You're watching Bipolar in Focus, I'm Jane Pauley. What to say? Who to tell? Going public with bipolar can be fraught with anxiety.
Here to shed some guidance on that is therapist Anne Sikora. Okay, what to say? Who to tell? How much? What are the problems inherent in answering those questions?
Well, it is certainly a complicated matter figuring out who to tell initially once you have the diagnosis.
I think that you want to start with the people you're closest to, your family and your friends.
It might be a good idea to talk with your therapist. Hopefully you're working with the therapist and you can contest some of these things out.
So as a therapist, what is your advice to someone who has maybe just been diagnosed?
Well, certainly it's a good idea to take your time and be very thoughtful about who you want to tell.
I mean, when we talk about talking to people who you're closest to, ideally they're going to be very receptive and understanding but not all –
not everyone is going to have the same level of understanding depending on what their own history with mental illnesses.
So how do you work through with a patient the possibility that someone will not react positively?
There is always that possibility one hopes that people are going to be understanding but let's just suppose that you have a colleague or someone you're close to say,
"Why did you take so long to tell me this? How could you withhold such important information from me?"
I think it's important to validate their reaction and to give them the space to have a full range of feelings.
So I understand that you're really upset, I wish I could have told you earlier. It was taking me a little while to figure out what this would mean to me.
Now I have a better understanding so I can explain more of what's going on to you.
What if their reaction is, I really didn't need to know that?
I hear that you really didn't want to hear all of that information but I think this is something very important for you to understand about me.
And I understand it might take a little while for us to work it through but I am willing to answer any questions you have.
How important is it for people at work to know? I mean, who at work ought to know? Who at work maybe doesn't need to know?
It's going to depend on the individual situation and what kind of workplace we're talking about. If it's an artistic creative environment, hopefully people are going to be more open minded.
Perhaps people are in therapy themselves, you can see if other people in the workplace have gone through crisis. How have people reacted to that?
If you're getting positive indications, try telling one or two people that seem sympathetic and you'd feel more comfortable with and see how their reaction is.
Of course you can go to human resources and you can talk it through with someone in the Human Resources Department.
Dating has to be a special case, do you tell on the first date or do you wait until you're in a long term committed relationship?
I think in the situation where you're on a first date, you want to put your best self forward
and in the same way that somebody else might not share with you they have diabetes, their mother has cancer whatever -- a lot of other things that are going on in their lives.
You want to give the person a chance to get to know you a bit before revealing something really personal.
I think you should go by the cues that the other person is giving you.
How much information are they giving you? And really do you -- you're interviewing them to see if they're someone that you might potentially be with.
How much do you need to tell?
Less is probably -- is probably more. You can start out but saying, "You know, I'm having some personal problems." or "I'm going through some depression,"
and then you can always add information or add pieces to the picture as you feel ready, as you feel more comfortable.
Very good, thank you. And thank you for watching Bipolar in Focus.