Sorry Patty Duke, bipolar disorder ain’t a brilliant madness!

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.

Amy Gamble

10 thoughts on “Sorry Patty Duke, bipolar disorder ain’t a brilliant madness!

  1. Thank you for this post. I completely agree, bipolar is not a gift. It can be like living in hell on earth at times. I find creativity can provide some relief from symptoms, but the disorder doesn’t make me creative.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You nailed it… has done nothing but cause me “dis ease” cause thats what it is…. A disease that has caused so much chaos in my life and heartache. But i am fortunate to not have had too many episodes… Only 3…. But 2 Big ones that i really dont want to repeat. The other thing that annoys me is when people compare bipolar to diabetes….. Its NOT the same the only simularity is you need to take meds to control it…..i think Bipolar stands alone in its symptoms and treatments and consequences if you cant get the right mix Thank Amy for all your posts…. You really understand this disease

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Frances…thank you so much for your comments. I really appreciate what you said. I also agree with you that there is no comparison between diabetes and bipolar disorder. That was always something that I found quite offensive. Keep up the good fight. Stay strong. Amy


  2. Wonderful post, Amy! I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I’ve noticed many people who state bipolar is a gift do not have children.
    To these folks I say, “Do you think that children would consider their parents’ bipolar disorder a gift?”

    I doubt that children who have been traumatized due to their parents’ bipolar disorder consider the mental illness to be some kind of glossy package from Toys ‘R Us. It’s b.s.

    Last month Intl. Bipolar Foundation presented media “It Boy” Zack McDermott ‘s webinar called “Bipolar Disorder Is The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (or something close to that title) and just the title alone made me want to gag myself with a spoon! (Yes, I’ll always be an 80’s Girl, LOL!) I found that title offensive.
    I can’t help but add I’m fairly certain he doesn’t have kids; I tried to find it out online, but couldn’t locate any factoid.

    Out of the 430+ blog posts I’ve written, the post that got the most comments was about this very topic. I wrote it after I was triggered from reading a blogger’s post about how awesome he considered his bipolar – and he didn’t have kids. (I couldn’t even read most of the comments made on my post because they got me too upset.)

    Anyway, it’s comforting to read a likeminded person’s blog, especially when it’s expressed so well. Thank you!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A truthful well written post and yes I could not agree any more with it. The impact bipolar has on ones self, family & friends is nothing short of a crime(just my opinion) It’s a constant battle against its debilitating effects, and for the few of us that do have those so called “good days” all too often it’s spent looking around in a darkened cellar of depression looking for the light switch. To glamourise a mental illness in any way or form simply breaks the code of ethics on so many levels, it’s is not called an illness for nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post, Amy. I agree with you. I also believe one can learn to live well with the disorder. Meds help but just as important are good coping skills. For me, self awareness was my pivoting point. I learned to see the episodes coming and nip them in the bud so I can avoid a full blown episode.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are so right. I really believe if people were taught how to manage bipolar disorder when first diagnosed many people would have far better outcomes. Good for you for learning positive coping skills. I especially like how you talk about nipping an episode in the bud. In my opinion that is really the key to managing the illness well.

      Liked by 1 person

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