Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say

September 7, 2010 Natasha Tracy

Some people say the worst things to a person with mental illness. They're hurtful and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.

I feel, sometimes, that I am at war with the mentally-well world. This isn’t to say that many of them aren’t lovely or that I have a desire to harm anyone, but I do feel embroiled. And it’s mostly because the well population just doesn’t understand what it is to be unwell. They demonstrate this heartily by repeatedly saying the worst things possible to a person with a mental illness.

Worst Things to Say to a Person With a Mental Illness

Some people say the worst things possible to a person with mental illness and minimize mental illness. Read and see what I mean.Here are some of my favorite worst things to say to a depressed person or really anyone with a mental illness.

  1. Snap out of it
  2. There are a lot of people worse off than you
  3. You have so many things to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?
  4. You’d feel better if you got off all those pills
  5. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger
  6. Go out and have some fun
  7. I know how you feel
  8. So you’re depressed, aren’t you always?
  9. This too shall pass
  10. We all have our crosses to bear

And as a bonus, my personal favorite: We create our own reality.

Ugh. (I'm not the only one thinking about this, check out the worst things to say to anxious people.)

Why These are Stupid Things to Say

Any of those statements shows that you have no idea what you’re talking about. You fundamentally do not understand the concept of a mental illness if you think any one of these are appropriate. I suggest trying it with other physical health problems and see how you feel:

Hey, diabetic, snap out of it.
Hey, epileptic, I know how you feel.
Hey, paraplegic, so you can’t use your legs, isn’t that always the case?
Hey, person with multiple sclerosis, we create our own reality.

You get the idea. No one would think that is reasonable, and it’s no more reasonable just because you can’t see the illness because it’s in my brain.

These Are Hurtful Things to Say

And perhaps worse than showing ignorance, these things even inflict pain on the person you’re trying to “help”. You are saying that:

  1. They could choose not to be sick if they really wanted
  2. Their illness is not serious
  3. They have no “reason” to be ill
  4. Their treatment is wrong
  5. They’ll be better off from it
  6. They would be fine if they would just “go out”
  7. Their illness is minimal
  8. Their pain doesn’t matter
  9. They should just wait for the pain to end
  10. Their illness is just like anyone else’s problem
  11. They choose to be sick

Again, I dare you to tell a person with any other illness any of those things.

And lest we forget, the mentally ill person in front of you is already probably feeling very bad about themselves, and you have chosen to go and make it worse.

Let’s Not Forget, People Die From Mental Illness

Here are the worst things to say to a person with mental illness. Isn't it time you stop minimizing mental illness?The idea that mental illness is serious isn’t something that I made up, it is a fact. Estimates are 1 in 5 people with bipolar disorder commit suicide and 1 in 2 people (yes, that’s half) attempt it. And, of course, there are hospitalizations, work absences, destroyed families, having to go on disability, and so on. This is serious stuff people. It is not a runny nose.

Why Do People with Mental Illness Have to Justify Themselves?

Why is it that just because I see a psychiatrist and you see a neurologist your disease is real and mine is not? Why is it you assume I can will my disease away while you can’t? Why is it that you can expect me to bring you chicken soup when you get the flu but when I get sick I can’t even expect that you’ll stick around?

I do understand that people don’t know they are being hurtful. People are trying to help. I get it. But here’s the thing, my illness is just as real as anyone else’s. Please stop forcing me to convince you.

Update: Check out the best things to say to someone with a mental illness.

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

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2010, September 7). Stop Minimizing Mental Illness: Worst Things to Say, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

Natasha Tracy
June, 29 2011 at 5:17 am

Hi Rosie,
Thank-you so much. I'm glad my writing helps.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
June, 29 2011 at 5:16 am

Hi Benee'
I'm not a big fan of the “If you are brought to it, you can get through it” I think it diminishes what people go through. A rhyme doesn't really solve a problem. Of course, you can always take the parts of AA that work for you and leave the rest. Just because they have their own book doesn't make them right all the time.
(There is also SMARTRecovery. I don't know if you've ever looked into them but I gather they have chapters in many places. )
No, I'm not really looking to trade lives. We all have our challenges but at least I'm acquainted with mine. It's good to hear you have cheerleaders. They rock.
- Natasha

June, 28 2011 at 4:32 pm

Thank you for your wonderful blogs Natascha. I love reading them, they mean a lot.

June, 28 2011 at 10:29 am

I sat here crying, not knowing what to write yesterday. I was so done. Am still so done. I hate this! I'm in a pretty bad depression, I am of course not going to hurt myself or anyone else, but even in the darkest of the dark, I can still find a bit of wickedness in me (humor). That if you think you know or at anytime would like to trade lives with me you can just go suck one.
I'm 20 years sober, and I've been told if I work the steps hard enough or be of service a bit more, REALLY turn my life over to god and be truthful and be totaly honest that these defects of character will be removed. "If you are brought to it, you can get through it" I don't know how many time I've come close to picking up that big book in a meeting and throwing it across the room and saying, "FUCK ALL YA'ALL" ( that would be my wicked bi-polar) maybe not?
I'm seeing my Dr. on the 8th. My dog Lilly still lays by my side all day if I need her too, and my girlfriend of 16 years still loves and reminds me that I can just "go with it" she never knows who she's gonna wake up next to, I'm thinking she kindda likes it, goin' to bed with one woman and waking up with some one completely different in the morning. OH, and don't get me started on our kids,they both are specail needs the girl is developmentally disabled and mild autistic, the boy is the same but he has tourette's, favorite word..fuck.
SO....wanna trade lives? No never. I got my cheerleaders. And if you need one, I'll be yours ANYTIME.
P.S. did I go off topic? SORRY :)

Natasha Tracy
June, 28 2011 at 9:29 am

Hi Linda,
That is emotional abuse. Plain and simple. Your husband has found a sore spot and presses it to abuse and manipulate you. That is not right and you deserve better.
What your husband is doing could be about anything. You could be on a diet so he calls you "a pig" because he knows it will hurt you. What about if you were sensitive because you were losing your hair to cancer treatment so he called you "baldie." That's all abuse plain and simple.
He's _trying_ to hurt you. Which is unacceptable.
This isn't about your illness this is about his behavior and his abuse. Even if you get through to him and he never says "you're bipolar" as an insult to you ever again, if he wants to hurt you, he will find another way.
Please, please, please get help. You need therapy. You need people to backstop you. You need people who can see this for what it is: abuse. Get couple's counselling so you can express yourself in a safe environment and you can work together towards a more positive way of communicating, if that is possible.
You are not crazy. Your feelings are real and deserve validation. No one has the right to use an illness against you.
(This has ticked me off so much I might do a video on it.)
- Natasha

June, 28 2011 at 9:09 am

I am taking Pristiq for depression and Lamital for mood stabelizer.
EVERY time my husband and I have a disagreement or argument, he starts calling me, "Bipolar", and saying things like, "Have you taken your medication today"? Or "Have you stopped taking your medication?" In other words, this is the reason, (and only reason) that we have any kind of disagreement, or argument. Everything that I say, or do, that is not something he agrees with, he starts saying hurtful things like that. He calls me "Bipolar" every time he gets angry with me.
I have asked my Doctor if he has diagnosed me as being Bipolar, and he said, "Absolutely Not". He told me that I have "major depression, and anxiety".
I can't even describe how angry it make me when my husband starts with these comments. I honestly don't think ANYTHING has ever made me so angry. It makes me feel totally helpless because I don't even have the words to defend myself. He has told a few other people that I have this "problem", and even if I denied it, they wouldn't believe me because they know I'm taking mediation for depression. This situation makes me feel like I am totally trapped, and don't have anyway to let everyone know that I am not "Crazy", (as he calls it). He knows that a psychiatrist is prescribing these meds to me, and the Doc has told him my diagnosis, but he keeps insisting that I am Bipolar. Which to him may as well be the same thing as "Schizophrenic" I wish I had never told the doctor that I am depressed. Or I wish I had never told my husband that I am being treated for depression. If I had known that he was going to use it against me, I would have kept my mouth shut.
Has anyone of you had this problem, and if so, what did you do about it?

June, 15 2011 at 1:48 pm

Phew- reading all of your posts really steams me. I have been making excuses to others to make THEM feel comfortable for years knowing folks wont get it. There was a point, early on in my recovery path, that I someone suggested I was dehydrated and the result was my sad mood. Wha?????
About a year ago- I asked my parents to watch a dvd that had the best explanations I had at the time. It outlined all the types of depression, the diff treatments, the symptoms, and it documented ppls recovery. It made it real to them to hear it/see to from someone other than me. They still don't get it fully, but they get that its real. Progress.
And, in really giving it some thought- you cant see Diabetes- heart disease- and some other illnesses. You can see their symptoms but not the disease its self. So whats the diff.

Christina Noonan
June, 15 2011 at 7:11 am

Ah yes - how lucky I am to be artist's dream, I'm living the life baby!!!
During manic phases, I do recall thinking that myself, in some form or another. The world would be mine, once everyone saw what was quite literally, killing me to get out. So many wonderful ideas, images and designs just waiting...and waiting. If only I was strong enough to dare open that little box I keep locked away in a dark, hopelessly unforgotten, secret place of my psyche. If only I could draw on the pain inside of that little box of memories and self-loathing. The ensuing masterpieces would surely cause me to be admired and revered well into my next life! Thankfully, and quite surprised, I'm still here here in this one.
A struggling artist. Although the accolades from those few who have seen my work, from time to time, were swift and sincere, unfortuneately my ability to produce more is not so swift. Dark depths of depression are not by any means motivating and the yet unformed masterpieces in my mind lie in fear, hiding from the world in an ever growing cocoon of self-doubt. The few pieces that have managed to be born, in varying stages of mania, sit cracked and broken upon my studio shelves...too many to complete or too detailed to complete before drying. My magical place, my studio, it comes alive in the shadows of night with the shards of many clay dreams, at one time formed with mounting desire and reckless abandon.
A starving artist...a minimal disability pension provides for plenty of time, usually too much or not enough but insists also on a not so delicate choice between food or the meds that will help keep me forever spiralling, in this creatively blessed life.
Thank you for such an honest and eye opening post Natasha and for the comments by so many others. I am reminded that I am not alone. And I am inspired...I have possibly just begun another book. Maybe this one will see completion some day ;)

June, 6 2011 at 3:43 pm

I hate the people who insist they understand what we are going through. I tell them "You may conceptually understand, but until you want to stick that gun in your mouth you have no idea." The looks I get when I tell them this is of complete shock. 9 times out of 10 they don't ever spout any of their idiodic crap back at me.
I am a quick switching Bi-Polar with Social Phobia.

Natasha Tracy
May, 20 2011 at 11:20 am

Hi Anniem,
I got that "melodramatic" thing too. "Drama queen." "Too emotional." "Taking things too personally."
If you ask me, all ways of dismissing someone's genuine feelings. And in my case, it was really reinforced by two brothers and father and then it became a male-female thing. "Oh look at her, just like a girl." That sort of thing.
So yes, I felt left out and ostracized too. I couldn't "play with the boys," as it were.
But here, you are not left out, you are left in. Welcome.
- Natasha

May, 20 2011 at 10:55 am

From my earliest childhood memories I was told how "melodramatic" I am. And I would be so confused b/c for me what I was feeling was genuine. I truly wasn't making up anything. But that one remark became how I was identified even with extended family, even until today. And I have felt very lonely and left out and ostracized.

Natasha Tracy
May, 16 2011 at 5:48 am

Hi Jaliya,
“You’re living on a disability pension, eh? Must be like a long vacation!”
I haven't seen that (although I'm not on disability) but I could see a person saying it. Tell them, yes it's like a vacation where you have the flu everyday. And we all know how fun that is.
"invisible illness" ... I have to admit that I feel a strange relief/not-relief in having something “evident” (lab results) to “prove” the reality of long-term illness."
I can totally identify with that. It's something we all long for, even if it truely doesn't really mean anything except to uncaring others.
- Natasha

Natasha Tracy
May, 16 2011 at 5:36 am

Hi Jenn,
Lazy is definitely in there. Lots of comments :) and yes I know how we hurl that one at ourselves too when things get bad, unfortunately.
- Natasha

May, 16 2011 at 5:25 am

One of my -- heh -- "favourites" was delivered by a longtime friend who has survived cancer, so it was a double whammy to hear this from her:
"You're living on a disability pension, eh? Must be like a long vacation!"
@Jenn -- I used to get the "lazy" label a lot as a teenager. "Lazy and irresponsible" was the usual pairing.
I've seen, lately, a term that is cropping up more and more --> "invisible illness." Talk about a contradiction in terms! I have lived with various intensities of major depression, PTSD, sleep disorders, and anxiety disorders all my life, and now, in my 50s, the metabolic distress is showing up in blood tests. There's no either/or in illness, and I have to admit that I feel a strange relief/not-relief in having something "evident" (lab results) to "prove" the reality of long-term illness.
@Natasha, thank you for this article ... It's a keeper.

May, 15 2011 at 7:24 pm

For the depths of bipolar 2 depression and it's debilitating side effects, have you covered "Youre just lazy" anywhere?
No one's every said it outright to me, but I've certainly felt that attitude.
And I shovel it onto myself with vigor when I am in a funk.

Natasha Tracy
March, 31 2011 at 5:17 pm

Hi Leidy,
It sounds like you have a tough situation there.
First, definitely get a format mental health assessment. I certainly can't tell what disorder you may or may not have, but simply being emotionally reactive doesn't mean you have bipolar. You are in a stressful situation and that can lead anyone to be a bit sensitive.
You have identified your in-laws as an issue. I can understand that is important in a marriage, certainly. But you might consider just focusing on what you need to do for yourself right now, and handle outside issues as they come.
If you are concerned you have a mental illness, you need to see a doctor who can do a mental health assessment. Simply tell your doctor everything you're concerned about, all your moods and answer his/her questions honestly and they can give you a more accurate picture of what's going on.
Additionally or alternatively, I would recommend counseling. At this point you have so many swirling issues that even if you were to be diagnosed and treated, that wouldn't fix what is going on around you, but therapy can teach you more about yourself and can teach you tools and skills to handle outside issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one option if you have someone in your area who is experienced in it. Couples therapy might also help you and your husband to communicate through these issues and understand each other better.
You've spent some time in this situation and it's going to take some time to get out, but getting professional help and learning new skills can help you start addressing some of these issues.
Good luck.
- Natasha

March, 30 2011 at 2:15 pm

Hi!! !!! to everyone,
I do think that I am I am bipolar, because of my mood swings.
I have always feel different then other people around me.
I am currently married to a wonderful man and I have two kids.
Because of the way I am, my in laws are making my life hell, they want my husband to leave me because I am not good enough for him, because I dont work and help hubby with money, my father in law thinks that a woman should help with 50% with the household expenses, that they have to always be available to help no matter what, he is os used to all this his wife has been his servant for too many years and he treats her so badly and puts up with him. They talk behinn my back they say i am antisocial, arrogant, lack of motivation, an obstacle for his son future, that they will help him to get the kids, they hate me so much. He discriminates me because I come from a poor family. The funny things is He did to but has forgotten that. I hate the fact that that they constantly comparing me to their other daughter in law. She is the opposite of me. what hurts me the most is that somehow they do have influence on my husband and he sometimes makes my life difficult. The main problem here is my father in law. My husband has over the years has come to accept the way I am. But he hasnt lose hope that I will change the way I am.
Yes I am arrogant only to people that deserves it, I find this the best way to keep them far away from and not get me hurt.
I am nice person deep down, but I struggle with my mood swings, irritability, deppression, sadness, lack of motivation., over sensitiveness.
I dont get racing thoughts or mania. I believe I have rapid cycling bipolar. I could be happy one minute and the next unhappy. I could get upset easily by people comments about me. Why do I care so much about that. They dont support us in any way, so why Do I give a dawn.
I know my husband loves me, but I wish I could change my behaviour.
He thinks that I dont care about what people think of me,
He thinks that I am strong but I am not, I am very weak and vunerable.
Its just so sad that even if I get diagnose I could never tell him, he will not understand. Hubby has in many ways made feel really bad because of his parents. He wants them to accept, how sad is that, I dont think that will happen.
Any tips on how to handle this situation with in laws, can anyone tell me the best way to get help to get diagnose.
Thank you so much for reading this.
I am desperate dont know what to do.

Natasha Tracy
March, 28 2011 at 4:21 pm

Hi Bona,
Glad to have you
"I know she did not mean to hurt my feelings but, she did. Some of my family think I make it all up and they worry about how it reflects on them."
Yup. That is the experience many of us have had.
"I think they should be more concerned with how their insensitivity and callousness reflects on them."
And that is a thought many of us have thought.
Thanks for sharing. It's a big boat we share.
- Natasha

March, 27 2011 at 12:11 pm

I am so glad I stumbled across this site. I have Bipolar, anxiety with panic attacks and borderline personality disorder. The major component with my bipolar is depression. I remember the first time I told my Grandmother that I suffered from depression she responded. "What do you have to be depressed about?" "Just pull yourself up by your boot straps and get on with life."
If it was only that I know she did not mean to hurt my feelings but, she did. Some of my family think I make it all up and they worry about how it reflects on them. I think they should be more concerned with how their insensitivity and callousness reflects on them.
I wish you all the best.

Natasha Tracy
March, 15 2011 at 10:27 am

Hi Elizabeth,
"I hated the “attention”- that was one of the worst things about it. And if I could stop alternately getting insanely angry and wanting to die, I WOULD!!!! I just don’t understand how someone can think that people *enjoy* mental illnesses, or that it’s our fault, or that we *like* it. I just can’t wrap my head around it."
It's incredibly invalidating to tell people that "they like it for the attention." Which _is_ nonsense. Attention-seeking behavior doesn't involve agony, but then, I support other assume the agony isn't real either.
When people try to invalidate you, it's just so they don't have to worry about you. (This is a guess in your father's case.) If they admit it's serious, then, well, it's serious, and no one wants to admit that. It's a terrible way of handling it on their part, but what can I say, it happens. There's no handbook for handling mental illness.
Rest assured, here, among others, you are validated. No one thinks you're crying for attention.
- Natasha

March, 9 2011 at 12:19 pm

I think this is a great article, and so true. It's very important to take mental illnesses seriously. When my dad first found out about my bipolar disorder, and I had to be sent to the hospital, he flipped. I mean, right before that, and during, he has told me that it was my fault. That I was causing this, that I could stop any time I wanted, that I like all the attention.
That always made me so, so angry. I hated the "attention"- that was one of the worst things about it. And if I could stop alternately getting insanely angry and wanting to die, I WOULD!!!! I just don't understand how someone can think that people *enjoy* mental illnesses, or that it's our fault, or that we *like* it. I just can't wrap my head around it.

March, 7 2011 at 6:25 am

Accurate article, it is pretty important to treat mental illness seriously.
Most people seem to view them as mere emotional swirls, and these perceptions cause the illness to deepen instead of recover.

Natasha Tracy
February, 21 2011 at 6:28 am

Hi L.I.
Yes, I am the author of this blog, I do its moderation and so forth, but HealthyPlace actually owns it.
It's OK, no need to be sorry. The HealthyPlace folks are pretty laid back and they'd let me know if they weren't happy with something.
I'll get to your comment on the Burble in just a bit. :)
-- Natasha

February, 20 2011 at 11:04 am

Uh oh, as I thought this was your blog, now I realize its not. Sorry. And sorry to the blog owner.
Just read your article on new age and ldeft a reply. What you wrote was great. Thanks!

February, 8 2011 at 1:50 am

Andy. Wow.. Do you really have such a sorry pitiful existence that you resort to taking pokes at people with mental illness? Or are you one of those bullies that strike out at people who are much like themselves. Self loathing is not healthy, perhaps you need to seek help before you hurt yourself and get carpal tunnel.
Sorry to everyone else. I know I should ignore troll's but I have a habit of not knowing when to give up.

Andy Hughes
February, 7 2011 at 6:05 pm

I agree, Matthew; people who go on about their physical illnesses are annoying also.

Rebecca Randolph
February, 7 2011 at 8:04 am

Beverly, I know what you mean. I've often thought I'd rather be missing an arm or leg or bee in a wheelchair than have this miserable disorder!

February, 6 2011 at 11:13 pm

Andy. Thank you for opening my eyes. I never thought of looking at it that way. The arrogance of my 101 year old grand father of complaining about his hip hurting! And there is my mother for having the arrogance to be diabetic! My new attitude of not caring will serve everyone well.

February, 6 2011 at 3:40 pm

Seeing that the only people I've told are people pretty close to me, I think it is ignorance more than not caring. These people have gone out of their way to show me they care. Even uncomfortable things like showing up at the psych ward when I was there. Don't tell me that isn't caring! Yet even with that caring, they have had to be educated, the comments are made from ignorance. Plain and simple. That and a misguided attempt to make me "feel better." Plus I have made it a goal to go out of my way not to discuss how I'm doing or my dr visits or the fact I'm now hoping my 7th medication is the "one" that will finally help. So I know it isn't the fact that I annoy them or talk incessantly about it. Honestly, now that I have helped them understand MI a little more, they are the ones that normally instigate the conversation and asking me how I'm doing, as I'm a pretty private person.

Andy Hughes
February, 6 2011 at 10:55 am

What never ceases to amaze me is the arrogance of the mentally ill. Have you ever thought it's not that people don't understand you, it's that they don't care?
I used to have a co-worker who was depressed and told her a variant of "this too shall pass", not because I thought I was making her feel better, but because I wanted her to shut up and stop annoying me.
BDD/Anorexia/Bulimia 'sufferers' are the worst; yeah you got a bit of a big nose/are chubby, no one cares.

February, 6 2011 at 10:25 am

I suffer from major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and mild OCD. I am also a professional artist.
I will never forget the woman who visited me in hospital after a suicide attempt and told me that a lot of people would be glad to have my illness if they could also have my talents. How utterly insensitive people can be, it is unconscionable to even think that way, let alone tell a mentally ill person such a think.
I would rather be a dishwasher or some other mundane job and no talent at all than have this illness.

February, 5 2011 at 3:02 pm

Thanks Natasha.
Just one quick question. You mentioned an article you wrote on New Age thinking. It sounded right up my alley :). I searched but could not find it. If possible, could you post the link?

Natasha Tracy
February, 4 2011 at 8:00 am

Hi Hannah
“everyone is a little bit bipolar”
Oh yes, I loathe that one, and "normal is only a setting on a washing machine".
No. You aren't. And it isn't.
This is an attempt to trivialize the strength and severity of this disease and it drives me bonkers.
You are the one who is sick. They may not understand it, but it's true. You can take heart in this though: many of us do understand. You might just not see us everyday.
- Natasha

Jan B
February, 3 2011 at 10:27 am

Oh yes, could definitely be a lack of education around the aspects of mental health. Too many people seem to still have this idea of the old 'asylums' imagining patients in strait jackets!
Mmm, no, I say, its the 21st century, mental health care has changed loads in recent years.
Luckily Ive had some very good support from services, but have heard those stigmatising words, such as 'nutty' or 'crazy' from the 'uneducated.'
Things are improving slowly but surely and in UK there has been a big anti-stigma campaign for a few years now.
Its an illness like any other and more common than many people think.
Jan x

February, 2 2011 at 2:04 pm

Natasha, thank you for the feedback. I've been a member of healthyplace for years but this was my first post ever. Thank you for the kind reply.
And the New Age psychology is something I feel may have some truth in it but than when they see that, they try to 'convert' me. lol Much of it leaves too many with guilt for their own illness which is something I strongly disagree as true or healthy. I am looking forward to reading your blog on it and will do so soon.
Chrisa, Yes, trying to make us feel better hits the nail on the head. Thank you. You also mentioned: "Don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can handle" Excellent point! It can make one more weak, not stronger, to have it worded in that way. Loved your reply: "that makes me want to send you to Heaven to check and be sure." LOL Excellent.
ldycheroke57 you mentioned: " I was told often that “if you only had enough faith, God would heal you”. Someone whose husband had mental illness, than suddenly got better, she said it was because he became more spiritual. While I'm sure that helped, but I also found out he started to finally take medication. Yet she told me if only my daughter were more spiritual, than just as her husband has overcome his mental illness, so would she. I never agreed but it is startling to hear a comment suggestive that my daughter is not spiritual enough. Who can judge that anyway.
"everyone is a little bit bipolar” I had forgotten about that one. The first time I heard it, my natural immediate reaction was "No they're not (& this is a real disease)."
Basically a lot of the comments above, some I've heard but some I've not had the experience of - yet :), am beginning to wonder if a lot of it has to do with insufficient education about mental illness. When I bring up the topic to someone I almost always think how I will have to give them some education, that most will say something inaccurate. Patty Duke and others have encouraged educating the public and I agree, and do my best. But it seems endless. Is there never a time I can just sit back, mention something about my daughter having this disease and not get some inaccurate or insensitive response? I get tired of always having to educate. Begin to wonder if anyone is learning. Probably, it just feels the progress is very slow.
Thanks everyone for listening.

Jan B
February, 1 2011 at 12:13 pm

Ive had a low few months so I just searched with the question - "Why do people expect me to apologise for being ill?"
I found this wonderful site. Im 48, female in UK.
Basically about 14 years of depression, anxiety, self harm, drink and drug abuse and about 7 suicide attempts in all.
At first everyone was concerned but they drop off one by one especially noticeable on being admitted to hospital, 7 - 5 - until it would be just one, my wonderful father the last time I was admitted.
Ive been fairly fine for about 6 years after years of support from various mental health and drug services.
Then to cut a long story short in December my so-called now ex friend wasnt happy about something else entirely unrelated so thought it would be a good idea to drag it all up in phone texts for 2 hours, the most awful comments, saying Id nearly killed my Mum, everyone expected me to apologise, she wanted me to apologise, I should take the whole bottle, she didnt care any more, etc etc, nasty slightly sociapathic b...h!
Anyway, my mental health went totally downhill, but Im just starting to come through some people dont get it at all.
As my oldest child who's 23, said, its all water under the bridge, I also said, with a half laugh, "I do apologise, I have hypothyroidism, it makes me a bit tired but there you go!"
Love to all xx

January, 30 2011 at 8:53 am

Being a Bible School grad, I was told often that "if you only had enough faith, God would heal you".
Another one: "remember, all things work together for (your) good."
I have plenty of faith, I get out of bed every morning (well, most mornings), don't I? I still believe in God and pray most days for strength to go on, but I don't attend church regularly any more. I just got tired of the judgement I felt at church. The worst criticism came from the clergy! The church needs to get a clue and quit marginalizing the mentally ill. It's as if they consider you an embarassment because you remain sick despite all their efforts to "heal" you or help you. Like a doctor who doesn't like to be reminded of his failures, you are dismissed and not really wanted around to remind them.
I'm sure not all churches are like this, there MUST be some compassionate and understanding christians out there, I just haven't really known any. The best thing to say to me on my bad days is, "I can't know how you feel, but I see that you're hurting and I care." You don't even have to be religious to be able to say that. Just don't quote scripture at me, because I can run circles around you with the Bible.

January, 30 2011 at 8:03 am

Yeah, I hate the "everyone is a little bit bipolar". I have gotten the "oh, that seems to be the popular thing right now" Like I chose to spend part of my September in the hospital with acute mania and psychosis because it is the "cool" thing to do and "all the celebrities are doing the rehab thing" Whatever. And my husband's favorite is the "get over it." Like I can choose to change exactly how I'm feeling. Yes, I can force myself to get up and do something, but it doesn't always change how I'm feeling. I love a quote I just recently found by Kurt Cobain, "It's better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not." I've decided that will be my new mantra and if someone doesn't like me the way I am, too bad for them, I'm tired of faking my life to try to make other people feel better, when I'm the one that is sick.

Natasha Tracy
January, 29 2011 at 2:06 pm

Hi Christa,
More great comments.
"Don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can handle or that there’s a special place in Heaven for me - that makes me want to send you to Heaven to check and be sure."
That one I may have to steal.
Thanks for chiming in.
- Natasha

Chrisa Hickey
January, 29 2011 at 2:01 pm

LI - yes. Thank you. As the mom of a teen with Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar type, diagnosed at 11, and I am sick of those trying to make comparisons under the guise of trying to make me feel better. I'd also like to add the other side - the comments from those trying to tell me how strong I am. Don't tell me God never gives us more than we can handle or that there's a special place in Heaven for me - that makes me want to send you to Heaven to check and be sure. Don't tell me how sorry you are, and for Jeebus' sake, don't ever day how lucky my son is to have me. Like I have a choice. If you must comment, a simple, "oh," is more than sufficient.

Natasha Tracy
January, 29 2011 at 12:31 pm

Hi L.I.,
I love that you've added to the list and you've addressed an area that I didn't, the: it's-great-to-be-crazy part.
For some reason every smart dead guy had a mental illness, which is magically diagnosed decades after death. While I have no doubt that the way I think is more creative than the average person, suggesting that just because I have some misfiring neurons I'm some kind of savant is rather nutty.
Oh, I wrote a whole piece about the new-age nonsense on my own blog. It's a real stick in my craw as well.
I'm glad you found writing it down helpful. Feel free to drop by and rant any time. We all need a safe space to do that and many of us know exactly how you feel.
Thanks for your comment.
- Natasha

January, 29 2011 at 7:34 am

Thank you for this article! I am the mother of an 'adult' bipolar child. After giving birth this medical condition followed. Reading your article was just what I needed to hear! When I have told people I have a bipolar daughter, I have gotten replies such as: "I love the way Bipolar people think!" Or "They are such unique persons" Or "Bipolar people are so creative." While there is a time and place for that, and for the right person, I find it disturbing to be the initial response. Especially when I just made a comment that she is medicine resistant or something. I do my best to realize where they are coming from, wanting to show compassion plus not wanting to judge, but true help comes from knowledge or patience via the real things that are helpful to say.
Too often I also notice they have a philosophy about it, and that causes things to go deeper. I usually just stop the discussion at that point, but sure would be nice to have a little more of a support system than I have.
My daughters needs are less depression (tho that is there), and more mania. Therefore when I am told how unique she is, I'm sitting here worrying if she is going to drive her car off a cliff for example. So that's just not a helpful response.
In the above article etc some things not to say were listed. Might I add a few that get to me?
* I don't want to hear that Picasso was bipolar (suggestive my daughter is so lucky to be on the same level with Picasso). When she was first diagnosed some years ago, I read a web site composed by a bipolar lady. She said she was tired of people telling her she is now a genius, and that its not always true, tho she is smart, she'd give anything to just be normal, have a job, a good relationship, etc. And that it was too much pressure to be a genius.
* I don't want to hear any new age psychology that if she really didn't want to be bipolar, she would accept healing and let it go. (Her brain synapses etc are broken internally - which is not a choice.)
* I don't want to hear how I should let go since she is an adult now. (I live far away so its not that I have say over anything she does, & legally zero say. But to fully let go, who will get her out of trouble when she gets in it, or help her eventually get on her feet? No one has really come to her aid in years. Matter of fact, the few who tried, did not know what they were doing and quit fast.)
* I guess the biggest thing I don't want to hear is a reiteration of the first: how wonderful and unique and far-out she is because of bipolar, when in truth she is sick. I of course think my daughter is all those things, but I raised and saw her before she became ill, and those qualities were much more prominent at that time. All I want is to get her back, the real her.
Thank you for letting me say all this. Actually I feel better now, got that off my chest. :) So please don't anyone feel bad. I just seldom get to tell those things to anyone, and now that I have, I feel some genuine relief. Very few understand this and now I am speaking with those who do. Thank you!

January, 18 2011 at 1:09 pm

Angie: It's true that many people with other, more "physical" illnesses get crap from ignorant people all the time ("You have cancer 'cause you didn't eat organic food!!" "People with diabetes just need better discipline when eating!"), but it's still pretty obnoxious of a person to tell someone with a medical illness (no matter *what* part of the body is affected) that they don't have a *real* illness to begin with. The part of this article that I agree with is that you wouldn't tell a person dying of AIDS that they really *aren't* dying of AIDS, thay've never actually been HIV-positive in their life, and that everything would get better if they just bucked up and shut up about it... that is, unless the person in question was a complete moron. Some people will say that those with mental illnesses aren't actually dying, but if they don't get the treatment they need, then they just may be (I don't know who would argue that someone who successfully committed suicide is, after all, still healthy).
And to those who get mad 'cause a lot of people with mental illnesses don't get the treatment they need, remember, oftentimes it's really not the mentally ill person's fault. Insurance companies rarely pay much, if anything, when it comes to psychiatric treatment, and said treatment gets pretty pricey as time wears on. Mental illness is not something that you can treat "in 4-8 sessions with a psychiatric professional". Anything that involves psychiatry and can be treated in the length of time many insurance companies allow is typically minor, such as recovering from the death of a hampster. Anything more serious requires continuous, long-term treatment with psychiatrists, psychologists, medication (which is costly in and of itself if your insurance chooses not to pay for it), and oftentimes such resources as social workers, outpatient therapy programs, or even recurring hospitalizations and/or emergency room admissions. And this treatment can take years, if not decades or even a lifetime; if it's all or mostly out-of-pocket, many people who are not wealthy have the choice of either paying such bills to the point of being severely destitute, of just "giving up" and learning to live a solitary, unhealthy life with a serious disorder.
Luckily for me, my husband is in the military, so I get quite a bit of treatment for free or almost free. I am currently pregnant, though, which means I've had to be off medication for the past 2/3 of a year, and just had to deal with hospitalizations every few months and serious bouts of mania or depression, without really any help (I was actually told, kinda snottily, during my last hospitalization by a nurse that I should just suck it up and deal with it, and to just shut up about it). When the baby is born next month, I get to go back on medication; however, this means I will be unable to breastfeed, much to the chagrin of many well-meaning but misinformed friends and extended family members. They believe that if I've been able to "go this long" without meds, I should be able to go forever without them! Too bad that being off my meds has been no darn picnic for anyone involved, and the last thing I want is for my daughter to grow up in an unstable home with an unstable mother, whose constant ups-and-downs are punctuated with time periods locked up in the hospital every once in a while.
But anyway. Good luck to everyone struggling with mental illness. Remember, roughly 1 in 4 people will suffer as a result of mental illness at some point in their lives; so, next time someone is a total jerk to you about your condition, just smile. Maybe one day they will know what it is like, and will end up becoming a staunch defender of you and your rights as a human being.

Natasha Tracy
January, 6 2011 at 7:53 am

Hi Shel,
Yes, it's odd that being high-functioning comes with the added issue of not "looking sick" enough for people.
I am sorry things aren't working for you right now, many of us know how hard that can be and I completely understand the fear of changing meds (I wrote an article about it here).
I don't know about anyone who uses reproductive threats. Sounds like not-such-a-great person.
- Natasha

January, 6 2011 at 5:05 am

Yes, I completely agree. It seems nobody really understands. "The problems you have are just like everyone elses." So what if I do not appear like a completely crazy person to the outside world-does that mean the challenges I face are not real?
My case is high functioning Bipolar II for 10 yrs with periods of depression. Now I have found anti-depresants are not working and klonopin is OK but so hair is falling out, LOL. I wish my new employment would offer health insurance for part-time work (which seems to take me full time hours to complete sometimes)...but at least I am doing what I aspired to do- non-brick laying work as well although I have been told to work as a PE teacher before LOL (so I can run around all day!!!).
I am very much afraid of changing meds and having to work to meet the expectations of my boyfriend who said if I will not try to have a baby in the future, he will not marry me. Nice!!!!

Natasha Tracy
December, 12 2010 at 1:05 pm

Wow. Both completely insane. You should have mentioned they have medication for _that_.
There's nothing wrong with manual labor or bricklaying but suggesting it at random to mentally ill people is well, pretty much unfathomable.
- Natasha

December, 12 2010 at 12:45 pm

The worst thing anyone said to me regarding bipolar disorder was, "Some day, you will be grateful for having come down with this illness."
And the worst thing a doctor said was this, from a locum psychiatrist: "You should realign your goals and aspire to manual labor." (For what it's worth, I have a PhD, and I still work as a management consultant to Fortune 500 companies. I'll be a bricklayer in my next life. Not.)

December, 8 2010 at 12:36 pm

I wouldn't be too cavalier about that "no one would ever treat physical illnesses this way" thing. Not to say I don't hate the "Oh I understand depression. My goldfish died and I was depressed all day," but I assure you, the "I broke my toe and had to use a walking cast, so I totally understand your debilitating chronic illness" is almost common, and just as irritating. Hell, I've heard people with cancer told they relapsed because they just weren't thinking positively enough.
I do hate the "your illness is just you being quirky," attitude. Natasha's right: its's the 'normal' people that treat it like it's just an unusual personal characteristic. most people's personal characteristics don't have quite that high a fatality rate.

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