Your Stigma, Your Weakness…My Label, My Strength

 
You’re solar, bipolar 

Panic disorder 
Seems harder and harder and harder 
Still you try to control it 
You’re a symptom superficial 
To what they call knowing you 
Minus the speed, 
Could you imagine the phobia? 

“X-Amount Of Words”… lyrics, Blue October
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Sleeping Beauty is popping pills and is an addict who could benefit from NA or AA. Picocchio is anorexic who suffers from body dismorphic disorder and can’t stop getting his nose done. Betty Boop suffers from self-esteem issues because of her speech impediment and works the streets of Beverly Hills.
Fred Flintstone is dyslexic. Popeye is in serious need of anger management classes. Tom and Jerry haven’t come out of the closet yet. Bugs Bunny is a womanizing sex addict. Batman and Robin are tights wearing transvestites who shack up together. Charlie Brown is in need of an antidepressant, but at least he’s trying; he’s seeing a shrink! And Spongebob…well, he’s just plain retarded.
See how that works? How easy that was?   I put a label on famous cartoon characters. And I don’t even feel threatened by them. Although I do have the advantage of my education in psychology. But the point is still the same. “They are different. They are not like me, therefore society says I must put a label on them.”
But labels only provide a brief description of a package’s content. It’s what’s behind that that’s the problem. If it wasn’t for what’s behind then there wouldn’t be a label. Take the classic innocent characters from Winnie the Pooh for example. This is what I’ve come up.
Winnie the Pooh’s label: ADHD with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Here’s a bear that could definitely benefit from a low dose of Ritalin; maybe even an antidepressant. First of all, he can’t seem to get his name right. Who calls themselves “pooh?” Anyway, “Pooh” obviously suffers from ADHD. Combine his hoarding and collecting of pots with other obsessive compulsive behaviors and you have obvious symptoms of OCD.
Piglet’s label: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Although with his lack of maturity putting Valium or Xanax up to his responsibility would not be recommended. In any case it would have saved him from the emotional trauma experienced while attempting to trap heffalumps.
Eeyore’s label:  Major Depressive Disorder: Chronic with catatonic Features: Without Interepisode Recovery. Neurotically pessimistic, is in need of acute inpatient treatment for periodic suicidal ideation to begin medication treatment and intensive cognitive behavioral therapy. One screwed up donkey.
Tigger’s label: Bipolar 1, Recurrent, Most Recent Episode Manic, Moderate with Psychotic Features. Tigger stays in a constant whirlwind of rapid cycling between mania and depression with his bipolar that consists of delusional thinking. A trial of lithium might do him some good combined with another mood stabilizer since he leans more towards the manic side.
Robin, although not suffering from a current diagnosable psychiatric disorder, obviously exhibits signs of concerns. The boy’s lack of parental supervision, care and behavior indicates emotional neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, this neglect has lead Robin’s mind to escape from reality with the possible label of Conversion Disorder or Somatization Disorder. Robin seems to have formed a place called One Hundred Acre Woods through delusional thinking. To him Pooh and the other characters are real and have become fragments of his mind while serving the purpose of providing him companionship and escape.
Sadly the forest is not, in fact, a place of enchantment, but rather one of disenchantment, where neuro-developmental and psycho-social problems go unrecognized and untreated.
I probably just ruined Winnie the Pooh for you. I apologize. But the point is; labels are so easy to plant on what is different; especially on what seems abnormal. And it happens for different reasons. Out of fear of what’s different. There may not be some kind of specific formed assumptions of behaviors, but none the less beliefs and actions speak louder than words. This stigma isn’t formed out of ignorance. One doesn’t realize they are ignorant other than something is odd…something is different. And if it’s different, then it’s not right. And if it’s not right, therefore it must be bad.
“Don’t you prefer to be different? Doesn’t your soul cry out for it? Maybe it just happens. It happens I am different. It happens you are not. Then you are the same. The same as what?…as everyone else? Then I am wrong because I am different? You would feel better if I were like you. But I am like you. God made me exactly like you…unique!”                        Lupe, Aug 19, 2004
Within the last week I can recall at least 4 occasions of verbal references to, “being crazy,” “crazy people,” “going nuts,” flipping out unless they had their meds, insane people, and I think others all at my place of employment alone. They were all being sarcastic and none towards anyone. But it reflects society’s attitudes. I wonder how conversations would change if I were to address the issue; considering they are legally liable for it and that it is grounds for legal action. My bipolar has just as much protection as does my Parkinson’s and my employer’s go out of their way to accommodate me for it. I once had a job working forty plus hours a week. When they discovered I was bipolar I was immediately cut to working 8 hour shifts on Saturday & Sunday. Stigma.
Some of us are familiar with the stigma that’s a result of a label. You have a before and an after. First you were sane, and then you are insane. First you were dad, and then now you are expendable, deadbeat, a monthly check. First you were the outgoing friend, now you are the weird one. First you were the trusted employee, now you are barely getting part-time hours. Stigma.
I once had a friend for a few years in the midst of my years of pre-bipolar diagnosis. It was during an episode of severe depression I was diagnosed with bipolar after years of cycling. My friend stopped being my friend. She became my enemy. She then viewed everything I had done before as threatening simply because of a label. Stigma
My label was used against me in not only my own custody battle, but my current wife’s custody battle as well. Though those battles have been fought and the wars have been won, the damages are still evident and the wounded still walk.
Never a day of violence, nor a moment of violence in my life, my diagnosis of bipolar was painted up for all the world to see as along with its stereotypical stigma as if some kind of tattoo on my forehead that I was sentenced to wear. Not one, but in two towns the attempts were made to take my children away, as well as my wife’s, with the stigma of my bipolar as my attackers ammunition. The truth was, they didn’t even believe their own stigma they were peddling. They were simply regurgitating what our social media has flooded our society with. Taking advantage of it. Declaring our children were in danger and I was unfit to care for them in spite of the fact this woman had been my wife for previous seven years and witnessed me care for our children as a stay-at-home-dad for 90% of our marriage and that our boys were “daddy’s boys.” Stigma and labels don’t seem to stop there being involved in custody dispute. While the term’s “deadbeat dad” never surfaced it was strongly implied.
But am I a victim of labels, bipolar, Parkinson, step-dad, weekend dad, race…of stigma? Absolutely not. Maybe I was in the past, but I realized long ago to see someone’s weakness when they stigmatize. “Maybe you have unresolved hurt; a past you just can’t seem to deal with yet. Or maybe, you’re just an idiot jerk with no heart and I’m actually stronger than you. Maybe that’s why you are stigmatizing me and trying to make yourself better; because you are weak. Come to think of it, how many times have you walked through hell? How many times have you dealt with people like yourself? How many times have you felt soulless to the point that death doesn’t even seem the answer? How many times have you ever tried to catch a bullet fired from a gun? Because that’s what it feels like in this dawdling world when I can’t slow down. And the best you have for me are ugly words? Oh please! Your stigma is your weakness…my label is my pride.
Who inspires you?
Is it a celebrity? A military hero? Someone who has contributed to society? A wealthy person who unselfishly gives? Maybe a teacher or your parents who tells you that you can do anything? In the midst of my most hellish years on this earth so far, mine were my own attackers. I penned the following words in my journal in early 2008 while fighting the two cases of stigma,
“To all of you that tell me I am incapable of succeeding and accomplishing my dreams…to all of you that tell me I am inadequate because I am Bipolar…to all of you that go out of your way to tell others that I am crazy and I am a poster child for the mentally ill I say thank you for not believing in me. To all of you that fight to convince others I am a danger to my children because I’m Bipolar.  It is you who push me to aspire to prove you wrong and to show others the only thing that gets in one’s way is themselves. It is you who try to keep me from accomplishing my goals in life that have given me the drive to press on. I owe my college education and dreams to you. So I say Thank You! Thank you for giving me the desire and drive to be a better husband and father. It is you who encourages me to advocate against people like you.  It is you who makes it possible to lay my head down each night in peace knowing you are miserable.
You are like the dirt that surrounds a seed. A seed has to breakthrough to grow. A seed has to be pressured in order to survive. Without it, it becomes lifeless and withers away. Thank you for being my dirt. And after I continue to grow and flourish like a tree remember that it is me looking down on you from above stepping on you like the dirt you are.”
I have learned throughout my life that there are people who will go to great lengths to place themselves above others and make themselves look better than what they refuse to accept. I’m all for redemption and turning one’s life around. I’m a poster child. I admit I don’t believe most are naturally “bad,” but that people make bad decisions out of distorted viewpoints. Or just out of plain old selfishness.
In any case for the life of me I have yet to figure out how some people can purposely bring harm and distress to innocent people while doing so without any regards to how they can destroy one’s life….not have any regards to the harm they are doing…or what results they will have if their lies are believed by the slightest person. Maybe I will never know. Maybe I don’t want to know.
I cannot deny that I am Bipolar. Most people don’t know this. I have been burned by its fact by too many people. So its disclosure is typically at discretion. It’s not kept a secret. It’s just a need to know information thing. As a matter of fact I have learned to embrace its positive attributes. It is because of my own mental illness that I have pursued a career in psychology. It is because of it that I have become a fighter and have persevered throughout my life in spite of the bad decisions and mistakes. It is only one of the struggles that has become a reason why I work hard and try not to take things for granted.
I am not one to care about what others think of me. Matter of fact I could care less if someone likes me or not. I won’t go out of my way to please someone just so that I know they like me. To be even blunt, I’ve been known to rub people the wrong way because of my security. I know who I am. I think they take it the wrong way. What does matter are the affects something has on me. I don’t wave my label around like a banner in a parade. But my bipolar cannot be hidden. If it had the capabilities to be hidden then it wouldn’t be bipolar. Stigma is merely someone’s cry of fear…of desperation; while labels are nothing more than terms for documents and records for files in a cabinet; something you find on a can. You pick them up off the floor as trash.
Unlike those who hide behind stigmatizing others, I refuse to hide behind a wall as other will. I’ve learned to take advantage of it. It’s a part of me. It’s mine. I’m comfortable with insanity; at least I can live with it. I’m used to it and I know it well. My “craziness” is at times a friend, other times an enemy. You think you know me; that I’m not normal. I’m a captured butterfly. I’m the freest soul I know. I’m freer than you’ll ever be.
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4 thoughts on “Your Stigma, Your Weakness…My Label, My Strength

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