As I’m learning, one of the challenges of running a bipolar blog is finding stuff to write about when I’m not actively…..well…..bipolar. But not to worry: just when I’m sure I’m about to run out of BP-related stories, along comes a little gem like this one.
This afternoon after work, my husband, youngest son and I went to see my sister at her new assisted-living facility to celebrate her birthday. The building, which sits somewhere out in Bumf*ck, Egypt—OK, it’s more like Oregon’s wine country—isn’t easy to get to and it’s definitely not on the way to anywhere, so visits are few and far between.
But it was worth it to see Louise’s face light up as we brought in the cake and the gifts, and after all the mutual pleasantries were exchanged, we all settled in to listen to some juicy gossip about a few of her fellow residents….one of whom has apparently been exhibiting some behaviors that remind her of me when I’m symptomatic.
Unfortunately, this woman happens to live right next door to Louise AND sits at her dining-room table, and she’s been making trouble ever since Louise had the audacity to try to help her understand her erratic moods. Evidently this neighbor doesn’t see them in the same light as the casual observer, so Louise mentioned one day that she had a sister with bipolar disorder, and that some of the neighbor’s actions seemed eerily familiar.
Now, I’m surprised my sister actually said something like this to a person she barely knows, but then it apparently never occurred to Louise that this lady might be offended at the suggestion. After all, Louise lived with me for years and honestly doesn’t equate BP with “crazy”—to her, that’s just the way I’ve always been, “and thank God we found out what it was!”
Well, when Ms. Not-Crazy heard this, she flipped out and went off on Louise right there at the table: “How DARE you say such a thing to me?!” she shouted, and proceeded to rant in such a fashion that Louise decided that her own apartment was much safer, and left the dining room. The next day, she was the recipient of a four-page handwritten letter denouncing her at length for her rude, inappropriate, nasty, and generally bad behavior.(!)
At this point in the conversation, Louise produced the letter and gave it to me to read. The print was neat and precise; the wording repetitious and full of venom. There were accusations that Louise was “not qualified to diagnose any psychiatric condition” (true) and that she was “ruining other peoples’ lives with your rude, inappropriate, nasty behavior” (bullshit). The letter further indicted her on charges of “trying to make people fit into a narrow little box”, “calling me ‘crazy'”, and “thinking everyone is mentally ill just because your sister is bipolar”.
I was sorely tempted to run over, knock on the neighbor’s door, and introduce myself with a silly grin on my face: “Hi! I’m Louise’s bipolar sister, nice to meet you!” If I’d been manic, I probably would have. But having all my wits about me for a change, I resisted….after all, my poor sister has to live with this dingbat.
Still, I have to feel sorry for the woman because I know what it is to suffer for decades without realizing that I had a diagnosable and treatable illness. Like many of her generation—and most of society—she’s probably frightened of and repulsed by “crazy” people and would never want to be associated with them, let alone BE one of them. What she doesn’t know is that embracing the crazy, calling it by its name, and accepting treatment for it is the only way to power through it. And that’s sad.
But that’s where my pity ends…..if she goes off on my sister again, THIS bipolar broad is gonna bring it!