Yes, I actually just wrote that. One would think that the sentiment is absurd because, well…it is, but that seems to be the case these days…according to our ever responsible and trusted media (if you haven’t already, please insert heavy sarcasm here). As I am sure you have heard, in the last 2 weeks Catherine Zeta Jones and Demi Lovato have revealed that they are bipolar. OMG, que the herds of frenzied entertainment talk show hosts (ahem, Seacrest) and “news reporters” (ahem, CNN) clamoring to interview Catherine’s manicurist or Demis’s dog walker in search of the exclusive behind the scenes deets. OMG.OMG. OMG. Tune in at 7pm or be the least cool person at the next dinner party.
I am the first to applaud the fact that they have come out publicly, for whatever reason. It is no secret that there is a stigma in this country about mental illness and sadly no one seems to pay attention to anything unless it involves a celeb, so I appreciate the use of their influence in this circumstance. It makes people listen and hopefully will start a productive dialogue that can begin to lead to change. I am quite dedicated to do my part in helping that change, which is why I am here. (Side note: shout out to this week’s way too long episode of Glee for starting to address this issue!!) The last thing that this much needed public conversation needs is an overly spray tanned talking head on Access Hollywood asking the cast of Dancing with the Stars what they think of these starlets and their bipolar (actually happened). And just when you think it has hit a new low, it gets worse…
In an ABC online news article entitled “Bipolar Bandwagon” (Barf), the author opens with the brilliant line “Addiction is for amateurs. The truly trendy are Bipolar.” (DOUBLE Barf). This wordsmith of a 'reporter' goes on to say, “one could be forgiven for thinking that the disease wandered onto spring's list of must-haves along with maxi skirts, bell-bottoms and the iPad 2.” Well then, my spring shopping list just got a whole lot easier – all I need to pick up is some hippie clothes and an iPad 2. Easy breezy! Clearly I have not lost my knack for being ahead of the trends. You might recall that in the mid 90s, I totally went into treatment for an eating disorder even before Candice Cameron and Tracy Gold did and I even embraced the come back of the ankle bootie before most. I know, its hard being so ‘right here right now’, but some one has to do it. I will rest easier tonight knowing that I have once again joined the elite, for I am truly trendy.
Cheers and snaps for my new truly trendy friends. Welcome to the road of manic highs that almost always end it horribly self-destructive behavior that will likely severely damage if not ruin many of your relationships. Welcome to depressions that are so bad that you would prefer to not be alive but you are so deep in it that you cannot even muster up the energy that it would take to act on that feeling (silver lining). Welcome to a lifetime of medication and it’s ‘possible side affects’. Welcome to a lifetime of walking the line between the ups and downs of real life and the possibility that you could be teetering on the edge of loosing it.
Suddenly that maxi skirt is looking a lot less unflattering…
The good news is that once you have gone through all of the above (including the purchasing of a maxi skirt) you can choose to embrace your limitations. You can create a treatment plan that allows you to be stable. You can surround yourself with people who are loving and supportive and who will help you though the hard times. You can take this thing and help it make you a better person. You can help others. You can claim your crazy as a superpower and use it for good, rather than evil. It is a very, very hard road, but you can choose all of these things…I promise.
Let me just say that while I refer to myself as crazy and use humor to discuss my experiences, I am certainly not trying to glamorize my situation. I am not encouraging anyone to ‘hope’ they could one day you can become ‘truly trendy’ like me. I am honest and open, so that the whole thing might seem a little less scary to someone who struggles with a similar circumstances…you are not alone. I choose humor so that it is a little less uncomfortable for someone who might have preconceived notions about what it means to have mental disorder.
I claim crazy as my superpower because I know that being bipolar and all the experiences that have come along with it make me who I am today. This process has made me stronger, more compassionate, open and aware. I am thankful for that. Rather than reducing having a mental disorder to a passing trend, lets have a real conversation. Lets educate ourselves so we can know what others face. Lets be compassionate. Lets not be ashamed. Lets speak out for others and ourselves. How about putting these things on our ‘must have’ lists. Because that, my friends, will never go out of style.