Just because someone else’s experience with bipolar disorder is different from yours, does NOT mean it isn’t worth the same respect.
Believe it or not, I read the comments that are written each time that I do a blog post. Usually they are encouraging and insightful (sometimes humorous) comments. However, there have been some comments that have surprised me. The surprising comments have made me realize that it might do it us good to talk about how to relate with one another; as those who share the diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
So, I offer to you ways to respect everyone’s individual journeys with bipolar disorder:
#1) Respect the other person’s journey.
While you and I may both have a diagnosis of bipolar, that does not mean that the disorder manifests itself the same ways in each of our lives. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Every individual who has bipolar disorder has a unique and different journey. It’s not my job, nor is it your job, to judge someone else’s journey to wellness. Instead, we need to respect the other person’s journey as their unique experience.
A couple of comments that I have received here on the blog that left me “shaking my head” have been comments about it being impossible that I am bipolar since I’ve not had any episodes in the least 12 years. Several of the comments have been just short of calling me a liar. All I could do was chuckle when I read them. Why would anyone lie about having bipolar disorder? What advantage would there be for me? None.
My purpose in writing it is to share my journey and insights from that journey with you. Plus, I gain insights from your journey also. Just because your journey is different than mine it does mean that my journey is not valid. Instead, we simply need to respect one another’s different experiences with bipolar disorder.
#2) Take what insights from the other person’s journey that help and leave the rest.
Recently I offered 20 things that our loved ones could do for those of us who have bipolar disorder. “Praying” was number two on the list. Oh my goodness, there were so many comments taking offense to the idea of praying. Of course not everyone is a Christian that reads this; nor do I expect that. Many folks have been hurt and even abused by religion. In fact, they are triggered by it. But, for many of us faith is a vital part of our journey to wellness.
So, I’d like to suggest this: instead of becoming irritated by that specific item in a list of 20 things and getting hung-up on it, just leave it. Skip it. That one doesn’t work for you. But, if there’s other things in the list of 20 that work for you, receive those.
Whenever I read or hear about someone’s journey to wellness, I do not expect that I have to agree with everything they say. Sadly, our culture is so divided on so many issues that I believe there are some think that if someone else does not agree with them in all things that they can’t even civilly dialog and focus on the things they do agree on!
“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ––Rick Warren
If something you read in my posts doesn’t work for you, so be it. It’s OK! I’m OK with that. I don’t expect everything I write about to always fit every reader perfectly every time.
#3) Encourage and celebrate the other person.
It has been said that if you have two people and they both think alike, one of them is not necessary. We need to be encouragers of one another. Those of us who write for the bphope blog do so in the hope of encouraging you and celebrating your journeys with you.
When I hear someone else share their journey I want to encourage them to keep sharing. Because I know that when you and I share our journeys with others, the secret shame of stigma holds less powers in our lives. Plus, I want to celebrate with the other person their victories in their journey. I believe we need to build one another up. Not tear each other down. We need not crush one another’s hopes and dreams. But, instead buildup one another’s hopes and dreams.
See, I believe that there is much to learn from one another. Within each of our own stories there are insights that will help others; moving them forward in their journey to wellness. I want to learn about your journey. I want to encourage you. I want to glean every insight I possibly can from you that will help me in my journey.
So, keep the comments coming. I’m a big boy, I can even handle the comments that are stingers. You don’t have to agree with me. I’m alright with that. Are you?
I respect you. I respect your journey. And I’d love to hear about it.
Brad Hoefs is the founder of Fresh Hope, a national network of faith-based peer support groups for those who have mental health challenges and also for their loved ones. He is a certified Intentional Peer Specialist, and also serves on the State of Nebraska Advisory Committee on Mental Health. Brad was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in 1995. One of Brad’s passions is to empower peers to live a full and rich life in spite of a mental health challenge. Brad’s blog is “Living Well!” He is the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis. He has a B.A. in Communications and a Masters of Divinity. Brad has been married to his wife, Donna, since 1979. They have two adult married children and love being grandparents to the grandkids! He is the pastor of Community of Grace in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He also helped start a website called What I Did to Recover that encourages and empowers those who have a mental health diagnosis to live well in spite of their mental health struggles.
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