Speaking of ableism: Sorry, Jezebel, but no.

Bipolar II is not less severe than Bipolar I. You are right that the symptoms are different. Kudos to Catherine Zeta Jones for being public about her illness, and congrats on hiring publicists who can intelligently explain it. Would we were all so lucky. If you’re unaware, however, here’s a quick rundown: Bipolar I is characterized by periods of mania followed by periods of depression. Mania’s a euphoric state. Individuals can go without sleep for days, for example. And states may last from hours to months. Bipolar II does not usually feature classic mania. Typically, there are periods of hypomania, which can be understood as a state of heightened creativity, energy and impulsivity that does not meet the requirements for mania.

Like the Jezebel article states, people with Bipolar II tend more toward the depressed end of the scale. There are exceptions. Some people may never experience full-blown mania or hypomania and still have bipolar disorder, and even if they do experience hypomania, they’re not necessarily better off than people with mania. Everyone’s experience is different. I have a diagnosis of  Bipolar II, and my symptoms have changed over the eight years I’ve lived with the label. For me, the one constant feature of my illness is depression.

Here’s the deal, Jezebel. Depression kills. In fact, people with Bipolar II are as prone to commit suicide as people with Bipolar I. Bipolar II is a life-threatening illness and it is just as severe as the other points on the bipolar spectrum. Don’t trivialize the disease because you’re too lazy to look it up.

Update: The Huffington Post made the same error. Why the hell can’t people do their research?

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One thought on “Speaking of ableism: Sorry, Jezebel, but no.

  1. Very late to the party, but hey…

    Great blog you have here. This issue annoys me heaps too (although TBH i’d be happy if most media outlets could get accurate to the level of schizophrenia /= multiple personify disorder.)

    The way I see it, bipolar I is much more visible. Severe manic episodes tend to lead to being arrested, hospitalised etc, for overtly and spectacularly “crazy” behaviours. Severe depressive episodes… well depending on your circumstances, can go entirely unnoticed by anyone not close to you, and even they might not have much of an idea what’s going on. (Assuming, of course, it doesn’t culminate in self harm etc.) Obviously bipolar II by definition can only involve the latter, not the former.

    And Bipolar I is probably more “disabling” by measures society finds easy to take – like ability to hold down a job. Months or years of struggling to get out of bed to turn up to work mean your “functioning”, and if you’re lucky hypomanic productivity might get you a promotion or what have you from time to time. But one day of “crazy” can get you sacked and wreck a career.

    But despite the absence of this “dramatic” stuff, I personally suspect Bipolar II is worse to live through, for the sufferer, on average. I have Bipolar I myself, and I know depression is hell, while mania is (by definition) enjoyable on a level – a blessing and a curse. And even with the bad parts of mania/mixed episodes – paranoia and so on – I often find the negative feelings involved can stem from depressive episodes.

    As bipolar II tends, I understand, to have longer (and more severe?) depressive episodes, to me, that seems a lousy deal. Society copes with its suffers better (unless and until they commit suicide – but that doesn’t mean the sufferers themselves cope better by any means.

    And that’s not just purely anecdotal, my psychiatrist confirmed his clinical experience tends to back it up (i.e. providers and so forth focus on controlling the visible stuff, but in many cases consumers tend to be more concerned with the suffering caused by the other side of the coin.)

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