Wednesday, December 30, 2015

You Don't Know Me

- anonymous

I have Bipolar Disorder.  That's one of those things I say to make other people feel comfortable. I have, like I have diabetes; I have MS; I have a socially acceptable health condition. But I don’t.  I have Bipolar Disorder. Can I return it? It doesn’t go with these shoes.  No? I guess not. 

The term Bipolar Disorder was a sleight-of-hand performed upon the American culture’s lexicon in order to retire the term manic-depressive and create a distant-clinical approach to the disorder. Yet, I haven’t noticed this change in terminology generating a look of relief when I say, I have Bipolar Disorder or I am Bipolar. Saying I have sounds and feels disingenuous as well as contagious. First off, I've said and done enough while in a manic, depressed, or mixed state that I don’t care to add disingenuous to my list of sins. Secondly, the idea of bipolar disorder as catching scares the hell out of people. So, the magic trick upon the lexicon failed. I’ve yet to hear a pop-culture reference or eavesdrop on a stranger’s conversation that gave a positive, embracing reception to Bipolar Disorder.

"Forget him. He’s crazy. He must be bipolar," she hissed over her insulated cup of Starbucks.

Matter settled, the two women move on to their next topic of conversation, the sale at Kohl’s. 

Had I only known that diagnosis were being handed out at Starbucks, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and co-pays.

Whether it is I have or I am, Bipolar is just too confusing. What poles? Which pole is which? And how can I be in two places at the same time? Will I have to wait long to see Santa? Does this mean the equator is normal? I didn’t think normal would be so hot. But Manic-depressive, this term is direct. It gives guidelines. People I have some idea of what to expect.

"Oh, her. She suffers from extreme emotional states. I can relate to extreme emotional states ever since my daughters entered puberty," she sighed over her insulated cup of Starbucks.

Generally, people want to understand, but not because they're kind. They want to know to stay the hell away from you. Then I wonder, should I bother to tell people at all? I have enough going on in my head without added paranoia and fear. However, at times I find myself in a situation where I could offer up a pathetic excuse or reveal my diagnosis. I tend to opt for the unveiling of the ugly truth of my genetics. I always wanted to have a cause to fight for as a teenager. So, I guess I’m fulfilling that adolescent fantasy when I stand as a one woman activist campaigning for awareness of mental-illness. But even as I launch into my elevator speech on what it means to have this disorder or I break into a pre-amble about the condition as an apology for my behavior during a mixed episode,  I see that look crawl across their face. The look that says, "Is she crazy right now?"  And it is accompanied with the nearly imperceptible lean away from the crazy.  I doubt they hear the scientific or personal information that I regale them with as I follow them too close and jostle their elbow over a plate of appetizers, while refusing to let the subject drop. I wait for that look of acceptance, till they excuse themselves for the bathroom. Sometimes, I wait patiently outside the bathroom.

If I had a pamphlet, I could just hand it out to people and avoid the uncomfortable lectures I feel compelled to give. A nice full-color, tri-fold pamphlet that I could get done at FedEx/Kinko's.  Something that would list signs of impending mood swings. So many people think it is far left or far right thing, as if it were political at all. It’s more of an overactive appetite of sexuality, sense of superiority, self-righteous spirituality, and despair. I guess it is a bit like politics. In any case, I’ve reduced this complex chemical disorder in the brain into phases or episodes of 4 easy-to-understand categories about your average Bipolar Disorder Inflicted Citizen (BDIC)

BDIC for Dummies

Manic – steer clear. Do not communicate with this person unless you are skilled at patronizing. Resist illicit offers. Remember, you are of sound mind. Anything that occurs during this time will be solely your fault.

Normal- TBD

Depressed – spend all of your personal time and money trying to cheer this person up. Never display frustration. Create a positive environment without being overly cheerful.

Mixed – Good Luck.
With this simple pamphlet, I could enlighten our society about how to work and live with the friendly BDIC.

You're Welcome.