SheiFunmi Nomia-Yusuf: How to take care of people who can’t take care of you

by SheiFunmi Nomia-Yusuf


A common theme that I see in many of the posts that I read online, and in my own life, is that of people responding in really fucking bizarre and hurtful ways to our situation—that situation, of course, being Bipolar.

I imagine this kind of reaction happens to anyone in a situation where they are suffering from something that doesn’t have a simple solution. You see it in how strongly people react to people in poverty, to victims of rape and hate crimes, you see countless examples everyday of people turning against those who are suffering for things that were never in their control to begin with. Things that aren’t even fucking wrong with the people who are suffering as much as it is with the perception of what those things are supposed to mean.

There are also many, many examples of people who dedicate their entire lives improving the lives of people from all walks of life. There is no shortage of charitable action or honest care.

What interests me is watching people who in one breath exhibit endless deeds motivated by kindness, who then turn around when faced with something outside of their faith or ideology—things that sometimes are just labeled as their opposition, so they automatically dismiss it— and end up supporting or involving themselves in actions that hurt other people.

Now, this falls under a category I call a “no shit” observation.

“People are hypocrites”

“Yeah? No shit.”

The point isn’t to be profound, though, and I think it’s dangerous when discussing anything not to always place the most obvious out in the open. We may be thinking the same things, we may be acting from the same points of reference, but what happens when we both assume that and we’re not? What happens when we dismiss other people’s perspective, even if we strongly disagree with it? What happens when we insult and lash out at the people whose minds we’re supposed to be changing?

Yeah, no shit.

I think that’s what impresses me most about the time I’ve spent on the blogs, even more-so other social media sites, is that you usually stumble onto pages because you see something that resonates with you, or strikes you as interesting because it’s an image or perspective that isn’t familiar to you. And then when you start following people or scrolling through their pages you start to see their references, you start to see patterns (eventually you’ll be able to play a drinking game of how many times I mention patterns throughout my blog) develop and concepts and vocabularies grow from this random stranger who connects themselves to other people who share at least basic similarities, and then you get a wider picture of communities that you really don’t get to see into if you’re not readily a part of it.

I’ve sat across from people, especially lately, especially since I’m in a nasty fucking depressive episode, who I watch trip over themselves trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. The anger I read about in these moments on other people’s blogs makes sense to me, especially considering how dark these times can get, and being treated human helps. I also know as I’m sitting there, practically frozen, my face probably drooping or with some pained expression — multiple doctors now have brought up the word Fibromyalgia—that maybe it’s not as simple to know how to respond.

I have read many articles on world wide web who have people in their lives who dismiss their conditions, angrily denying that anything is wrong with them and that they need to “shake it off” (or any number of advice that I imagine we’d all love to be able to take if it were anywhere near the realm of fucking possibility.) To those people, I hope you find others in your life who you can talk to, that will at least attempt to understand where you are coming from. I know your shit is real. A lot of people on here and other communities believe you. Science, for the most part, believes us and makes attempts every day to understand what we’re experiencing and help us, some of them now are people who share our conditions, and Science is a pretty reputable source.

Perspective is the point I’m trying to get at with of all this rambling. Most of the people in our lives love us, but when faced with really serious shit that they can’t clearly help with, it makes them feel useless and probably a little scared, so they are going to react accordingly. Some are going to be assholes because they’ve spent their entire life being told certain things were reality and certain things were bullshit. A lot of people have been raised to dismiss those with mental illnesses (or genders and races and a plethora of things…) as being bullshit.

There are countless examples throughout history of the treatment of people with mental illnesses, and to be as far along as we are is pretty impressive considering the attitudes.

The other part of all this is that we have to be the ones who inform. We have to share our experiences. We have to tell people how we expect to be treated, and if they don’t want to comply, then we have to be a little colder to them until they understand how to come around. If they can’t, then we have to accept that and choose what kinds of relationships we want with those people. I know a lot of you are younger, and you’re just starting to go through all this. I can tell you now, the sooner you invest your time and energy into people who you know care about you, who show you that they care through actions—being there when you need them, not trying to fix you or dismiss who you are in light of knowing you also have Bipolar—the better.

When I was initially diagnosed there were many people who immediately bailed on me. I had people ignore what I was going through, and refuse to make any concessions while I was going through the first batch of medications. I had someone try to convince me that I wasn’t actually going through what I said I was going through, and that it was just a little bit of stress.

Many of you know how devastating peoples reactions can be, especially in that initial period of time after you’re diagnosed. Some of you know how fucking hard it is to accept that people in your family or your closest friends aren’t really going to be there for you in the way that you need them to be. Learning how to be self-sufficient is an awful task for someone who might not always have the capacity to have self-control. That’s why, again, always seek help, and always reach out to professionals.

For a while I decided to hide the fact that I was Bipolar. I felt like it was unfair to burden other people, that they would immediately dismiss me, and that there would be all the repeating of situations I had just went through. And guess what? Some did dismiss me. Everyone won’t, though. Embrace who you are, and then embrace what you’re going through. We aren’t the disorder. We’re not the manifestation of mental illness.

There are a lot of ridiculous notions of what being Bipolar is, and it’s being generated by people who don’t experience it. (Again, like most other groups.) You still get to determine the person you want to be. You still have choice. And you have an obligation to yourself to form your identity as a person who has Bipolar in a way that isn’t shameful or bad.

It’s difficult to change the minds of others, to remove notions about something that has been painted in such a negative light in every single culture in existence, and you should go ahead and accept that there will be many, many people who you won’t be able to reach. That’s not your fault, and in a lot of ways that’s not theirs either. (They choose how they act, though, and if they’re being  jerks then that’s on them.)

What you can do is learn about yourself. Learn who you are. Learn how this thing influences parts of your life. Learn about other people. Experience things. Experience other people. Embrace yourself. Embrace others (especially those who need it.)

In short: live the life you want.


SheiFunmi Nomia-Yusuf says she loves “Faffing on my laptop calling it freelance: The Huffington Post, MOBO Magazine, Billboard, Vogue UK, The Guardian UK, GQ, MTV Voices & Staying alive and more… Ghost Writer for your favorite sites. 


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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