It’s still not easy for me to say, “I’m bipolar.” I have always felt torn between the reality of the pain I feel and the invisibility of the beauty I know. Despite hosting a podcast and writing a vulnerable book about my challenges with bipolar disorder, I still feel a tinge of terror when I tell people about this aspect of my identity. After wrestling with various terminology over many years, I have come to view the reappropriation of the label bipolar—separate from pathology—as a necessary activity. Here’s why:
When I decided to write my book, I was in a creative upheaval, wholeheartedly feeling that if I don’t tell my story of bipolar and spirituality, then I was allowing the confusion between psyche and spirit to infiltrate more people like me. By speaking out against the conventional notions of mental illness, a life might be spared. I might still know the lives of those I have lost through addiction and dis-ease. My own children might not have to internalize the insidious violence of inauthentic living. I myself might look back, through the lens of my elderly body, and see how my own life is marked with greater compassion and joy for having stood up and spoken out.
But here’s the cosmic joke: I was never alone. The world doesn’t need a savior. We need each other. The world needs connection, warmth, and truth. There have already been iconic figures and cultural movements challenging the conventional psychiatric paradigm. The problem was, I didn’t know how to find them. All I knew was that I was bipolar, had been diagnosed and branded as mentally defective, and that there weren’t resources for someone like me, who was experiencing a mixture of brilliant darkness and brutal luminosity. When I typed “b-i-p-o-l-a-r” into my search engine, I didn’t find Mad in America. I didn’t find you. The way I use bipolar, as a distinction from dichotomies of health and illness, is a language forged in the fire of isolation. How I longed for you. How I long still.
I spent years vacillating between the legitimacy of psychopathology and spiritual emergency, but eventually I realized that the dichotomy between madness and insight was a false one. The extent to which anyone is permitted to step out of consensus reality has always been constrained by social mandates. These social forces go unnoticed, almost entirely unconscious, until a person has an awakening or epiphany to some sense of unconditioned reality. Madness is one such method of glimpsing the unconditioned state, a psychic feature built into the human experience.
Though the mad experience can be horrific and painful, there is nonetheless an opportunity to cross impasses that were previously invisible to us. I see bipolar bodies as more susceptible to madness, and the trials of such experiences are largely exacerbated and perpetuated by a society that suppresses interconnection, creativity, and love.
One practical problem that faces bipolar folks is the pace of society. There is hardly any time to rest and recuperate. The sensitive person achieves a manic high necessary to keep up, only to then be cast down by the refusal of the body toward homeostasis. A break from consensus reality is pain upon pain, as we find ourselves breaking free from a reality worth escaping, only to return to a reality we no longer recognize as real. How cunning and elusive, these symptoms of delusion.
Having experienced this violence firsthand, I want the world to be a safer place for extreme states, states of madness, altered states of consciousness, mental health crises, and mental illness of all kinds. This is what is most important to me. If I can help it, the language used to get us there will serve as a tool toward deeper understanding and higher complexity. This is why I’m “proud,” and “mad,” and “bipolar.” I want to help create a society that holds extreme states as a reflection of madness in the world, as well as a call to heal something in all of us. I want creativity to be celebrated, as an expression of human evolution and adaptation, and as a charge to the humanity in each of us.
I also happen to be raising two little white boys right now. I don’t just want a better world for me, although I sure would appreciate more humane responses to mental health challenges. I want a world in which my sons can thrive, without internalizing the numerous intersecting crises facing humanity. I feel intensely that they will inherit every bit of healing I leave for them—every bit of healing I refuse to embody myself. I’m driven every day by the contemplation, “What sort of world will my children inherit?” And I tuck them in bed every night considering how I may contribute toward a more inhabitable planet.
My personal convictions are not just part of a naive holy mission to save humanity, but rather a pragmatic call to lean into the uncomfortable, psychic movement that marks human evolution and social change. Much of humanity is so invested in keeping up with the machinery, that we hardly have space to stop and reflect on the fundamental assumptions that conceived such systems. We don’t notice connections between white supremacy and mental illness, how invested we are in the sick individual separate from their inheritance. We don’t realize the link between anxiety and internalized capitalism. We are blind to the ways in which we’ve turned humans into brands, our vulnerabilities into perfectionistic impossibilities. We are utterly clueless to the intricate, comprehensive ecology of a single organism and the ways in which this very life is threatened by the degradation of our planet.
I don’t just want more humane mental health care. I want to dismantle and transform all the isms and phobias that prevent people from living and loving. If we cannot view those of us in the society who are sensitive—those of us who are neurodivergent, bipolar, mad, etc.—as playing a critical role in our collective introspection, then we are rendered less capable of seeing just how divergent from our nature we have strayed. Further, if I am not bipolar, with a loud and proud message of empowerment and inclusion, then the only resources for bipolar folks are from systems and institutions invested in our supposed sickness, separate from and in service to the propagation of collective illness. And we wonder why the sensitive ones are suicidal. We see no value in their gentleness, no virtue in their heart, no profit in their life.
We live in a time of “roll over minutes,” from centuries of intergenerational trauma. This trauma is not just because we’ve suffered the realities of human existence. We are most in pain because we’ve harmed each other and ourselves. We’ve perpetuated suffering, rather than transforming our pain. This is a human issue, of which mental health is only one part. Psychiatric illnesses, separate from systems, are the byproduct of human arrogance and ignorance. I see psychiatry as a necessary component to the problems we face, but the field must be transformed by empowered consumers, just as we now need science to undo the catastrophic blunders technology has brought about.
Part of our challenge with social justice and mental health is that so many bipolar folks need to remain closeted to survive. When I was having manic episodes, I didn’t know anyone else who had ever had a single experience like mine. When I say, “I’m bipolar,” I’m acknowledging that there is something different about me neurologically that makes me more sensitive to emotional, sensory, and energetic shifts. I wholeheartedly feel that I can be bipolar, as a distinction from psychiatric disorder or illness. The discomfort of painful symptoms exists in the relationship between my neurodivergent body and a society which marginalizes difference. My disability exists primarily between bodies, in the crowded spaces of ignorance and intolerance.
We claim to be free, but we are slaves to a paycheck. We are burdened by diminishing sick leave and paid time off. We are plagued by the illness of consumerism, which feeds us malnourished messages of our incompleteness. We are heavy with a lifetime of debt, drunk with the promise of one day striking it rich. We are a sick society, and we soothe each other with signs of progress toward a unified materialism for all. This is no way to live, and those of us incapable of living this way are carrying a vital message for all humankind.
My personal sentiment is that mental health, and our approach to treatment, is of paramount importance in shaping the attitudes of everyday citizens. There might not be any more of a critical issue at hand. Everywhere I turn, I see examples of using psychiatric criteria to delegitimize thought and undermine our humanity, all the while encouraging blind allegiance to the personification of supply and demand. Our unconscious momentum welcomes opportunities to purge inventory in the form of human bodies. We are too busy numbing ourselves to feel this reality, too busy whitening the teeth of corporate jaws.
In the worst cases, we are essentially pathologizing empathy. We tell our children who want to cure world hunger, or save the planet, or protest the predatory institutions of unregulated capitalism, that they are having an episode and need medication. “Here, here,” they’re told. “Don’t protest, take this.” “Don’t challenge authority, go see your psychiatrist.” These are huge problems. Humanity weighs in the balance.
Now of course, not all people suffering with the pain of psychiatric criteria are emerging saints. I know that. And yet, when we are diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, we are nonetheless sold a false narrative, if for no other reason than its incompleteness. We are told that we have a brain issue, or a mood disorder, or faulty chemicals. We aren’t told that madness and creativity are inextricably linked, or that the primary mode of evolution is human adaptability, which makes great use of imagination and exploration and encounters with unconscious dimensions. We aren’t told that the human spirit is naturally corrective, always compensating toward greater harmony and wholeness, or that sometimes this is excruciatingly painful.
Know that I’m bipolar for good reason, reappropriating a painful word, so those in pain can find me—so you can find me. This is how I reappropriate a term used to strip me of my humanity, a term used to sell me counterfeit versions of reality. I refuse to let go of a label that helps me find my people, no matter how painful it is to retain. And when the children of the future need help, in the form of medication or anything else, I’ll be able to tell them it’s not a personal failing. I’ll remind them that they are diverse expressions of life’s great bounty, no less than the embodiment of the cosmos, made in the image and likeness of such infinite mystery.
Lastly, I’m bipolar because the folks that love us need hope too. I pray the parents, the spouses, the clinicians, the nurses, religious officials, law enforcement agencies, government representatives, and the psychiatrists find me. By being bipolar, the powerful people might also hear this message. I believe in them too. I believe in all of us. We are all stuck in the fantasy of individual illness, and if we can’t comprehend our interconnection, we are all doomed. In order to create change for ourselves, we have to step into our power, both as individuals and as kin. May we choose the great power of love, remembering our nature and reminding others of all that we have forgotten.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Wow. You’ve mastered that difficulty. Can I press my, “That was easy!”, button now. You fit the cookie cutter mold. Successfully “bipolar”. How about a diploma and a kooky hat? Better yet, a bottle of pills, and a treatment plan. Let’s see. We’ve got mood stabilizers, neuroleptics, and lithium. Any of those to your liking? As a graduation gift, Kay Redfield Jamison. I mean one of her books. If you start slipping into “normality”, there’s always “Bipolar Disorder For Dummies”. I think I was given a diagnostic label, too. Since then I’ve done a lot of unlearning, and benefited greatly from it, too. Beyond pathology? I don’t see how you could’ve mastered that. What is “bipolar disorder”? According to Google, “a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.” Good luck with your “bipolar” future. Rather than “slipping into” the DSM, I see more potential in “slipping” out of it, er, the intellectual version of escaping the asylum. The population of “bipolar folk” has grown significantly in the last few decades after Harvard shrink Joseph Biederman cleverly redesignated some instances of ADHD childhood “bipolar disorder” to the extent of even distancing that old stardard, “schizophrenia”. The signs are everywhere. Big bilboards in fact. How about a gold star, honey? You’ve earned it.
I love your sense of humor, Frank. Gave me a good chuckle! I do think you’re arguing something different than the content of the article though. But I can tell you know your stuff… that was easy!
Thanks, and let it be understood that my comment was in no way a personal attack directed at you. We don’t know each other, and as far as it goes, you’re probably a pretty alright guy. What I was attacking was your “bipolar disorder”.
I understand, and took it more as a personal declaration than an attack. It’s as if we could staple our views together, then it would be even easier to read. Very hard to allow others to view the world differently. Much of the problem, methinks.
Wow. Nice write up.
chris I just read the first paragraph and I really like what you are saying…
I am unipolar….that is my past…
but I don’t have a good word for it now…
but I don’t like all the anger and hate here on MIA…
I don’t think we all have to hop on the anger bus…
Thanks for the encouragement, little turtle
Thanks Tenihola for a late comment that refreshes me to Cris’s blog. It’s been over a year since he wrote it and I’m still meditating his wise and courageous text.I especially like his term “neurodivergeant”. Akin to Autism spectrum disorder people speaking aut and demanding we stop seeing them as sick, and other consumer movement vocalists reclaiming more respect for their condition as opposed to chemically imbalanced. I am still shaky for having made my coming out, in 2016 … with the wrong psychiatrist.
Sounds like a shrink telling someone that their anger is over the top or not justified.
Shrinks are some of the most angry people there are, and that is okay, except for using that anger to cause people to be defined by their discontent and frustrations.
Some of us recognize that we do not like certain traits, but we try not to defame them to the whole neighbourhood.
How gossip became legal diagnosis.
This is a powerful blog filled with many insights about the multiple forms of trauma and personal difficulties of life in modern capitalist society. It is also a clear indictment of how this insane “mental health” system of psychiatric labeling and drugging is itself a form of trauma and only perpetuates a sick system.
Your point about how this society promotes the “pathologizing of empathy” is so true and is very connected to the promotion of the capitalist view of human nature, that is, “dog eat dog, look out for number one” type of mentality. We can see how deadly this view of human nature has become.
BUT this analysis does NOT go far enough, and remains stuck within the confines of the very paradigm it criticizes.
There are many ways to be critical of the “Bipolar” label WITHOUT trying to “reclaim” it and/or “transform” its meaning. While one can understand why people might want to attempt this strategy of “appropriation,” it is ultimately a dead end that takes people down a “rabbit hole” of political and cultural contradiction.
This is no different than the troubling history of Black people attempting to appropriate the “N” word, or women somehow trying to “reclaim” and/or “transform” the “B” word or the “C” word. This is NOT a revolutionary strategy, but one that ends up in some form of “reformism.”
Chris, you said:
“I see psychiatry as a necessary component to the problems we face, but the field must be transformed by empowered consumers, just as we now need science to undo the catastrophic blunders technology has brought about.”
Again, Chris you are not going far enough in your analysis. Any true scientific analysis of psychiatry would revealed that there is NO basis for a so-called medical specialty that allegedly “treats” illnesses that do not exist. Psychiatry is based on pseudo-science and serves an oppressive role in society to shift attention towards “genetic theories of original sin” and AWAY from seeing the actual oppressive forms of trauma and inequality inherent in a class based capitalist society.
And I would add that your choice of the phrase “empowered consumers” was both mistaken, and also an oxymoron. Anyone who “consumes” what psychiatry has to offer in our society can NEVER be “empowered.” We all must puke it up and spit it out, and the sooner the better.
Chris, I hope you are open to some critical appraisal of your writing. You have a very important story to tell and I love many aspects of your writing and critical insights. I just believe it is vitally important to take things several more steps forward. We need a revolution, not some form critical reformism.
Thank you for your precision, Richard. I welcome such critical analyses because it helps me be more precise in my language and my own personal sentiments.
I appreciate your line, “seeing the actual oppressive forms of trauma and inequality inherent in a class based capitalist society.” Oppression, trauma, and inequality are neurological domains for good reason, because the brain develops, delays, and deteriorates in the presence or absence of social engagement, to various degrees based on individual constitutions. Diverse responses to oppression, trauma, and inequality then put us into neurodiversity domains.
How’s that? We might come down to opinions here, which is certainly welcome too.
Mad Respect, Chris
Chris, you wrote “Oppression, trauma, and inequality are neurological domains for good reason, because the brain develops, delays, and deteriorates in the presence or absence of social engagement, to various degrees based on individual constitutions.”
Which triggered memories of my own conversion of a pathological sense of bipolar experience, into a more solid sense of the spiritual grounding that the experience entails, as a right of passage into true maturity. More specifically the words ‘social engagement’ made me wonder whether you have used the latest non-pathologizing revelations on the structure and functioning of our nervous system, to help you gain a better ‘feel’ for spontaneous self-regulation.
And I’m thinking of the contribution the polyvagal theory has made within the field of trauma healing for example. And of course, the word ‘healing’ directs the focus of the helping professions towards the need of establishing the crucial feeling of a safe environment, in order for the healing nature of empathy to really work.
Not by the communication of words/labels, but primarily through the ‘social engagement’ role of facial expression and open, relaxed posture. And I’m guessing that your neurobiological sense of bipolar experience, comes from learning how to regulate the ‘paired’ subconscious relationship of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
While recently, clinical practice directed towards the ‘self-regulation’ of most of our ‘labelled’ disorders, has involved a return from exile, of ancient wisdom about the profound paradox in human motivation and perception. A movement that has flowed from the laboratory to the clinic and is enabling people like yourself to bring an ‘experiential’ expertize to the table of mental health.
Here is a brief extract from the book: The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe;
Yoga and the social engagement system.
Polyvagal Theory deconstructs yoga practices involving breath into specific neural exercises of the vagal brake (see vagal brake). Pranayama yoga is functionally a yoga of the social engagement system since it involves neural exercises of both breath and the striated muscles of the face and head.
While the most recent academic paper on this emerging perspective on ancient wisdom is: Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory: The Convergence of Traditional Wisdom and Contemporary Neuroscience for Self-Regulation and Resilience
Your experiential perspective seems to exemplify a new movement within the survivor community, that is acting as a bridge to cross the inevitable divide, in our politics of experience, as an all too easy blaming and shaming, ego game.
Great article Chris, keep up the good work.
I sort of knew this would end with you trying to sell something.
Uh oh. Just for the record I did not read Richard’s post before making my own post below. Hope they both stay up.
Chris, I think that you’ve got the same right to be the second coming of Christ as the next person.
I think we’re all the second coming of christ!!
I agree, I believe Christ Consciousness is in the collective, any one of us can go in and out of that state of being, we are each a unique aspect of it. The phrase, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” comes to mind. I believe that to be human and spiritual at the same time requires radical permission to be who we are at any given time, and also to allow others to be who they are. We can certainly choose and discern what our preferences are without being in judgment.
Dear Monica, you wrote, “I think we’re all the second coming of christ!”
Which I agree with, although I’m not sure what you mean exactly, by the word Christ? Do you mean Jesus last name? Do you mean Christ as Savior or the anointed one? And if anointed is the original Hebrew notion of our relationship with Creation, is the Christ better understood as the anointed nature of human consciousness?
While personally, I have to become aware of ‘how’ I habitually think the word consciousness, as if the word, IS the experience of consciousness. In that ‘I think therefore I am,’ sense of being human. While the history of words and their origins brings a rather uneasy feeling to one’s commonsense understanding of words: Word Origin and History for Christ:
title given to Jesus of Nazareth, Old English crist (by 830, perhaps 675), from Latin Christus, from Greek khristos “the anointed” (translation of Hebrew mashiah; see messiah), noun use of verbal adjective of khriein “to rub, anoint” (see chrism). The Latin term drove out Old English Hæland “healer, savior,” as the preferred descriptive term for Jesus.
And of course, from this communities perspective on mental health, the association of the words Christ and Healer, are of paramount importance to healing the spirit of humanity, in this 21st century A.D.
Hello! Welcome Chris to Mad in America…
Chris is a good friend. And I’ve been working with him for a while and with what his narrative creates within me as well. I actually have a video I posted a couple of days ago that speaks to exactly that. I’ll share the link here rather than comment.
Mad Spiritual musings on diversity and inclusivity https://youtu.be/-ovX-YIrRu0
and, no, I do not personally reappropriate that term at all…in another more personal and poetic-like from the gut post also responding to our relationship I write:
Bipolar: contemplation about the psych label – Everything Matters: Beyond Meds https://beyondmeds.com/2018/05/28/bipolar-contemplation/
I find the dialogue to be deeply enriching. In holding one another’s experience and narrative…we are both enriched.
Thanks for the warm welcome, Monica /|\
It feels good to be in respectful dialogue.
How could I hold anything but reverence for the pain we endure?
Fun with words is no substitute for care with bodies.
I appreciate all the comments. Too bad we can’t hug here.
and we still don’t know why someone becomes BIPOLAR…and
I don’t believe this word is in the same category as the N word..
I became “Schizo Affective” because every hospitalization I had bar the first was suicidal ( there were no more once I came off the “medication”).
fiachra—yes…maybe many causes…
Nor do I, Littleturtle. It’s not a racist epithet, but a moral judgment. A slam against one’s character. Like calling someone a liar, a jerk, a slut, or a thief.
I’m noticing a lot of “N-word” connections.
I’m also noticing a connection between abandoning oppression and whiteness.
My ancestors sold their slaves and moved to Texas, tried to wash their hands of it all.
Whiteness manifests like this—delusions of just taking care of our own, not making connections to the supposed other, not seeing the ramifications of our recapitulations.
Perhaps we fantasize about washing our hands completely of psychiatry, no mind the psychiatrized.
What a seductive privilege it is to abandon labels and systems.
Don’t tell me bipolar isn’t real—I have the scars to prove it.
Bipolar isn’t real, unless you define “real” as a synonym for “bipolar.” Circular logic. Yours scars prove only that you’ve been scarred. We could all have our personal language, many do, but it’s important to know where the individual ends and the collective begins. At that point we need to have common meanings for the words we use, assuming the point is communication.
Your analogy fails where I’m concerned Chris. I’m a survivor. Not a psychiatrist–retired or otherwise.
Chris, you can call yourself whatever you like. But I have always seen my psych label as a moral judgment.
I don’t have mood swings, btw. Sick and irritable from drug withdrawals. Striving to be kind and thoughtful to those around me. Better off than your friend Monica was though! Yet my “bipolat” label remains etched in stone regardless of the content of my character.
Have you ever considered identifying as a spontaneous, sensitive eccentric? Less cootie treatment from that.
When I look at the “symptoms” to DSM labels I see three categories:
1. Unwanted feelings or thoughts bugging the one who has them. (Caused by abuse or other trauma, but psychiatry makes no allowance for that.)
2. Bad behaviors. The diagnosed may not mind them but others do.
3. Plain old quirkiness or eccentricities. These bother no one but meddling relatives and soulless killjoy shrinks.
Number 2 bothers me. I don’t run around cheating on my partner, going on drunken sprees, throwing money away, picking fights, or killing people. But when I call myself “bipolar” people assume that not only am I guilty of at least some of these behaviors but they are indelibly engraved in my character. This leads to prejudice and bigotry like racism. Only instead of judging us on the color of our skin they judge us on the label slapped on us by an “expert” who lies about pathological differences cutting us off from Normal Humanity.
If I were wrongfully accused of murder I wouldn’t self identify as a murderer. Nor will I self identify as a bipolar. Except under torture.
Spontaneous and sensitive… that’s great. Both imply that you embrace who you are and see the benefits and enjoy them. I think once a person works through the trauma and mines it for the diamonds, they can embrace whatever person they become. It’s during the process that it’s so tricky, because there are all these people who wish they’d never experienced the trauma, wish they could “just be normal,” whatever that is.
If “being bipolar” means distracting oneself from painful feelings or memories by either getting euphoric or depressed, then that’s something to work through, not get mired in. Accept that NOW this is the way I deal with stuff, but IN THE FUTURE I want to live in reality, not constantly try to escape it.
“except under torture” would qualify you then. At least, it qualifies me.
Are you undergoing AOT Chris? If so, my condolences.
Even if you are, they won’t force you to wear a T-shirt labeled BIPOLAR to march at NAMI “stigma busters.”
Regarding the naming of the things we experience and the terms we use to describe them:
I am all for reclaiming words that are used as weapons. I think Lenny Bruce had a very good point about that, about how doing so can strip those weapons of their power to do so much damage. I am all for that. And Chris, you make a very good point about finding one’s tribe. I, personally, will never claim any “mental illness” identifiers because I refuse to define myself using that paradigm. However, the language I use to define/describe myself and my mode of living, though much more accurate and authentic to my experience, is not often easily grasped by others, especially those who have not experienced other-ness. Some might say it would better facilitate a conversation if I were to use the familiar mh lingo, and they would be right, but it would be facilitating the wrong conversation. The lingo sets the rules. The moment you put your personal picture into the frame of “mental health” you paint it over with all the assumptions inherent in the illness paradigm: that the individual experiencing these things is having symptoms; that the divergence they are experiencing from consensual reality is a problem- both for the individual and the society (which begs the question of who consented to this reality, and can we take another vote?, but I digress); and that the expertise about these experiences somehow lies in the wisdom of people who pathologize or outright refuse to acknowledge the spiritual emergence happening.
I have more to say, but need morning coffee first 🙂
I, personally, will never claim any “mental illness” identifiers because I refuse to define myself using that paradigm… Some might say it would better facilitate a conversation if I were to use the familiar mh lingo, and they would be right, but it would be facilitating the wrong conversation.
Brilliantly articulated post! I forget, are you a survivor or just extremely perceptive?
Thank you oldhead! I had exactly the same appraisal of something you expressed recently but didn’t say so in the moment and then couldn’t find it again.
I’d like to think I’m both 😀
I’ve been feeling all this discourse around language, around reform v. abolish, simmering itself out, distilling into its essence. For me, it comes down to arguments of realistic vs. ideal. I look at how the mh lingo, and the system it represents, is mis-leading (as in leading in the wrong direction) and determine that it has to be scrapped in whole and re-made because the fundamentals are flawed and as such cannot contribute to the desired outcome. I am an idealist because I want things to be right and good enough. But this is different than being a perfectionist. People who say “well, yeah, the system isn’t perfect, but it’s what we have so work with it and change it” don’t get it. It isn’t easy for me to scrap anything, and I don’t come to that conclusion lightly. I’m a conservationist– that means I don’t throw away what is still useful. I’m also resourceful, meaning I can see uses in a thing beyond merely its intended one(s). I was raised by people who lived through a world war and the Great Depression, the opposite of this culture of disposability all around me. I’m also a baker, and have had many dishes turn out differently than planned. Usually that’s a happy accident, something that is not what I’d envisioned, is different than what I wanted or intended, but is still edible, still good– usually delicious! But there are those mistakes that ruin the whole thing, and if you refuse to acknowledge that and you just keep on adding things and tinkering with it, hoping for an acceptable outcome, you’re just wasting good ingredients.
Trying to reform psychiatry is like trying to salvage a cake batter that started out by creaming the butter with salt instead of sugar. No matter how much you tinker with that batter, it will never be edible food, and if you try to bake it up and choke it down anyway because it’s all you’ve got to eat, it’s still doing you more harm than good.
Well, I kind of think we ought to go back three hundred years ago thereabouts to when they started locking people up wholesale for lunacy, and start all over again by not locking people up.
Well if I could only find the keys to the DeLorean, we could get right on that! Who’s bringing snacks for the road trip?
Pot luck until we’re in the same DeLorean.
And the problem with the gross cake batter made with salt instead of sugar is that we’re the ones who are forced to eat it against our better judgment. The psychiatrists and other clinical staff and the drug ceo’s don’t have to choke it down but they certainly profit off of it by leaps and bounds.
I like your analogies and the way that you write.
Thank you, Stephen. I like reading your comments too. A day or two ago somebody commented something about the Steves here being good, and I agree. You and Steve McCrea are two of my favorite MiA people!
I prefer the word “mad” myself. But I see madness as a state of mind. Traditionally madness was seen as something you got over like a headache or fever. But that sounds pathological–and I don’t believe madness is biologically based.
Try reading literature like I Samuel where David pretends to be mad to scare a king away who might kill him. Later that same king hires David as a mercenary warrior. Apparently the king realized folks get over madness. In Don Quixote the hero goes mad. At the end he comes back to his senses. This happens in King Lear, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and The Lost Man.
It was only after the locking up and segregation of the mad started 200 years ago that recovery was viewed as impossible. The Keeper of the Madhouse hated losing the $$$ he got for warm bodies.
Now a bunch of folks profit from keeping others mad. HUD slumlords, therapists, caseworkers, social workers, Big Pharma CEO, drug reps, etc. Not just shrinks. And they won’t let you go NO MATTER WHAT.
Actually, before the advent of the drugs in the mid to late ’50’s there was about a 60% recovery rate out of the asylums, it just took people a while to accomplish the recovery. Once they left most never returned for a second visit. There were some who might return for a second visit and then never came back. Unfortunately, there were always about 30% of people who didn’t seem to have the capacity to recovery and get out of the system. Once the drugs made it on the scene what was once episodic became chronic and the supposed recovery rate is now about 15% of I remember correctly.
You’re right about them not letting people go.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people and organizations (like SAMSHA) talk about being “in recovery” rather than being “recovered”. I believe that there’s a big difference between the two experiences. I think that the first implies that you can’t really get your issues dealt with and behind you but that you’ll always be “ill” though you might be able to go to school or hold a job. To me recovered means that you’ve dealt with things and moved on with your life. When I bring this up in meetings of people with lived experience who are not locked in some institution most of them sidle around this and don’t really want to discuss it. They end up saying that each person has the right to think about it in the way that they want and I agree with that, but don’t turn around and try to convince me that I’m really “in recovery”.
The 15% recover IN SPITE of all those “safe and effective ” tortures. I mean treatments.
I believe I may always be in recovery from psychiatric abuse. I’ve long since put the things that happened to me when I was young into a trauma-informed perspective and learned how to be okay but I’m still bitter from losing 15 years to psychiatry and extremely disturbed that I will have to defend my sanity for the rest of my life due to the legal implications of having been found to be a mental defective and the perpetual nature of electronic medical records.
25 years for me. Bad reaction to an SSRI. I’ll be paying till I die. 🙁
Since I was older when I was dragged into the system, I think I was 61, I was already set in my ways and didn’t believe in the bologna that the psychiatrists tried to foist on me. I learned to take up for myself and to stand up to the psychiatrists on my case. It didn’t get me anywhere with them but sure did make me feel better about myself. Nothing of what they said made any sense and I just kept telling them that I was never ill, no matter what they said or what they labeled me with.
But, that label is stuck to me and I can’t get rid of it no matter what I do. You are right about having to fight to defend your sanity. But I was lucky and came out fairly unscathed when they set me loose.
I’m not trying to minimize the harm you’ve endured nor do I try to make you feel better by trying to take your righteous anger away, but you saw the light and quit drinking the Kool-Aid and you’re free from the lies and quackery of psychiatry! I know that it’s easy for me to say, but better later than never at all!
It’s amazing that psychiatry is the only medical specialty (and I don’t think that it should be a specialty at all) that can force its treatment on people, against their will and better judgment. It’s criminal and someday I hope that we can prosecute them for the harm that they’ve caused for countless numbers of people. I see the harm that they do on a daily basis.
It’s absolutely not the only medical specialty that can force treatment. There have been cases of forced abortions when the mother was deemed incapable of looking after a child. And there is the immense psychological pressure and threats of social services intervention for women during childbirth if they refuse interventions that medical teams consider necessary. There is forced feeding for anorexics. And probably a lot more that we are not aware of. This is a problem endemic in “medicine.” What about parents who refuse to vaccinate?
Correction – it’s not so much a problem in medicine as a problem in the concept of the State. Once you allow it a foothold in your life, it will suck your whole life out of you if you’re not careful. Because “they” always know better. “They” are also social services, law courts, politicians… But there is no ideal system. It’s just a case of trying to survive in whatever brand of totalitarianism your particular country subscribes to. (And that includes every country in the world.)
Right! And I have doubts that the figure is even as high as 15%.
You tell your story with a lot of power and conviction, thank you for sharing your experience and insights.
I agree with you that there are energies and perspectives at work which seek to separate us not only from each other but, primarily, from ourselves. We’ve been so thrown out of synch by what we’ve been programmed to believe about ourselves. Good for you for taking back your power!
“…and if we can’t comprehend our interconnection, we are all doomed.”
Hmm, not sure I agree with this. Personally, I do not believe anyone is ‘doomed” because we’re all on a journey and we each do it our way. Life affords us myriad hurdles to jump in order to awaken to different aspects of ourselves, and I believe this is endless because consciousness does not end when our bodies cease to function. Our soul is on a growth path; evolution is satisfying to the soul, otherwise we feel stagnant, which is not a good feeling, and in fact, can lead to suffering. That’s what I believe and practice, in any event.
Plus, there are those who get that we’re all connected and actually practice this belief by acting upon it, living that belief and reality supported by their actions. That would be what I consider to be embodying one’s truth and walking the talk, and then we know synchronicity, and we simply have to remember to not give others the power to sabotage us. Which takes me to–
“In order to create change for ourselves, we have to step into our power…”
Yes, I love this. And of course, stepping into our power means internal change because this is what we are looking to transform, given that the journey through the “mental health industry” is specifically about becoming disempowered through a variety of means about which we talk all the time on this website. My perspective is always that internal change leads to external change, from the ground up and based on truth and integrity, which would be a good shift to experience, imo–true change and transformation. Starts with each one of us, to ripple outward. That’s what I believe, in any event.
Thanks for a thoughtful and honest article, I enjoyed reading it.
That is truth… “And they won’t let you go NO MATTER WHAT”. Hopefully It is also true an ever growing number of people are finding a way to purposefully and specifically avoid the “… bunch of folks who profit from keeping others mad.” Even despite the terror torture tactics used to extract compliance . I count myself as fortunate escapee.
There is a phenomena where thought itself as if a runner on a route moves up from behind with such great speed that it passes itself . There is a euphoria along there that is a flight that can last for long , than in future flights growing shorter periods , that crash into an exhausted opposite of euphoria . As the flights grow shorter as sleeplessness is part of the picture a person may attempt to take there own life if they are too frightened to sleep and have nothing to help them get some sleep. I know it can happen cause in the past I experienced this many times. For me the cause was most clearly mercury poisoning from 15 some large sized 53% mercury so called silver amalgam fillings. Root canals also removed , and infected teeth and gums healed including cavitations according to Hal Huggins protocol dentistry . Unfortunately including the false plastic teeth which I mostly wear only when I eat , it cost $6000 to get all the work done . But I must say I feel real good and sleep like a baby . I’m 71 years old and have survived .
Glad you’re feeling great Fred. My dad is younger than you and his sleep is poor. I sleep less but better now. Used to sleep 10 hours and wake up unrefreshed on my “cocktail.”
I want psyche to be something to which people have respect, not pity. So I use the language thats make a heroes of psychological people rather than poor victims of fake illnesses. And that language builds up a psychological empire not a small cage for apollonian ego claims.
I don’t have an idea what’s mean terms like – depression, schizophrenia and so on, because diagnosis without human aspect is a dehumanisation, not help or empathy. Empty anti human nominalism is just an empty nominalism, they want people to hang themselves after given them this awful souless judgements.
Without higer vision and mythical logic and without respect for death/psyche, we never get out of this brain garbage psychopatic language made up by Apollonian arrogants.. You can agree with your diagnosis, but for me that language is as dead as people who use it. As long as we will see in psyche only a problem to solve and sth to get rid of only to be normal, people would remain antipsychological authoritarian psychopats and psyche will be a trash to get rid of for authoritarians who preys on psyche phenomenology. If there was a pagan mythical archetypal psychology in place of todays DSM, theology and apollonian ego utopian claims towards the rest of psyche, there will be no mental illnesses, but rather people would see spiritualism/theology as a form of illusion and psyche AS A NECESSITY OR INEVITABLE painful TRUTH, NOT fake ILLNESS TO CURE. To call real psyche a fake medical illness means to escape from the psychological reality.
James Hillman Revisioning psychology. I suggest everyone not to cure psyche, not to TRY TO GET RID OF it, but rather to accept and build a higher language for psyche phenomenology in place of mirages of chemical cure and well being in nirvana (spiritualism). Heroes of descent in place of masters of denial. We try to get rid of something which we call fake illness, rather than to accept inevitable. Normal aren’t noble, they are just antipsychological Apollonians with utopian claims to the rest of the psyche.
What I am trying to say that there’s no chemical cure (drugs and alcochol), but we still have balls to accept this.
THIS IS MADNESS, NO, THIS IS PSYCHE! (Sparta)
THEY will heard this, sooner or later.
You seem like a good guy. But you are NOT “bipolar,” you are human, and all these claims about “reappropriating” psychiatric hate speech are disingenuous and make no sense to boot. Black people don’t go around saying “N***** and Proud”; women don’t go around saying “C*** and proud.” So clearly people understand that this “reappropriation” thing has its limits.
When is this stuff going to stop?! And once you collect all these people who identify as “bipolar” like you, what are you going to tell them?
“When is this stuff going to stop?!”
Had to put up with it at my fathers funeral. Apparently a relative of mine can’t do their art without their anxiety and they DO take drugs, which was said to me in a ‘so there, up yours’ kinda way. It’s incredible how people have become so psychiatrized – helped by the likes of ‘the guardian’.
RE: “You are not bipolar, you are human.”
This is empty commentary. You are not you, you are human.
Perhaps we should just stop using language entirely, because you are not speaking. You are not writing. You are not typing. No, you are just having neurological experience, which is just a perceptual experience, which is only illusory. In fact, you are not human, because you don’t exist. I get the regression-transcendence rabbit hole, or is it a black hole? Either way, it’s just not my cup of tea.
You seem to be getting hostile, or maybe just defensive. You also seem to be projecting your assumptions onto me. Why in the world would you accept such a label? Do you not realize there is no such thing as “bipolar disorder”?
Didn’t you read Chris’ reply? I thought he explained himself excellently. Just as all psychiatric diagnoses are simply descriptions of symptoms (real symptoms, in the main part), so too bipolar is a description of a certain way of being. Namely, that people oscillate between different ways of thinking, different ways of looking at the world. He chooses to call that bipolar and, perhaps, in this way, to reclaim the label as a positive aspect of human nature – a higher aspect, I believe.
Just what are you trying to say? That people are just people and we should never dare to describe them in any way? What if psychiatrists start saying that being blond is a disorder? Do you then disown the description blond and deny its reality and say no, we’re all human?
I can understand your aversion to labels, but fact is, we use them all the time to put handles on things. When you look for a plumber, let’s say, you look for someone reliable. Now, what does reliable mean? How dare you label him! He’s simply human!
As Alex said, essentially, all humans oscillate between “poles,” maybe some focusing more on one or the other. So to say that one is “bipolar” is somewhat redundant, as it applies to everyone to some extent, i.e. it is a human characteristic shared by all. It is not something which distinguishes some people from others. Basically Chris doesn’t seem to be able to reject the label put on him by psychiatry, rather embracing it instead. This is his personal prerogative, but when presented as a model for others it needs to be challenged on the basic of logic, if nothing else.
You’re missing the point. Psychiatry calls this oscillation a defect. Chris is reclaiming it as essentially human, even as a higher aspect of being human and not something as inherent as, for instance, having two legs. You don’t have to agree (though it seems you do) but don’t misrepresent other people’s views.
Also, not all people oscillate. Many – I believe, even the majority – stay pretty much stagnant. But feel free to disagree.
(By the way, I guess you don’t realize it, but you come across as extremely aggressive sometimes, not at all Spockian.)
I’m not aggressive, I just don’t mince words when people’s lives are in the balance.
Psychiatry calls this oscillation a defect. Chris is reclaiming it as essentially human
Seriously, who gives a shit what psychiatry calls anything? There’s nothing to reclaim, unless you’ve already made the mistake of giving it away, or have had it taken. By labeling someone (or oneself) “bipolar” you are psychiatrizing them, which is not in the least bit “human,” unless you have a dim view of humanity.
However what Chris is also doing here is, perhaps as compensation for the inherently demeaning nature of his “diagnosis,” presenting his “bipolar” designation as actually being a sign of superiority over “regular” people. I’m not the only one in this conversation who recognizes this as what we call a contradiction, which I won’t apologize for pointing out.
YOU labeling a plumber as reliable or unreliable causes him no grief. He will not get medicated, nor suffer the consequences as far as keeping his kids, or getting off drugs. A court will not enforce that label on him.
Chris sounds like a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy in the above comment.
Oldhead I have heard of folks misdiagnosed with cancer who discovered they were okay. Guess what? They became horribly depressed. Apparently cancer patient was integral to their identities now. They had no sense of who they were without their diagnosis. 🙁
Something that’s coming up by reading the comments is that the psyche is bipolar.
Michael Washburn (1995), the great transpersonal theorist, proposed two poles of the bipolar psyche to be (1) ego and (2) nonego. He saw Freud as having a bipolar model of the psyche as well: (1) id and (2) ego/superego. He saw Jung’s bipolar structure as (1) ego and (2) collective unconscious.
I’d be happy to go as far as to say the Buddha used (1) samsara and (2) nirvana, and that Christ used (1) earth and (2) heaven. Maybe that’s why mad folks think they’re prophets and saviors… because we’re just following the maps.
If you know you’re bipolar, you are conscious of something to which others are oblivious. If you don’t know you’re bipolar, it’s because you have been indoctrinated into the use of such a word as mere pathology. We live in a bipolar universe, in bipolar bodies, with bipolar psyches, using bipolar neurology and bipolar chemical processes along spectrums of experience.
So if you are experiencing the insanity, the utter chaos and confusion, the dis-order, of being bipolar in a sea of stagnation, welcome to the club. What joy to know the nature of this precious human birth. The alternative might mean that you spend your life at war, for having had your body turned into a battlefield. I won’t blame you for it, but I will continue inviting another way.
Washburn, M. (1995). The ego and the dynamic ground: A transpersonal theory of human development (2nd ed.). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Chris, I agree with you that it is a universally human quality to have poles. We can go from the depths of despair and fear to feeling elation and love in the blink of an eye, depending on how we are navigating our focus and allowing our perspectives to shift. I believe this is because we are naturally flexible in our ability to feel and think. I see our emotional landscape as a fluid river of energy, in its most natural state, and we can certainly choose how we perceive anything. This can change over time, with varying life experience as we move along, which I’d call evolution in thinking.
However, I wouldn’t stop at “bi-polar.” When we are REALLY awake, we realize that we are much more than this. In fact, I’d say we are continuously expanding multi-dimensional beings, moving along the upwardly mobile evolutionary spiral. This will affect how we interpret and/or respond to our own emotions. This also can change quite a bit over the course of a lifetime, if we allow it to, which would be the blueprint of personal transformation.
Does any of this ring true for you at all?
it is a universally human quality to have poles?
Exactly. So we’re ALL “bipolar,” and more.
So what makes Chris or anyone else “bipolar” while others are “normal”?
And “unipolar bipolar” is just plain stupid. Oxymoron that defies sense!
I’m supposed to be that. How is that different from “depression” for crying out loud? These words are as stupid as something from Orwell.
Just to clarify, I did completely misunderstand something which you wrote, Chris, which is why I started with “I agree with you that…” I can see that this is not the case. When I read the following paragraph, I honestly thought it was meant to be universal, meaning “you” in general, as in *any of us* because it’s who we are–
“If you know you’re bipolar, you are conscious of something to which others are oblivious. If you don’t know you’re bipolar, it’s because you have been indoctrinated into the use of such a word as mere pathology. We live in a bipolar universe, in bipolar bodies, with bipolar psyches, using bipolar neurology and bipolar chemical processes along spectrums of experience.”
Because yes, we do live in “multi-polar” universe, which some even call “the multi-verse.” I don’t say “Bi-” simply because I believe there are more than two poles. So yes, I do believe it is universal, and I understand now, from reading again, that this is not your belief, which I respect completely of course.
I happened to have been diagnosed “bipolar” 36 years ago and lived with that for a good long while, still living a full life but with that label attached and taking psych drugs for it. It eventually all caught up with me in a catastrophic way 20 years after it had all started, and led to a transformative awakening on many levels. It was a wild ride for a good long while there, but I’m grounded and at peace now, after a lot of in depth healing work.
I have long renounced and have moved far away from any of that, have nothing to do with diagnoses or psych drugs, I’m not part of any “mh” community any longer, working with other healers, teachers, artists, etc. in my community. I’m paying forward what I learned in many ways, been an extremely creative and fulfilling journey for me, continues to be.
But I certainly feel my “bipolar-ism” as well as all of myself on any given day, as does my partner (who does not have a DSM history), as do my business partners and friends, none of whom went through any of this. But we’re all who we are, light and shadow, so to speak. We all have our emotional range and our triggers, that is what being human is, to my mind, evolving and refining as we go. I do believe this is universal because I connect with anyone this way.
So I would say that we’ll be better off when EVERYONE realizes they are *at least* bipolar, because that is part of being human. Although it will be a rude awakening, but it doesn’t have to be a label, simply a human quality. There’s always more of ourselves to discover as we go along.
I do very much respect, of course, where you are and what your beliefs are at this time, as I do anyone. We’re all on a journey, learning as we go, doing it our way, growing, expanding, fumbling, exploring, manifesting. Who can stop us? Only ourselves.
From what I can see, your work has been seriously impressive. There are always new things to learn, for all of us.
Of course this rings true, but transcending dichotomies, dualities, and binaries can be quite challenging when the whole world is set up this way—constant induction into polarities. I’m not cool with requiring enlightenment for folks to be treated more humanely.
We can tell the newly-minted bipolar folks, “You can either die an actual death or die an egoic death in order to get out of this thing alive—better not get it mixed up.” I’d like to see more choices than that.
“transcending dichotomies, dualities, and binaries can be quite challenging when the whole world is set up this way”
Yes, it is challenging, and it’s also a choice, and there are many when one gets to this awareness. Although just because the world is “set up” in a certain way, that doesn’t mean we don’t have the option to create a new “set up,” aka “a new paradigm.”
Yes, it’s very challenging, but some of us feel it is worth it, considering this current world is busting apart at the seams at present, at least a lot of us see it that way. Making way for the new, perhaps? Also an option. Transforming out of these dark ages we’ve been in for a while will definitely take some doing. Are you up for it?
“I’m not cool with requiring enlightenment for folks to be treated more humanely.”
I honestly don’t know what you mean by this. “Enlightened” or not, I’m sure we both feel that people should be treated humanely and with respect, as we all wish to be.
One last thing, since you mention “ego death”–
I’m certainly no stranger to this. I had a very peculiar dark night of the soul journey because it involved paradox after paradox after paradox while traversing the “mental health” system. I was a MFT intern and a client at the same time, so I straddled the fence for years, and it was profoundly eye-opening.
Thanks to major physical breakdown after 20 years on one thing or another (usually more but it changed a lot over the years), I found it necessary to ditch all of the psych drugs I was on (all 9 of them by this time) right in the middle of my internship. I was out of my mind from psych drugs withdrawal, yet traversed San Francisco from one healing community to another, feeling more self-conscious than I could say, because I was healing from brain damage, but did not know it at the time. I was extremely regressed and slowly coming back to life, but I could hardly stay focused on a conversation and it was evident that something was amiss with me. And I wasn’t sure how to explain it at the time because I had no idea the process I was in, no one around me had ever done this and this was just as the web was catching on so I hadn’t been online reading about people coming off psych drugs, that did not exist yet that I knew of. I took the risk without any knowledge of this, if only from medical necessity. I was the first person to do this that I knew of.
I had no good mirroring, no one knew what to expect, nor who I was, in reality. I was extremely disembodied and all I could feel was a deluge of chronic anxiety, among other painful symptoms and bad insomnia, etc. I was truly the biggest mess ever. But I was determined to heal and get back to myself, so I did anything available to me, regardless of how I knew I was coming across.
In the meantime, I put up with a lot of very mean people (think urban culture) and I had no defenses. Peoples’ true colors come out when they think you’re out of it, but I was not oblivious to how people were treating me, simply because I had an affect and was very shaky, withdrawn, and really kind of tongue tied. It’s how marginalized people are treated–seriously dehumanized and disregarded. This went on for years.
I’d been a professional for years, even before grad school, so this put my system into shock. It was a brand new perspective from which I was experiencing life, and not a positive one in the slightest. Rather brutal, in fact.
The thing about “ego death,” in reality, is that it’s a deprogramming (again, releasing the old to allow for the new), so surrendering to transformation is actually an amazing process, doesn’t have to be horrible. We’re releasing all sorts of things we no longer need, like beliefs that inhibit us and make us feel limited. It’s actually the essence of *liberation.*
Good time to learn deep trust, profound patience, and most of all, grounding. That was my first lesson in finding my center, amid all the roller coaster rides. That was my saving grace, because once you know your center, then you can allow your emotions to guide your creativity. I love my emotions, but I drive them, not the other way around. The do not hinder me now, they totally fuel me. It is my essence, the entire range. We needn’t get stuck in despair or fear if that gets triggered. We can totally focus our way out of that and train our neurons in the process. It’s a very cool process, I’ve done this for years. It’s second nature now.
Sensitivity, passion, creativity–all good stuff. To my mind, that is our divine guidance. Nothing to judge here! We can learn to enjoy these, rather than to be tormented by them. Life is a process, can’t get any more basic and universal than that.
This has to be one of the best ever comments on MIA.
In the Kabbalah (ancient Jewish wisdom) there is also a bipolar reality, called mochin d’gadlus and mochin d’katnus – expanded versus constricted consciousness.
There is a recognition that we constantly oscillate between these two poles and that it isn’t possible to remain constantly in the mochin d’gadlus mode, although remaining in constricted consciousness is, I believe, a possibility (and certainly one that psychiatric drugs encourages).
Jewish sources refer to higher consciousness as “The Orchard” and warn in the strongest terms about being ready to enter before attempting to do so. Those who try to force their way into higher consciousness risk their sanity, because they lack the knowledge of how to correctly interpret what they “see” there, and also because a striving for character perfection is seen as a key prerequisite for achieving higher consciousness. (The Jewish sage and holy man is first and foremost an incredibly good person).
However, this doesn’t refer to the experiences everyone can have when, for instance, praying and sensing the immanence of God and how we too are part of Him.
I wonder if some people’s experience of psychosis is in fact an encounter with higher realms of subconscious reality, without being prepared for it? Certainly one can try to leapfrog to higher states via psychedelic drugs and be overwhelmed by one’s experiences.
The thing is: Why would someone want to do that? What’s the goal? Without an answer to that question, it’s probably just going to be a random floundering about with random insights that lead to what?
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I’ve been hanging around here for about 5 years actually.
Got to “know” the commenters quite well over that time, and some of them are clearly very bitter, though perhaps they have reason to be that way and are deserving of pity rather than censure.
I don’t usually comment because it’s basically a waste of time. Most of the “regulars” are totally mired in their narrow way of seeing the world, even if they feel totally justified in their holy (and holier-than-thou) anti-psychiatry.
Am I not entitled to my opinion? Or do we all have to trip over ourselves with PC and qualify every opinion with “IMHO” or some other such waste-of-time verbiage?
No, I also hate that “please don’t be offended, but…” stuff myself. I try to be as Spockian as possible here, examining things on the basic of their inherent logic, not whether someone is going to react emotionally to my conclusions. But I have to say, you seem to know precious little about the precepts of anti-psychiatry for one who has been here even longer than I have. But I’ll be happy to respond to non-rhetorical questions.
Well, I continue to hang around MIA as a passive observer mainly because of the things I learn here, though most articles and comments do seem to be a rehash of what you might call “the precepts of anti-psychiatry.”
I got my “training” on the job when helping a loved one withdraw from various psychiatric drugs and it’s been a long process over the last 8 or so years and is still ongoing. So maybe I don’t know much about precepts. Or maybe my idea of precepts just doesn’t jive with yours. I admit I don’t subscribe to the view of many here, that “if we would only get rid of the labels, everything would be fine.” But I would hope that there’s room here for respectful disagreement.
If I ever take my message “on the road” I won’t start out saying, “Mental illness does not exist,” since–yes it is a metaphor–people won’t know what the heck I am saying.
Is seeing and hearing unreal stuff normal and good? Or are those who hallucinate or feel so unhappy they can’t function just faking it?
Spouting off those five words makes sense to our inner circle here. But to the average Joe and Jane Q. Public it’s crazy talk. And they’ll most likely assume you say one of the two things I listed above.
“Mental illness” not only doesn’t exist, it is impossible for such a thing to exist. If you don’t know how to articulate this is a way the public can understand you need to work on that. Otherwise you’re adding to people’s confusion.
respectful dialogue Vanilla.
If you want to believe in Bi-polar, cool.
But calling people narrowminded because they have in fact opened their minds to no longer ascribe to what they consider to be a cult is kind of insulting.
But after all, it’s your view, not a shrinks, and we are indeed entitled to our views which usually come from a point of experiences.
If yours is great, go with it.
vanilla, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this teaching from the Kabbalah /|\
If you know you’re bipolar, you are conscious of something to which others are oblivious.
A bit presumptuous I would say. Just because some shrink gave you a label? I would mainly be conscious of that.
Goodness me, oldhead, can’t you give a guy a break? What are you trying to prove? Had a bad day?
This is a discussion forum, get over it.
oldhead, who is hostile?
Hurt people hurt people, methinks.
Hard to teach an old dog new tricks, methinks.
Bipolar, as a neurological constitution, is not pathology—is not mental illness—so you are arguing with yourself. Thus the invitation for reappropriation.
To substitute your word, “human,” we could say “human disorder.”
The absence of “disorder” would then be “human.”
We wouldn’t say “human disorder in partial remission.”
So when we remove “disorder” from “bipolar disorder,” we are left with “bipolar.”
My point is that neurological diversity is part of diverse human expression, just as human sexuality has diverse expressions. Diversity need not be pathologized, even in the cases of extreme discomfort. For example, a trans person might receive psychotherapy for painful symptoms, but those symptoms are not inherent to the person. Those symptoms are the result of coming up against hegemony.
This reads more like Deepak Chakra than psychiatry.
Not a bad thing, btw.
right…I don’t stop at bipolar because to me it diminishes while also used to denigrate and pathologize, but I agree that we are in some absolute sense, every human being, bipolar…if we are conscious we grasp a multiplicity of spectrums so that we are in fact, also, so much more. I wrote this in my piece that I link to above as an epilogue:
“I am life. I am psychedelic. I am kaleidoscopic. I am conscious. I am aware. I am chaos. I am silence. The term bipolar *disorder* attempts to diminish. Two poles? In a world of endless spectrums all interlacing into oneness? What nonsense. The term bipolar is attached to people like me because we frighten those “treating” us. We are sensitive, open, people in need of shamanic-like guidance. The current psychiatric regime doesn’t know how to support us in profound ways. We are finding out how to do that for ourselves and with each other. I do not identify as bipolar nor do I identify as *not* bipolar. I’m just another little human being and so are you. Please don’t project your pathology onto me.”
from this perspective bipolar simply doesn’t go far enough which is why I don’t embrace it as diagnosis…it diminishes even if it describes something that exists as well (and I’m talking beyond pathology because as pointer to pathology it’s completely off-base in my opinion)
and also, yeah, on some level we are just all playing with language which is at best, always, only a pointer towards a reality none of us can grasp with language. When we can recognize that we are playing with a very imprecise tool we can lighten up…and well, play with one another. We don’t have to clobber each other over the head if we engage with one another energetically. Listen to each others hearts beyond the words. And in my mind this capacity is one of embracing spectrums…multiple, endless spectrums…
“We don’t have to clobber each other over the head…”
Honestly, there seems to be a great deal of disparity around here (and in general, I think) regarding what constitutes “clobbering.” In addition, there are many ways of “clobbering,” including ways which are subtle and insidious, not always overt. Plus, what we witness as opposed to experience first hand can be fraught with projection. Calling out abuse, in and of itself, can get one clobbered by the entire group, in a dysfunctional system–which is what would make it systemically toxic.
I’d suggest we begin by not “clobbering” ourselves, for any reason. I think that will minimize the chance that we step on others’ toes inadvertently. I believe that is very healing, when we give ourselves permission to love & respect ourselves, first. Then, not only are we more able extend it to others authentically, but we are less likely to get triggered in the first place because our self-respect overpowers outside opinion.
“Listen to each others hearts beyond the words.”
Yes, I agree, and with all respect, Monica, I would like to elaborate a bit because I love this, but I’ve become aware that it is not easy, sometimes, because of how we’re programmed in the first place.
It can take some practice to listen with one’s heart in present time after a long time of having to “figure things out,” which is where our brains become programmed in how they receive and process data/energy.
It’s one of the reasons I question long-term psychotherapy. I remember what it felt like to have “therapy brain,” is what I used to call it–non-stop mind chatter, always trying to resolve this and that, exhausting my mind and draining my energy, keeping me going in loops.
Listening with our hearts requires quieting the inner chatter, first, not filtering the information through anything but curiosity and interest in what the other person is saying.
When you’re looking for “proof” of something to match your agenda, you will not hear a person’s heart. They have a story to tell, and every single story matters, as told by the creator of that story, meaning the one who lived it. I truly believe this is without exception, if we are to enjoy at least universal respect.
nice, thanks Alex
I appreciate what Chris is trying to do. During the Revolutionary War, the solders taunted the colonists with the song, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” It involved a stupid hick who complained he couldn’t see the town because of all the people. When Washington accepted Cornwallis’s surrender, he had the American militia strike up the tune. “In your face Brits!”
I have always felt my label made me like Richard Kimball. Wrongfully accused of a crime I have not committed. Watch any one of a number of TV dramas and you’ll find a “bipolar” who runs around murdering people for the thrill of it.
I prefer not to don a T shirt with a picture of Anthony Perkins brandishing a butcher knife and the words “Proud Psycho” on the back. Better to be judged on the content of my character and not some badge of shame a creepy shrink slapped on me years ago.
“Once a thief always a thief!” says Inspector Jalvert in Les Miserables.
“Once a bipolar always a bipolar,” says Dr. Jalvert in Modern Psychiatry.
Flabberghasts me when you write about “bipolar” this way, given that it’s the sexiest and most on-trend label of them all. It is the high-end label. The haute couture of the psychiatric world (Bipolar 2 is like when people wear cheap t-shirts with designer labels printed on them).
I think the problem is that these exclusive labels have become way too common.
What do you mean, Bipolar? Is that Bipolar First Class or Bipolar Standard Class?
The most horrifying experience is the mixed state. High and low at the same time. Spooky.
Borderline Personality Disorder is the most socially mangling label. But then is it just the label that causes the social mangling, or is it the actual behaviour that the label attempts to categorise?
I have had many of what some people describe as spiritual or supernatural experiences and they aren’t something I’d recommend or look forward to. I have encountered a few people online that reckon they have broken through to a higher state of consciousness because of bipolar. And yet their metaphors are staid and cliched. Maybe that is some unspoken truth about the Higher Levels? They are utterly devoid of creative spark and originality? The Higher Levels are where people become acutely in balance with their inner tedium?
Other humans beings can have a stimulant effect. And bipolarites and bipolaresses must avoid stimulants at all costs. I think this is why so many bipolar self-declared geniuses end up in the theatre.
Audience – check
Centre of attention – check
Be someone else – check
Clearly demarcated beginning, middle and end – check
Ability to disappear under the guise of one’s authentic bewildered self – check
Still lonely in a crowd – check
O darling, that’s absolutely lovely, ‘int it an’ all?
The label is filled with accusations of bad character traits you may be innocent of. 6 or 7 out of 10 subjective, elastic feelings, thoughts and habits. And if someone acts badly isn’t branding them hopelessly depraved a great way to kill hope of moral reformation?
Obviously you don’t watch TV. I only do with my parents. But every other drama contains a creepy “bipolar” stalking children, trying to murder the heroes, or something equally nice.
Maybe the label is sexy if you’re a guy. Some women prefer bad boy criminal types. (Personally I don’t.)
Ted Bundy was supposed to be “bipolar.” Until I do something as horrible as he did I don’t deserve his label.
LOL, what “behaviours”.
Can’t you just name some “behaviours”, instead of acronyms?
I really sat and felt into the pain of this.
Your comments have impacted me.
Surely the pen has been sharpened by your criticisms.
Thank you for offering your time and insight.
As far as the language, I’ll take every label—every single one—knowing that we will find each other that way. Don’t take any away from me. That’s my choice. You choose for yourself.
Wouldn’t that be nice… choice.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud your recognition that states of energy and awareness which are labeled as “bipolar” and worse do in fact often reflect heightened consciousness and creativity. But it seems your main reason for submitting to the label is to reach out to others who have been so-labeled as well; if so you could find alternative ways of doing that. The mental patients liberation movement used the term “mental patient” for similar reasons, the difference being that we didn’t take it seriously, and in fact rejected it in our personal lives.
oldhead, I’m happy to hear about the mental patients liberation movement… for the first time. I don’t mean to be snarky, but you’re proving my point.
Part of being in a bipolar body, I’ve noticed, is that I attune more easily to other nervous systems. Your words read like a loud gong to my right ear, with pink words of synesthesia flashing across the sky, screaming, “I love you.”
Sounds like some good acid. 🙂 Synesthesia is cool.
Actually part 2 of what I said earlier is that the mental patients liberation movement evolved into the psychiatric inmates liberation movement.
What pray tell is a “bipolar body” in your estimation?
RE: what is a bipolar body?
Quoting the original writing—which I’m starting to suspect you haven’t read:
“When I say, ‘I’m bipolar,’ I’m acknowledging that there is something different about me neurologically that makes me more sensitive to emotional, sensory, and energetic shifts. I wholeheartedly feel that I can be bipolar, as a distinction from psychiatric disorder or illness. The discomfort of painful symptoms exists in the relationship between my neurodivergent body and a society which marginalizes difference. My disability exists primarily between bodies, in the crowded spaces of ignorance and intolerance.”
In a more fundamental way, the Cartesian split, or mind-body dualism, is implicated in my use of the term, “bipolar body.”
“When I say, ‘I’m bipolar,’ I’m acknowledging that there is something different about me neurologically that makes me more sensitive to emotional, sensory, and energetic shifts.
“Acknowledging”? Call it what you will, but you clearly believe you’re more “conscious” than most people, which is not only presumptuous, but based on junk science. You might be a full-fledged psychic; this still has nothing to do with any psychiatric mislabeling you may have been subjected to.
I have “come out” privately as “I have been diagnosed bipolar.” People are shocked since I don’t act that way.
And doesn’t the word “moody” work as well for ups and downs?
The word “moody” works excellently if you want people to dismiss you as overemotional and unreliable.
It might be more productive if you defined it as:
“I swing between feelings of expansiveness, when I feel like I can make a real, positive difference to the world, and build with other people to make it a better place; and feelings of despair and desolation when I contemplate the suffering that is inherent in human existence and realize how insignificant I am in the scheme of things. Then I rally my internal reserves and reassure myself that yes, even just one person can make a difference, and my mind starts whirling again with all the infinite possibilities out there.
Maybe this only works if you have some kind of concept of where you want to see yourself going. But I think it beats “moody” hands over.
It sounds like your personal experience, which you generalize to being the definition of a (by definition) fake psychiatric “disease.”
Yeah, personal experience – that’s all it can ever be.
On the other hand, it’s my personal take on a reality that we can all potentially experience in our different ways. Everyone says the sky’s blue, but we all describe it and sense it a different way. I know the ultra-liberals/anarchists prefer to dismiss the idea of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, so if that’s where someone’s coming from, then I guess there’s no common language.
Moody is less associated with cruel/criminal behavior.
My dad is called “moody.” He goes up and down. Thank God he never saw a shrink to “bipolarize” him! No career, no marriage, no kids. Great way to mess up your life forever! 😛
Less than what I wrote? Okay, whatever…
I know the ultra-liberals/anarchists prefer to dismiss the idea of truth and falsehood, right and wrong,
Yours sounds better than “bipolar” Vanilla. If you can find anyone willing to listen to such a lengthy exposition. Maybe cut it down to 25 words or less?
Anyone who can’t be bothered to listen – I can’t be bothered to talk to.
End up talking to myself a lot, but it’s not that bad.
Honestly Vanilla I don’t swing that way. Lol.
“I’ll take every label—every single one—knowing that we will find each other that way.”
Here’s the thing, though, Chris. In my experience, whenever I have attempted to find connection or community with others who are having a similar experience of this life, if I look for pathology (i.e. use the mh labels, or lingo), I find the pathologized. I find people who see themselves as psychiatry has told them they are. These folks have drunk the kool-aid, and are therefore not my tribe.
A related anecdote: My ancestors are from Appalachia. They have a very easy way of telling if someone is an outsider: by the language they use (specifically, the way they pronounce the names of the towns). You hear that, and you know to be wary because this is not one of us. I react that way whenever I hear somebody using the mh lingo.
That’s a new angle on discrimination. Think of it as like xenophobia. Interesting.
They drank the kool-aid because you didn’t offer them anything else to drink.
My ancestors are from the ancient Middle East. We received a principle called “Don’t judge someone until you stand in their place.” One of the ideas behind that being that you are never going to stand in their place, because we are all dealing with different stuff.
“Those folks” could easily have been you or me. Virtually everyone on this planet is looking for understanding and recognition, and as Chris writes, often, if they don’t get something healthy and nurturing to drink, they’ll take the kool aid instead with its (false) promise of humanity and compassion.
We already have a label to find each other.
That’s great as far as referring to the past. It gives no sense of where the “movement” is trying to get to.
So we can all commiserate together, and bash the shrinks, but where’s the positive, forward-looking side of things?
The point at which you get in touch with your anger, shed your guilt and your labels, and begin to experience collective power.
Among other things we should focus on reeducating the public and launching anti-propaganda campaigns.
The truth will set you free.
Chris – Have you watched either or both of these videos:
Dr James Davies: The Origins of the DSM
Allen Frances’ Paid Role in Creating Psychiatric Epidemics
They really are worth a watch if you have not. Also do you know anything about the glutamate/GABA role in this subject or it’s not something you would consider, or have considered but rule it out or just do not know ?
I haven’t seen these videos, but thanks for sharing. I have received a few resources in these comments, which is awesome and much appreciated.
Just as a quick note, varying degrees of GABA metabolism sounds like an expression of human diversity to me.
So why can’t you see that what you call “bipolar” is the same, not something that makes anyone “special,” in either a positive or negative way?
I do see bipolar that way, and the negative or positive experience of being bipolar is confluent with the systems in which a bipolar body is living.
So let’s take GABA for example. How much or how little GABA is being metabolized is not a problem until a person is requiring GABA in addition or subtraction. Such a need is due to the demands of their life. The body is not demanding I work a 40 hour week. The body is demanding that I remove the discomfort of the consequences of not working 40 hour weeks. Make sense?
I think I need more GABA to stay in this discussion. So (1) I can leave the discussion, or (2) I can produce more GABA, or (3) I can suffer the neurological discomfort of staying in this discussion without producing more GABA. If I choose the third option, because I love you or I have some other need that feels equally important, then I might suffer severe symptoms and need aggressive treatment. This is where we get into neurological dissonance between conflicting demands, whether real or perceived.
Sounds like rationalization, or an obsession with bodily processes rather than just trusting your nervous system, if you want to put it in those terms. “Bipolar” is not a concept consistent with science, and does not constitute a true “category” of anything. I repeat my suggestion that you may be trying to compensate for the 3rd class social status experienced by many who share the psychiatric label you embrace by redefining it as something positive; unfortunately this does not conform to material reality.
Chris – hope this helps :
The important things to know is that the more the two major neurtransmitters are initiated the less power of ‘will’ you have to control matters. If you have your foot firmly on the brake you’re not going anywhere. If your foot is stuck on the accelerator your going to crash into something. The other thing is that alcohol and benzo drugs are both GABA drugs and this is what contributes to these problems:
‘bipolar’ is the glutamate neurotransmitter pushed to the extreme and a poor conversion to GABA probably affected in many cases by alcohol and or benzos. Nature has an answer and it’s not lithium.
@ Chris Cole
Thanks for bringing something slightly newish and less samey to the table. I have been trying to rid myself of the Bipolar label for some time now. I’d rather have a schizoaffective label. What is the difference between a scizophrenic and a bipolar? I think the only difference is that a schizophrenic embodies their delusions and a bipolar is able to step outside of them and talk about them objectively.
I would be behind you with the idea of reclaiming the term bipolar if I didn’t know that the term was coined by an ex-Nazi psychiatrist who undoubtedly sent many of our German brothers an sisters to their untimely deaths.
Dr Karl Leonard.
He then went on to work for the East German Stasi. I expect the process of moving from being a Nazi psychiatrist to a Stasi psychiatrist was relatively seamless.
Bipolaren Affective Storung.
This is an important commentary, which I hold with great care.
I live in the US, where we call each other Black and white, which is a division along class and racial lines designed to terrorize, abuse, and neglect darker-colored bodies, not to mention divide white folks against their own hearts. This reality does not stop race or class from existing, and in fact, those who would deny their whiteness perpetuate the oppression.
So I’m going to fantasize of a day when bipolar folks openly reference the connection between Nazis and psychiatry, but until folks are able to think and speak freely about such issues, this comment and ones like it are going to float around in the ethers of alternative facts.
Maybe I’m hopelessly romantic, but if we stopped in-fighting, we might have a movement on our hands. I keep writing love letters in as many languages as possible. Schizoeffective sounds good to me—how effective is the great chasm between cognition and empathy working out for us?
So many contradictions Chris. I’d like to see how you resolve some of this over the next few years, and to see you emerge label-free.
The Nazi/psychiatry connection is a fact of history, and we talk about it here all the time.
The fact that German psychiatry was responsible for the murder of thousands of the so-called “mentally ill” in the 1930’s is not alternative facts. To say something like this is to show a lack of historical knowledge.
There were six cities chosen across Germany to function as disposal centers for the “useless eaters” as the “mentally ill” were called. This was a term applied to any group in Germany that the elite felt were detrimental to the volk of German society. The volk is like the sacred body of the German people and had to be maintained in its purity at all costs. Any group who didn’t fit the requirements for belonging to the volk were to be gotten rid of at all costs. So the “mentally ill” and Jewish people and Gypsies and Gay people and many other groups were ostracized and referred to as useless eaters. This was also a way to pathologize these groups with the German people. There are posters from the 1930’s that present this idea. The German working man was told that he was being weighed down economically by having to provide not only for himself and family but for these useless eaters as well. He was told how unfair this was to him.
So, German psychiatry decided that they needed to purge the “mentally ill” and got the backing and permission of the government to carry out this purge. Every “mentally ill” person had to go through the review by two psychiatrists. If one of the two psychiatrists gave a thumbs down to you, you were bundled up and carted off to one of these six cities. You were then forced to go into a “shower” room where you would be packed with many others till there was standing room only. Originally these people were gassed by using diesel exhaust from large engines. Later the Nazis, who would take over this plan, would use zyklon B I think it was called. There were ovens built at these disposal centers where the bodies would be burned. Then, a death certificate was sent to the person’s family stating that you died of a sudden illness. Later on the gas chambers and ovens were taken over by the Nazis as part of the Final Solution.
During the war the program was discontinued against the “mentally ill” only because of the difficulty of the logistics. However, American soldiers told of going into “mental hospitals” and asylums for the insane and finding dead bodies of patients who’d been starved to death and they found people in the process of starving. They may not have been able to transport and gas them so they just starved them to death. You’ve go to be pretty damned cold hearted to watch people starve to death over a number of days. But this is what American soldiers found from one asylum to the next.
This is not a matter of alternative facts. It happened and you can’t erase it or wish it had never happened. This is one of the reasons that the Nazi doctors, the wonderful psychiatrists, were hung at the Nuremburg trials after the war.
And the interesting fact is that many American psychiatrists supported the things done by German psychiatry! This is attested to by the keynote address at the 1941 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. Of course I’m sure that the APA doesn’t want to have a big discussion about this at all.
I should say not. Alternative history is history that never happened. So deny that little bit of the holocaust, and you’re way up there with those who would deny the rest of it.
I am NOT denying these events. I am sorry for using evasive language. I was facetiously referencing the way in which oppressors dismiss such revelations. “Alternative facts” meanings facts which are refused.
Chris – it has taken awhile to comment because now I find your use of the b word triggering. But that is my issue at this time not yours at this time.
In the past in my journey, I did try to embrace the whole label role. Actually in NAMI money donation literature they suggest you use your label while asking for donations. In an act of protest I choose to use the s word. Because I knew it had negative connotations in the community and just to show what embracing the label could do in a community.
My letter donation campaign resulted in police calls to my house. No ever came up to ask me what my story was.
So I literally shot myself in the proverbial foot by following in pa resistant way NAMI ‘s advice.
Prior to this my child’s soccer coach had relayed once finding I was a LISW that his brother was a s and had issues also another writer friend needed help with a relative who needed some help who was also labeled s. To their credit they were not dismissive but genuially confused and now that I know so much about the survivor movement I wish I could do a do over spend get them both connected to this site and other groups. I know they would not only listen but learn.
At one of my CUEs before I quit the profession the presenter basically dissed the entire DSM process and said they gather in a basement and hold up their hands for options. And this was for the DSM III R.
If you want t embrace the bi concept – whatever works- however you are on the journey and this may or may not be the last stop for you.
I look to nature and science.
And it shows many diverse patterns beside the binary system. Artists also talk about the four season cycle- so maybe one can call themselves a quad?
Prosody in Poetry has all sorts of patterns- one could use as a snapshot or label. Today I am a trochee. Tomorrow or next year I will be an iambic pentameter.
Fractals! Maybe some of us are fractal people?
Humans for better or worse have always exhibited a need for classification. The Caste System in India is ancient.
We also have both expressed and nonexpressedneeds for community.
One time s relative who had a DD child said, he could be in society but stress symptoms would start and back in another more DDish community the stress symptoms would disappear or be less.
One needs to live in multiple communities and how do we manage that? How do we talk to one another?
And add to that Trauma and Yikes everything becomes more confused and harder to find solutions.
The Irish still talk of The Battle of the Boyne and Oliver Cromwell and it’s is centuries! And Armenians still cope with the trauma of their own genocide over a centryry ago. And African Americans still deal with the memory of The Midfle Passage.
Some of us carry remnants of the Neanderthals in our biological make up. What happened to an entire once thriving species?
After a war and most wars eventually end even the 100 years war ended there is always the next morning and people have to live with each other. I try to remember that though so easy to forget.
What do we say to each other in the morning after a war?
How has it be done in the past?
What happens to language?
What happens to memory?
What happens to art?
As angry as I can sometimes get and rightfully so I don’t want to have to deal with an involvement of an atrocity.
But then again there was a movement against Hitler?
What happened to its survivors?
And when one dismantles – how does one rebuild?
And what about the cornerstone or keystone in a foundation of s building? If it is damaged or rotten what is done?
More questions than answers here,
count me as a fractal. I like that. a lot.
I’m a sonnet. Lol.
Chris Cole wrote: “I want the world to be a safer place for extreme states, states of madness, altered states of consciousness, mental health crises, and mental illness of all kinds. This is what is most important to me. If I can help it, the language used to get us there will serve as a tool toward deeper understanding and higher complexity. This is why I’m “proud,” and “mad,” ,,,”
Can’t argue with that. Nice one. Shake hands. Can we go back to “manic depression”?
What is the difference between bipolar and schizophrenia? A GP claimed it was insight. Bipolarites and Bipolaresses retain insight. Whereas people deemed schizophrenic don’t. Schizophrenia I’m told is the lack of insight. Similar symptoms but the loss of the insight mojo?
“What is the difference between bipolar and schizophrenia?” Whatever your shrink says it is.
What is insight? Unquestioning acceptance of whatever your shrink tells you.
I hope you don’t mind me flagging the good bits.
Chris Cole wrote: “Part of our challenge with social justice and mental health is that so many bipolar folks need to remain closeted to survive. When I was having manic episodes, I didn’t know anyone else who had ever had a single experience like mine. When I say, “I’m bipolar,” I’m acknowledging that there is something different about me neurologically that makes me more sensitive to emotional, sensory, and energetic shifts. I wholeheartedly feel that I can be bipolar, as a distinction from psychiatric disorder or illness. The discomfort of painful symptoms exists in the relationship between my neurodivergent body and a society which marginalizes difference. My disability exists primarily between bodies, in the crowded spaces of ignorance and intolerance.”
The best place I ever found for all this was in the setting of a lovely Norwegian family, and a big old fire and mountains in every direction. On that occasion I was high despite of the high doses of Depakote (a word which conjures indigenous tribes and animal skins and obscure hallucinogenic flower-buds)… maybe the Depakote Tribe did hold me back a little, in conjunction with the warm and welcoming Norwegian family…
It was there I truly learnt the power of the mountains and Nature’s harsh lessons awaiting. You’re never on your own in the wild, even in solitude. In the darkening woods eyes are watching you. The crow circles you, expectant.
What magnificent wildernesses aware of you in North America. So why suffer the bright artificial lights and the artificial challenges.
As many of the writers you allude to agree on: the challenge of Nature is within you, and you either make it mythic or a tragicomedy.
I’m very skilled at tragicomedy. All mad people are.
you can talk all you want about not liking certain names …
but the human sufferings are not going away…
more has to be done than just changing names…
I choose to use my word for my condition UNIPOLAR…
and I am only interested in the truth…
It’s not a question of liking or not liking names. It’s a question of pretending to know things that we don’t. For example, pretending that all people who ‘have depression’ are alike and have the same needs.
You can call yourself “unipolar” if that explains things for you, but it’s different when a whole profession pretends it can reliably identify “unipolar” people and assert that they know what is “wrong” with that person and what they can do about it.
Think about this: do you have to decide if you “like” the name of a broken leg, a syphillis infection, or a heart attack? Of course not. Because you can easily and reliably separate people with broken legs from people who don’t have them by a simple x-ray. It’s not right to tell people that they “have depression” when they may literally have NOTHING in common with another person who “has depression” except for how they feel.
You can describe your own condition in any way you like. Professionals are held to a higher standard – they need to be honest about what they know and don’t know and can’t diagnose you based on how you or how they feel about the label they put on you.
Steve McCrea wrote: “Because you can easily and reliably separate people with broken legs from people who don’t have them by a simple x-ray.”
This isn’t a convincing potrayal of modern general medicine. It deliberately ignores the functional disorders. Functional disorders such as fibromyalgia, dementia, interstitial cystitis, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and so on are untestable yet given names and treated by general medicine.
Wikipedia wrote: “Generally, the mechanism that causes a functional disorder is unknown, poorly understood, or occasionally unimportant for treatment purposes. The brain or nerves are often believed to be involved. It is common that a person with one functional disorder will have others.”
Steve McCrea wrote: “It’s not right to tell people that they “have depression” when they may literally have NOTHING in common with another person who “has depression” except for how they feel.”
Isn’t that all the word depression does? The chemical imbalance narrative is something people can take or leave.
You have a problem in your brain. Take a drug, feel better. Now that you feel better you might be more motivated to tackle the psychosocial problems fomenting your unhappiness. You may also be at risk from finding the motivation to kill yourself. This is why it is important to identify people at risk and do something socially to help them.
I agree that not enough is done socially. As littleturtle has put it previously: there is too much biobiobio and not enough biopsychosocial.
But must the bio be the first action to take?
Probably not. And so there needs to be much more nuance. As discussed in the Power Threat Meaning discourse.
One major problem of that discourse is how many will consider its recommendations as politicised. Although I don’t know how it would be possible to critique any mental health system without getting the government hot and bothered.
Unipolar sounds like a bipolar that has had their mania amputated.
I agree with you, Steve.
are you agreeing with everything steve is saying…
what are you agreeing with chris..
steve you have mentioned some of the problems with the word UNIPOLAR…
do you have anything to say about how that word might be helpful to some persons
suffering with a mood disorder….do you have a problem with the words mood disorder…
Bipolar v. Disorder summary:
The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder is merely a set of symptoms; hopefully we agree on that. I am saying that these symptoms do not exist in pathology of the individual, but rather exist between an individual and systems. Thus, I am bipolar, in the sense that I am capable of producing such symptoms, in systems, in situations, in which others do not share my experiences. The extent to which people experience arousal, dissociation, agitation, elation, madness, etc.—in similar conditions—is an expression of diversity, driven by the demands of the conditions.
I think you’re onto something with that definition.
Bipolar is something embodied and manifests in situations. Or to put it even simpler, bipolar is a state of being in an environment.
There are gregarious people that become mute and withdrawn in certain situations. There are confident actors who fall to pieces when trying to order in restaurants.
So bipolar is simply a more extreme example of contradictory states that can come about in the same person.
Where do the hallucinations, mixed states, anhedonia, insomnia, grandiosity and complex delusions fit in? They don’t all have obvious opposites. In fact mixed states are opposites somehow co-existing.
What’s the extreme opposite of an hallucination? Not hallucinating? A coma?
I don’t understand this and am backing away again.
The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder is merely a set of symptoms; hopefully we agree on that.
No, we DON’T agree on that is what many people here are saying. The criteria for a pseudo-medical mislabeling of “bipolar” is NOT a list of “symptoms,” but of thoughts, feelings, perceptions or behaviors. They are only “symptoms” if you accept the psychiatric mindset. You are only bipolar “in the sense” that you seem attached to the designation, rather than ready to reject it entirely.
One day, I hope we get to shake hands, look into each other’s faces, maybe hug. This feels like pettiness now. You’re attacking words I used to argue points I’m not making.
Don’t we all just want to know that in the end everything will be okay? It will. Thank God! I swear to God much of the reason the system has treated us so poorly is sheer fear. I guess when gods actually walk among mortals, the mortals squeak and quake! These observations are not delusional or grandiose in my opinion; all we have to do is define our terms. If we’ve made it to another plane of consciousness, relative to the poor trapped lesser beings we really are gods. And they just can’t handle it! Mysterious.
I’m not “attacking words,” but evaluating their legitimacy. “Symptoms” go with “diseases,” and we’re talking about neither. Maybe we’ll shake hands someday, but that doesn’t really have much to do with the matters being debated here.
Logocentric excessive overanalysis and using only one side of our brains makes us get worked up and angry with one another when I feel we are often saying the same thing.
Brilliant posts, detailed responses from Oldhead and some others as usual. I am sorry for the time wasted however, a lot of time on my hands being no excuse. Maybe it’s not so rare to witness so many words articulated to say so little.
As for bipolar didn’t there used to be manic depression, a real enough experience maybe, bipolar is just another unreliable, invalid diagnostic monster, a vast expansion for obvious reasons. Depression has the purpose of teaching us not to be depressed, another real enough experience (and horrible too), mania, according to some is built upon a melancholic outlook might have the purpose to also teach us – not to be manic, maybe! At least according to some admirable wise woman. As for bi-polar who can tell what that might be.
Chris congratulations for having moved a few step from the central ideology of bio-bio-bio-psychiatry, if you have, realising that other people exist and that our relations, current, past and our hopes of the future are key to understanding our minds, in extreme states of distress or otherwise – whatever you imagine is the need for ‘psychiatric’ interventions the answer to our perplextion is always away from any system of care, unless you work there. – – Anyway keep moving!
Working on a lexicon for Psychspeak.
Creativity: Mental disorder.
Sense of humor: Mental disorder.
Brain: Cancer. (2) Vestigial organ found in those we treat.
Personality: A collection of mental disorders.
Empathy: Obstacle to helping the mentally ill.
You cannot get around the fact that psychiatry invented the term “Bipolar’ and went on to define its meaning within its oppressive paradigm of Disease/Drug based “treatment.”
Let them completely own the term with all its contradictions of science and morality. Let them stutter and squirm when they attempt to explain their NONSENSE that can’t be proven OR justified. Let’s NOT engage in verbal gymnastics to somehow confuse this very important debate and area of contention.
Chris, you said:
“The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder is merely a set of symptoms; hopefully we agree on that. I am saying that these symptoms do not exist in pathology of the individual, but rather exist between an individual and systems.”
Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are somehow different or odd from the norm (but completely understandable human responses when the true circumstances for their emergence are understood) are NOT “symptoms.” This is their attempt to “medicalize” a normal response to abnormal conditions in the world, and/or pathologize necessary human conflict with one’s stressful and often oppressive environment.
Chris, this is exactly another way of saying what you meant with your following words:
“The extent to which people experience arousal, dissociation, agitation, elation, madness, etc.—in similar conditions—is an expression of diversity, driven by the demands of the conditions.”
Using “Bipolar” to define the above conditions, ultimately allows the enemy to develop and define the language and terms of the discussion within their oppressive and corrupt Medical Model, and forces us into various forms of verbal gymnastics. This ends up allowing them to control the terms of the debate and overall battle. This is NOT a winning strategy here.
Chris, the beauty of your narrative and the depth of your powerful analysis is undermined by the use of THEIR terminology. Please reconsider dropping their language and getting into a more complete “deconstruction” mode.
“Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are somehow different or odd from the norm (but completely understandable human responses when the true circumstances for their emergence are understood) are NOT ‘symptoms.'”
I agree that they are not “symptoms” but thoughts/feelings/behaviors that don’t fit the norm are not necessarily anything other than authentic. Everyone has their unique process, that would be the diversity. Calling them “odd” sets up a social hierarchy based on marginalization. Needing to fit in or gain approval from the norm is what is overwhelmingly stressful. Being authentically one’s self, despite the norm, is what liberates a person. Dare to be different. It is not only courageous, but it is what leads to change. In fact, I’d say it IS the change!
Let’s cut the crap. None of us is bipolar. We can all count past two. Maybe psychiatrists and the like cannot, glutted as they are on their religion of scientism. They are on a lower plane of consciousness. I suppose we should have compassion on them. However, I think we should go ahead and label our experiences what they are: visionary states, shamanistic journeys, death-rebirth, self-sacrifice, psychic perception, intimations of eternity, blah blah blah. We’ve stolen fire from heaven; returned back to the Cave with the good news; and well, suffered as everybody must for this experience. I think we can go ahead and claim our wisdom. They owe us an apology.
Excellent summary of the situation!
The “bipolar” monster is much like the “schizophrenia” monster, isn’t it? You need specially designed glasses to see it.
i have a UNIPOLAR mood disorder…
i have an excellent psychiatrist…
i take 5 mg of celexa daily…
i am trying to withdraw from it…
i don’t believe that NOT using those words..
is going to help me at all….
i actually like the word UNIPOLAR..
and if i stop using that word UNIPOLAR…
my suffering will not get any better…
i am tired of all the craptalk here…..
I have a MENTAL ILLNESS…and it is awful..
don’t be talking that it just has to do about moving on…
I am UNIPOLAR and I will get help anywhere I find it…
and I don’t find much kindness here..i find hate and anger…
and that will go NOWHERE..
Congratulations for writing this beautifully written thought-provoking article. The responses that you received clearly indicate the mental and physical energy we use to hold on to our experience-honed beliefs. Like most, I have beliefs that challenge my ability to be open, but at this stage in my life, being open and recognizing the influence and exertions of ego and their effects on me, are the tasks I value for my personal growth. Currently I am co-writing an invited article for the Humanistic Psychology Journal’s special issue on de-constructing diagnosis. The article examines how names are used historically and across cultures. . . . moves into the impact of psychiatric diagnosis. I am hoping that the article will help us ponder naming power and its impact on how we think and live.. Thanks Chris for having the courage and clarity to expose your thoughts and beliefs to critical examination here.
Can’t keep the pace and read all the comments, many I appreciate very much, by the way but thanks Chriss fir a very thoughtful article. Reminds me that bipolar disorder was once part of the “affective” disorders and now, as psychiatry is “full” biological, they deem it better to talk about the “mood disorders. And way back, there where many types of disorders that could look like bipolar but had different meanings and causative factors (for e., cyclothymia, brief psychotic disorders etc.). I’m still very ambivalent about reclaiming the term bipolar for many of the reasons others here argue against it and especially because it has acquired pejorative sub-meanings ant that can be very hazardous. Juste like we got ride of overused and insulting word like “idioty’ out of the medical jargon. I think bipolar has already done great harm and should be abandoned. It is way too tricky and conjures up way too many bad images. But if ever I meet again with a psychiatrist that seems to talk like Chriss, I will be delighted to use it. How many out there, 1 in 10 million ?
Well, a woman on staff where I work has an interesting story to tell about her mother and brother. Her brother was “diagnosed” at a young age as being bi-polar. Their mother, who happens to be a nurse, was told that he needed to be put immediately on “medication” since he would be “ill” for life. His mother took him home and said that was all a lot of bull manure. She never applied the label of “bi-polar” to him and never used it at home when he experienced issues. She never told everyone she could about how her son was “bi-polar”. She never did put him on anything and he is now grown and owns and runs his own plumbing business. In fact, it’s a very profitable business that provides for him and his family. Encouraged by his mother he dated and got married and has children. Does he experience difficulties at times in his life? Yes, but he knows how to deal with those difficulties without resorting to the drugs that would disrupt his life and his business for good. I know that this is only one story about all of this but it’s an uplifting piece of information. One man who is productive and seemingly happy with his life was saved by his mother who refused to put him on the drugs as the wonderful psychiatrist instructed her to do.
If there is one story out there like this there have to be more.
Great story! It proves that the framing you put on a problem or issue has a large impact on the results you get. Choosing to label has consequences. Choosing NOT to label has consequences, too.
Coming from a man, and not a woman (I imagine it’s true, you are a guy) is even more inspiring. Had her kid been catalogued as “bi-word”would have benne probably very devastating. But “mommy nurse” was well attuned to the system and spared him that terrible ordeal.Your story is like a fable, with a good ending. Thanks. And it also says something terribly wrong with the word “bipolar”. Life can take a large variety of “wrong ways” and to put a name on only the variant (up and down) is so reductionist, Life has it’s ups and downS. I dont believe everybody is bipolar. But, for sure, everyone have theirs highs, and their lows. Mi bipolar experience was not between being depressed and hypomanic : it was between being full of enthusiasm and discouraged or apprehensive for the futur of life on earth, not only mine, but the one of my children and all their counterparts.
Chris your words mean the world to me as I attempt to process the witnessing of the first manic episode of a close, loved family member. I appreciate your ability to put words around this in a way that I feel preserves the dignity of those who experience similar moments. Thank you.
Great writing Chris.
You can identify, own and keep the label, and others can ditch it if they like.
I am confused by the label since I have no clue what a bipolar person is or does.
So they are different from myself? And here I assumed we were all the same.
Why can’t you make up your own label for yourself, or many?
I am completely lost because I don’t know that the label describes anything or anyone,
nor do I know the source as reliable.
After all, the label was chosen out of a hat.
Perhaps you are like most “different people”, in that you could have many labels?
Being bipolar just seems too limiting.
Psychiatrist are “different people” also. What label belongs to them? After all, we are all “different”, so there must be labels for all of us.
And let’s not pretend that we only get labels if we are “bothered” by whatever or whoever we are bothered by.
There are absolute destroyers in our midst who are not “bothered”, who “function” in their roles.
Actually it is a huge majority.
And to boot.
Glad you found us. Who is “us”.
We are all different.
Sorry but I assume your label has not caused you being minimized in other areas, such as having any credibility as far as telling a doctor you have physical pain, or that you have a right to be a father despite your label.
If someone has ulterior motives, they indeed can and will use your bought label against you.
That is defamation and is exactly what a label is, despite the fact you might not have experienced the backlash of your “characterization”
It is NOT an illness, it is someone describing a character. Can you use words such as “gregarious”, “creative”, “being unhappy”
When you are unhappy, is there a reason? If you are happy, are there reasons?
Labels are an invention, not a description of people.
This is such simplifying, and I sure as hell hope you don’t tell your kids you are “bipolar”
ESPECIALLY if you are trying to cop out or explain why you did what you did.
And this is not saying you should not proudly own it, proclaim it, but it is not exactly like you and I being of different political or religious persuasion.
I do not belong to cults.