I’m 19 years old and in college and today I told my friends point blank that I am Bipolar. II I was diagnosed in 2010 after I drank bleach and went to the hospital. Do you think that it was the right thing to do? Because now I feel as though I’m becoming a bit manic and I’m afraid I may lose my friends.
I wish there were a litmus test that would tell you which friends were “safe” to tell. The problem is that we need to build support networks but, as you know, not everyone can be trusted with that information. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II when I was 18. I was 19 when I told an older cousin and asked her to keep it a secret. She blabbed it to my relatives, and I have a big family. It hurt. But in the long run I was thankful because in some weird way, it made me stronger. When I meet doctors who treat me like crap because they have a bipolar stigma, I’m not surprised—I know stigma exists and I can adjust my lifestyle to that reality. When I think back to what my cousin did, I remember why we need to educate people about this disease and it fuels my work.
I have a friend with bipolar who lost a few friends after her first manic episode; I myself lost a few friends after getting Myasthenia Gravis, an autoimmune illness that is not stigmatized. The point is: If people leave you, some of them would have left you regardless of whether it was bipolar disorder or some other less controversial problem because they are not true friends. If a friend betrays your trust after you’ve told them, you should stop sharing your life with that friend. On the flip side, for every person who surprises you by treating you badly, you will find someone who surprises you with empathy and compassion—someone you can rely on during bipolar episodes.