‘Ye’ for diverse voices

Unless you’ve been living under a rock I’m sure you are aware Kanye West has recently released his new album ‘ye’ (pronounced ‘yay’ as in his first name). Amongst other themes, ‘ye’ explores West’s suicidal thoughts and his relationship with his Bipolar Disorder. Now I must confess that I am not a fan of West. But don’t be alarmed. I don’t want this to this to turn into a post bashing him. Quite the contrary. As much as I disagree with a lot of what he says and does I want to applaud West for sharing his experiences with mental illness. That takes courage. And not enough people do it.

What interested me more than the album itself was the reaction the mental health community has had to it online. ‘ye’ caused quite a stir amongst Bipolar forums and social media pages with many people directly attacking West for expressing differing views to their own. I know even for myself I had a sort of visceral reaction similar to #notmypresident. I didn’t want West to speak for me: #notmyspokesperson. And it caused me to reflect on myself and the way I engage with content online. Here’s how my thought tangent went.

Do I agree with West’s portrayal of Bipolar? No.

Does West’s portrayal of Bipolar represent my own? No.

Do I find the pseudo-empowering message of Bipolar as a super power twite and offensive? Slightly, yes.

Am I concerned that West is a potentially bad Bipolar role model to have in the public eye (considering he often brags about being off his meds)? Yes, it’s a terrifying thought.

Am I concerned that West being public about his Bipolar will lead to misconceptions and stereotypes about Bipolar being perpetuated? Yes. I honestly don’t want people thinking we are all like West.

Am I concerned that West’s being public about his Bipolar will contribute to the popular narrative of the tortured Bipolar genius? Absolutely.

But does any of the give me the right to tear another Bipolar person down for sharing their experiences? No, it simply does not.

I saw a lot of people online writing that West had no idea what ‘real’ (whatever that is) Bipolar is like because he is rich. Which is simply absurd. I talked to my brother about it and we came to the conclusion that my mania episodes would be a hell of a lot worse if I had access to the money West does. West’s experiences are not better or worse, they are simply different.

And I think difference is something that should be celebrated. With a diagnosis like Bipolar many people experience the symptoms differently. I know people have often invalidated my experiences because of my propensity to dysphoric manias and mixed episodes simply because it isn’t what they experience. It feels horrible to have people invalidate your experiences just because they are different to their own. And I am seeing this happen more and more in mental health circles that were  originally designed to be supportive and lift people up.

It is a trend I have noticed a lot. It’s almost like we are in competition with each other to prove who is the most fucked up. People often seem to reject articles and comments simply because they don’t mirror their own. They will comment saying things like ‘well, what about this?’ rather than celebrating what has been said and learning from it. And the fact is just because you didn’t find something like ‘ye’ useful doesn’t mean that others wont. It is something I find very frustrating. It has often made me think about leaving some of my online communities. And that would be a shame.

And that is because I think diversity is so important. You don’t have to agree to learn from each other. Forums and online communities but also life in general would be boring if it was just an echo chamber. I, for one, feel grateful to have heard West’s experiences, which are different to my own, because it made me reflect on my Bipolar as well as the general human condition. I think we as human beings need to be challenged. And that is never going to happen if we surround ourselves with voices identical to our own. Diversity of voices is important. I may not agree with a great deal of  what West says but I will defend his right to say it. Diversity of voices makes us strong.

P.S: Even if you don’t like what he said, how bloody cool is it to have a mainstream, famous rapper speak out about mental illness? Let’s just reflect on that for a second. We’ve come a long way!

3 thoughts on “‘Ye’ for diverse voices

  1. Really well written, and great perspective. I agree he absolutely has a right to share his experience.

    However, Kanye has something that most people with Bpolar Disorder or other mental illnesses don’t have. A massive social media platform and following. It would be great if he could educate himself about how to advocate effectively, and use that advantage for good, rather than floundering around and (most likely) unintentionally doing more harm than good. If you are interested and have a moment, you might like to check out my recent post on the subject of Kanye and mental health. You can find it at: https://anitalinkthoughtfood.com/2018/08/13/if-i-were-kanye-west/

    Thanks for sharing your take on this. Nat from SANE pointed me in the direction of your post.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      I totally get where you are coming from and would love if Kanye would represent our cause better. But at the same time I don’t think it is his responsibility to be an advocate, just because he has the high profile. There have been high profile people with Bipolar all throughout history and sometimes they have said the most without saying anything at all, by just being them and being successful whilst having Bipolar. 🙂

      I read your blog and loved it! So glad Nat was able to connect us. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! I love your blog too, and can’t wait to read more of your posts. I’m still relatively new to blogging, so it is great to connect with someone else who blogs in a similar genre. I think you’re right about Kanye not necessarily needing to be an advocate. His profile, and the fact that he’s talking about it means it generates more interest in, and discussion about mental health, and that has got to be better than silence…and it provides scaffolding for the true advocates to enter a discussion which may not otherwise have been opened.

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