Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Curse of the Moody Polar Bears

Looks like I’m going to have to use this blog as a rant forum again this entry. Here goes: both at the last office I worked in and in my current one, I’ve noticed a trend of people who don’t like someone else assuming that the person they don't like is bipolar. “Bipolar” really seems to have made it into the lexicon of well-known words. A person will say something like, “God she drives me crazy. She’s totally bipolar, I can tell.” At my last office, I wasn’t overly fond of much of the staff, so it was hard for me to not say something like “better bipolar than sub-intelligent.”

But now I like my co-workers, yet I still overhear all these assumptions that their enemies must be bipolar, to describe said enemy’s unfathomable jerkiness. It really makes me feel like shit every single time I hear something like this. Bipolar people are a pain in the ass to deal with, okay, I get it. I believe that, at best, psychiatry is a misogynist pseudoscience fueled by kickbacks from the drug companies to the less ethical of the "doctors", so I’m not here to attack the misuse of a clinical term. I just feel like when people complain about “bipolar” assholes that are hard to deal with, well, it’s just too thoughtless, and also, it’s hard not to take personally. At my old office, when someone would bitch about a bipolar co-worker I’d say “oh really? Hmm. I’m bipolar,” just to keep people on their toes. It is hard not to take the casual use of that word a bit personally.
When I had a nervous breakdown and became an outpatient at a mental health facility, it was a prerequisite that the intake doctor give you a diagnosis, and I was given “Bipolar II” (like the Scarecrow being given his diploma or the Tin Man his heart-shaped watch). It is different from the regular, heartbreaking Bipolar disorder. Bipolar II includes racing thoughts and rapid cycling mood swings. So instead of spending a year trying to start one’s own business and then the next year homeless, the type of extreme action that someone with Bipolar disorder might do – I, who may or may not legitimately be classified Bipolar II (I think the best term for me is probably bummer-magical) have a hard time controlling how fast my thoughts go in the morning, even before coffee. I have short-lived manias, and I don’t really have bad depression crashes because I’m on an anti-depressant. The “rapid cycling” that characterizes bipolar II is a rapid cycling of moods, and yes, I’m very moody, laughing one second and bitching really harshly at someone two minutes later. Anyway, maybe I’m bipolar II, maybe I’m just me. But it really seems such a terse dismissal of people’s problems (people diagnosed as Bipolar usually have a much harder time than what I’ve described as my own rollercoaster) when people use the term Bipolar to complain about someone who is a moody, indecisive asshole. If you are one of those people who has fallen into the habit of using "bipolar" casually, could you try, just for a week, to try replacing the word “bipolar” with “moody” or “indecisive”? Or even a really gnarly swearword nickname. I’m just trying to keep some things, like the suffering of the mental ill, sacred.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't actually heard that at any offices I've worked at, but I totally agree with you that people should not casually call others "bipolar" when they're behaving in a way that they don't like or approve of. I hope that trend is on its way out. I can certainly see how it would be hard for you not to take it personally when you hear others around you talking like that.