Repeating Your Bipolar Story to Every Doctor

June 2, 2021 Natasha Tracy

If you've been interacting with doctors as a person with bipolar disorder for more than about a week, you've probably learned the fact that you have to repeat your bipolar story to every doctor under the sun. It's unbelievably frustrating. Mental health professionals treat you like you have never described your bipolar disorder to another person. This is almost never the case. Usually, doctors are asking about your bipolar disorder in front of a huge file outlining your history with bipolar disorder. And repeating your bipolar story over and over is distressing and isn't something we should have to do.

Reasonably Repeating Your Bipolar Story

I suppose having to repeat your bipolar story comes in two flavors: reasonable and unreasonable. 

Reasonably, many doctors are going to ask you about your bipolar disorder when they don't know you. And yes, this will usually mean repeating part of your bipolar story. However, these may be reasonable questions.

These are questions like:

In all honesty., if I were a doctor seeing a patient with bipolar disorder, I would want to ask these questions directly as well. I actually consider these questions a good sign. It means that a doctor who doesn't know you is trying to elicit the appropriate information to treat you effectively. This is when repeating part of your bipolar story is an unpleasant necessity.

Repeating Your Bipolar Story for Every Doctor

Then there are the doctors who expect you to repeat your bipolar story in completely unreasonable ways. They want you to retell your experience from before you were diagnosed. They want a full medication history. They want to know every dose of every medication you've ever been on and when. They want to know your reaction to every medication and every combination you've ever been on. For a person like me, with 20+ years of bipolar history, this is impossible. I don't even remember all the medications I've been on; and, forget about knowing dosages; that's just ridiculous.

And as I said in the beginning, these idiots ask you all these questions with your full psychiatric file sitting right in front of them. They just don't want to bother reading it. They're making you repeat your bipolar story for their convenience. It is not about care. It is about laziness.

Why You Shouldn't Have to Repeat Your Bipolar Story Over and Over

Here's the thing about bipolar stories: they tend to be long, painful and complicated. This means that if a patient has to repeat their bipolar story to a doctor, they are likely to make mistakes. They won't remember things. They won't remember details. They'll misremember things. None of this is the patient's fault, particularly when you consider the fact that many mental illnesses negatively impact memory.

But on top of whatever mistakes may occur thanks to repeating your bipolar story, what doctors fail to think about, it seems, is that they're asking you to relieve something very painful.

"Please tell me about the 10 agonizing years you lost to depression in great detail." 

Does that sound like something that a reasonable person would want to do? Does it sound like something that a person who is already in pain should have to do? I would argue it is not.

Now, if I had an audience of doctors, I would say read the damn file. Some other doctor(s) took the time to write all the notes in there; the patient took the time to provide all the information in there, the least you can do is read it and not make the person relive suffering.

I can just hear doctors replying,

"We don't have time."

My first response to that is: that's not my problem. Providing proper care is not my problem. That is your problem. You work for me.

However, another response would be this: Do you have time for bad care? Do you have time to prescribe something the patient has already taken and forgotten about? Do you have time to prescribe something that you should have known would cause a complication? Do you have time to do it all over again when the first treatment bombs? Do you have time to cause completely avoidable harm?

I would like to think that any doctor worth this medical doctorate would say "no." (Of course, not all doctors are worth that, unfortunately, but I digress.)

In short, I would implore doctors not to force patients to repeat their bipolar story over and over. It's not fair to us, and it leads to substandard care.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, June 2). Repeating Your Bipolar Story to Every Doctor, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 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.

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