Following hot on the heels of Aspberger’s Syndrome (“The Big Bang Theory” — I blame you) and, previous to that, ADHD, (Ritalin, anyone?), has trotted the mostly misunderstood bi-polar disorder. One of the gals I know was being pestered at work for being unreliable, and said she just knew she was “manic depressive”. Interesting self-diagnosis, considering they (meaning the DSM V) don’t even call it that anymore. If you’re feeling amazing, getting shit done, believe you can tackle anything, and are spending some coin, you have bi-polar disorder. If you’re depressed (so 1990s, so you have to freshen it up a bit by calling it something else) and sleeping a lot, then you have bi-polar disorder.
It’s not little bursts of energy where you decide to clean your bathroom. It’s not spending Sunday in bed, feeling sorry for yourself for no tangible reason at all. And, sorry to all the posers, you don’t hear voices. That’s a psychosis. And you definitely don’t want that.
Bi-polar disorder is no fucking joke. I’ve been diagnosed with it myself, and it sucks. Trust me when I say that my list of symptoms can be long and distinguished. It got so bad it was heavily affecting my kids, and I knew I had lost it when I started to sob uncontrollably at work and had to leave. I got a call from the HR department the next day, who gently asked me to stay home and get help. My performance had plummeted, and they just didn’t know how to deal with me. I’m a rapid cycler who’s often in a mixed state.
Now, everyone who actually has bi-polar disorder will manifest it differently, but the basic jist of the drift is the same. Maniac episodes vary in the severity of the symptoms. The depression is crippling. My symptoms are considered moderate to severe, although I’ve never considered suicide, hurting others, and I don’t exhibit violent behaviour; I’m not a worst case scenario. Thank God.
But bi-polar disorder affects my everyday life. I’m medicated, and get regular psychiatric and physical care. I have to be careful to avoid certain triggers. And I work hard to stay focused and on task without getting distracted (that’s big for me. My ex calls it my “Oh! Shiny!” disorder).
I’m not crazy. I come off as a bit eccentric, but certainly not fucking nuts. I am capable of having normal relationships (and I do), and being successful at my chosen career (and I am). So my life is pretty normal. No biggie, provided I’m taking care of myself.
Still, though, don’t co-opt my illness. Not everyone going through a rough patch has bi-polar disorder, and you probably don’t. Pass on the jokes, please. All that does is make the actual disorder something to be shrugged off, something that happens to everybody and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Please — I’m begging you — take it seriously.
If you think you or someone you love might have bi-polar disorder, get help. Call your GP and get a referral to a psychiatrist. Talk to your loved one, tell them what you see, and tell them you are worried. If you have an EAP at work, use it. For those in the Edmonton, Alberta area and are in crisis, call the Crisis Support Centre at 780-482-HELP (4357) or check out cmha.ca.
There. Rant terminated.