Disclosing Bipolar: When? Where? Why?

Personal Information
To disclose or not to disclose: sometimes it’s hard to know. When in a dating relationship do you tell that special someone that you have bipolar disorder? Do you tell your colleagues at work? Do you let it leak onto your LinkedIn profile?

Here is your Bipolar Reality & Perception Guide to Telling Others You Have Bipolar Disorder.

1) Who

Who you tell might be the most important decision you make. Like it or not, there is a stigma associated with serious mental illness, which bipolar disorder is considered to be. Unless you want to be a trail-blazer like Kay Redfield Jameson, don’t disclose at work or on LinkedIn. There’s just too much bias against bipolar disorder and it might hurt your career. When you can’t make it in due to bipolar disorder, call in “sick.”
Your romantic partners, on the other hand, are going to need to know at some point. But not right away. The time to disclose is when it starts to affect them. Not just when you have to cancel a date because you’re “sick” but when you’re close enough that s/he would come over to care for you if s/he understood the problem. There’s no need to be hasty in this disclosure. If the issue doesn’t come up, you don’t need to disclose.

2) What

What words do you use? Yes, it’s an awkward thing to say to people who didn’t know you when the diagnosis broke after strange behavior.
But it doesn’t take a lot of words.
A simple, “I thought you should know that I have bipolar disorder” will do it because everyone has heard of bipolar disorder today.
If you have an especially mild or especially ravaging case of the disease you might add, “which means that I…” and explain your personal experience of the disease so that they aren’t caught off guard by making the wrong assumptions about you.

3) When

The best time to disclose is when it’s just the two of you in a quiet unstressed moment. This is true whether you’re asking your boss not to fire you despite too many sick days, explaining the unexpected to a new lover, or disclosing to your parents for the first time. This gives your listener the chance to react to only your news and not your news complicated by feelings about a myriad of other stressors.

4) Where

You’ll want to be alone with your listener. This sounds obvious but sometimes we get so anxious to disclose we forget about commonsense. Be sure that no one else is going to hear your news — or your listener’s reaction to it.

5) How

Simple words are best. Depending of your listener’s experience and expectations about the words, “bipolar disorder” this might be no-big-deal or like dropping a bomb on their heads. For most people, it will be the former; they will have had no experience with the disease. Most people don’t think of bipolar disorder as “truly crazy” like they do of schizophrenia. For that, we can thank our lucky publicity stars.