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On Allies and Anger

As I weave in and out of social justice spaces at the University of Kansas and its town, Lawrence, I regularly track what conversations are most prevalent and determine what the culture and nature of social justice rhetoric is around me. “Intersectionality” and “respect” are often thrown around in social justice conversations here. Not respectability, but respect for the lived experiences of marginalized groups as authentic and real. I fully appreciate these concepts as central to my experience as queer and bipolar. 

Social justice widely believes in the idea of intersectionality: acknowledging the intersections of identities and how they interact. I don’t exist as queer in one space and bipolar in another; I exist as both simultaneously, always. Yet, I notice a significant lack surrounding my own intersections within almost every single social justice conversation I’ve had and continue to have. Mental illness is overwhelmingly ignored. I’m one of very few who discusses its impacts. This routinely takes me by surprise, seeing as mental illness can impact anyone regardless of creed, class, or other social identifiers. Mental illness fully embraces intersectionality in those it affects.  

I am a loud voice. People have recently referred to me as a “strong voice.” I rarely back down, and I make myself heard. But does anyone around me listen? My so-called allies have a knack for ignoring how mental illness actually impacts me and those for whom I advocate. They can handle people with anxiety: “Just spend some time off of social media!” They don’t really know what to do for depression. And they have no idea how bipolar even manifests.

I recently became enraged over the reaction of my “friend” from social justice spaces who didn’t support the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on gay marriage. Seeing as I am a part of the LGBT+ community, I didn’t take kindly to being told my humanity is worth less. Here comes the fun part: bipolar. My anger didn’t subside for hours. I aggressively expressed this anger to a lot of social justice friends via social media because of how I felt personally dehumanized and devalued for my identities. I recognized how angry and anxious I felt as part of my irritable hypomania. The person’s rejection of my humanity triggered my irritability, and because I’m a loud voice, I let it be known to those who I thought would understand. 

I sought support and validation in my mood swing from my friends who have listened to me speak on behalf of my experience with bipolar before. My anger was policed by one individual and ignored by almost everyone else. A select few offered me kind words, but all in private. Publicly, I once again became the angry bipolar trope that can’t calm down and needs to be medicated. From here, I had to backpedal in order to avoid being forever condemned to the permanent label of “angry bipolar kid.” I had to articulate how triggers for mental illnesses operate on a completely derailing plane, SEPARATE from how neurotypical people experience “triggers.” I sacrificed my safety by making myself incredibly vulnerable to avoid being the angry bipolar trope. This space that I had long considered safe became another in which I was left without support or awareness from my peers, which put it on my shoulders to be the educating voice. Again.

A close friend of mine holds to the belief that safe spaces do not exist. I have come to agree with her since this recent development. Safety is conditional wherever I go. I may be accepted as bipolar by a doctor, but queer? I may be accepted as queer by someone else within the LGBT+ community, but when do I bring up bipolar, and how do I avoid being told I’m too crazy or angry? I may be accepted as both by someone, some day, but will they acknowledge how they interact? 

I will not advocate for respectability as the medium by which I operate under the label of bipolar. I am sometimes angry. I will not let a debilitating trope of “angry bipolar kid” force me into the unapproachable box of bipolar that stigma dictates. My anger does not weaken my words, my voice, or my convictions. Being triggered may result in anger, but that doesn’t mean my anger loses the passion or justification behind it. The fact of the matter is: I cannot actively control when I’m angry. If you see that anger manifest destructively for me, let it run its course and do not pretend that my anger is unwarranted. I’m entitled to my emotions as much as any other person; bipolar doesn’t change that.

Read the rest of Mark's posts here


Your words could not be more eloquent and spot on! Mark, you have a gift for writing!!!

The more I read this site, the more it hits home that I'm not alone. I agree with your safe zone comment... There is no such thing. I've been functional for years but a medicine upset had brought everything painfully to the forefront. I find myself not wanting to hide anymore but not sure how to out myself for all the reasons you outline.

As a KU graduate who was on campus at the height of the anti-war movement in 1972, I was very angry, too, and yet to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Historically, Lawrence, KS is the pinnacle of what happens when anger gets out of hand.

Mark, Thank you...I get it....then I hear "did you take your medication".

We sure share a lot of similar experiences... I came out at the same time marriage ruling for LBGTs became legal and I announced on social media about my wedding planning with another guy. Half of the, were in shock, 1/4 of them are cool with it, and last 1/4 of them gave me a religious lectures... That where my hypomanic, possible mild manic... I became so enraged with those religious freaks on social media and I lost my ability to stop my rages from spinning out of control and like you said, let it run on its own course and let it slow down by itself. It's not easy to handle angry while suffering with bipolar at the same time.

Wish I could word things better; I won't say I know how you feel. I'm female, bisexual and bipolar; I see that bisexual/lesbians are even treated different than gay men where I come from. This town is definitely small minded when it comes to any dorm of "minority". I continue reading stories such as this to keep me from feeling hopeless. I don't speak up most of the time out of fear. Thank you deeply for pouring out to us.

I liked how you were treated one way by one group and the reverse by the other, Try this one, transgender/bipolar. Same scenario. Doctors don't believe you're trans Trans support don't know what to do with the bipolar portion. Living in between world's is sometimes as good as it gets.Thank you for writing such a poignant article. Take Care.

Bipolar disorder is one of the major problems in from which some people have to suffer. Diagonalization of this type of problem requires very long time and correct usage of medicines and on correct time.
To get well from this type of problem, consult the specialists as soon as possible.

As a bipolar grey ace I become frustrated easily and lose my temper when people express an opinion I disagree with. Like Mark I make screechy and self aggrandising statements and brow beat my allies. After that others retreat from discourse, I have slowly leant that MY medical condition does not give me a right to attack others, whilst I do agree that there can never be a safe space, I understand that my words and aggressive posturing do little to promote the concept of safe spaces.

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