Saturday, April 25, 2009

can we stop slagging bipolar people, please?

Or, "things that make ya go ARGH, part 2."

I wrote a column about this once. My editor spiked it. This is my revenge.

I happened to be doing my morning rounds at the courthouse one day at the same time a competitor was there doing the same thing. Without naming names or gender, let's just say this person is a well-known doofus, and not all that well respected.

Under discussion was the case of a 19-year-old girl. I don't remember what she'd done on that particular occasion, but I remember covering her sentencing on a variety of charges. At 19, this girl had racked up 27 -- that's TWENTY-SEVEN -- felony charges, been married and divorced, and had a kid whose father also was in prison.

The doofus mentioned above, who was snarking about this with one of the court clerks, laughed it off by saying "yeah, she's bipolar or something," in a tone of voice that suggested "woo-woo, batshit-crazy!"

Sometimes I say something, sometimes I don't. I wasn't in the mood to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person that day, so I didn't. But I did write a column about it. Which got spiked. Because, although it would have reached about 30,000 subscribers and untold numbers of others via the Web, and thus been a tremendous public service, it made my editor nervous.

Example 2: A youngster of my acquaintance recently posted a Facebook status about moving somewhere "bipolar people actually take their meds."

You gotta pick your battles with the under-25s. Right now I don't have time to battle *anyone,* as I try to wrap up an interstate move. But I'm thinking about what I'm going to say later. There's still hope for the kids. It's the people who are older than me (cf. Doofus) who are beyond reach.

Did you ever see "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"? It was a midnight movie staple when I was in college, to the point that we went every week and soon had it all memorized. At one point, the narrator says about the main characters' predicament: "It was to be....."

(dramatic pause requiring audience interaction, which consists of shouting "A PICNIC?!"

Narrator: "NO picnic."

Folks? Mental illness is no picnic, no matter what flavor you might be subject to. I get bitchy about bipolar because it's an issue for me. There are plenty of other places to educate yourself on the wide bipolar spectrum, so I'm not going to do it here (I encourage you to visit Psych Central for lots of good information, however). What I *will* do is tell you that it is TREMENDOUSLY uncomfortable to feel your moods switch on a dime -- used to be a matter of hours for me, today it happened in a matter of minutes. It's horrible wondering what the medication that they really don't know jack about yet is doing to your brain, and how addled you might end up down the road because of it. It's even worse when the shit doesn't work right, or at all, or causes side effects that suck worse than the original problem (thanks for the diabetes, Seroquel! Thanks for the bone marrow failure, Lamictal!). I am here to tell you that being a prisoner of your own brain effing sucks. Pure and simple. A little compassion is in order -- not snark.

There is, of course, a website devoted to the other thing I hear a lot of: But You Don't Look Sick. It's true -- all my limbs and organs are intact (for now) and more or less functioning appropriately. But you can't LOOK at someone and tell they have an autoimmune disease, or are painfully aware that their thought processes are woefully disordered and yet are unable to stop the thoughts. (I find myself in that position now and then. If I actually told someone the thought that was on "infinite loop" in my head awhile back, I probably still wouldn't be out of the ha-ha house. And I *knew* it was twisted and disordered and plain old batshit-crazy. But knowing that didn't make the thought stop, or completely convince me that it would be a really bad idea to go through with it. For what it's worth, I didn't. But to know you're f'd up and yet just have to wait it out till it ends on its own is disconcerting, to say the least.)

To look at me, though, you wouldn't know this. I get told a lot I'm considered "high functioning" -- you know, like all crazy people need to be wild-eyed homeless alcoholic freaks. One way or another, my mental health always gets in the way of whatever job I have, but I'm able to hold them for respectable amounts of time. I bathe on a regular basis and only a few pair of my socks and undies have holes. ;-) But because I'm not walking down the street glassy-eyed, pushing a shopping cart and jabbering to myself doesn't mean there isn't something going on sometimes. I wish more people understood that.

As always, Kurt said it best.

From "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," where the main character tosses a life of wealth and privilege to live among and help the poor however he can. In this case, he's helped deliver a set of twins:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

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