This Bipolar Life: Sticks and Stones…

Yesterday I was, of course, up way too early for a Saturday morning and while I’d like to blame that on my meds I think they’re innocent on this one, so hello sunshine!   And what’s a gal to do at such an hour?  Well, blog with coffee of course! What does that mean for you? You lucky devils get the unvarnished truth about my thoughts and today’s topic is labels.

In the bipolar community there appears to be a war of words regarding the use of labels and with the 5.7 million people in the U.S. with bipolar the use of the terms can become heated. So, how do we talk about bipolar?  Which terms are okay to use? Not just for those of us with the condition but what about for our friends and family? Should we use labels at all?  Who do they help? Who do they hurt?  Personally I think labels can be helpful in explaining my bipolar to others. They want terms they can understand, for a variety of reasons but I think it’s mostly so they can help those they care about.

People tend to feel more used to the concept of depression though and seem to want to offer comfort and compassion. This is nice and helpful when when needed although the desire to help can (and in many cases understandably) wane over time, which is unfortunate because depression (as with mania) can sometimes last months. That’s right folks, we still need you, even when we start to look “okay”. It can take a long time to recover from any bipolar episode and depression is no different. Personally, my basic depression manifests in binge watching Netflix and eating a lot of Pringles, which means I effectively turn into your typical bachelor until I feel better. My more serious depression is just that, serious. It requires intervention and significant support. Your loved one’s may also. If you’re not sure what they need, ask.

As for mania, I actually don’t use the word very often and instead say “super happy” which seems to make more sense to folks. Disclosing mania (OMG is she REALLY going to do X?!?!?) is scary for me to share as people tend to imagine me pulling a Carrie Fisher and jumping on the nearest plane to wherever is fun and exciting or spending my rent money on the latest fashions or a cool tattoo.  Instead, my mania tends to show up as staying up too late, massive housecleaning, and half-finished projects, which my wife an attest to based on the sheer volume of craft projects that are pending completion strewn about the house.

As for the various types of bipolar?  I don’t even get into them, at least not during disucssions, as I find it often just confuses folks. Does it matter if we’re type 1, type 2, cyclothemia, or NOS? How many ups, how many downs, how high, how low? So many questions and the only real answer is that it depends. No matter your diagnosis your individual experience is unique and no one label might work for you.

In general I have found that in the beginning a disclosure of bipolar seems to unnerve people, but the tend to genuinely want to understand and be supportive. They don’t know what to do and guess what? We get to help them learn how to live life with us, to stand by our side and to be a part, if they choose, of our care circle. But more on that later.

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