The Translation Game

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Depending on my circumstances, every day or so, someone finds out about my bipolar, about an aspect of it, or that I’m experiencing a mood shift. Inevitably this means that I am on the receiving end of some of the most inappropriate lines, obnoxious comments and naïve assumptions. So, in a bid to prevent this from happening I decided to create a top-ten, because, as we all know, the internet loves a list!

I’ve narrowed it down to my most frequently heard and I’ve annotated each one with a translation which emphasises exactly how ridiculous they sound. I will save the worst until last.

Shall we?


  1. Cheer up, I reckon I can make you smile! – (On multiple occasions this was swiftly followed by my ex pushing his face in to mine and yelling ‘COME OOOON!’ …I don’t miss him.)
    1. Cheer up, I can prevent an infection by telling a good joke!
    2. Watching someone try to “cheer you up” is awful. It invokes guilt, frustration, anger, on both sides, and generally makes you feel worse so please, just stop.


  1. Snap out of it!
    1. A heart attack? Snap out of it!
    2. Trust me when I say, nobody choses to have a mood swing, there is only so much control you have over it and acting like it’s as simple as making a decision is insulting, hurtful and ignorant.


  1. You have bipolar? I have depression, so I know exactly what you’re going through.
    1. You have an ear infection? I have a bad back, so I know exactly what you’re going through.
    2. Just because they both cause pain doesn’t mean they are the same. Yes, depression is a part of bipolar but it’s not that simple, for example, my life mainly revolves around mania. Besides, you and I are different people, we will experience things in completely different ways so, no, neither of us will know exactly what the other person is going through.


  1. Why is mania bad? Being happy is awesome!
    1. Why is a kidney stone bad? Beach pebbles are awesome!
    2. Being happy and being manic are totally not the same (please click here). This is not so dissimilar from people saying depression is the same as being sad.


  1. Sometimes I don’t want to go to work either but you just have to get up and get on with it.
    1. Sometimes I don’t want to walk but just because your leg is broken doesn’t mean you get take the bus.
    2. *Face Palm*


  1. You look alright, to me.
    1. I can’t see your blurred vision, so therefore I deem it non-existent.
    2. Mental illness is not necessarily visible. Even if it was, the medication I take to make me functional makes your assumption null and void. Also, are you a fucking doctor?!


  1. It’s so in to have a mental illness right now.
    1. It’s so in to have diabetes right now. Or worse. Do you actually have bipolar or are you taking life threatening medication just to look cool?
    2. I cannot tell you how sick I am of hearing this. Most of the time I will, wrongly, just tune out and nod along because I can’t bear to get involved and I’m slightly afraid of what I’ll do to the person who has deemed it appropriate to say such an insulting thing to me. I have no doubt there are people in this world that fake mental illness but to generalise to that extent about a struggling community, and then casually throw the comment around is obnoxious.


  1. You shouldn’t take medication, it’s not good for you.
    1. You shouldn’t take blood thickeners, they’re not good for you. Or I am not a doctor and I have no knowledge of your medical history or current symptoms but I know better because INTERNET.
    2. It is irrelevant if you have your own personal experience with medication, with bipolar or anything similar to me. I do not care if you are even qualified in certain areas related to my diagnosis. If you don’t know my symptoms and my medical history or you aren’t my psychiatrist you should back the hell away from my treatment. Medication is right for some, it is wrong for others. It just so happens that it is right for me at this current time. I can appreciate that someone telling me this may have my best interest at heart but I can also tell you that it is an inappropriate thing to lecture me on and you are not within your rights to tell me what to do with my illness.


  1. I think everyone is on the bipolar spectrum.
    1. I think everyone is on the spine bifida spectrum.
    2. That’s genuinely how stupid that sounds. Yes, everyone experiences mood swings, some more than others but that does not make them mentally ill. Saying so is insulting to mentally ill people. The “Bipolar Spectrum” IS a thing but it refers to a wide array of mental illnesses and does not encompass every living person. Admittedly I have, often, agreed with people on this, if only, to get them to stop talking!


  1. Bipolar? Oh cool! Like Stephen Fry!?
    1. Cancer? Oh cool! Like Morrissey?!
    2. This, I cannot stress enough. Not fucking cool. I hear this so, so, so many times and I hate it each and every time. I want to punch you square in the jaw for your blatant stupidity and insensitivity.


So there we have it! Can we have a big cheer for everyone involved! I would like to take the time to thank everyone that inspired my list, always a privilege never a chore, without you, none of this would have been possible!

On a more serious note though, these comments have come from strangers, friends, best friends, employers, teachers, my parents, maybe even your parents (who knows!) my point is, is that mental illness is a minefield, for those who have it and for those who don’t. As a result everyone makes mistakes, puts their foot in it and on occasion comes across as insensitive and stupid. A good general rule to keep to is, if it doesn’t make sense when substituted with a physical illness it probably won’t make sense with a mental one. Another general rule is never assume you know someone, know their life or their state of mind.

Or, put more succinctly by Jerry Belson in 1973…

“Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME