In Celebration of World Bipolar Day
Written by Cassie Cohen
Inviting everyone to celebrate today, March 30, World Bipolar Day.
For those of you who are close to me, you know that this was a label given to me at age 15. Like many “bipolar people,” however, the language around the disorder isn’t relevant to me outside of the academic, research-oriented space. I used this language to write a piece of APA-style literature exploring the brains of creatives, the brains that are often assigned to this group that we honor today.
As neurodivergent individuals living with a given diagnosis of “bipolar I” or “bipolar II,” — Wikipedia can provide the differences between these two diagnostic labels — we are serial empathizers. We are a group so in tune with our own emotions and the emotions of others that if we’re sad, we know we’re sad. If we’re happy, we know we’re happy. If we’re a little bit too uninhibited, we know that too, and usually compensate so that these external behavioral outliers do not affect our professional abilities and relationships. Thriving is possible for us in any workplace culture, in any walk of life. Ask us how we feel, not what we’re called according to the DSM-V.
Why I’m posting this is because the suicide rate among those with my diagnosis is 15%. That’s almost 1 in 5 people that are told at age 15, at age 20, at age 30, that they have “bipolar disorder,” 1 in 5 who will take their life because of what their brain differences look like and feel like in their experience in this world.
Think about how the world would react to losing Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, pop-force Demi Lovato, U2 star Sinead O’Connor, and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones...all in the span of one year. Considering how many famous creatives, entrepreneurs, and other STEAM professionals who have been diagnosed as bipolar, this type of event is not impossible.
All of these names I mention are icons of American arts and technology who have come forward about having ups and downs, labels or no labels, that their dialogue is what they choose. What matters is that they were open about their experience in this world. Elon Musk may have been laying in a sleepless anxiety, dreaming of commercial space travel, when SpaceX was born. As a culture, we don’t care where brilliance comes from.
Whether these are places of pain, unconventional behavior, etc., we admire radicals. But we too frequently admire radicals only after we lose them to suicide or complications from substance use challenges.
It’s time to keep our brilliant people alive and give them the tools and support they need to tell their stories, make art, lead companies, invest in professional development, go to therapy, and in consequence… start a movement for an open world.
So this is a post to celebrate World Bipolar Day, as well as a personal moment to step back and honor my contributions to organizations like Open Labs, Mental Health Colorado, and Narratives of Hope, all of which are run by people I love and connect with and am inspired by everyday to wake up and come to work.
I end with my 4-part ask. If you do one of these things, I love you! You’re changing the world! If you do all 4, holy smokes, you’re a light.
I would love if people set up a 5-minute call with me at anytime, if you want to talk, if you need resources, they’re out there, and therapy, although expensive, is invaluable if it’s effective.
Trust me on this: becoming a trained storyteller will change your life. I began my training informally through resources that exist on the internet. Yes, there are companies (Story2) and nonprofits (The Center for Digital Storytelling) whose soul mission is to create and support storytellers.
Q: What is it about NPR that calms me down? A: The quality and authenticity of the storytelling.
If you are literate, add “writer” to your identity. Here is why. As writers we are doing a special thing (using we because you have made it this far, so you are literate, so you are now a writer too). With our education, we are granted immense power. The power to use words that come from us. The power to use our learned language, to spin a phrase, to tell a story, to reflect in an essay or a free-formed voice interview... a concrete and tangible ribbon that can dig in on history as your authentic lived contribution to the world.
Participate in my Friday ritual, and go buy yourself a special beverage. Or, do what I am doing today, and forgoing that $2-5 investment and instead, explore one of these three websites and decide that your Friday coffee will go as a gesture of your recognition of World Bipolar Day, and the lives we have sadly lost too soon.