It’s been over a year since a psychiatrist labeled me bipolar for the first time. I stopped seeing that doctor and fell back into calling myself depressed. But I’m seeing a new therapist and a new pdoc (person who prescribes my meds). They also say that I am bipolar.
I am Bipolar II. Cyclothymic. Ultra rapid cycling. Lots of depression with occasional, brief hypomania. Plus anxiety.
As I write more about mental illness and radical acceptance, I have a couple of personal identity questions to address. These come from the comments on the first post I made about being bipolar.
- A commenter said that describing myself as “crazy” was extreme. They have bipolar relatives who have “healthy and productive lives” and who they wouldn’t describe as crazy.
- The other thing they said was “You have bipolar disorder but YOU are not bipolar”. You are not the disease, you are more than a disease.”
Let’s get “crazy” out of the way first: I’m crazy. I will be using crazy on this blog to describe myself and maybe other people as well. Crazy is synonymous with things like irrational and unpredictable – these are things that I am because I am bipolar.
I do not see crazy as an insult or a negative word. I’m starting to like it better than mentally ill. I don’t feel sick. But I do feel off-kilter, erratic, and unbalanced. Crazy.
But people who are crazy can also have “healthy and productive lives.” My life might not look like your life, and we might not judge health or productivity in the same way. But if you look at my life and think, “Hey, she’s doing alright,” that doesn’t mean I’m not also crazy.
“People-first language” is the name for the linguistic preference to say things like “Person with bipolar” instead of “bipolar person”.
This is not a kind of language that I’m interested in.
Phrasing it as “I am a person who has bipolar” signals that I am separate from my diagnosis. But this cannot be. My bipolar is an intrinsic and crucial part of my existence and the way I experience myself. It cannot be separated from myself.
The desire to separate my diagnosis out like that signals that there’s something wrong with having the diagnosis. If you think of any other way that I might describe myself you’ll see that this is true.
For example, I sometimes describe myself as a farmer. No one would ever say, “You are a person who farms, YOU are not a farmer.” Clearly that is silly. It’s just as silly to pretend that I am not bipolar.
I am bipolar.
Every day I take an SNRI, an antipsychotic, and an anticonvulsant.
I am seriously depressed on most days. I hope my treatment starts to make a difference in my day-to-day life sometime soon! In the meantime I’m hanging in there.
How is your brain doing these day? What are your thoughts on the language surrounding mental illness?