Opinion: Bipolar is not a dirty word

Posted on 01 October 2015 by admin

Why there should not be negative connotations associated with bipolar disorder

mike aliverniaBy: MIKE ALIVERNIA
Staff Writer

In today’s politically correct world, it is astounding to encounter so much open hostility toward those suffering from mental and emotional disorders. Being bipolar makes an individual no more or less dangerous than your average, stressed-out American in any state of this gun-carrying union on any especially bad day. It makes them no less deserving of love and compassion, either.

It seems to be perfectly acceptable in normal conversation, however, for one to proudly proclaim disorders like ADHD and bipolar disorder were invented and designed to appease crybabies and lazy parents, while selling billions of pills for trillions of dollars — implying that they are not disorders at all.

This is the equivalence in ignorance of referring to an asthmatic athlete as being a wuss when they are in need of an inhaler. Unabated ignorance seems to carry the day when it is embraced by the masses, and disdain for disorders like bipolar remains one of the last perfectly acceptable havens for misguided malice.

The newest phase of misplaced mania about manic/depressed people rears its ugly head when a gun-toting murderer goes on a rampage through a mall or a school, killing several innocent civilians. The everyday folks feel comfortable in knowing that the killer is crazy, nuts or insane — a lunatic without empathy; a psychopath. Who would disagree with these labels? The problem becomes evident when some of these horrific murders are committed by individuals previously diagnosed with a disorder like bipolar.

All of a sudden, bipolar disorder is not only real, but a killer disorder more dangerous than the gun. This attitude that oozes out of so many “news” reports about these incidents just adds another layer of stigma, burying and bullying the bipolar community back into the closet.

Bipolar disorder can be one of the most difficult disorders to diagnose for many reasons. Being misdiagnosed with clinical depression is extremely common, and can be fatal for a person with bipolar when they are improperly given antidepressants alone. At last, there is finally a product in the last phases of testing now, which they hope will be able to detect bipolar disorder. As of right now, one is at the mercy of whichever physician, psychologist or psychiatrist one may land in front of. That is a dicey proposition.

A 60-year-old psychiatrist may not be as current as they think they are in the fairly new field of bipolar disorder, and the 60-year-old physician may know less about mood disorders than a plumber knows about carpentry. The point here is that the vast majority of suicides and intolerable acts committed by a person with bipolar disorder happen when they are not on their medication, have never been prescribed medication or most frequently — and rarely talked about — are on the incorrect medication.

The most interesting thing to realize about this “disorder of the brain” known as bipolar, and its even “scarier” cousin schizophrenia is that the same elements of one’s personality so feared — and seen as intolerable for the person with bipolar disorder — are the personality traits that produce extremely important and special individuals.

What correlates Albert Einstein to Robin Williams, Nikola Tesla to Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs to Michael Jordan? They were all very different from your average human. They, and literally every other individual who was able to achieve exceptional heights of greatness in any one field — especially artistic endeavors, could probably receive a diagnosis of one mood disorder or another. They were just somehow able to harness and hone their special abilities — such as the ability to focus for extended amounts of time on one task, an insatiable need to become perfect at that task and an incredible fear of failure.

In other words, we as a society should teach methods of using and focusing the abilities that somewhere between three and 10 percent of humans are born with instead of medicating and shunning them. In tribal communities, as far back as oral tradition goes, these were the children chosen at an early age to be taught in the ways of shamanism — not given Ritalin. They were the special individuals sought out and revered as spiritual and community leaders — not viewed as disabled. They were also those special enough to go out into the desert for a month and come back with tales of visions and conversations with angels and burning bushes.

How sad it is that our society views individuals who do not act like they are supposed to act and who do not care about what they are supposed to care about. It is so intolerable that it has gone from the greatest honor one could be born with to being viewed as a disgraceful disorder. Being a little bit different is hard enough.

For anyone suffering from bipolar disorder or depression/anxiety, I urge you to seek help and support. Counseling is as crucial as medication. For assistance, consider contacting reputable databases such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the St. Louis Wellness Center.

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