Let me start out by acknowledging the fact that the internet is already chock full of blogs, and I know there are some great Bi Polar posters sharing information on a regular basis.
Why do we need another?
My aim here is somewhat different. I don't use much (or any) clinical terminology and try my best to stay away from the problem/solution perspective that dominates much of the mental health discussion. My goal is to be less Platonic and more visceral; to focus objectively on life experience, making general statements that can apply to those with mental disorders as well as those without.
I do not wish to devalue or ignore the good psychological/ neurological work that is being done- I simply realize that there are plenty of folks much more qualified than I to take the scientific approach.
I will invite everyone to share their own thoughts and stories- including the undiagnosed.
What does it mean to be Bi Polar?
To me, the term Bi Polar connotes an extreme range or diversity. Think about any duality you've experienced... smart/ stupid, positive/ negative, hot/ cold, open/ shut, hard/ soft, etc...
While most humans subconsciously, neurologically, and instinctively find a median point between extremes, Bi Polar people are drawn to the extremes themselves. They inherently consider settling for a median point to be not only a compromise but a sacrifice, and while many or most Bi Polar people will consciously admit that they want nothing more than to find the happy balance in the median, subconsciously they will not permit themselves to chart such a course.
In my view, the core of the Bi Polar condition is a yearning for true experience, something that can be felt in the body and has a significant emotional impact. This is indeed a universal human desire, but the lengths to which Bi Polar people are willing to go surpass the common boundaries of the normal human. Does this mean that the Bi Polar people are the ones jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, and swimming with sharks? While there is some intersection between the adventure/ thrill seeking crowd and BP, the two are not one and the same. A BP person almost always starts with an awareness of extremes within their own personality.
Because the process begins internally, the spheres of energy that are often frantic and sometimes volatile that come with the process of bouncing between extremes are often confined to that person, to their heart and mind, and can be socially (and thus clinically) pinned onto that specific person. This is unfortunate because it often ostracizes the person and makes them feel like something is wrong with them, and forces them to work through their experience internally.
I strongly believe that this initial confinement is the worst thing that can happen to someone with a Bi Polar personality. In a more accepting environment, a BP person's tendencies might have bloomed into courageous curiosity, but in our world, escaping energy is often pushed back into the person, causing internal tension and confusion.
Imagine a kitten born in a tiny cage. From a very early age they are aware of their confinement, but as they start to grow, their body presses against the bars and their growth is painfully stunted. There is only one opening, and every time the cat tries to squeeze through it, a mighty hand comes and pushes it back. Only a few things can happen in this scenario. The cat can continue to live in the painful state of stunted growth, it can try to attack the hand and break free, or it can lose the will to live.
This may be an unpleasant analogy, but I use it only to illustrate what need not happen. I believe that Bi Polar people can have a healthy existence with above-average vitality, but they, and their society, need to approach the situation carefully.
Everyone involved needs to understand that the extremes being perceived are not inherent in the Bi Polar person. The Bi Polar person simply seems unusual because they are having a different experience. Imagine someone who could see beyond the spectrum of known visible light, or who could hear beyond the spectrum of known audible frequencies. BP people are reacting to an intense view of the world in which they live, but it is the same world in which everyone lives, and most of these people are not Bi Polar. If society were to restructure its view of Bi Polar people, viewing them as gifted and especially perceptive, with valuable information to contribute, the condition of Bi Polarity itself would transform into an almost entirely positive thing.
I will conclude my maiden post with a practical thought. When a family member, friend, really anyone recognizes a Bi Polar person in their life, especially a child, they should make an effort to engage that person. As an alternative to therapy and medication, treat that person as if they have a gift, because they do. Show respect towards that person's ideas and emotions, and realize that they are complex and will take some patience to fully understand. With this type of graceful humanity in their life, the BP person will have a totally different life experience, and will be eternally grateful and exponentially more blissful as they transition into adulthood.
Stay tuned for more very soon.