Why You Should Care About Not Caring

Looking For Self-Worth Eyes Of Others

Many years ago my daughter came crying to me with a tale of cruelty involving her tight circle of very-best girlfriends. In-between sobs she relayed a saga of vicious betrayal unique to the mysterious world of adolescent girls. I listened quietly and, when she was done, took her into my arms and said this.

“Sweetheart, despite your best efforts, people will always talk about you and 90% of what they say will be wrong. I know it’s not fair but the best thing to do is let go.”

I am polishing this chestnut from the McHarg family vault for one reason. No matter where you are in your recovery – (or if you love and support a person with mental illness) – you need to know this:

There is a beautiful place out there beyond fear, beyond shame, beyond inferiority, beyond jealousy, beyond regret, beyond denial, beyond self-loathing and the name of that place is – I Just Don’t Care.

America is a land of immigrants and consequently it is also a land of xenophobia and prejudice. We blow trumpets in praise of democracy but don’t be deceived, there is a very definite pecking order in our culture and the mentally ill are way down at the bottom.

Take it from me, no one is going to give you respect, no one is going to give you equal rights. Square America can’t even understand you; much less know how to bring you inside out of the rain. Do not look to others for your redemption. (If you doubt me, just look to the history of America’s other minority groups.)

I went public as a bipolar person 23 years ago; I even wrote the first bipolar memoir,Invisible Driving. (Click HERE to order.) Nothing could have prepared me for the wave after wave of rejection, fear, and marginalization I faced. (Really, I did expect at least a little respect for what I’d done!)

The point is, if you tie your emotional well being to the opinion others have of you disaster will certainly follow. Keep growing extra layers of skin until stupid comments and remarks bounce right off.

Today I tell people I’m bipolar the same way I might tell them I’m right-handed, it’s a detail that helps them understand me but I am not defined by it. I have absolutely no shame about my history of mental illness and neither should you when it comes time to talking about your particular challenge.

They say that guilt is when you feel bad about something you did but shame is when you feel bad about something you are. You’re a teacher now; let them know just what you are – shamelessly.

Back Of The Bus, Crazypants!

back of the bus

While purveyors of politically correct thought and speech would deny it to their last disingenuous breath, prejudice is very much alive today. While it is increasingly unfashionable to ridicule and despise the “differently enabled” it is still open season on whackadoomians.

“The real tragedy of political correctness is that it has given lying a bad name.” Taz Mopula

If you have been diagnosed Bipolar recently, and up until now have managed to avoid membership in unpopular sub-classes, society is holding a window seat for you…and it’s all the way in the back of the bus. Prejudice, and the cruelty that comes with it, is always predicated on fear of the unknown. Trust me, when it comes to the unknown, mental illness is in its own class; third class.

“We think of the world as a dangerous place and realize too late that we are the most dangerous part of it.” Taz Mopula

The unholy terrain of Mania, with landscapes resembling the nightmare visions of Hieronymus Bosch, is more remote than “wildest” Africa, much less a Cher concert. So brace yourself – all will fear you, some will try to understand you, those who do try to understand you will fail – a small group will accept you as you are and allow you to teach them.

“Share your self; it’s the only thing you have to offer that isn’t readily available elsewhere.” Taz Mopula

At first I was deeply offended when they escorted me to the back of the bus. After a while I came to enjoy it there, I loved my colleagues – the music, humor, food, and camaraderie were so much better. I began to think of my status as a badge of honor. I didn’t mind being on the fringe; it suited me.

“People will always talk about you, and – despite your very best efforts – 90% of what they say will be wrong.” Taz Mopula

But what really stuck in my craw was the mountain of stupidity, assumptions, ignorance, and sheer cruelty that society heaped on us year after year. Remember, if you’re nuts, you’re nuts for life – in the eyes of those around you, no amount of evolution will ever return you to the sane lane.

“Looking for self-worth in someone else’s eyes is like trying to breathe with someone else’s lungs.” Taz Mopula

A quick illustration. My first manic episode happened at age 20, the remaining two major ones happened in my mid-to-late 30s. I was in therapy for 17-years and faithfully monitored my recovery, which included medication and careful reliance on a support network. I even wrote a Bipolar Memoir called Invisible Driving, which chronicled my horrific battle with the illness and subsequent recovery. But in the eyes of friends, family, employers, etc. – it’s like losing your virginity – you cannot un-ring a bell.

“Why raise the bridge when you can lower your expectations of the river?” Taz Mopula

Two years ago, when I was fast approaching my 60th birthday, I initiated a major life change that involved leaving one relationship and beginning another, and leaving my home state of Pennsylvania, where I had spent most of my life, for New Hampshire. I thought about this change very carefully, trying my best to manage it in a way that would minimize any negative impact on those around me. (Bear in mind, it had been nearly 40 years since my first manic episode, and almost 20 years since my last one.)

“There is only one truly authentic way to enjoy success; that is by remaining indifferent to it.” Taz Mopula

Almost without exception, it was assumed by “near and dear” that I was “going-off” – making this dramatic decision not in health, but in a return to madness. That, gentle reader, is how much credit I got for decades of responsibility, facing my illness, and doing the right thing.

“For the sake of convenience be your own best friend. It’s always easy to get in touch with you.” Taz Mopula

In the eyes of society, once you are crazy, you will never be un-crazy. Welcome to the back of the bus.