldn't be depressed." Antipsychiatry and stigma-laden opinions abound.

What I Have to Say to Those Who Tell Me I’m All Wrong

Bite. Me.

I am the expert in my brain, my mind and my bipolar disorder. I don’t tell you how to feel. I don’t tell you how to handle medical problems. I don’t tell you how to live. I would appreciate it if you would give me the same courtesy.

Stop the unsolicited advice. Just stop it. Because all it does is make me resent, and yes, maybe even hate, you.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or Google+ or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter or at Bipolar Burble, her blog.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2014, December 17). Unsolicited Advice About Bipolar Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2014/12/unsolicited-advice-about-bipolar-disorder



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Guy
says:
August, 25 2015 at 4:09 pm
I was diagnosed bipolar 17 years ago. For a while I felt absolutely nothing because of all the meds. Now that i'm not on so many meds I can can feel - a lot. Sometimes it's overwhelming. And yeah, sometimes It bothers me when other people who haven't been through what I have give me advice. Like when I get angry and my father, whose physical and verbal abuse triggered my bipolar, says "hey, forgive and forget". I just wanna beat him over the head with a frying pan and trigger a life long debilitating mental illness in him! But instead I go to gym, because I still I need his money.
Renita
says:
March, 19 2015 at 4:25 am
Dj

I find you to be anoyingly pretentious

What are your credentials? Are you a psychiatrist? Are you psychologist? Have you ever had the unfortunate "pleasure" of EXPERIENCING bipolar disorder? Or do you just have BOOK knowledge???

This is a BLOG primarily for those suffering from bipolar disorder!!!
dj
says:
March, 18 2015 at 5:42 pm
guessing u wont be posting my statement
have fun in your little world
dj
says:
March, 18 2015 at 5:41 pm
well you yourself make ample stupid statements on this self therapy page you have set up for yourself here. I am a therapist and its frankly annoying to see this kind of thing. i found your page because my mother was looking at it. UGH! GACKKK!
Dougies
says:
January, 19 2015 at 7:10 am
its the ones who don't suffer bi polar who make these stupid statements. I can relate exactly to what you mean and feel. I get agitated, irritable angry and feel filled with utter hate!! I am sensitive and loving , I don't hate , it's no me as a person. It's a bi polar entity that takes over when it wants and only switches to allow the next emotion to come through.
Sarah
says:
December, 27 2014 at 2:20 am
If you are a carer, you might be a good person or a bad person. It doesn't look good if you start boasting about what a good person you are because you clean up poop.

In fact it makes me think you don't care much about the dignity of the people you look after, that you publicly talk about their incontinence for no good reason. It also looks bad when you define your patients by their incontinence.

Caring for someone is a privilege because it gives you the opportunity to get to know someone who has been through a lot and who you can learn from. If you don't realise this, and you don't like your job, get another one!

Now I have been a little harsh, because you probably have been through a lot yourself and maybe you don't realise that you're a good person inside, no matter what you do.
MorganColin
says:
December, 25 2014 at 8:49 pm
Hi Again,

I was just re-reading this thread and "Cats" seems to have a lot to say - I'm not really sure about what. I don't know if her comments were deleted.

I'll just say this based on what I've seen. As a daughter of an Alzheimer's patient who "poops" (when I tried to take her to get her pants hemmed and she couldn't control herself and had massive "poops" that I had to clean up - I wasn't embarrassed I just needed more paper towels - keep reading I get to the point) and weirdly has started stealing scooters and joy riding, I have requested that she get off the really expensive Alzheimer's drugs because obviously, they have no effect and they cost a lost. Also I don't know what they are doing to her. Neither do the researchers apparently. Alzheimer's is not a well funded disease. Ridiculous considering the stats regarding how many will be affected in the very near future. There are very few Alzheimer's ice bucket challenges or walks or runs or anything. But that's not why we are here.

Also, if you read this thread and there have been NO deletions, well it's a few BP people who should be gentle and recognize the symptoms in one another just BP'ing up in each other's faces. We are so screwed guys. We need to at least pick up the cues in each other. I know it's hard seeing beyond the confusion and pain and weirdness we feel all on our own. No one else will be there for us. They simply cannot process it. That is THEIR lack. We need to be available to one another. I know that I need to talk to other people who can understand me. I'm so new to this knowing - this DEFINITION of what has caused me to be unable to do so many things I wanted to do. I'm angry. My poor beloved Dad went until he had a year to live before he was diagnosed. The knowledge and the medication were simply unavailable to him - and to me. Twenty years ago this would get you a stint in a psychiatric hospital. We now have somewhat better meds but can we tell people? Can you admit that and expect a job?

I know about the damn side effects. I know all about the shitty side effects of meds from my Dad's congenital heart failure and my Mom's Alzheimer's. I have gained thirty damned freakin' pounds since this started. There's a lot that sucks. I have tried every damned med. Until we can say out loud without it damaging us that we have what we have, they aren't going to make anything better for us. We could try to beg Demi Lovato ??? to be a representative to push for more research. Until then we've got what we've got. And we've got talk. Let's talk to each other so we know we are NOT alone.

And if there is a bigger forum let's go. If you don't want to, let's stay here and just talk. What do you think? Help me here. I'm lost in space.
MorganColin
says:
December, 25 2014 at 5:57 pm
Dear Natasha and everyone else, RE: Those who tell me I'm wrong

If I had told anyone other than my (former) best friend about being biplor and they gave me idiotic advice the little super hero cartoon me in my head would say FUCK YOU and punch them in the throat and walk away. I really need to find someone who can draw so we can do a BiPolar superhero. It'd just involve a large hammer and no taking shit. A lot of bonks to the head. :D But that is far from reality.

I just found out I was BP less than a year ago. I've been off work a lot of that time. I see a therapist. She's lovely. She's Eastern European and I enjoy her "oyoyoyoyo!!!" and her face palms when I tell her the things people have said/done to me. I'm on a jillion meds after this most of a year of trying out meds and then weening off them and trying new meds. I live alone in the countryside and some of those meds made me crash through my house and fall down. After month 7 I just kind of understood to just lie there for a bit.

A bonus: I'm an only child with little living family and a Mom with Alzheimer's. (Pity party right - sorry) I get to make all the decisions regarding her care and she doesn't let anyone bathe her so I get to give her showers when I can get there which are pretty much like torture. She doesn't understand the need to keep herself clean. The water is too wet, too cold, too hot, too there. It's horrible. And I get to put her in diapers. I have and will witness her slow death starting 8 years ago. My Mom was no super Mom before this but after my Dad died 15 years ago we settled into our own weird morbid friendship. I say morbid because most of our family died (about 20+) in a very short period. I think we were both hysterical together. Nobody understands Alzheimer's and the true cost because: 1. Nobody wants to hear THAT, 2. That might happen to me some day. And also, let's everybody keep smiling and post pictures on Facebook of how things are SO great. She DID poop herself in public. I can't take her out for more than 30 minutes with a diaper on. I'm so so so lucky that she still knows me. Someone bought a birthday card for me recently, got my Mom to sign it "Love mom" and mailed it to me. I cried forever. You know how long it's been since I've had her acknowledge my birthday? People don't know anything about Alzheimer's - they portray it as some beautiful woman kind of being vague and not knowing your name. It is so much worse than that. I did try to just pretend on Fbook for awhile but I thought I should just go ahead and tell the truth. But...

It's a lot like being bipolar. People have stupid ideas from movies and TV. I was a medical assistant at one point and I used to get pissed when they pronounced a drug incorrectly or USED it incorrectly on TV. According to Hollywood bipolar women are your crazy girlfriend who wants to kill you or actually any "crazy" woman. There aren't a lot of bipolar men in Hollywood. Ever notice that?

I have recently lost an entire support network because of this stupid disease. I was posting on Facebook (destroyer of relationships) about my Mom's bad situation as she transitioned BADLY to the nursing home. My best friend's mother-in-law took it upon herself to tell me I was being disrespectful. (at the end of the first week when mom was doing better, I'd bought her roses and she was finally smiling again) My best friend after an email exchange seemed to agree with her MIL. I wrote an email back which was conflated and stupid and meant for my other friend to edit and tell me I was being an idiot. But I made the supreme mistake of thinking I understood my new phone and accidentally SENT instead of FORWARD. Oh well, I was talking about the situation and backing up my stuff. I wasn't attacking her. She should understand. I thought she could see my side.

But then, my best friend of ten years wrote back. Not about the situation at hand. About how i was a terrible person. I was "only happy if I was miserable' and listing a few situations that had happened over the ten years during which I was undiagnosed and unmedicated (and scared and if you're bipolar you know what else). It cut me to bits. She attacked my character. It was so full of hate. Why did you get a gym membership at the gym I joined right after i joined it if you hate me so much? (ridiculous I know as an example) My therapist keeps saying "She knows you have a disease???" Yep!!

And she probably still thinks that she is correct. My therapist and my 3 other friends who unfortunately live far from me think she is very wrong. And my hair dresser. hah. How do I rebuild after this? I am currently off work because of my symptoms. I obviously can't tell anyone at work what I'm going through. Or the little family that I have. There is too much stigma and my best friend knew and failed me in every way. Bipolar just means that people leave you.

What the hell do I do? Can a bipolar person (particularly a woman where there is a much more prejudice) ever just exist in this world?

(And my thyroid stopped working because of the Lithium)

No one ever wants to hear any bad stuff. Ever. You just end up being a complainer.

Merry Christmas
Cats
says:
December, 25 2014 at 11:29 am
I guess I'm a jerk for caring about people who poop themselves whenever they try to go out in public, who can't see, and any other large number of problems that thoroughly destroy lives just as bad as bp, each in their own nasty way. Way to read my comment out of context, big time. I wrote that comment carefully. I suppose the truth hurts.

And lots of people don't know that antipsychotics are dangerous drugs. I see that all the time on bp sites. Folks should have informed consent. Just because YOU know the risks doesn't mean EVERYONE knows the risk or even most people. I fail to see how that is patronizing.

btw, Tamyra wasn't responding to my comment at all, at least as I read it. She was really liking Natasha's blog post. Her "bite me" was directed to future volunteer medical advisors that may come her way, not me.
Sarah
says:
December, 21 2014 at 8:47 pm
Bipolar pity party?
Important that everyone knows the treatment is dangerous? Oh my, is radiation dangerous? Glad you took the time to tell me. Don't patronise me.
Two words for you, but they've already been said.
Tamyra
says:
December, 20 2014 at 7:31 pm
Thank you for sharing this. I think I will tell the next person that tries to give me advice to "bite me"! LOL. thanks for that laughter. It actually gives encouragement to just move on and ignore someone!
Cats
says:
December, 20 2014 at 8:01 am
Hmm, my comment ended up going in a different direction than I though it would. I do NOT mean offense in any way, just trying to put bp in perspective, in the big picture of life. I have bp myself and it's been a catastrophe personally.

I don't think most of this stuff is unique to bp. These are issues that people with any serious, chronic health problem deal with, in one form or another.

When you talk about your illness on and on (I get it that you are doing this as a public service and I do not mean it as criticism towards you) that sort of invites people to offer opinions about your medical care. That would be true for many other medical conditions that are chronic or the person is getting dreadful results from treatment. The actual opinions you get from folks is based on bipolar because that's what you talk about, but if you had Crohn's, or arthritis, you'd be getting disease specific criticisms too.

And although I don't think my occasional messages are what you are responding to, it is true that at least some people DO get a lot worse on psychiatric medications. It happened to me, and it's happened to a lot of folks. Psychiatrists say that it happens to some people. At least, they've told me that. I warn people about it because there is not hundreds of millions of advertising dollars to support this message that warns the pills can be worse than the illness, or make the condition worse. Is it fair for people to say antipsychotics "poison" people when the drugs routinely cause massive weight gain and diabetes and brain damage? What is a poison? I don't know. I know I have a very negative opinion about that class of drugs. A lot of people do. Including doctors.

I care give for some folks with really serious physical illnesses even though I am on disability for bp myself, and there are plenty of horrible problems with other people over these issues, too. People who are incontinent, people who are blind, people who are morbidly obese - these are all challenges every bit as bad as bp and other people who don't understand make these problems worse, just like it is for bp. I have read that people who are paralyzed are told by some ignorant folks to get up and walk! Others are castigated why they can't get around when a blind man and a man with no legs climbed Mt. Everest.

So anyway, it sort of gets on me after awhile when there is the pity party over bp (NOT talking about your Natasha, it's the GENERAL stuff I read on bp websites, how SPECIAL our illness is with all the horrid things that happen to us) - which of course, depression does that, and it's ALSO true that most conditions don't lead to loss of civil rights in quite the same way (ah, but dementia does, even worse). I do think it's helped me deal with bp when I caregive for others. It puts things in perspective. BP is NOT all that unique, only in the specifics. Having a really bad condition of any sort is really crappy, which each condition leading to its own sort of crappiness. I'm sure plenty of folks poo poo peanut allergies too.

My therapist has suggested I be an advocate for mental illness, but I won't, because hardly anyone is going to agree with my opinions no matter what my opinions are, and some subset of folks are going to bash me. If it is so stressful to get bashed by folks that it's leading to frequent hating feelings, maybe this isn't healthy to blog or speak about bp. A person needs to have a thick skin to do it. So I won't do it.
Sarah
says:
December, 18 2014 at 4:20 pm
Perhaps they can't comprehend something so horrible as this bipolar disorder. They try to relate their own, normal experiences. It's like they're the ones who are in denial, are bargaining, are angry and depressed. They have their own little grief process going on about the vulnerability of the human condition.

And it annoys me too. I'm the one who is sick and suffering. I would love to have more compassion for those who don't understand, but my brain is the one that's broken, so why don't you lot try with the compassion?

I've found it's much easier to forgive such people from a distance. It's much easier to be compassionate when they're not in your face with judgements. Then I have the energy to be grateful for the wonderful people in my life.

I don't think people without bipolar would understand this post. I don't think they realise how little energy we have for our lives, and how they can either enrich it or completely sap the soul out of you for days. Yes, of course I'm overreacting. That's part of bipolar. Exaggerated and distorted responses. So anything vaguely hate-filled is going to trip the system off balance entirely.

Natasha is doing a superb job. Her writing is so excellent and professionally produced, you wouldn't know what she has to deal with on a day to day basis just to get it done. I know because some days I can't get the washing up done and it is such a fight.

So, people, please try and have some real empathy for once. Consider what this author is going through. Please try and be supportive and do not direct your own issues towards her. You shouldn't be directing your own issues toward anyone. But if you started making snide comments to someone in a wheelchair about how their shoelace is undone or something, you should expect to have a social backlash on you.
emily
says:
December, 17 2014 at 1:57 pm
I think a lot of people think that their own normal ups and downs are close enough to mental illness that they can be an expert on it. I also think I need to be a little thicker skinned- and realize that in most cases it doesn't matter what some person I don't know very well thinks about my meds or how I handle my moods. And I have to get over my need to feel understood (except for a few key people in my life).

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