“Oh No You Didn’t!”


The other day I discovered a link to the Time article “Me and My Bipolar Disorder” by Andrea Sachs. I was excited to see that it was a Q & A with madness coverMarya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life. A little while ago, I bought her book to add to the pile of books I have acquired about Bipolar Disorder. I hadn’t yet read her memoir, but it is in the pile of memoirs I plan on reading near the end of my research for a future book.

This Q & A was going to give me a faster look into Hornbacher’s life, which also made me more envious of her. Why? She managed to be a published writer, and she was actually able to help people with bipolar disorder fight the Stigma nationally through Time Magazine. Well, so I thought.

I read the article and found speed bump after speed bump. Ouch! That hurt! My green monster surfaced when I reached the end.

Okay. Breathe. Just BREATHE! You’re taking this far too personally and you are probably overreacting. You’re just jealous and taking this all out of context.

I put the article away, but I was still furious and throwing myself into a hypomanic state. I even showed it to my therapist when I saw her, who didn’t think it was as bad after skimming it quickly.  

Why did the Q & A bother me so much?

I was expecting an activist against the Stigma and someone to foster more understanding.

My therapist again explained to me that I am not the norm when it comes to bipolar disorder. She stresses that I hit the nail on the head when I told her that twins have an unnatural level of intuition that other people do not have. We learned to communicate and read each other without using normal means. Because I can do this with both my sisters, I am also able to use the same intuitive skills on my own self.

Okay. So I’m even more different than different. Go me!

So, let’s go back to the article. What upset me so much? It has been a couple of days now, so I should be able to do this rationally now. Right?

Problem #1: She lumps all bipolars in one messy, ugly package.

Problem #2: She connects eating disorders and substance abuse with her bipolar disorder and blames them on her bipolar disorder. (I know people do this, but is it really healthy?)

Problem #3:  She also describes rapid cycling bipolar as the norm for those that are bipolar.

Problem #4: I wonder if she was right when she says that “Many suicides are accidental. There’s a death wish, but it’s fairly vague. It’s different than actually trying to die.” Because people are going to take that as truth, I am really bothered by the possibility that it will generate the public to belittle the hardships of severe depression.

Problem #5: She wants to be cured because she believes some people in society view us as “helpless, hopeless, and freakish.” Okay. This doesn’t sound completely wrong here, but the context of the whole article rubs me the wrong way and makes me feel like she agrees that we are this way and we need a “cure.” She seems to be fueling these views people have about bipolar people in general, rather than helping to eliminate the Stigma. Due to some loaded questions, I suspect the writer had a lot to do with the overall connotation of the article and wrote the article to emphasize bipolar people as “helpless, hopeless, and freakish” to appease an objective or an editor. 

So, how does this article change people’s opinion about bipolar disorder? It doesn’t. It actually fuels the stigma, in my opinion. Those that are bipolar and their loved ones need to work hard to stop this Stigma. Furthermore, if we allow ourselves to be labeled, we always will be.

I’m still angry, but not as much. Thanks for letting me vent. You should have heard me a few days ago!

These articles and memoirs can help open people’s eyes, but be responsible, respectful, and clear about your experience with the disorder. Do NOT tell the world we are “mostly” or “all” a certain way when you can’t speak about us as a whole.

Read the article and let me know what you think. Am I being too harsh? Am I the one in the wrong here? Am I so very different?

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6 thoughts on ““Oh No You Didn’t!”

  1. Rich October 17, 2009 / 3:01 PM

    Hey there!

    I read her article last week and read it over again via your post.

    Keeping in mind that I am a BP supporter/advocate and not a sufferer…the article comes off to me as one that is aimed toward the non-sufferers, but also to the non-supporters.

    I also noticed the “lumping” of the different types and sub-types of the disorder but I’m thinking that this is only due to the interview as not being a proper arena to dig into those, although very important, details.

    The connection of substance abuse is there, but I’m not so sure it was an attempt at a direct connection between that and BP itself, I may have missed it, but it may have been her example as to how to deal with the episodes before she was diagnosed and understood her own disability.

    In the article, she stated, “That’s really the definition of bipolar rapid cycle”…I’m probably too analytical, but I’m hoping she was truly referring to the rapid cycle attribute that bipolar may potentially bring to the table and not labeling in general that bipolar IS ALWAYS going to include rapid cycling.

    Suicide is always going to be a hot topic in the mental health world and I think this was an attempt to drive home that bipolar disorder can indeed bring on suicidal attempts, and unfortunately, successes. From my view, I would agree that most suicides are “accidental” as the sufferer is merely looking for a temporary solution to the pain they are experiencing. Pills are common as they may help offer much desired sleep, but the irrationality of “less is more” is introduced during a manic or hypomania phase and too many pills are consumed and then it’s too late. Cutting may be used to distract the pain, but again, the more pain does not mean more distraction and then the artery is cut. I lost a step-sister to BP and indeed, she took pills the night before to try and finally sleep…manic was present and the less is more solution was applied and she lost the battle.

    The self-labeling almost seems like an attempt to connect to the uneducated and ignorant that believe those with a mental health challenge are too “different”. Although I don’t agree with using such labels to define any human being that is afflicted with a disorder they did not ask for, I can see why she would use such words while trying to hook in a new audience,

    Whew! Had a lot more on my mind about her article than I thought!!! 🙂 Sorry to hijack your blog, but I wanted to reach out as I too read the article and can see the frustrations, but again, only from a supporter’s view.

    Take care!
    -Rich

    • mydualities October 17, 2009 / 4:20 PM

      I’m so sorry about your step-sister. My younger sister is also bipolar and she has attempted suicide multiple times. I am always worried if there will be another time. It scares me. I think that is why the suicide “being accidental” bothered me so much because that type seems to be so sudden. That’s another story to tell I guess.

  2. William October 17, 2009 / 4:01 PM

    You go girl! Coming out swinging! Don’t let know one push you down.

    Actually, I read the Q&A you are referring to. All I saw was someone who still has a lot of growing and understanding to do.

    Being published to help others means nothing if you are truly not helping others. She helps others by stepping up and inspiring others – you have to give her credit for that.

    As for does she truly give a good understanding of the disorder or just writes an interesting story or a little of both? I don’t know – haven’t read the book. Nor will I anytime soon if at all…simply cause well as stated above – she has a lot of growing to do from what I so in her Q&A’s.

    I’m glad she is making progress, but I don’t let her stumbling affect me…that is her path and part of her growing.

    As for emphasize bipolar people as “helpless, hopeless, and freakish” – my stomach hurts from laughing. That is people with not dealing with their own fears. Everybody, disorder or not, is “helpless, hopeless, and a little freakish”.

    Anyone up for the challenge to prove me otherwise – “I’m your Huckleberry!” LOL I’ll put anyone in their place and give them a reality check about themselves. As I have said in the past (not saying this to you, MyDualities, this is what I say) – “I am not my disorder, but – my disorder has taught be a lot. You’d be wise to respect others and not be quick to judge them with your false perceptions – least you be judged yourself with the truth about yourself. If you think you can handle it.”

    Don’t worry about people judging you with their false perceptions…just mean they have a lot of growing to do and that it is no reflection on you.

    It’s all good. Enjoyed reading!

    • mydualities October 17, 2009 / 4:12 PM

      Thank you William. As always, you enlighten me. The “ouch” factor helped me realize I am being too judgemental and need to help support her rather than just tear her down. I also think that criticism, even if negative, is important in the learning process, especially for writers. So for me, bring it on. I can take it, I think. If not, I should get out of the kitchen.

  3. melissa November 1, 2009 / 6:26 PM

    I read the book Madness: A Bipolar Life. I found it difficult to read at times. I guess it hit a little to close to home and a bit scary since my episodes are not so severe. I wonder if and when mine will get to where I have to be hospitalized. It takes guts to put yourself out there for everyone to see. I make my bipolar “disorder” known to some and when I tell a new person I feel myself just over come by a hot flash running over my body. I am thinking oh God what have I just done. Maybe some how I will help some one some where by exposing myself.

    • mydualities November 1, 2009 / 10:02 PM

      I feel the same exact way when I tell someone new. I’m always a little afraid it will come back to haunt me, but I pray it does help at least one person get the help they need.

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