This past March, a man climbed an enormous sequoia tree in downtown Seattle. Refusing to come down, he threw branches, pine cones, an apple and other debris onto the police below. He stayed there for more than twenty-four hours, and by the time he descended, he had stripped many branches from the upper half of the tree. The damage to the sequoia was assessed at $7800, not including the cost of the time and resources used by the Seattle Police and Fire Departments.
The next day, I heard someone on the radio refer to this man as “the whackjob in the tree.”
Such casual use of this word, “whackjob,” delivered the one-two punch to my gut and to my heart. As someone with a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 (Bipolar Disorder being the condition formerly known as Manic Depression), I think quite a lot about how the language we use to describe those with a mental health condition allows us to ignore the hurt, marginalization, helplessness and hopelessness felt by those who struggle. Oh, the power of words. [Read more…]