The bipolar express
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007 at 10:54am
Quite a few of you wrote in yesterday to comment or complain to me about the use of the word "bipolar" in my current Ask Bing posting.
One reader from Virginia made a very good point. "I have to say your answer on how to handle the bipolar boss was mostly good," he writes.
... except for the highly offensive reference to "crazy people". Bipolar disorder is a serious ailment with significant stigma. Your reference perpetuates this view that keeps people in the closet and from getting help they need. It also further inflames the situation the questioner asks about because he can just dismiss her as crazy anytime he doesn't agree with her. This will not help him. Or her. Maybe you can take out the crazy reference before this article cause more problems than it resolves. Otherwise, your no BS answer is on top of things.
This made me feel bad. I bandy the word "Crazy" around a lot, particularly in my excellent and highly useful and readable book on the subject. And I guess the reason I feel justified in doing so is that in using the term I mean no specific insult to anybody. In fact, some if not all of my best friends are crazy. I, in fact, am considered quite crazy by many of those who are nearest and dearest to me, let alone the people who work for me. I, of course, consider myself to be sane in the highest sense of the word, even if that sanity is not immediately obvious to the naked eye at first blush.
For me, there are two kinds of crazy. The first kind involves people who see things that really aren't there, are afraid of invisible microbes/little men who hide in the phone lines/people listening to them outside their 15th-floor window, etc. , talk to themselves when they are not on a Bluetooth earpiece (and get a response from nobody visible in our everyday light spectrum), and so forth. I have nothing against these people, but they should not be managing a business unless they own it, and then, as you know, they can do pretty much whatever they want.
Then there's the second type, which I believe includes, to one extent or another, all of us. There's my friend Dworkin, who cannot stay still for more than two minutes for any conversation, no matter how leisurely, without popping up and down like a runaway bobbin. There's my pal Brewster, who makes obsessive, extensive plans down to the minute, none of which he ever lives up to. There are all the bigtime moguls I know, most of whom have to operate on a daily cocktail of pressure fueled by a tremendous anger. I could go on. But I believe you all know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about you and me and the people we work for and who work for us. They put us in suits and uniforms so we look standardized in some way. But underneath? Who really knows what lurks in our hearts and minds.
So back to my reader from Virginia. He's right, of course. The person we refer to as "crazy" in my Ask Bing headline may very well be no more "crazy" than you or me. And by all means that individual should be held to account for her actions just as anybody who is not "crazy" -- if that person could be found -- should be. And there's no real use in slinging around a pejorative that muddies the water and allows the moody boss to get off the hook. Actually, we don't even know if that boss really is bipolar. All we know is that the employee who wrote me experiences her as such.
And that's what it's all about. Craziness is not an objective thing. It's subjective. The experience of craziness, except in those with extraordinary illness or insight, is most often in the person who is receiving that behavior, and it DOES help us to understand that the problem lies not in ourselves, sometimes, but in the stars around us.
Bob the boss is happy! Five minutes later, Bob the boss is angry! How about Ned? He usually dresses in three-piece suits. Today, on a Wednesday, he came in in a tee-shirt and jeans! Doesn't he have a meeting with the Chairman? What's up with him? Freddie is a trustworthy and efficient employee. Except all of a sudden, during a very big fire drill, where is he? Gone? Gone where? To Fresno? Now? Why? And why is Doris, who is usually so cheerful, so quick to burst into tears at the drop of a hat all of a sudden?
How can people be so inconsistent? So weird? So inexplicable to others? One thing this? Next thing that? It it bipolarity? Anxiety? Depression? Paranoia? Rage? Grandiosity? Delusion? Grief? Or are people just kinda crazy, whatever the heck you call it?
Who wouldn't be, with all the stuff that's going on around here?