I Am Not An Adjective

Full disclosure: I blogged for Chicagoist for two years and loved it. I made a ton of great friends and know that the people who work there are great people. Regardless, my friendship does not exclude them from saying when I think that they've missed the mark.

Today's Chicagoist features a post about the ever-changing weather. Its title? Manic Depression.

The Facebook post that leads to the link adds insult to injury, referencing our "schizophrenic weather." My hackles were raised by the references, but by the time I saw it, the Facebook post already had a stream of comments saying what I was thinking.

Three words that would have been less offensive: fickle, capricious, or mercurial weather.

Bravo Chicagoist for trivializing mental illness. Mental illnesses are not adjectives for your entertainment.

This use of mental illness terms is just.... ridiculous, ignorant, and wrong. I can't believe that any one would approve this.

Exactly. I hear people say shit like this all the time. "He's so manic ..." "I am being totally bipolar right now ..." I let individuals slide on this a lot, because it happens so often that I'd be hard pressed to have this serious conversation on so many different levels.

NAMI Chicago works hard to fight stereotypes and mischaracterizations of people living with mental illness, and I feel compelled to do my part, too. I realize that people often say things without thinking -- referencing having Alzheimer's or saying things are "bipolar." But if you have ever lived with a disease like that, you'll know it's no joking matter.

Using words describing mental illness to imprecisely describe things trivializes and demeans the actual illness. Trust me -- my manic depression is nothing like this weather. While it's a little too cool for my blood, this weather is lovely. Sun, breeze, and the option to get a strawberry limeade at Sonic? I'll take that.

I'll take it any day before lying in bed, not being able to get up for work or even something fun. I'll take it before thoughts racing through my head -- all of them doomsaying and negative. I'll luxuriate in this weather long before I ask to hang out in an ER or visit a friend in a psych ward because they are newly diagnosed with a unpredictable, frightening disease that no one else ever seems to understand (even the psychiatrists).

Tom Robbins has been quoted saying "There are no synonyms." That is to say, that while words may have similar meanings, every word has a specific and distinct meaning that is unique. If it weren't, we wouldn't need the other word/s. As the Facebook commenter pointed out, there are a variety of words that could have been used to describe our quickly changing, flip-flopping summer.

Not to mention, schizophrenia isn't when someone has multiple personalities. It's characterized by hallucinations -- people seeing and hearing things outside of themselves that suggest and tell various things -- most of them negative and pessimistic.

Anderson Cooper did a great segment where he wore headphones around New York City that mimicked the voices schizophrenics hear. He quickly figured out that it's not easy to live like that.

So, I know the people at Chicagoist weren't going out of their way to take a jab at people with manic-depression and schizophrenia. But, as these diseases have gained more awareness, the casual and flippant use of them as adjectives has grown ever more tiring. We can do better, and we should.

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