With Britney Spears all over the news, it’s time to talk bipolar disorder.
There is no way around it: bipolar disorder sucks big giant monkey balls. It’s with you for life. But it’s treatable. And in between the highs and lows, you’re a functional, normal human. And if you’re medicated correctly, most people with bipolar disorder can live absolutely normal lives. Unlike Britney, who’s being forcibly sterilized, currently the victim of forced eugenics (possibly the most fucked up statement I’ve written since an essay on Q-Anon) I “was allowed” to have three kids. And my editors are “allowing” me to write this essay, because they’re fans of something called “disability rights” and supporting “non-neurotypical people.”
Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is characterized by high and low moods. Bipolar II never reaches full “mania,” or super high-highs, and instead goes to “hypomania,” or highs that never reach full manic episodes. Generally, people with bipolar II have more instances of severe depression. In between, life is totally normal, and bipolar II is totally treatable by a variety of medications. I take lamictal and an atypical antipsychotic (much less scary than it sounds: Abilify, as seen on TV). I’ve taken lithium, which Britney was forced into swallowing by her conservatorship, AKA captors.
Lithium blows. I gained over a hundred pounds. I was put on weight loss drugs. I lost no weight, despite a serious workout regime, until they switched my drugs. I was sleepy, kind of out of it, and generally not… there. Lithium, in other words, sucks ass. If you need it, you need it. But that doesn’t stop the ass sucking.
Bipolar I is different. It’s characterized by full manic episodes, which include reckless behavior and excessive energy. These can cause a person to engage in dangerous and reckless behavior: gambling, excessive shopping, etc.
It’s impossible to know, from one statement, which particular flavor of bipolar disorder Britney Spears has. Both are treatable, though as many as one in five people with bipolar disorder complete suicide (this includes both bipolar I and bipolar II). But here’s the deal:
I have bipolar II. And today, I’m fine. In fact, this week, I’m fine. And this month, this goddamn year, I’ve been fine. I parent my three children, stair-stepped two years apart, all with ADHD. In fact, I homeschool them, and always have. Like everyone else with a sense of civic duty, I spent a year hiding from my mailman and sanitizing my hand sanitizer and playing the forced agoraphobic. Through it all, I only broke down once, and that’s a long-ass story but has nothing to do with my bipolar disorder.
I’m treated. I use the best psychiatrist in the goddamn state: yes, I’m privileged as all hell and I’ll shout that from the rooftops. Literally, that privilege saves my life. But Britney? With all her money, she can afford the best medical care in the country. She should be all up in the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins or some other fancy-ass medical clinic that hooks electrodes to your brain and experiments with low-dose LSD and all that junk (I asked for experimental LSD. My doctor rolled her eyes). But no, her conservators won’t allow it. She’s got abusive therapists instead.
With bipolar II, I am able to:
I work my ass off. Sure, I do it at home. But I generally throw in 10 hour days. Much like Britney Spears, who explicitly refers to 10-hour days in her statement.
Remember those three kids? My husband and I share parenting duties equally. I spent time today yelling at them to stop splashing the seven-year-old in our pool. Britney’s constantly threatened that she won’t be allowed to see her kids.
Drive my car, and ride in it with my husband.
They let me on the road, even though my driving sucks post-Covid and I sometimes hit the gate when I back out of my driveway. Hence the dented minivan. Britney’s not allowed to ride in a car with her boyfriend.
See my friends.
I drive over to Patrick’s when the mood strikes me. We sit in his garage, watch industrial music videos, gossip, bitch about the state of the world, and smoke too many cigarettes. Britney can’t see her friends who live eight minutes away.
Think well enough to engage with art.
I’ll brag: I finished every single word of Mark Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” last week, and if you’ve never seen that book, it’s basically “Moby Dick” wrapped in postmodern philosophy. I saw an M.C. Escher exhibit at the art museum. I read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and had an in-depth conversation about his modeling Satan on David Bowie. I also watched plenty of “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Sealab 2021.”
I. Am. Fine. I talk to friends I can’t see in person over Facebook Messenger. I see the friends I can. My husband swears I’m a good wife. My kids call me a good mom. I may have bipolar II, but I am functional. More than that, I’m happy. I have a great life I wouldn’t trade. I have a wonderful nuclear family and an extended family that makes me smile every time my phone dings with our family thread.
Bipolar disorder can be hard. It can veer: maybe tomorrow I won’t be fine. Maybe tomorrow my medication will decide not to work, and I’ll have a depressive episode. But I will manage with the help of my husband and my psychiatrist. Yes, I am privileged, and many people with bipolar disorder are not. But it’s possible to live a full and happy life with my diagnosis.
So lay off Britney, bitches.