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The “C” Word

June 4, 2013

No, no, no, not THAT “C”-word……I meant The “C” Word. As in “crazy”.

I can’t speak for all bipolar people, of course, but I’d have to guess that most don’t particularly like having that term applied to them. It sounds so “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”-ish. Who wants to be associated with images of straitjackets and padded rooms?

Part of my personal issue with the “C” word is the fact that it’s slung about so carelessly. There is actually a bedroom-furniture store in my area of the country that calls itself “Mattress Mania” where, according to the commercials, their customers “save like CRAZY!!” I’d like to think that the suits who run the company came up with this out of ignorance, but there are times I feel like writing to them and asking them if they ever once considered how it might come across to people who suffer from real, live mania (and don’t want to be called crazy).

So…..are bipolars crazy?

Natasha Tracy, a bipolar blogger of considerable repute, says she is. She wears her BP colors proudly, even defiantly, and has no problem calling things as she sees them. I want to be her when I grow up. But somehow I doubt I’d ever be comfortable with using “crazy” to describe what I go through with this illness. Sometimes I’m out of control, strung out, not in my right mind, even desperately ill…..but I am not, nor have I ever been crazy. Capisce?

Fortunately, I don’t face this situation often….for one thing, I’m able to maintain at least SOME dignity even during a mood episode, and have thus far managed to refrain from swinging from the chandelier or mooning some poor schmuck driving down the interstate. (Well, except for this one time when I was with some friends and we were all pretty wasted……)

In fact, the only time I’ve been called crazy was a few months ago, back when I was still employed, and my assistant and I were taking a break and talking about some unusually heavy stuff. She was aware of my ‘nonconformity’ and tried very hard to understand, even when I was off my rocker and behaving erratically, and when she used the “C” word, it was in the context of trying to explain my own illness to me: “But it’s not your fault that you’re crazy, it’s the bad genes you got and the brain chemistry that’s out of whack.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to use a few of my choicest adult words in response; luckily, I was pretty stable at that time and I was able to swallow them, realizing in that same instant that her intentions were wholly benign—she had no IDEA of how much I dislike that word. That’s one of the aspects of stability that I really love and wish I could experience all the time….the nanosecond or two between an act or a statement I consider insulting and the knee-jerk reaction, which has enabled me to save several relationships since I’ve been medicated.

So my sweet little helper went on her way, believing she’d offered something of value to the dialogue and never knowing that for an instant, I’d wanted to belt her over the head with a copy of the DSM-IV.

Now THAT would’ve been crazy!

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