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How to Explain Bipolar Disorder to Our Friends and Family Last Updated: 29 Jan 2024 Comparing bipolar disorder to the weather may seem cliché, but it can help people understand the unpredictability of our illness. If video is not showing, click here Bipolar: Beyond the Definition If you need a technical definition of bipolar disorder, bphope has that in spades — and you can find it pretty much anywhere on the internet. What I want to talk about is how to go about explaining to our friends and family what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder and the Weather I’m outside today because I am going to use the weather as an example of bipolar disorder. Now, I know that makes a lot of people in our community cringe, but it really is a good analogy! Hear me out: The weather is unpredictable; bipolar disorder is unpredictable. The weather exists on a spectrum, from sunny days to rainy days; bipolar’s spectrum includes an array of symptoms, mood states, and individual presentations. So, when you’re trying to explain to somebody what it is like to live with bipolar disorder, using the unpredictability of the weather is really going to allow people to understand it. And that’s what we’re really after here: understanding. The Daily Variability and Common Experiences of Bipolar The reasons this analogy works are numerous and commonly understood: You can wake up to a beautiful, sunny day and go to bed in a thunderstorm. With bipolar disorder, you can wake up perfectly happy and go to bed unfortunately depressed. The weather is not kind, just like bipolar disorder is not kind. It jerks you around, it jerks you back and forth, and it doesn’t really care about your plans or what you are doing. Just like the song says, “It’s like rain on your wedding day,” bipolar disorder can absolutely rain on our parades. Understanding That Bipolar Disorder Is Not Our Fault I really think this approach will allow people who don’t understand what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder to think about and comprehend it in a way that doesn’t blame the person. It’s not anybody’s fault when it rains, and it’s not the person’s fault when bipolar disorder sort of takes control. And, much like we have coping skills to deal with the weather — we grab an umbrella in the rain — we have coping skills to move us forward with treating and managing bipolar. After all, bipolar disorder is external to us, not who we are — just like the weather is external to our plans for the day. What ‘Bipolar ‘ Analogies Have You Used? So, I always like to assign homework: In the comments section below, give me your best analogy for what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder or for explaining bipolar disorder to our friends and family. Then go through and read what others have shared, and this will allow you and others to open up productive dialogues about living with bipolar disorder. Why do this? With more perspectives to consider, you can explain it better and get the support that we all need to move forward to live better and healthier lives. UPDATED: Originally posted June 2, 2016