I really respected Patty Duke as an actress and as an outspoken mental health advocate. She owned her illness publicly when it wasn’t cool to talk about such things. And she wrote a book called “A Brilliant Madness: Living with manic-depressive illness.” It was even a New York Times best seller. I still have my copy.
But…as much as I have heard how people with bipolar disorder are so smart and creative, artistic, bold and flamboyant I just want to call B.S. on the whole theory that an illness could make me special. I believe that those who are selling bipolar disorder as some magical, cool way of thinking are selling those of us who deal with this condition on a daily basis a big lump of coal.
It’s a real disservice to tell someone bipolar disorder can be a good thing. Is there anything good about spending many days in bed or suicidal because your so depressed you can’t get up? Is there something good about being off medications you don’t think your bipolar gift needs and then you become manic, get arrested and end up in jail? Or better yet can you find a mental health professional who will tell you, “you just think differently than other people. You don’t have to take medications, unless of course you want to.”
Oh my the stories I hear. All because we can’t seem to come to a clear consensus that having bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s no gift either. I’ve seen one to many lives ruined because people are trying to sugar coat the realities of bipolar disorder. This is a difficult illness to live with.
And…by the way…there is lots of hope. It’s not all doom and gloom. There are effective treatments. Lots of credible information online and in books. There are healthy coping strategies that one can learn. There are ways to live a good life, while also managing a chronic illness.
But for heavens sakes please stop telling people bipolar disorder is a special gift.
The other day I was having a rather deep conversation with my mother. She said, “I’m sorry I gave you the bipolar gene. I wish I could take it away.” I replied, “That’s okay, you gave me Olympic genes too. Gotta take the good with the bad.”
I’m athletic because of hard work and good genes. I’m intelligent because that’s how I was born. I have bipolar disorder and learned how to manage it. Not because I view it as a brilliant madness, but because I know it’s a wicked illness that will take you to hell and back if you let it.
Learn to manage the illness. Find the right medications. And find your brilliance in something other than madness.