In the last few days the bipolar blogosphere has been in an uproar about a post from OpinionatedMan. In it he said,“I get amused by people who claim to be bi polar.” [sic]
Naturally, some people were upset.
It is hurtful to think that someone is amused by our illness. We do not have it in order to be entertainment for others. We do not expect a mild chuckle or a small, wry grin when we reveal that we have a psychiatric illness. We do not find the symptoms, the therapy, the medication, the limitations – the bipolar life – amusing. Not to ourselves and certainly not for the amusement of others.
It is also offensive that he spoke of people who “claim” to have bipolar disorder. There is some debate about whether he meant “claim” in the sense of “say they have but not necessarily truthfully” or in the sense of “own the reality of and identify with,” and, to be fair, since the post was intended as poetry, it could be both.
Although “bipolar” is popular shorthand for someone who has ordinary mood swings, making free with the term “bipolar” is like comparing someone who’s in a bad mood with someone who is clinically depressed. We wouldn’t claim it (in either sense) if it weren’t so.
That’s enough to be upset about, but I think the rest of the post was troubling as well. OM portrayed himself as “multipolar,” implying that his multipolar life is a source of his depth of feeling and writing prowess.
The author thereby denigrates others who struggle with bipolar disorder yet try to create meaning. Many of us write, blog, draw, sculpt, or otherwise avail ourselves of creative outlets. For OM to think that his supposed extreme affliction makes him more creative, a better wordsmith, a creator of higher art than anyone with ordinary bipolar disorder is insulting.
Saying that his condition is multipolar as opposed to bipolar gets us into a game of “Whose life sucks the most?” (The loser is also the winner.) We are to think that no one has suffered as he does, and that no one is a comparable artist. It’s a version of the humble-brag – I’m worse off than you and I’m also better than you.
Of course the author has the right to believe as he does and to say what he does. I would not have him stop writing. But those of us who felt his words as wounds are entitled to speak up as well. Though he has a much larger platform than most of us, his words are not automatically more powerful than ours.
This is my opinion. Others differ. Here’s the link (http://aopinionatedman.com/2015/12/02/journal-entry-4/) so you can read and decide for yourself how you feel about it. He has apologized and claimed he meant no harm, and has been bashed and trolled, which is not my intention. Think of this as literary criticism from a former English teacher. As always, YMMV.