I Love Kind, Smart Journalists!/ “Black Box” – To Bash or Not to Bash?



Yesterday while on Facebook I spotted an International Bipolar Foundation post about the new ABC television series Black Box premiering tonight.

Here’s ABC’s Black Box overview:

“The twenty-first century is the era of the brain, and this show will be riding that wave on the cutting edge of medicine. The brain is the source of everything — from whom we love to how we act and feel. It is the ultimate mystery, which is why doctors call it the “black box.” Dr. Catherine Black and the staff of “The Cube” will constantly be challenged by cases never seen before on television. The patients have rare, highly visual, often hallucinogenic and startling conditions, which we will see through their eyes as Dr. Black diagnoses and treats them.”

Wikipedia’s description adds:

“Dr. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) is a famous neuroscientist who secretly has bipolar disorder; the only person who knows is her psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave), who was with Catherine after her first break and has been a maternal figure for Catherine since her mother, who also suffered from bipolar disorder, committed suicide.”

The International Bipolar Foundation post provides a link to a Washington Post/Associated Press article about Black Box written by the renowned AP national television columnist Frazier Moore.



Let me back up a bit.  I first read about “Black Box” a couple weeks ago in a great blog called “Bipolar, Unemployed and Lost”.  Here’s that post link:


After I viewed the official Black Box preview on YouTube,  I checked out the show’s ABC website and decided I would watch Black Box when the time came.

Back to the Washington Post article.  Frazier Moore wrote an intriguing Black Box article, but the title he chose and the phrasing within his article inspired me to write him a brief email.  His title, as you can infer from the Washington Post link above,  starts with “A Bipolar Doctor” and the phrase is “She’s bipolar.”

Those of you who have followed my writing know I never gave a hoot about how the word “bipolar” was used until I was diagnosed with bipolar!


Black Box series co-creator Amy Holden Jones commits the same wording sin; her remarks include “bipolar people” and “someone who’s bipolar”.   

When I first read those four items, I felt the equivalent of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard – screeeeeeechhhhhh!  Hey, we all have our “things” that set us off, and this phraseology issue is obviously one of mine.  Maybe I hold such strong opinions about speech and bipolar because I’m the daughter of a speech pathologist/trained theater actress.  Moreover, back in college, I took a “Speech for Teachers” course during my studies to become an English teacher.  My professor gave me the top grade in the class.  The main reason, however, why I feel the way I do is when I say “I’m bipolar” it sounds like that’s pretty much all I am, and nothing else.

I’ve written an essay about the wording of bipolar disorder, and if you want to subject yourself to my entire spiel (I suggest having a cup of coffee first) it has been published by the International Bipolar Foundation, Birth of a New Brain, and at Stigmama.com:


ANYWAY, I was in the mood to contact this influential journalist about my cause, so I placed my quivering fingers upon my keyboard and took off.  I tried my best not to come across as freaky-deaky, as I might have acted that way in the past with other people whose writing triggered me.

Here’s what I wrote:

"Dear Frazier,

I hope this finds you well.  I just read your article about the new
television show "Black Box" and I found it exceedingly well written and
interesting.  I would like to bring up a point for your consideration.

I am writer living with bipolar disorder; I was diagnosed at age
thirty-seven just eight weeks postpartum.   I grew up close to my father
who had what was then called "manic depression". (Manic depression is the
term that both Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, author of "An Unquiet Mind" and I
much prefer.)

I like to tell others that "I have bipolar" instead of saying "I'm
bipolar".  It sounds petty, I know, but more people with this mental
illness feel the same way as I do than you'd expect.  I'm finding that
it's the most respectful way to address people who live with this mood
disorder and so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.  I hope you 
take this email with a grain of salt.  If I didn't like your writing, 
I wouldn't bother taking the time to contact you! 🙂

I wish you the very best!

Warmest regards,

Dyane Leshin-Harwood, B.A., C.P.T.  
Freelance Writer
Consumer Advisory Council Member, International Bipolar Foundation
Blogger, International Bipolar Foundation
Author of the upcoming book:
"Birth of a New Brain - Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder"

(Dear readers, I couldn't figure out how to change my font back to how it first was:0)
When I checked my email this morning, I was stunned to see a reply from Frazier Moore in 
my in-box.  His warm, diplomatic response, which I copied in part below, really made my 
day.  I honestly didn't expect him to write back, and I had let the whole matter go.

Moreover, Frazier included a brief section (which I've deleted out of respect for his 
privacy) that implied that he had been affected by someone with bipolar disorder in his 
extended circle. It was obvious to me that his own experience has given him 
empathy and compassion for those who suffer with mood disorders. 
I believe that all good journalists have both of these qualities, 
and I am pleased that Frazier Moore appears to be one of them!

Frazier wrote me:
"Thank you for your gracious note. 
I take your point and will aim to be more sensitive in writing about this subject in
the future (which could very well happen if "Black Box" is a hit).  

Btw, I would be interested in what you think about the show if you happen to watch. 



On the International Bipolar Foundation Facebook page, there were many 
heated comments in regard to the Black Box announcement - 
it was interesting to read the replies.  To date,
the majority of the comments were negative in regard to the show and 
Black Box hasn't even aired yet.  

(To read these replies, visit the following link and scroll down to the Black Box post 
from 4/22/14)

After my exchange occurred with Frazier I felt emboldened to keep speaking up about 
what matters to me as far as bipolar disorder (or anything else) is concerned.  
If each of us addresses the bipolar disorder-related 
issues that are important to us with others, then a 
positive sea change could actually occur.

I will definitely let you and Frazier know my thoughts about this show!

21 thoughts on “I Love Kind, Smart Journalists!/ “Black Box” – To Bash or Not to Bash?

  1. Good luck with editing the formatting, should you decide to do so. I like using WordPress’s quote blocking instead of changing font. Sometimes you have to go into the HTML code to clean up formatting snafus, which is not for the faint of heart, but then I love fiddling behind the scenes (with code).

  2. WOW! That’s H-U-G-E! Way to go. See, you never know who will respond when you shoot out a heartfelt letter. I find if there is passion behind it (and we edit so we don’t come off as nutty) then we sometimes are well received. Do it more. Go girl. I don’t have the time, but think: you may have affected the proper use of our illness in a future article in the biggest D.C. paper if he writes it again. Here here! Well done. And, I might add, if he does, it is right in the mecca of our country, where change (theoretically anyway) is supposed to take place. You never know where the mustard seed hits and whom.

    • Thank you so much! Yeah, it felt pretty cool to get a reply from a big-time Associated Press writer. You are absolutely right – one never knows the repercussions of firing off an email. I will definitely do it again! It’s fun! 🙂 (Well, when I get a great reply it is!)

  3. Good job ! well done. I am so happy to see you doing that and succeeding,. Excellent way to put it. I used to say i m bipolar but i have bipolar sounds so much better, its like light on my soul

    • I love “it’s like light on my soul” It’s a subtle change to say “I have bipolar” rather than “I’m bipolar” but I think it’s good!!! Thank you for your wonderful comment and for believing in me Zeph!! xoxo

    • Thank you whyteknucklez!!! I’ll keep doing it wherever I can! Sending you a hug your way today – I look forward to your next blog post as always!

  4. That’s awesome that he changed his viewpoint or really saw the error of his viewpoint. Hopefully he remembers to change when writing in future articles.

    I wonder why people are so negative about this show – I haven’t been to the page in a coupla days I gotta check out the comments, cause I can only see good from this. Well, I guess depending on how it is written. But the only way to find out is to see it

    • Yeah, I hope the journalist sticks to his promise! I think he may have written a follow-up piece in the Washington Post about the show, so I’m going to search for it. As far as people being so negative about Black Box, you and I need to see it and then we can figure out what the drama is about. I hope you were able to see it!!! xoxox

      • I tried ABC.com (if you have a fancy phone you can get the ABC app for free) and it didn’t work in my area, but it might in yours! Hopefully it’s on Hulu Plus though!

        Thinking of those mean n’ nasty “magentas” – tell them I said they better get a move on out today!!!

      • Seriously God was lookin’ down on me because Craig & I didn’t think we had ABC up here in the mountains. I looked around for a while and didn’t see it on our channels. I was going to give up, but decided to try one last time to look up and down the list. Voila. There it was on channel 9 all this time. I thought I was going to have to buy it episode by episode on Amazon video – like I have the $ for that!

    • Oooooh – I haven’t read it yet but I totally want to! Thanks for giving me the heads up. That’s such a shame that it didn’t go well. I know there were many, many negative remarks about the show on the Facebook page for the International Bipolar Foundation, but I haven’t looked at them yet. Hope you are doing well, my dear. You are in my prayers.

    • I did look at the review briefly, and it’s a big bummer. But I’ll still watch the t.v. show! Thanks for the heads- up about the review. Hoping you and your family are doing well!!!!!!

  5. Hey girl: I forced myself to stay up awhile last night and watch what I could of “Black Box”–I made it about 30 minutes. Yeah–the character Dr. Black says right out that she’s “bipolar”, not that she “has bipolar”. Got to me. Also, they have her go thru a manic, hyper-sexual episode triggered by an invitation to speak at a high-falutin’ conference where she decides to not take her meds beforehand. The episode of mania, from the time she doesn’t take her meds thru the mania and back down (without depression) takes all of about a day–which I am not sure really happens like that to most folks with the disorder unless you have bp II–not to me at any rate. It kind of does a disservice to laypeople who might be trying to understand how the disorder occurs and what it looks like. So that kind of bugged me. But the portrayal of the manic episode itself felt a bit real. And the feelings described later, her reasons for not wanting to tell people, her overall intelligence, blah, blah, were alright.

    As for the rest of the “brain study” and other disorders portrayed on the show, what do I know? I think they are trying to put forth that the brain is indeed more than a bunch of labels, and that is a good thing.

    But then I fell asleep, so I have no idea how it all came together, or if it even did.

    I’ll be interested to read what you think!


    • Dear Beth, it’s great to hear from you! I have the show recorded, but I haven’t watched it yet. I plan to do it this weekend, or during the week when my girls are in school. I’ll definitely report back here about my impressions. I don’t have a good feeling about it… 😦

    • OMG – how could I miss this comment of yours, Beth! I’m glad I’m reading it the day after I watched the show – perfect timing! Your watching 30 minutes straight of “Black Box” deserves a medal of some sort, because the only way I got through it, as you know, was fast forwarding through most of it.

      There were some good lines in there – one was about how bipolar disorder is different than diabetes because bipolar is “hardwired” into the brain and cannot be cut out or cured. I’ll give them a little credit for that. I know I’m being a little, hmmm…harsh.

      I realize there are rapid cyclers, but still, the way that was portrayed seemed overly simplistic to me – maybe I’m wrong, but my gut says otherwise. I kept thinking they were using a “Superhero” formula in which one moment she’s “normal” and the next minute she is overly sensationalized “Bipolar Woman” able to leap (literally almost) off buildings and such. I just didn’t like it.

      The only thing apart from Vanessa Redgrave’s acting that piqued my interest was at the very end (SPOILER ALERT) we find out she has a child out of wedlock! So, out of total curiosity, I will watch the next episode, but I’ll probably fast forward through 50% of it again.

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you gave me the heads-up about it too! 🙂

  6. I am a luddite, Kitt. I only use .01% of WordPress’ capabilities. There’s a WordPress Meetup group in my town I could attend, but it’s huge (300 or 400 members) and that’s daunting to me. I don’t even know how to go into HTML code. I feel sheepish in writing this, but I forgot what HTML even stands for. (I’ll look it up!) It sounds like you do truly enjoy having fun working with code & you’re so lucky to be able to go for it in WordPress!!!

  7. Pingback: Dwelling in the Past/Bipolar Has Me or I have Bipolar? | Struggles of a Bipolar Woman

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