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!

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One Response to “In my day – do you feel depressed when you hear a conversation start that way?”

  1. On February 23, 2013 at 6:24 am carol smith responded with... #

    You “jest” of course? Why? When a child is screaming, or destructive or afraid or unable to concentrate or incapable of staying seated or five million other “qualifiers” that student is now BIPOLAR. Why is this? Because that child’s teacher labeled that kid as “bipolar.” Come on now, Kit. While I was a 10th grader in high school, ADD and ADHD were the up and coming new labels to strangle us with. My science teacher told me I had ADD. Why? Because I fell asleep in his class. I guess he thought that teaching us about sex would and should have kept me awake and alert but I was bored out of my mind. After ADD and ADHD, students in the public school system in California were now labeled as “autistic” if they didn’t feel like talking or they wandered out of their seats or they just were a bit “off” according to who? Their diagnosing teacher, counselor, principal, health aide, or anybody other than a qualified MD. Now, every student exhibiting any of the aforementioned “attributes” is labeled as Bipolar. I hate that label. Do these people have a clue about this illness or are they just labeling their student who is bored to death and can’t concentrate or talks out loud or whatever as bipolar because their best teacher friend has just proclaimed five of her second graders as having Bipolar Disorder? This happens all the time and parents get upset and the teacher who is next in line to get this bipolar mess of an incoming third grader just knows what she’s in for and she already hates this kid and of course she will find every single thing the second grade teacher found. I have already written this about my son, Daniel. He started kindergarten when he was four. That class was just plain fun to be in! His kindergarten teacher became very upset and called me in for a “special” conference “concerning your son, Ms. Smith.” This is what she said. “While I was reading “Stellaluna” to my students, Daniel got up and walked over to one of our many “centers” and started to play. Have you ever considered giving him coffee in the morning due to the fact that he has ADHD? I replied, “Ms. Jones. I have read to both of my children and they are ten years apart. I must confess that, I too, am a teacher and I love reading to kids. Daniel has heard Stellaluna about fourteen times now. He plainly said this to you when you asked him why he was “UP and ABOUT” your classroom. My son told her this, “My mom already reads that one to me and I know how it ends.” This might sound somewhat humorous but what about that parent who listens to this kindergarten teacher’s unqualified and ignorant “diagnosis?” I will tell you what happens to these students. As soon as they schedule that IEP (or Individual Education Plan) for the poor student with ADD or ADHD or Autism or Bipolar disorder diagnosed by whom? A teacher, aide, parent aide, gym teacher, another teacher – I mean just anybody can diagnose it seems. That label never ever goes away. It follows them clear from first or second grade (or kindergarten) up to 12th grade because IEPs are very “necessary.” I have been teaching for more than 20 years and I have sat in on possibly five IEPs that these five separate students actually qualified for. The rest were wasted time spent telling the school psychologists (who were never qualified to diagnose either, but that word “psychologist” carries a lot of power) and the parents were convinced and the teachers were convinced and the student was now convinced – even though at a much younger age he knew they all were all wrong but now he is forever labeled something that means: mentally incompetent or mentally ill, or whatever. It is such a bad practice but it continues to go on and I suppose it’s because we have to find AT LEAST SOMETHING FOR THOSE SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS AND SPECIALISTS TO DO IN ORDER FOR THEM TO HAVE A JOB AND GET PAID – even if a child has to pay for this with a label of mental illness. It’s very bad.

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