The sub-category Bipolar II was created in 1994, by a man named Allen Frances. Imagine that- my diagnosis is younger than me.
There are many criticisms of the DSM and one of them is that, in its various incarnations, it has created a “false epidemic” of mental illness. By adding new disorders and subcategories it has, it is argued, medicalised many of the normal emotions of everyday life.
Sometimes I feel as though bipolar II is belittled, both in terms of the minimalisation of its severity and in terms of some people thinking it isn’t an illness at all, not in its own right. In turn, when I am depressed, that makes me feel guilty. So, my diagnosis isn’t even a thing. So, why take medication? Isn’t it normal to soar and fall? Isn’t that what life is? What if, after all, I am drawing resources away from the people who really need it?
But I am brought out of this by the very depression that leaves me guilty in the first place. Because it isn’t normal. It isn’t normal to feel suicidal and it isn’t normal to have your thoughts race at fifty kilometres an hour, or to sleep four hours in two days for two weeks running. I am not a little off-kilter, not “just” suffering from the stresses of the modern world. When I am ill, I am ill.
I have to admit scepticism at the ever-expanding catalogue of mental illnesses and at the number of people diagnosed (a study showed that children born towards the end of a school year are many times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, because nobody had taken into account their relative immaturity). But as a sub-category myself, who am I to judge? If a person can put their finger on a diagnosis- even one whose creation seems arbitrary- and find it fits them perfectly, then they should probably try the recommended treatment for that disorder. I guess.
One thing I do know is that my medication works for me. Call it a placebo effect if you like. Call it whatever. But as they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Psychiatry may well be broken but I’m not, and in part that is due to my treatments.
Perhaps I should stop reading up on placebo and the failure of psychiatry. Perhaps it is making me unduly paranoid about diagnoses and treatments. I’m a curious person, though, and I like to read up on those things which affect me.
One thing I will say, is that I would never scoff at another person’s mental distress. I have slipped through cracks into misery and it is not a pleasant place to be. Bipolar II may be younger than me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.