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I 'Suffer' from Bipolar and It's Okay to Say It

November 10, 2023 Natasha Tracy

Somewhere along the way, the political correctness (PC) police decided that we were no longer allowed to say that we "suffer" from bipolar disorder. Now, we have to say that we "live with" or "experience" bipolar disorder. If you know me, you can probably guess how I feel about that. I feel it's ridiculous. It puts unnecessary rules on language, which, as a writer, I despise, but perhaps more importantly, it genuinely denies people's legitimate experience of a serious mental illness. I suffer from bipolar disorder, and I think it's okay to say it.

Why Can't We Say We Suffer from Bipolar Disorder?

I guess the best way to get this question answered is to ask one of the officers from the PC police force. That said, I'll try to explain what people generally say.

Basically, by saying that someone "suffers" from bipolar disorder, you're making a judgment about how someone experiences the illness. It adds to the stigma (apparently) when you say that it's an inherently negative thing. By using neutral language, you can make it seem more innocuous and thus reduce stigma.

I find these arguments spurious, at best.

Why We Should Be Able to Say that We 'Suffer' from Bipolar Disorder

First off, I would like to remind all those reading this that mental illness is an illness. Illnesses are understood to be negative, period. No one ever says they are "experiencing" the flu, and no one worries about its impact on people's impression of being sick. 

Moreover, I do not buy that this type of language tomfoolery helps anyone. I believe the only thing it does is allow some people to feel smugly better than others because they obey the "rules," are doing the "right" thing, and get to "correct" you about it.

Now, someone will say that there's a difference between the flu and bipolar disorder because the flu does not have the same attached stigma. Okay, fine, but you still have to convince me that this particular word choice helps with that. This word choice literally denies the reality of millions of people. How is that helpful to them? And how is this word choice changing anyone's mind about a debilitating illness that can actually kill you?

Don't Want to Say You 'Suffer' from Bipolar Disorder? Okay, Don't

If you happen to be a person who doesn't experience bipolar disorder in a negative way, feel free to express that in the way you choose. I have no issue with that. But please don't tell me I need to change perfectly reasonable, accurate language for someone else's comfort. That's ridiculous. It's not my job to make other people feel better about my illness. If people can't get over their own prejudice because I admit to my suffering, that's about them, not me. And while, yes, reducing prejudice is a good thing, we need to come up with a better plan than denying reality. 

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2023, November 10). I 'Suffer' from Bipolar and It's Okay to Say It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2023/11/i-suffer-from-bipolar-and-its-okay-to-say-it



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

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