What Today Brings
“One of the things that baffles me is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls.” – Carrie Fisher
Does anyone really know the definition of bipolar disorder? Do even the healthcare professionals, psychiatrists, psychologists, family and school counselors really know? Throughout the ages there have been people who were different, eccentric, whose brains were wired differently. That does not mean they were sick. Someone quick to act, quick to cry or quick to laugh is not the same as someone quick to jump off a building thinking they can fly. Treating everyone with a broad stroke diagnosis and plying them with the same medication seems reckless and wrong. Everyone from Ted Turner and Winston Churchill to Mark Twain and Rosemary Clooney have had the bipolar diagnosis attached.
I don’t pretend to have the answer, but with symptoms of manic depression ranging from talking fast and taking risks financially to having abnormal excitement, how can one assume these all come from the same brain malfunction? What is abnormal excitement? I find myself singing at the top of my lungs filled with joy for no apparent reason and because of the ‘mania’ in the air about what is appropriate, I often think I am one high note from being dragged off to the looney bin. Sometimes I am just plain down, things don’t seem right, I can’t put my finger on it but I feel scared. “I’m scared of my shadow,” I found myself saying last week. It passed.
Less than one hundred years ago if a woman was high spirited, refused sex with her husband or, God forbid, wanted to vote, she was subject to being locked up for insanity. We are not that far from those times, and my fear is that this wide spread ‘personality shaming’ is dangerous.
I am the daughter of a psychologist who has treated patients with such grave disorders as schizophrenia, who were both suicidal and homicidal. These people need the miracle drugs that bring them back to reality, or some semblance of it at least. Unfortunately, nowadays if anyone reacts differently than expected, that person is deemed unwell and subject to being medicated into submission. I am all for locking up folks like my mother’s patient who broke into a military facility and said he was on a mission from the devil and they needed to call my mom and she would explain it to them.
My even-tempered mother can be moody too; when things seem bleak she says, “I’m just down and I can’t figure out what I’m telling myself.” Trained in Rational Self Counseling, she believes if you talk to yourself differently, you can change your attitude. That is often true, but ask anyone deeply down in the dumps and they may just request a ride to the hospital, and I’m inclined to drive them straight there, in hopes of some help of the pharmaceutical nature.
A very talented poet friend of mine has schizophrenia and tells me it takes a village to keep him afloat. He hears voices, is truly paranoid and has PTSD from a variety of traumas. Without his team of psychiatrists, he would not be the successful English professor, magazine editor and father of three that he is. On the other hand, just because someone is crazy creative like Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci, August Strindberg or Jimi Hendrix, maybe they just have a lot to get out in the limited time they have which may make them a bit off center and possibly unrecognizable to someone with what is considered an ‘even temper.’ My hope is we rush more hurriedly to nature before we rush to the doctor.