To many, this may seem glaringly obvious. But, alas, this seems to be a somewhat common misconception about The Illness.
Take, for example, just about any young adult novel with a bipolar theme. And there are many. One of the denizens you may meet is the manic pixie dream girl or MPDG. The term was coined by critic Nathan Rabin to describe Kirsten Dunst’s character in the film “Elizabethtown.” The MPDG was a pop culture stereotype long before it got its moniker over a decade ago. Because I read more than I watch, my exposure to this erratic little charmer has mostly been literary. Whether you meet her on the page or screen, please be aware that this crappy character trope is insulting to me as a woman and as a person living with mental illness. For a lot of reasons. Chiefly, my illness is too serious to be written off as quirky. Also, my diagnosis is not a mechanism for some dude to use to discover how to embrace life/be a better person/fall in love or some other b.s. like that. Down with MPDGs!
Then there is the whole bipolar/creativity connection. There is a segment of the populace that feeds this notion that we’re brooding, broken, complex artists needing rescuing. Like I’m some Deeply Troubled emotional fixer-upper. It’s all so romantic!
Except it’s not.
Bipolar disorder destroys. People, families, careers, dreams, relationships, the list goes on. Does that sound harsh? That’s because it is harsh. Not a romantic notion, not a character trope, not a stereotype and certainly not a punchline. It’s a very harsh reality for millions of people every minute of every day. Let’s do us all a favor and recognize this illness for what it is. Let’s commend those fighting the battle inside themselves because it is a battle. Let’s reach out to those who support patients with bipolar because they know exactly how un-glamorous and how tedious it is. I pray and pray that it won’t take any more lives, but the fact of the matter is that bipolar disorder can be as terminal as cancer. So please, PLEASE, for the sake of the struggle, don’t take it lightly. You could save a life!