3 Tips To Help You Respect Other People’s Bipolar Disorder Experiences

Last Updated: 25 Jul 2019

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.

About the author
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.
  1. Love your article it is so true. I have just recently decided to start sharing my story. One of the first things I say is my journey is mine and not all are the same. My mom is bipolar and her journey is different than mine. I want to educate not jump on people. I want people to know there is hope for people with mental illness. That is one thing that concerns me about sharing my story is being afraid of others analyzing every word I say and judging harshly. Sharing my journal is sharing something very personal of myself so tred lightly its taken a lot to get here.

  2. I have been on medication since 1995 for Bipolar and today, I am doing great… I have great Faith, God is healing me…, I had family that turned away from me during my worse times…My own Mother did not understand what I was going through… I forgive and I am getting stronger everyday as God takes care of me… 1 Peter 5:7 has been my scripture… I am 66 yrs. old and I know my Father in Heaven cares for me. Thank you for posting!

    1. Anne,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I will be praying for you! You might want to check out: http://www.FreshHope.us


  3. Your articles are very passionate, personal, and uplifting. You talk “with” us, rather than “at” us. I think that you are a very genuine and sincere author and I appreciate your work.
    Even with medication and CBT, depression and anxiety are a constant for me, but nobody “out there” would know, only my husband, psychologist, and psychiatrist. I am so “cheerful” on Facebook that my friends could never guess! I would find it so interesting to hear about the pain of “masking” that we sometimes present to the world. I do it mainly because I don’t want others to worry about me. I am good at it. I am also very afraid that I will be judged because I experienced a hospital stay and that my credibility is now forever questionable. I am embarrassed to admit that fact because I don’t want to hurt the feelings of your other readers who have also spent time there.
    The face I try so hard to present is one of “sanity”. It takes constant vigilance and creativity. The bipolar “mask” requires a lot of energy. Thanks again for caring about us.
    I have Bipolar II. My 21 year old son struggles deeply with Bipolar I.

    1. Thank you Lorie!!! I try.

      I believe with all my heart that it is more than possible to live a great and full life IN SPITE of having bipolar! It is interesting that so many folks have settled for much less in their lives. Of course, living well in spite of having bipolar disorder looks different for everyone.

      The “mask of bipolar” – I really like the idea of blogging about that. So, watch for my next post coming up this Sunday. That’s exactly what I’m going to address. I always think of the song “Tears of a Clown”…cause that is exactly how I used to feel all of the time. People had no clue how horrible, lonely and sad I really felt! Thanks…I’m always looking to write about “new” things! Love the idea!

      Blessings to you and your Son. One of my adult children also has bipolar. I’m learning how to be a support person/loved one. It’s not so easy! I’ll be praying for you all!


      1. Brad, you write above that “It is interesting that so many folks have settled for much less in their lives.” I would like to mention that many of us are beaten down and lack external supports. The fight makes many of us weary and indeed, we give up and settle. For many of us, it is dangerous to hope …

      2. Hi Deb,

        I understand what you are saying. Being battle weary is a reality. I’m sorry that there is not more of a support system for you. Have you tried any peer support groups (ones that are healthy, helpful and positive)?


  4. Great post, Brad. I shared one of your audio messages about your experience with bipolar disorder with my brother who is a minister and has been struggling with major depression.

    1. Tom,

      If there’s anything that I can do for your brother, please let me know!


  5. Great article. I am bipolar and so is my 27 year old daughter. So often, I try to relate her experience to my own but it always fails. Her path is her own. I will work harder to hear instead of be heard. Thanks

    1. Its hard at first, but once I learn how to listen to someone, I mean listen not just nod my head, then the healing starts.

      1. Kudos to you, John! If only more were so inclined …

      2. John.. Ty for commenting about the importance of learning ‘how’ to listen in order to understand the Heart of what someone is saying..
        I have discovered that it is a Gift to Hear The Heart of another.. We must first ‘want’ to ‘hear’..
        In hearing another’s Heart we can much better celebrate and encourage their journey ‘with’ them..
        I have been praying for this gift myself..
        ‘Learning to Hear to understand rather that listening to reply so that we may have our own voice..’

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