The big C word and the sting of stigma.

A few days ago in my Photography class one of the other students got very offended by the way another student used the word “crazy,” and the manner in which it was being applied to people. There seems to be a reaction from loved ones of those with mental illness akin to loved ones of those who have a lifelong physical condition or a terminal illness. It is in no way misguided because it is a protective instinct stemming from love, but it may be misplaced. In high school if my gym teacher heard you say “retard,” you just earned yourself a trip to the office. His wife worked in the special needs room at the elementary school across the street, and we would take a visit each semester and spend time with her students. I think it was great for all of us. It decreased any kind of fear we had, and increased our understanding and knowledge. This situation is almost identical to how many loved ones feel about the word “crazy.” I don’t give a shit if you call me crazy because I am. But, don’t try and tell me you’re not. We live in a world where political correctness knows no bounds. When it comes down to it words are words, they are a jumble of signs and sounds that are given meaning by the people that use them. Next time you get offended by a word (if you even do) just remember that. Sticks and stones break bones, not words. Why let it trip you up? Personally, I have a hard enough time managing my own damn brain, and I don’t need to worry about what’s going on in anyone else’s.

 This all did get me thinking about the way people without any kind of mental illness react to those that are lucky enough to have one. I personally have come across all kinds of reactions upon informing others of my bipolar. The three most common for me have been:

1. Fear. Obviously I am a rogue animal that could snap at any second, so you better think twice about making sudden movements and treating me like everyone else.

2. Disbelief. I can’t see it, therefore it’s not there. Well, no, it’s not a damn compound fracture. This used to really piss me off, or chap my ass as my mother would say. Due to this, I have mostly come to terms with the one dimensional thinking that plagues a good portion of humanity. I realize that a lack of understanding will always be there for those that don’t have bipolar, but I can’t see many physical ailments that people have and I don’t for a second doubt their suffering or the strength that has grown with it.

3. Quit whining. This can go hand in hand with disbelief. Many people view bipolar as situational. It’s not. This isn’t a reaction to everyday stressors, it is a mental illness. A lot of the time I can get a grip when it comes to school, work, car trouble, relationship/friendship/family woes and what have you. The daily stuff everyone deals with. What goes on in my head is an illness, a physical illness. There are chemicals up there that I do not control, it is part of my reality and it blows. My favorite part of this reaction is when people try to one up me. Like I work 3 jobs and go to school part time and have a kid on each hip. Well, I applaud you, I really do. But, I am not going to sit here and try to convince you what I go through is worse. Why? Because everyone has different tolerance levels, problems, triggers etc. And I am not one to compare scrapes and say mine is bigger so you go rub some dirt in yours, you sissy. I don’t believe that you can even compare what one person goes through to another.

There is also a lot of stigma around mental illness, and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Let’s face it, this is due mostly to misinformation. I do what I can to inform myself and those around me. I don’t expect anyone to read the books I throw at them, but I do buy them.

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