5 Famous Funny People With Bipolar Disorder

These celebrities are proving laughter really is the best medicine:

#1 Maria Bamford

Photo: Natalie Brasington

In both her standup routines and now in her Netflix series Lady Dynamite, comedian Maria Bamford normalizes topics like bipolar depression, hospitalization, and obsessive thoughts. The series is a loosely biographical show based on her hospitalization for bipolar depression several years ago. She has said that the bipolar diagnosis was initially hard to digest: “I was surprised how prejudiced I was against myself.”

#2 Stephen Fry

Photo: Claire Newman-Williams

Stephen Fry is a comedian, screen actor, stage actor, game show host, radio personality, playwright, columnist, novelist, has been called a national treasure in his native England. His 2006 documentary The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive was widely praised for its honesty. Fry continues to speak honestly and openly about living with bipolar disorder.

#3 Russell Brand

Photo: Eva Rinaldi / CC BY-SA 2.0

A British comedian, activist and actor. In 2012 he celebrated 12 years being sober (no alcohol or drugs). Having been diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and ADHD, Brand often talks about living with bipolar in his performances and his writing. “Sometimes, as a comedian, a line will come to you, that is so beautiful, so perfect, that you think: I did not create this line. This line belongs to all of us. Surely this is a line of God.”

#4 Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax is an American/British actress, comedienne, mental health campaigner, and author. She became well known after starring in the sitcom Girls on Top (1985-86). In 2010 her and stand-up comic show Losing It deals with her experience of bipolar. Her show played in London for a year; in response to the audience reaction from the show, she founded the mental health website www.sane.org.uk. Her memoir, How Do You Want Me? (2002), reached the Sunday Times best-seller list.

#5 Victoria Maxwell

Photo: Peter Holst

Victoria Maxwell is an award-winning actress and playwright and has worked alongside David Duchovny, John Travolta and Johnny Depp, among others. After her diagnosis of bipolar disorder, anxiety & psychosis, she became extremely proactive in her recovery. In her acclaimed one-woman show Crazy for Life, that has toured internationally, Maxwell combines her acting background and sense of humor to give an insider’s perspective to mental illness.

6 TV Shows Featuring Characters With Bipolar Disorder

Compelling storylines for main television characters with bipolar disorder continue to gain popularity on the small screen, helping to reduce stigma and normalize mental illness.

Now going into its 16th season, the Canadian teen drama has tackled a range of social issues such as AIDS, alcoholism, abortion, bullying, gay rights and eating disorders. No surprise, then, that it’s had characters with bipolar disorder: musician Craig Manning (Jake Epstein), a regular from 2002–2006, and Eli Goldsworthy (Munro Chambers), who was introduced in 2010.

#2  General Hospital

Breaking ground in daytime TV, this ABC soap opera revealed in a 2006 plot arc that longtime character “Sonny” Corinthos has bipolar—as does actor Maurice Benard, who plays the mob boss. The diagnosis provided context for Sonny’s dark moods, unpredictable temper, and self-destructive tendencies dating back to the character’s introduction in 1993. Over the years the show has built a surprisingly realistic portrait of someone with bipolar, touching on his treatment, lapses in medication compliance, and symptomatic episodes. A 2013 storyline revolved around an emotional crisis after Sonny went off his meds.

#3  Homeland

Renewed for a sixth season, this award-winning and ground-breaking political thriller on Showtime stars Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a CIA operations officer in counterterrorism. The character’s bipolar disorder was made clear when the show debuted in 2011. It plays an important role in the plot, both indirectly (as when Carrie uses the heightened focus of hypomania to figure things out) and directly (as when she is hospitalized and discredited in Season 3 as part of a plan to infiltrate an Iranian terrorist organization).

#4  Shameless

The Showtime series features a father (William H. Macy) who is alcoholic while his family of five struggle to get by financially. The comedy-drama also includes an estranged mom and son, Ian (Cameron Monaghan) who both have bipolar. Although the mother is a recurring character, Ian is one of the main characters and his mental illness starts to reveal itself in the fourth season, displaying intense mania, reckless and impulsive behavior, hypersexuality, and devastating depression. The show continues for its seventh season in October of 2016.

#5  Empire

Andre (Trai Byers), the eldest son of the Lyon family has bipolar disorder. Educated and intelligent, he is the CFO of the family business Empire Entertainment, and was portrayed as high functioning by taking his medication to manage his brain-based disorder. However, out of anger toward his father, Andre flushes his medication and spirals into a breakdown. In the first season, Andre’s mother learns of her son’s previous bipolar diagnosis.

#6  Lady Dynamite

The Netflix comedy launched in 2016, starring stand-up comedian/actress Maria Bamford as herself, portraying her misadventures in Los Angeles after spending six months in recovery and attempts to rebuild her life while having consistent flashbacks on Maria’s backstory and her relationships with her family and friends.

9 Must-See Movies About Bipolar Disorder

There are many worthy films about mental illness that inspire, inform and entertain. Here, we narrow down the list to nine movies featuring a lead character with bipolar disorder that you don’t want to miss!

#1 The Ghost and the Whale (2016)

Maurice Benard (Sonny of General Hospital) stars as Joseph Hawthorne, a man whose wife was lost overboard when they were sailing. The mystery of what really happened divides his town, makes enemies of his wife’s family, and draws the attention of a journalist. Joseph’s untreated bipolar leads to mania, melancholia, and discussions on the beach with a gray whale (voiced by Jonathan Pryce). Benard and his wife, Paula, produced the thriller. [click here to watch the trailer]

#2  Touched With Fire (2015)

Two people, each having bipolar (expertly played by Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby), meet in a psychiatric hospital and fall in love. Directed by Paul Dalio and produced by Spike Lee, Touched With Fire captures the intensity of their romance and the ebb and flow of beautiful highs and tormented lows.  [click here to watch the trailer]

#3  Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana play a mixed-race couple raising two daughters in 1970s Boston. The father doesn’t work because of his bipolar disorder, so the mother decides to accept a scholarship to graduate school in New York City so she can make more money for the family. The kids are left with their dad, who gives them lots of love but doesn’t always make the best parenting decisions. Writer and director Maya Forbes based the story on her own childhood. [click here to watch the trailer]

#4 Repentance (2013)

Forest Whitaker plays to stereotype in this psychological thriller. His character, a family man who also has bipolar disorder, is thrown off balance after his mother’s sudden death and he fixates on a self-help guru (played by Anthony Mackie) who has secrets in his past. Whitaker, who produced the violent drama, has said he was trying to explore loss, pain, healing, and the core of humanity in tortured souls. [click here to watch the trailer]

#5  Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This romantic drama-comedy puts a sympathetic character with bipolar front and center—and surrounds him with other characters grappling with their own disorders. Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, who is trying to get his life back together after a court-ordered psychiatric hospitalization. The main plotline concerns Pat’s efforts to win back his ex-wife by agreeing to enter a dance competition (it’s complicated). His dance partner, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a widow whose grief led to a sex addiction. And his father, played by Robert De Niro, has obsessive-compulsive tendencies and a gambling problem that drives a lot of the action. Director David O. Russell says he was attracted to the project because his son has bipolar. [click here to watch the trailer]

#6  The Informant! (2009)

The Informant! is based on the saga of real life corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre, played by Matt Damon. Whitacre was involved in a price-fixing scheme at the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland. He agreed to tape his colleagues for the FBI— part of his own grandiose scheme to win promotion. The stress of his undercover ordeal worsened Whitacre’s bipolar disorder, which was later diagnosed and treated. [click here to watch the trailer]

#7 Michael Clayton (2007)

George Clooney takes center stage as the title character, a “fixer” for a New York law firm, but an attorney having a bipolar episode triggers the action in this thriller. When Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) rants in court against the huge corporation his firm is defending in a class action suit, the firm sends Clayton to handle the situation. Clayton knows Edens has bipolar and has stopped taking his medications. When Edens later says his phone is being tapped, Clayton dismisses it as paranoia. After Edens is found dead, apparently of suicide, Clayton’s suspicions grow and he begins to investigate the corporate cover-up. [click here to watch the trailer]

#8 Mad Love (1995)

A somewhat sensationalized depiction of the highs and lows of bipolar, with Drew Barrymore playing a high school student who has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Her boyfriend (Chris O’Donnell) helps her escape and tries to cope with her increasingly intense emotions and actions as they head toward Mexico. In the end they return to Seattle, where she is readmitted to the psychiatric hospital and ultimately gets better. [click here to watch the trailer]

A surprisingly insightful portrait of euphoria, mania and depression as experienced by the main character, played by Richard Gere. Most of the movie involves his hospitalization and treatment by a psychiatrist (Lena Olin) who begins an unethical romantic relationship with him. There was a disconnect between the film’s sensitivity and its marketing tagline, though: “Everything that makes him dangerous makes her love him more.” [click here to watch the trailer]

Why Bipolar Disorder is So Hard to Diagnose, and What You Can Do About It

If you suspect a loved one may have bipolar disorder, here are simple ways that you can help them be properly diagnosed:

This post may be too late for many people here, but my hope is that it will help people struggling with possible bipolar disorder in their life or someone else’s. For me, it took nine years before I received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the tools to get my life on track. The average time it takes to receive a proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder is six years. This seems absurd to me, but I can understand that it is a difficult and often elusive disorder to identify. The symptoms can vary widely and can often be either masked or exacerbated by other things. For example, a co-occurring substance use disorder can confuse things, as can a simple remission of symptoms. Additionally, people tend to seek help for depressive symptoms but not for manic symptoms. Not to mention a range of physical issues that can alter the course of things, such as hormone changes, thyroid issues (especially in women), and chronic pain.

So, what can you do if you suspect you or someone you love has bipolar disorder?

1. See a psychiatrist – and ask for enough time to really talk

The first step is to see a psychiatrist and provide them with a comprehensive personal and family history. Find a doctor who is willing to spend some time with you so you can be as thorough as possible.  Doctors tend to be pressed for time and psychiatrists generally spend 15-30 minutes per patient. This is not acceptable for an initial diagnostic appointment. Advocate for yourself or your loved one and insist on ample time for the appointment.

2. Have a thorough physical examination

The second step is to have a thorough physical examination and bloodwork done. As previously mentioned, physical issues can often masquerade as bipolar or exacerbate the symptoms. It is important to rule out physical illness before diving into treatment with psychiatric medications.

3. Be honest

The third step is for you or your loved one to be brutally honest with themselves about their behavior and symptoms. Hypomania and mania can often appear to be just pure joy and passion for life. People might think you’re naturally impulsive and “wild”. Maybe they have come to expect that behavior from you and see it as part of your personality. But if something feels off to you, you will know it deep down. Perhaps it’s that you (or your loved one) can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or maybe you have a problem controlling your spending, or you move a lot. Of course, these things on their own, or even together, don’t necessarily mean that someone has bipolar disorder. But they can be red flags and they are important to look at.

At the same time, being honest with yourself (and therefore the doctor you will talk to) might be a little easier than asking your loved one to be honest about their struggles. If you suspect a loved one has bipolar disorder, please approach them with as much love, compassion, and non-judgment as possible. Chances are, they are well-aware of their difficulties and possibly embarrassed or even ashamed. Let them know that you are there to help them, and that you love them no matter what.

One more caveat: I wrote these three steps with adults in mind, and they can also be useful when getting a diagnosis for a child or teenager. The first two steps are applicable to someone no matter their age, but there are some very specific symptoms in children and teenagers that are beyond the scope of this particular post. I encourage you to look around the site for information specific to diagnosing bipolar disorder in children and teens, if needed.

The bottom line is that bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose, especially since it can manifest as other issues, and vice versa. The important things to remember are to be honest with yourself and your practitioners, to be thorough in investigating all possible causes, and advocate for yourself to have the doctor spend as much time as needed to figure things out. And you will figure them out. Never give up hope – there is healing for everyone, no matter what you’re facing.

Bipolar Disorder: It’s Not My Family’s Fault

For far too long, families of individuals with bipolar disorder have been stereotyped.  It is an outdated and unhelpful perception.

I remember when I was in college, my minor was in psychology. Abnormal Psychology was a required course in 1991. The theories as to what caused various psychiatric conditions were rife with blame toward the families of origin, and mothers, in particular, were thought to be at fault. Moms really took a beating. Schizophrenia was caused by overbearing mothers. With eating disorders, controlling mothers were to blame. OCD was caused by neurotic mothers. Bipolar Disorder, well, you guessed it, look for a problem mom. Every condition would be blamed on the “dysfunctional families,” especially moms, and no one ever seemed to question it.

We have come a long way scientifically in terms of understanding the origins of bipolar disorder. While the exact cause is still under investigation, science is getting ever-so-close to being able to provide blood tests that will be able to identify the genetic biomarkers involved in the formation of bipolar disorder. But this alone does not tell the whole story. Indeed, there are many theories that suggest that genetic predisposition may just be part of the picture and that life experiences combine with genetics to influence the course of bipolar disorder. In other words, there is perhaps no single factor that is to blame.

There is no question that there are people reading this article right now who did not have an ideal childhood or had families with challenges that contributed to the expression and/or the development of their condition. Please know that I am fully aware that this can be a factor and would never be so insensitive as to argue that this was not the case or to try to downplay that reality.

To those parents and loved ones, including mine, who have done everything they can to help their loved one who has bipolar disorder, a sincere and heartfelt thank you.

What concerns me is that all too often it is simply assumed that if one has bipolar disorder, they had a horrible upbringing. It has become a stereotype that often is not true. And I believe that, like all stereotypes, that assumption can impede progress. It’s hard enough for family members who are trying to get help for their loved ones to obtain it. Add to that the fact that they may be stereotyped or treated poorly under the assumption that if they have a loved one with the condition, they therefore must be a “hot mess” of a parent. It can discourage people from reaching out for the help that is so badly needed. Besides, there is nothing worse than reaching out for help and being insulted or misunderstood by the very persons who are supposed to make things better.

I can only speak for myself. My parents were wonderful. Not only did they have nothing to do with my condition, they had everything to do with my surviving it. When I was a teen, there were not many options for treatment in our small town. For years my parents drove two hours round trip, twice a week during rush hour traffic, to a town where there were treatment optionsfor me. Without complaint I might add. My family has always been supportive of me. My father was a great dad, and my mother I believe absolutely to be a saint. Seriously. She is just that wonderful.

I believe it is important to know how familial upbringing can contribute to our condition. I believe it is important to be truly honest and understand these factors in order to heal. But I also believe that parents who have helped their children and been nothing but good parents to their children with bipolar disorder must be acknowledged as well.

To the helping professionals, first, thank you for your help. It is important to remember that before we make assumptions about parents, we should get to know them. Understand the facts and learn the whole story. If there are areas that need to be addressed, timing and sensitivity are everything. Patience and a humble attitude are of utmost importance.

To those parents and loved ones, including mine, who have done everything they can to help their loved one who has bipolar disorder, a sincere and heartfelt thank you. You are worth your weight in gold. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Can Your Kids Help You Manage Bipolar Disorder?

We can teach the children in our lives to be open, honest and healthy around mental illness.

Can kids help us manager our bipolar disorder? Of course they can, but it does take a delicate approach that starts early. I will share my story and hopefully this can give YOU hope that having bipolar disorder as a parent, or in my case a very involved aunt is not a detriment.  Instead, it is a chance for you to teach a young person about bipolar disorder and mental health management in general.

My nephew was born in 2002. At age four, I started to talk to him about my bipolar disorder. I had no idea what I was doing, but I used my intuition and had basic rules I created that I have always followed:

I told him from the beginning that I was simply describing what I go through when I get sick. I explained that he will never be responsible for me.
I told him what to look for during my mood swings. Here is an example of how I explained my depression: David, on some days I can get on the floor and play Thomas the Train with you. I can laugh and have fun and hug you and roll around. That is the real me. The well me. On other days, you will notice that I am just sitting in a chair watching you play. I may cry a bit and I may smile through tears, that is my depression. It has nothing to do with you. It is simply my illness. Depressions is a mood swing I have because I have bipolar disorder. It is normal for me. You are not responsible for making me feel better, but watching you sure does give me joy even when I am sick.”
As David got older, I told him exactly what to SAY to me when he saw that I was ill.   I explained my symptoms of mania and told him that he was always allowed to let me know if he thought I was manic. Today, he is very open to helping me recognize mood swings that I might not see at the beginning. For mania he says, “Julie, you are talking really loudly.” That is his code for saying, “Julie, you are manic.”  I get embarrassed when he says this. I think to myself- oh no. I missed the mania! I am a failure! On and on! But I stop myself quickly and say, “Thank you David. You are helping me stay well. I will work on my voice volume and do something about my mania.” This took years of practice, but it was worth it. It’s now second nature for him at age 15.
He has two members of his immediate family with bipolar disorder. The chance he will have sings of the illness are high. He is ready for this. He knows what can cause symptoms to appear and is open about his moods. Like many teens, he has acne. He went to a dermatologist and said, “I can’t use steroids. My family has a history of bipolar disorder and steroids can cause mood swings.”  He did this on his own!

We never know if what we teach young children will stick. This was an experiment. I can say that it worked.  If you have bipolar disorder, yes, you can get help from the kids in your life. They need to know that they are in no way responsible for you- that is for other adults including health care professionals, but they CAN help you stay stable by knowing what to look for when you get sick and having a plan in place to help you find stability.

I will end with a story I know you will love! David was 11 during this story and he called me Auntie Wee.

I love travel and flying, but I always have to deal with anxiety. A lot of anxiety. David knows that I have panic attacks and suicidal thoughts when I travel. It’s a huge bother as I love to travel and it’s really a big part of our family life.  I started a panic attack right before leaving for the airport to fly to California where I was to give a keynote speech on bipolar disorder management.

We are in the living room packing my suitcase:

Julie: Darn it! I’m having a panic attack. I hate my bipolar disorder! I have to breathe. Let me sit down a minute. I can get through this. I won’t listen to what my brain is saying, but it’s pissing me off. I’m not going to die.

David: Auntie Wee. We know what this is. This is your anxiety. It’s not about the plane flight. It’s the bipolar.

Julie: Yep. That is what it is. I wish I could just get on with my life and not have to go through this David. I hate it so much, but it’s here and it’s bipolar so I have to deal with it.

David: You sit in this chair. Now I’m going to go into the bathroom and I’m going to get a wash cloth and run it under the warm water. Then I’m going to get the lavender oil and put it on the wash cloth and put it on your forehead. You sit there and I’ll be back.

I sat in the chair and he put it on my head!

The kid was 11! He did what I taught him to do many years before. I had NO idea if what I was teaching him was getting through. It was. From age four to nine, he would listen and not talk as much. Around age ten, he started to interact with me and truly help in an appropriate way.

We can teach the children in our lives to be open, honest and healthy around mental illness.

You can start today!

9 Ways to Support Someone With Bipolar Disorder

Having help from family and friends can make a profound difference to those living with bipolar. Advocate Stephen Propst suggests nine tips to keep in mind when offering support:

#1 Face the facts

Be willing to acknowledge that bipolar disorder is a legitimate disorder. As with diabetes or cancer, bipolar disorder requires medical treatment and management. It can be gut-wrenching and at times, scary. It also helps to face the facts when it comes to our current mental health system. If you find it to be disorganized and disconnected, imagine what the patient is experiencing. With your support, a patient can be guided through the maze, find the best care, and stick to a workable treatment plan.

#2 Get educated

People who have bipolar disorder often deny that anything’s wrong, and frequently, they don’t stay on their medications. It’s important to learn about these and other nuances of the disorder. Fortunately, there are many resources available today, especially compared to 25 years ago, not the least of which is the Internet.

#3 Take some time

Time is one of the hardest concepts to convey to people. We all want immediate results, but with bipolar disorder, so-called overnight success can, in fact, extend to years With bipolar disorder, there are simply no quick fixes. Thinking there is a miracle cure only makes matters worse, so instead, help your loved one set realistic goals. The road to recovery is not a straight shot; it’s a winding path with delays, downtimes, and detours. Remember progress can be made, but it takes time. Let patience be your guide.

#4 Adopt the right attitude

How you see things does matter. With the amount of stigma and discrimination that exist in society at large, the last thing a patient needs is misguided thinking coming from family and friends. More support is needed, not more shame. The more your response is based on reality and not on myths, the more your support can make a difference.

#5 Treat people like adults

Bipolar disorder can arrest a person’s emotional maturity and produce behavior that appears very childish and reckless. Please remember, however, that while someone who has bipolar may act like a child, there is an adult underneath. The world of the person who has bipolar disorder can be full of chaos and confusion, and low self-esteem is common. It can make a big difference when you continue to acknowledge and show respect for the grown human being who is struggling behind all the symptoms.

#6 Give some space

Living with a serious illness is a daunting task. It can be a foreign concept to separate yourself from someone you want to help. But as a support person, it is best to establish a loving distance between yourself and the person who has bipolar. Set boundaries and establish consequences that encourage those who have bipolar to seek recovery on their own, all the while expressing your concern and willingness to help. Be supportive, patient, and understanding—without being used. Effective encouragement is helpful; enabling is not.

#7 Forget the past

Frustration often accompanies bipolar disorder. Avoid making matters worse by wallowing in the past. Pointing fingers solves nothing, blaming is not the answer, and getting angry only makes matters worse. Bitterness and resentment can sometimes act as a trigger and incite more of the behavior you want to stop. Instead, focus on helping make tomorrow better. That’s true support.

#8 Take care of yourself

The family suffers right along with the person who has bipolar disorder, so, it’s important for you to develop your own coping skills. Only if you take care of yourself can you help. All too often caregivers end up becoming ill. Remember that you have yourself—and probably others—to care for as well.

#9 Never give up hope

There is one piece of advice for anyone who loves someone with bipolar disorder, and it is this: keep the faith and never give up. There have been many times when there was nothing but hope, and you have living proof that it kept me going. So, let your hope for a loved one spread—it’s contagious.

Your Spouse Has Been Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder: Now What?

When bipolar enters the marriage, here’s 7 tips on where to start:

#1 Know what you’re dealing with

For both spouses, the diagnosis itself may come as a relief to finally have an answer and explanation for the confusion of ever-changing moods. It’s also likely the start of a solid treatment plan and the chance for solutions for both spouses dealing with the symptoms of the disorder. At the same time, the diagnosis of a life-long illness is not an easy thing to hear and will take some getting use to what it all means.

#2 Educate yourself

The more you learn, the better you will be able to help your loved one. Educate yourself about this brain illness, what to expect with symptoms and the various treatments. Many caregivers need even basic information about what’s happening with their loved one. Ask as many questions as possible during visits with your spouse’s health practitioner. There are also numerous resources, both in print and online to learn about bipolar disorder.

#3 Adopt the right attitude

How you see things does matter. With the amount of stigma and discrimination that exist in society at large, the last thing a patient needs is misguided thinking coming from those closest to him. Be compassionate and supportive, taking care to help remove any feelings of shame. The more your response is based on reality and not on myths, the more your support can make a difference.

#4 Make peace with the illness

Acknowledge your grief, anger, sadness, or guilt. Accept that your loved one’s bipolar will inevitably affect your family and plans for the future. It will mean accepting that the life you originally imagined now looks different, but it can still be wonderful. Also, be willing to acknowledge that this is a legitimate disorder. As with diabetes or cancer, bipolar disorder requires medical treatment and management. If the caregiver spouse can move through these times, he or she will reach a place of acceptance.

#5 Redefining responsibility

After a diagnosis, couples who seem to have the most success in their marriage believe that the partner with bipolar shares an equal responsibility within the relationship. If bipolar is biological then the mate does have some control over his behavior and should shoulder some responsibility to help themselves, unless they are extremely manic or depressed and are temporarily unable to.

#6 Give some space

Living with a serious illness is a daunting task. It can be a foreign concept to separate yourself from someone you want to help. But as a support person, it is best to set boundaries and establish consequences that encourage those who have bipolar to seek recovery on their own, all the while expressing your concern and willingness to help. Be supportive, patient, and understanding—without being used. Effective encouragement is helpful; enabling is not.

#7 Be patient

It’s natural for us all to want immediate results; but with bipolar disorder, so-called overnight success can, in fact, extend to years. With this brain disorder, there are simply no quick fixes. Thinking there is a miracle cure only makes matters worse, so instead, help your loved one set realistic goals. The road to recovery is made up of lots of winding paths, delays, downtimes and detours. Remember progress can be made, but it takes time—let patience be your guide and try to make the most of the ride.

4 Tips For Telling Someone About Your Bipolar Disorder

It’s a difficult decision to have “the conversation” about your disorder to anyone; keep these in mind:

#1 Consider the risks and rewards

Talking about your bipolar can seem like a huge risk. It can feel like you’re gambling your emotional stability, or professional and financial stability. However, disclosing your diagnosis at your workplace may actually give your employer better insight into your performance and be more apt to support you. And explaining bipolar to a friend or family member could in fact gain you some practical and moral support.

#2 Think it through

As much as you worry about how people will react to your news, it’s impossible to predict someone’s response. You might be pleasantly surprised. Think about the potential consequences and implications of disclosing or not disclosing your disorder. For example, how does staying silent affect you? If you go public, you’ll experience the freedom of not keeping the secret, but just think through the repercussions so you’re not blindsided.

#3 Be prepared

If you’re considering telling your employer, first have a look through your workplace disclosure guide and review the employer’s privacy and accommodation policies. Also, it’s best to be prepared with enough reliable information about bipolar disorder before going into the disclosure talk, whether with friends, family members or a supervisor. Be prepared to soothe any concerns or satisfy any questions.

#4 Be patient

Don’t expect people to understand all the facts or have a deep understanding and therefore respond less judgmentally. Clinical psychologist Carrie Bearden, PhD, lists some points to emphasize in both professional and personal settings: “You’re managing a treatable illness, are aware of how this illness affects you, that you’re being responsible about all of it, and are focused on having a very productive life.” Also, be aware you may have to address an employer’s fear that an employee with bipolar would be unpredictable, unproductive or lose control of their emotions.

4 Caregiver Tips When Dealing With Bipolar Disorder

These simple strategies will better equip you to care for someone with bipolar:

#1 Minimize stress

It’s very important to your health to reduce stress both in yourself and also in your surrounding environment. Research has shown that having a more open living space elevates mood and leads to feelings of freedom. High ceilings and more natural light make a difference, but so does well-arranged furniture that allows you to move around easily. Take some time and get some help to organize your household items—everything from the medication dispensing area to the bills and mail pile. And as for you: high stress leads to high cortisol, which leads to physical problems. Practice mindful techniques as well as learning to ditch negative thinking and replace with positive affirmations.

#2 Make a plan together

If you are taking care of a spouse, you can sit down together during periods of stability and discuss the limits of the illness. For example, you can let your partner know that you will walk away from symptomatic behaviors such as shouting or constant criticism. You will also need to have a plan for what responsibilities you will assume in case of severe episode, either mania or depression. If you both accept that bipolar disorder will inevitably affect your family, at least you can plan new ways to enjoy your life and be aware of any new roles and responsibilities.

#3 Don’t go it alone

While it’s important for caregivers to have time away from the illness, it’s equally important to also have a peer connection. By having a network of people to help you, it will help reduce the sense of isolation that can be common. A support group needn’t be face-to-face—try an online group, forum or blog to connect to. Similarly, encourage your spouse to also seek out a support group; and if he is anxious about going to a meeting alone, you can offer to attend.

#4 Keep yourself healthy

You will be unable to take care of your loved one when you are stressed, tired or lack the motivation to do what needs to get done. The best way to do this is to make yourself a priority. If you need to, schedule in your calendar time for you to exercise and meditate. As best as you can, eat whole foods, including those with Omega 3 and get as much sleep as possible to regenerate your brain and body. Pay attention to signs of low energy, or emotions of guilt, irritability and depression.