Welcome back to the loony bin, my fellow freaks!
Before I get back to dispelling myths about bipolar disorder, I want to talk a little about words. As a writer, words are my bread and butter. Language can be powerful. It doesn’t just help us define reality, it shapes it. Just ask Pluto. Poor little Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. Why? Because we SAY it isn’t.
Wacko. Nutcase. Lunatic. Psycho. Freak.
Those words can be very powerful when used with evil intent. Some of you reading this might be offended by me referring to people who suffer from bipolar disorder with those sort of words. I can understand. Those words can really, really hurt. Especially when they come from a “friend.” Trust me. I know. Keep in mind that I’m not just talking about people with bipolar disorder. I AM one of those people.
Just as words can make meaning, they can be made meaningless. It depends on two things: the person who’s saying them and his or her intent. Let me give you an example.
As a writer, I spend a lot of time indoors. I’m 1/8th Cherokee, so I WOULD tan well if I saw the sun more often than I do. The rest of my ancestry is European. Basically, my skin is as white as the driven snow. Now I’m going to say a word and then dive for cover.
Man… I feel crappy even typing that. That word was used by white people to oppress black people for a very long time. My people used that word like a weapon, and boy was it an effective one. It was the neutron bomb of the English language for very long time. That word was used to cause shame, which is why I feel ashamed just saying it once.
However, the N-word (sorry… I can’t bring myself to type it again) is only a weapon when it’s used like one. Watch any movie, go to any club, walk down any street and you’ll hear black people saying it to one another, joking around, even using it like a term of endearment. It’s OK for them to say it because they ARE black. Not only that, but they aren’t saying it with the intent to harm.
For me to say it? Not really OK. I can probably get away with it this one time because my INTENT is not to harm, but to help. Or at least I’m hoping I can. If not, please accept my sincerest apology.
Being bipolar, the nature of our illness ensures that we’re a sensitive bunch, but let’s try not to be too sensitive about words. They can only harm us if we let them. Let’s start with the one I hate the most:
Freak freak freak freak FREAK FREAK FREAK!!!
If I say that word out loud, over and over, it starts to sound like a nonsense word, something I just made up. The more I use it, the less it means. The less it means the less power it has over me.
Try it for yourself. Pick the one word you hate the most and say it over and over. Make that word just as dead as the not-a-planet Pluto. Just don’t forget that your word isn’t dead to everyone. If that word bothers someone else, don’t say it around them. It’s all about kindness, folks. It’s that simple.
Well, once again, I’m over word count. And I haven’t even mentioned one myth, but I may have just dispelled one.
I’m bipolar. If I was a bad person, would I go through as much effort as I have to avoid offending the black community? I hate the N-word as much as I hate “freak.” I hate ANY word used to make someone else feel like a second-class citizen.
There are people out there who are scared of people with bipolar disorder because of the actions of a few select individuals. Yes, there are some people with bipolarity who really are mean, vicious people who are dangerous to others. But there are many more people like that who DON’T have bipolar disorder.
Most of us are just like you. Some of us, and I’m not naming names here, are sensitive, loving fathers who try not to let their daughters see them cry during Disney movies.
OK. It’s me. I do that. Pathetic, right? Well… this whole article has been about freeing yourself from shame, so I might as well come out of the closet. Disney movies make me cry sometimes. That fact may actually make me a freak. Having bipolar disorder, however, doesn’t.
Until next time, my fellow freaks… keep fighting!
Click the link to read more from Bruce Anderson: How I Became the Freak in the Corner