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25 May 2011 @ 02:51 pm

I’ve given a lot of thought to the subject of passing. Because, as PC as modern American society is, it’s still commonplace—acceptable—to make slurs about the mentally ill. People say, “Oh, you know me; I’m so crazy!” You’re not crazy. You’re wacky, maybe, or zany, or maybe you have a unique fashion sense or can’t hold your liquor. You’re not crazy. I’m crazy. Will you be on medication the rest of your life? Do you fantasize about killing yourself? No? Then you’re not fucking crazy, so stop saying it.

A still from 'Spartan'
Seriously. We are not joking about this.

“Bipolar,” specifically, is often used. Anyone whose keel isn’t even gets the kneejerk, “Oh, Jimmy is so bipolar sometimes.” Jimmy is moody; maybe Jimmy’s an asshole. Jimmy is not bipolar; stop saying it.

A still from 'Blind Horizon'
You wouldn’t pretend to have a head injury to spice up your conversation, would you?

The worst part is that the default assumption is that you’re sane. Bipolar disorder is a silent illness; it isn’t like blindness or polio, where people can just look at you and tell. They assume you’re “normal”—read, sane—until proven otherwise.

A still from 'Heat'
You’re only as sick as your secret.

So you pass, until someone says something. Until someone says that they’re crazy for wearing white after Labor Day, or says something ignorant like people with mental illnesses don’t need drugs; they just need to think positively. And then, maybe you can’t keep your big mouth shut, and everybody knows your secret.

A still from 'The Salton Sea'
It feels better this way, doesn’t it?

Or maybe you can keep your mouth shut, and you sit there, persecuted and hunted, an aberration. But passing.

current mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
a girl with far away eyes: 60s printvodkaplaid on May 26th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC)
I have a student who told me, right before graduation, that she's bipolar. I was shocked and asked her how long she'd known. "Oh, for years," she revealed. I mentioned this blog and that I'd been learning more than I'd ever known about what it's like to live with being bipolar. I then asked if she was on meds. "No, I just handle it," she waved a hand in the air. Wow, I was impressed. Who's your doctor? "Oh, I've never been diagnosed or anything. I just know I am, because some days I just get crazy! Last week I spent about fifty dollars at the used book store! Nobody could stop me!" She then offered a couple more examples that were along the same tangent.

And then I realized that we weren't talking about being bipolar. Maybe it's just what the kids are doing nowadays. I just bit my tongue; I didn't offer any of the knowledge I'd gained from here. Although, I probably should have.

the kilmer cure: this shit is fucking stressfulthekilmercure on May 26th, 2011 11:38 am (UTC)

That is awful. This is a real problem; people throw around these words, and it just digs deeper the hole of shit we don't understand about mental illness. To go all Iceman for a minute, it's dangerous.

Jessica: sevencherrynorth on May 26th, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
maybe this will sound like an unfair comparison, but this is basically how I feel about concealing my bisexuality at work. if I'm asked about my past relationships, I avoid pronouns and use brief sentences. I'm struggling with that "keep your mouth shut" part these days. finally! a point at which I feel I can understand a little of you feel.

I already bristle when I hear people throw the word "bipolar" around, but I think I'll try to be more careful with the way I use the word "crazy" from now on too.
the kilmer cure: forgive me father for i have sinnedthekilmercure on May 26th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC)

No, that's a completely valid comparison. I'm sorry you have to go through that.