The Multipolar Costs of Manic-Depression

Psychiatry has a way of botching the categorization of brain disorders.

Manic-Depression. That’s the right and proper expression for, well, manicdepression.

Dear authors of DSM: Say it – Manic-Depression. Manic-Depression. Stop trying to sound smarter than you are about this stuff. Besides the neurobiologists and psychopharmacologists have you beat by over fifty years.

“Bipolar” sounds like the title of some ridiculous Cold-war thriller.

Now that I got that out of the way, a little discussion about the costs of Manic-Depression.

Cost is a broad term. It’s not just a financial measure.

So here is a microscopic list of the multipolar costs of Manic-Depression:


Co-morbidity. Like substance abuse.

Expensive – or unobtainable – life insurance.

A winding and inconstant river of suicidal ideation the size of a lifetime.


Lovers. Either too many, or too few. Usually too many.

Sleep. Either too much, or too little. Usually too little.

Increased risk of Diabetes.

Increased risk of Cardiovascular disease.

An all-too-easy confusion between a passion and a hypomanic impulse.

Medications. Some work, some don’t.

Not taking the medication that works because it dampens the highs that lead to disaster.


You see, there are people in this world who have inherited a genetic prankster.

Many of these people have made this world – your world – much more colorful.

These are the Pranked. They endure it. Until they can’t. If they’re able, they channel it – at least now and then.

And so they counter-turn the pranking, becoming illuminating pranksters – converting suffering into meaning.

Those writers who deliver you into the truths of being alive? Pranked.

Those musicians who sooth your broken heart? Pranked.

Those comedians who give you LMAOs? Pranked.

Those poets who plumb the ocean tranches of human experience and bring up pearls of wisdom for your glazed eyes? Pranked.

Those entrepreneurs who invent the impossible and change the world utterly? Pranked.

They write and compose and explore and invent to forge ahead, to bring forth light out of dark, to crack conformity, to rattle the feared, to shift perspective, to make manifest the unbelievable, to do the unthinkable.

And what does our society – the very one that benefits from the delicious delights of these Pranked ones – what does it do to these people?

It banishes them to the land of shame.

It punishes them with insurance prejudice.

It marks them with stigmata.

It besmirches their careers for freely speaking about their condition.

But here’s a curious thing: This society itself is rather manic-depressive.

Look at the shopping malls. The streaks of glitter that go nowhere but down into indebtedness.

Look at TV. The kaleidoscopic play of grandiose advertising and distracted programming.

Look at the economy. The spending sprees that lead to Great Depressions.

Look at our politics. The over-pressured speech.

Look at our foreign policies – the manic pleasures they take in televised vicarious destruction, and in long-distance murder delusionally masquerading as self-defense.

Look at the over-sexualization of almost everything.

The Pranked can take Lithium or Depakote or Lamictal. Take anti-psychotics to sleep. To slow the mind down just enough to make sounder judgements.

The Pranked can make – usually – decisions about their lifestyle that keeps them out of trouble.

In other words, there are treatments for the Pranked – they’re not always easy or successful, but they do exist.

But what’s the treatment for society?

There’s no med.

There’s no psychotherapeutical technique.

Ah – what an ironic situation to find ourselves!

Here’s the thing: Health is supposed to be social.

We can’t have quality healthcare if our system is anti-social.

There is simply no way that a society which stigmatizes the Pranked has the vision and kindness and wisdom to create a system of care worthy of the highest standing Republic in the history of the world.

Stigmatizing other human beings is anti-social.

It’s not the fault of the Pranked that they have been given a double-dose of life.

They had no choice in the matter.

The stigmatizers, on the other hand, they can make choices about what kind of human beings to be. Of what kind of society to form.

Our society is the Great Stigmatizer.

It’s also a mirror.

All societies eventually become the very things they stigmatize and fear.

And – in our time – that will be the ultimate cost of manic-depression.


Oh – and since I probably depressed ya a bit, here’s one of the Pranked to lift you back up.

Phil Baumann



0 Replies to “The Multipolar Costs of Manic-Depression”

  1. Phil, this posts is lyrical and poetic. Most importantly however, it rings very true to my own observations. Society is very quick to stigmatize and ostracize the unfamiliar and that which it doesn’t understand. Perhaps this is why so many people with any one of an array of serious chronic illnesses seek to build their on communities both online and off. Such a shame since (as you recognized in an earlier posts) those with sickness or disease–and all of us really require empathy.

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