Another story, another day. A fight that I have to remember is not necessarily mine, and a world that soaks up false or inflammatory information like the roots of a grand old oak. Again this morning there is a story in the news about a bipolar man who did something wrong. A bipolar man who while not yet convicted may be guilty of intentionally hurting someone for no known gain. And every single other bipolar victim will suffer one more time.
The news came out with the announcement of the arrest of a man in Mississippi, who mailed letters to a Senator and the President. The letters, which contained the deadly and horrific ricin, were stopped before they reached their intended targets. The staff protecting the President, and the Justice Department who went after the sender not only did so swiftly but it looks like accurately. The response to the letter was all things to celebrate and praise.
And then towards the end of the story, is a brief mention of the suspect’s family. No mention of the details regarding the family, was it the mother, father, brother, sister? No mention of why they said what they said; however, their words were more damaging for all of us than they could know. The family blamed the suspect’s actions on his refusal to take his medications. They commented on his being bipolar and their constant struggle to get the suspect to consistently take his medication. Welcome to the world baby.
Was it truly necessary for the family to give this information to the world? Did they need to honestly betray their son/husband/father by mentioning a disease that is a constant and oftentimes perplexing battle? Did they need to justify the suspect’s behavior in this way? Did they think they were helping him by announcing this before the trial even started? It is different for information such as this to come out in trial; it may even be important for the defense. But is it important to announce it immediately; sort of a knee-jerk reaction to something that the family doesn’t wish to acknowledge nor do they wish to understand?
When we throw out reasons for behavior without actually understanding if one would cause the other, the damage we are doing is so vast as to be immeasurable. Because I am bipolar does that mean that I am going to send a dangerous letter to someone I have never met? Because I am bipolar does that mean I am automatically suspected of killing, raping, destroying? Is there something wrong, something bad in me because I have a disease I neither asked for or had any say about? I was born this way, and unlike the homosexual gene argument, there is no way to ever make a rational argument for the opposite. I didn’t want this disease, and I, like most victims, don’t want to take the medications, but does that make me automatically more likely to do harm?
There is, in all likelihood, a logical argument for cause and effect when it comes to this disease. There may be times when a suspect who has bipolar really did the awful things he was accused of because he didn’t take his medicine. But I have to ask if that is all of the story? What if he always had those tendencies, and the fall out from stopping his medication just made those tendencies much more attractive? What if he was always capable of doing those horrific things, but through discipline and guts he choose not to? And what if a bipolar victim was as good as the man right now sitting beside you? What if being bipolar means you are literally as normal as the guy beside you?
I say it often. I am bipolar; however, never once in my life have I ever tried to hurt anyone but myself. I hope I would never use this disease as an excuse. Because that is what the family above is doing. They are making excuses, creating rationalizations in order to deal with the reality. They aren’t describing what really happened, or even the reality of what didn’t happen. They are simply making themselves feel better. We search for answers in our humanity; it is as much a part of us as the blood that flows through our veins. But immediately demanding that a disease is the effect, does not explain the cause.
We see this constantly. A person takes their life, a mental disease must be the cause. I person goes out and takes the life of others, a mental disease must be the cause. Serial killers, rapists, just bad people must have a disease. It isn’t that simple. The brain in all its complexity is not a thing you can put in box; it is not something to explain. If it was then the medicines we all hate taking would actually work, and the side effects and the reasons would not need to be explained. Mental disease is a horrific disease because it is different for each person, and each person is different because of it. It is not and never should be an explanation for the world, nor for our own selves. In many ways it is being used an excuse to be bad. I am horrible but that is okay, I have a disease.
If someone is not taking their medications, there are things that you can do. Not easy things, not fun things or even especially cheap things. But there are things. Quit blaming things on mental diseases, and instead look deep inside of yourself for the reason. It is there, and it will continue to be there if you are high as a kite on meds or not. Quit making the rest of us look dangerous for your own failings. We would be crucified if we said all hispanic people are in gangs, so why would we say that all those with mental disease will perform mass killings?
I may be sensitive to this because I have lost jobs, friends and even parts of my own soul because of this disease and the perception of the disease. I have had people find out I was bipolar and literally fear for their lives; despite the fact that we were friends before they found out. I have had people refuse me medical care because I have a disease, and I have had people turn away in disgust because other people have had this disease and all they associate with it is horror. I hide one of the biggest parts of me because of stories like the one printed today. And despite the fact I have nothing to be ashamed of, I am ashamed every day of my life.