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Readers Respond: Helpful Things People Say That Are - Or Aren't - Helpful

Responses: 18


Updated June 29, 2014

Often people say things to someone in the throes of a bipolar depressive episode that they think are helpful - but they aren't. Then again, some people know exactly the right thing to say. About Bipolar Disorder readers share the best and the worst of things people say to be helpful to a depressed person. Add your own to the list, too.

How are you?

Sometimes those 3 words push me into a panic. If I am not well I think, "I am so sick of lying and saying I am ok. So do I lie or tell the truth and be reminded they don't really care. Either way I lose. Sometimes, when someone says to me, "have a nice day," I will respond with, "No thanks, I have other plans." Most of the time they don't even notice. But one time, the young lady looked at me and said she was sorry I was having a bad time today. How refreshing!

Crisis cuff responses by therapists

When in crisis I just have to love those off the cuff responses by my therapist who of people is 'trained' to know better...Like "Get a grip" "its not as bad as you think" "You're overreacting if you expect my support extends to you when in crisis" "that's good that you seek support from suicide hotlines for support when in crisis" What?!? Oh and I just love this last one...when I'm charmed with suicidal ideation during crisis, his response is to encourage me to practice self soothing exercises! The last time I called him clearly on the edge of committing suicide, he did nothing. Had it not been for an acquaintance...I'd have been dead. He never called the hospital--not me, not my doctor, not a nurse to see even if I had survived. And I've been with him for almost two years because experience as shown me they're all the same. So why let another "professional therapist" whose just going to prove another letdown? But then do I have any choice? [Guide's note: They are NOT all the same. Why are you wasting yourself on this jerk? Get to work finding someone better. They DO exist.]
—Guest Guest Amy

best response ever

Mental health professionals have been the source of the most painful responses I've ever received! On the other hand, after seeing me struggle for many years, my mother listened to my frustration one day & simply said, "I don't understand--but I believe you." That was probably THE most healing thing I've ever been told.
—Guest N

Share Yours

I love what you said about someone just doing something for you when you're depressed. When you can't lift a finger because your in too much pain. That's exactly what I need, not useless platitudes. Or, worse yet, "just get over it." Thank you for this article. It really helped me feel like somebody DOES understand.
—Guest Kristen

First aid kit

Recently a therapist suggested I put together a "first aid kit" for when I was depressed. When I'm not depressed or manic, I know some things that help me feel better. But I can't think of them when I'm having an episode. So now I have a box that contains several of my favorite comedy movies, some music CDs, and other healthy things (not bags of candy bars!) that don't take a lot of energy but get me out of the worst of my depression. My episodes are short--I guess that's called rapid cycling--and that may be the reason this approach works for me. It stops the downward spiral that leads to hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. For me, laughter and music are powerful remedies. And my first aid kit keeps them ready for when I need them.

My Mom

Always used to say, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!" She never did understand but ironically I inherited my problems from her.

How can I help?

I agree with you, Marcia, that that IS a helpful thing to say, as long as the person really means it. I've had a couple people ask that recently who, when I actually named something that I needed help with, then looked at me like I was crazy. I guess they'd expected me to appreciate the offer but not take them up on it!

What works for me:

It personally drives me crazy when people say, "You need help." I already know that. I need someone to find out where I need to go and make the phone call for me, as all I'm capable of doing when depressed is sitting in a dark room ruminating. I agree that doing things is more helpful than saying things. I like to think of depression as being much like the flu. First of all, it's a REAL illness (a lot of people don't believe that depression is real)!!!! There's nothing I can do to stop it, but I can bring some soup and orange juice and some cold medicine to show that I care. Just be there. Open the blinds. Bring a cute dog and convince me to go for a walk with you. Take me to a movie. Just get me out of the house and let me think about something else for a while. Again, it can't cure me, but it can be a relief to know someone cares.
—Guest Bridget

That's normal

I'm often told by my relations that the depression/hypomania that I experience is quite normal!!! Normal people have their ups and downs......it's not the medication, it's not the Bi-polar.....it's what happens in life!!! Yeah right!!
—Guest That's normal

Things not to say

My oldest brother once said to me after I was diagnosed Bipolar after a weeks stay in the hospital. " I get depressed too, get over it". Yeah ok, thanks, I didn't realize it was that easy. He has no clue how close the cliff gets on the downswings!
—Guest Jim58

Just put away those depressing things ..

I took my daughter with me one time to my shrink visit. Daughter mentioned that I get sad thinking about things in the past - bro, mom and dad all dead. Suggestion was made to put all my precious things, pictures and stuff and put them in a box away so I won't bed reminded by them. WHAT? Take away what I also enjoy? Take away my memories? I was dumbfounded. I couldn't speak. I was shocked. Put away my family? My life? Might as well say, that arm looks like it's bothering you, let's cut it off and then you won't have to look at it and won't be depressed anymore. Needless to say it caused a big rift in my relationship with my daughter and I told the shrink that I would NEVER allow another family member to attend a session. I can get pissed at her, but I love my family and I almost lost my daughter. Put them away? How about, do you have a way of honoring them? My old shrink told me to do that and not feel bad. To light a candle when I needed too...that was better.
—Guest Michele

You don't pray enough

I'm a spiritual person and I attend church. When I try to explain about my condition they say God will heal me. I feel that God knows what I need. I have found a wonderful doctor and medication that finally works. This gives me hope and I thank God that he has provided a way for me to feel better.
—Guest giraffe1952

Helpful Things People Say

I'm barely feeling better after a dive into depression that has lastest (?) a couple weeks or so? I'm unemployed with lots of time on my hands, you'd think I'd get going, doing something, EXERCISE! VOLUNTEER! GO TO THE PARK! The suggestions, endless, just as it is with the bouts of depression. They paralyze me, and the last thing I can imagine doing is getting ready for anything and pushing myself out the door. To have a friend come over and clean the kitchen? Or help me pay my bills, the ones still sitting on the table today, scattered amongst other papers of all sorts, and they should have been paid on the first. Now I'll brace myself for the onslaught of late notices. If I had a friend who did that, my life would be a lot easier. I actually have a friend who helped me on occasion. It made a huge difference - I was at least in a clean space, depressed or not. Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
—Guest Mo

MANIC episode

I am having a manic episode, which I never recognize. I know when I'm depressed and I call my clinician and get help. Myboyfriend of 7 months told me I was acting like a bitch (OK he's new to this BP thing) but my son kept saying, Mom, something is wrong, you're not yourself, you're being rude to people, things like that, so I finally called and went in and was full blown manic. Got meds changed. That's the kind of thing I need to hear when my loved ones see changes!
—Guest Worst things to say to a MANIC

Often, Help offered is not so helpful.

I just met with my social worker and she gave me so many suggestions that have been already tried or contradictive. To inform them that I was being helped professionally by a specialist may turn all the advices into a conversation.
—Guest When Helpful is not so...

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