How Much Honesty is Too Much When You're Bipolar
How Much Honesty Is Too Much Honesty When You Are Bipolar? By Maria Eva Jacobs
Hi every body and welcome back. I'm going to jump right in with what I hope will be another informative nugget when it comes to living with Bipolar Disorder, one with which I think we have ALL come face to face.
I fully understand the difficulties of trying to live a full life while in this difficult battle, be it mentally, emotionally, spiritually, professionally, or personally. I’d like to focus on that last one for a moment, as each life area combined would make for an awfully long blog, and let's face it, I already wrote a book, LOL.
Let me say how difficult it was for me to do things like date or have any interpersonal relationships with depression and mania or hypomania which all reared their ugly heads for so many years. Though I did my best to move on despite it all, let’s face it, mental illness was with me throughout my every life experience, and I made some big mistakes that I hope I can shed some light on so that you don’t make the same ones.
I was always taught to be honest, compassionate and forthcoming with my true intentions. As a result, I mistakenly believed I needed to put my mental health and my deep personal life on display with people before they proved themselves to be trustworthy, supportive listeners. I treated colleagues as friends as I wore my heart, and and my disease, on my sleeve. I misread what the word honesty really meant. On top of all that, it was just so difficult to self-edit, especially when, most of the time, I was hypomanic at best.
Well, honesty does not mean we have to tell our first dates, or anyone for that matter, about our mental health or emotional struggles early on. I am Catholic, raised to pray and go to confession any time I went against God's Word. But should our interpersonal relationships, especially our romantic ones, be like confession? Especially early on? It is not dishonest to protect oneself from the ostracizing that can ensue when we give too much information too soon. You are not lying if you protect and respect yourself and your privacy. You do not owe virtual strangers anything that might jeopardize your well-being in the end. Remember that early in the dating game, for example, there needs to be a kind of vetting process. That is actually true early on in any relationship.
If you’re anything like I used to be, you might be feeling that it’s dishonest not to disclose the fact that you’re bipolar. Or, you’re realizing that it’s just so hard to not talk about it in general. It’s such a big part of our lives, lives that we do not want to avoid living. We want people who are understanding, compassionate, and accepting of who we truly are. We want to cultivate real relationships with people who see beyond our disease.
Can I be perfectly frank? While we work hard to strip away at the stigma attached to mental illness, we have to face the fact that it’s still there. I don’t say that to discourage healthy, honest relationships. On the contrary, I say that to nurture them. Even the best hearted people who do mean well, just cannot handle it. They simply hear the words Bipolar Disorder, and they run. I lost a lot of people whom I did not properly vet before being too honest. Rest in the fact that you are NOT at a deficit because you are bipolar, and people are lucky you would have them in your life. You have gifts to bring to any relationship, because you are bipolar, that others do not possess. You’re more compassionate and empathetic because of what you have endured. You see deeper into situations, which gives you a vantage point many cannot grasp, and that can be a good thing!
I am a woman of faith, and I know that there is a positive framing to every loss. Today, I know that God will remove people from our lives if He can see that they are no longer good for us; when they can no longer appreciate our gifts. Wow, I would have saved myself a lot of pain if I had realized that twenty years ago. Would you like another tough lesson? The truth is, not everyone will be able to handle someone who is struggling with Bipolar Disorder, and maybe they need us out of their lives as well, and that's ok. It's a painful pill to swallow, but is it realistic to believe that we are meant to have fulfilling relationships with everyone we meet? No, and I understand first hand just how painful it is to love and lose, especially when the relationship is established for years, only to be broken later.
The thing is, those losses all taught me something and the good news is, I really learned that the people we meet on our journey are either blessings or lessons, but don’t fret the lessons. At the end of the day, they are blessings too!
*Adapted from my own published story/blog on the NAMI and IBPF online platforms.
(National Alliance on Mental Illness, and International Bipolar Disorder Foundation).