(First time posting, so feel free to kick my ass/educate me about formatting etc.)
I know that all of this open-letter writing, and posting about your mental health started because people wanted your opinions on the Wrecking Ball video. I know that it’s easier to think about your reaction for a while, write something and then point all-comers to the post rather than having to repeat yourself a billion times. I know that you couldn’t have anticipated the reaction you got, and the ensuing media shitstorm.
But it’s gotten out of control. One open letter became four. And now there is the article where you rebel against the media “crazy”-ing you by saying you’re not mad because you’re not bipolar after all.
Actually, no. Not fucking okay. Is being bipolar something to be ashamed of? I’m bipolar. Should I now be curled up in a ball of shame, begging my friends not to “crazy me” and desperately seeking second (and third) opinions that might label me with a warmer, fuzzier brand of mental illness?
Should I bemoan the years spent trying and changing meds, the galactorrhea, the ECT, the weight-gain, the protracted hospital stays, the havoc wrought on my employment history, not to mention the worries of family and friends as I struggled to find a way to stay on a relatively even keel?
Well, nah. Not really. Everyone who wins a ride on the psychiatric carousel as a result of the genetic lottery, or misfiring neurons, or really shitty life experiences has similar stories to tell. Depressingly, they’re ten a penny.
You’ve set yourself up as an advocate for mental health consumers, you’re gotten all up in arms and protective about Amanda Bynes because Miley Cyrus wore her mean-girl pants on Twitter and used your own tweets against you. No slagging off people for being “mad” because Amada Bynes, because Britney Spears, because…?
Those are non-sequiturs. You completely forgot to say there’s no fucking shame in being mentally ill. Instead, you’re now running away from a label that you say never fitted in the first place. You’re telling Miley that she’s wrong, wrong, wrong and pointing to three psychiatrists who can back you up.
Oh yeah, there are nods in your post to people being “disgusting” about mental illness, and there’s a very confusing-to-read indictment of the Irish psychiatric system which isn’t entirely wrong even if it is hyperbolic in the extreme.
I’m happy for you that you can come off meds, but wittering on about them being toxic is like Jenny McCarthy talking about infant vaccinations. Yes, no-one really knows the long term side effects, but the drugs I’m on have kept me fully functional (and not remotely zonked out) for years now. I may kid about rattling when shaken, I may slightly begrudge the €144 a month that I have to pay out for them (because bipolar disorder, unlike schizophrenia, in Ireland does not qualify for free medication) but they’ve vastly improved the quality of my life (and that of those close to me).
Seeing the most eminent psychiatrist in the country means nothing if the guy cares more about his media profile than his patients (I know you’ll know who I mean, I was a patient of his too, briefly). Taking the public hospital route is a crapshoot and while you can be lucky (or very unlucky), the route to getting better is never a short one. Public, private, this doctor, that doctor, these pills, this “treatment”… you have to be dogged, and determined and unashamed of having a hard-wired error in your system board, or defective software, or hormonal hyperstorms in order to help yourself (and those who care about you) towards a happier existence.
Your experience is not to be belittled, don’t get me wrong. I can quirk my brow at taking to Twitter in search of a doctor (call the Samaritans or Aware, go to the local emergency room for feck’s sake) and also feel bad for your evident desperation at the time. I just want to make it clear that if you were bipolar or schizophrenic or depressed (post-partum or otherwise) and if you still are today, there’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Ignorant idiots will name-call and rush to judge or dismiss based on a clinical diagnosis, but that is their problem, not yours.
You’re not responsible for having an illness, you’re responsible for how you deal with that illness. It is not helpful to anyone else who is struggling with accepting a diagnosis, and the uphill battle that ensues, to have someone who claims to stand up against those who would demonize people with mental illness write a post about how relieved they are not to be bipolar after all.
So you’re not bipolar now, but today and yesterday and for a lifetime many others are. And we have to live with it. You’re railing against a stigma while helping to perpetuate it.
Please, think about this before you post any more on the subject, your bipolar allies and fans will thank you for it.
Wishing you continued wellness,