In my day – do you feel depressed when you hear a conversation start that way?
I’m not so sure I do actually. In fact, as a 60 year old I’m probably likely to start it just that way. I guess there’s a balance to be struck, as with all things, but not all progress is that – progress. One could easily be persuaded that we’ve progressed well moving from manic depression to Bipolar: announcing the former went down like a one legged man in an arse kicking contest, so yes maybe Bipolar is better, but…………
That but is tempered by the swing to the other end of the continuum in which it seems that Bipolar is pretty much the default diagnosis for anyone popping in to see the doctor.
‘I think I may be depressed doctor – nope I think you’re Bipolar’
‘I’m feeling anxious about my exams doctor – nope I think you’re Bipolar’
‘I lost my husband last month and need a sedative doctor – nope I think you’re Bipolar’
‘Doctor I think I have haemorrhoids – nope I think you’re Bipolar’
I jest of course. Well a little, well not at all. The dreaded stats suggest that the incidence of childhood Bipolar diagnosis has risen 4000% in the last decade. Can we believe that? Well yes I can believe the stats, but not what lies behind it. Shitty little argumentative teenagers might just be shitty little argumentative teenagers. But in these days of supposed enlightenment, we seem to have to put a label on everything, particularly mental problems. What we all laughed at 20 years ago – you know how many Californian shrinks does it take etc – has now become a crushing daily reality.
In loose diagnoses like these it bloody dilutes the currency of having Bipolar. It’s become like choose your favourite STD ! ‘Hey I’ve got gonnorrhea! Really ! – well try syphilis honey!’ It’s like a sort of psychological ‘quantitative easing’.
In my day mentioning you were mentally ill was the equivalent of breaking wind loudly in a library. Everyone tries to ignore you, but then they get the smell seconds later. But now the equivalent metaphor might be everyone joining in to support you. You might say that’s a good thing but I’m not so sure. I certainly don’t want embarrassed silence, but equally I don’t want something that’s wrecked my life being transformed into a ‘me too’ illness. What an old moan I must seem, but I do long for measured progress.
Somebody once said that the sure sign of getting old was moaning about the declining moral standards of the young. Maybe my issue is that I do look in the rear view mirror too much and only see sunshine and salad days, but I swear the next time someone trots out ‘hey I think I may be Bipolar too!’ on hearing I am, I may commit an act I may regret.
Like breaking wind loudly!