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A state of Imbalance: my take on Bipolar

Posted by cloudydaze on December 30, 2009, at 0:12:28

I wrote this tonight for my blog on another site. Thought it turned out neat. I've been writing a lot of philosophies lately...

A lot of you know about my struggle with Bipolar Disorder, but most people don't truly understand it. I could sit here and rattle off the science or psychology behind it, because I know it well - having experienced it firsthand, and being a psych student in the past. But I had a thought earlier on another way to explain this disorder, and it comes straight from Taoism.

Most everyone has seen the yin/yang symbol, with light and dark sides coming together to create a whole. This is how I view myself, when I am at peace. Here's an excerpt from wikipedia about the symbolism of the yin and yang.

"The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed. Yin is usually characterized as slow, soft, insubstantial, diffuse, cold, wet, and tranquil. It is generally associated with the feminine, birth and generation, and with the night. Yang, by contrast, is characterized as fast, hard, solid, dry, focused, hot, and aggressive. It is associated with masculinity and daytime." - Wikipedia on Yin and Yang

In reference to myself, yin is my "dark side" - the side that appreciates dark humor and horror movies, the quiet, reflective, passive and even sad side of me. The yang is my "light side" - the energetic, humorous, bubbly and aggressive side. When these 2 sides work together as one, I am at peace with myself, they are harmonious. But, when one becomes heavier than the other, problems arise. In fact, at times its almost like I have 2 separate personalities.

When the yin takes over, I become depressed, lonely, and sometimes I tend to isolate myself. I might sleep a lot or just feel tired...even hopeless at times (because sometimes it feels like you're trapped there forever). When the yang takes over, I become restless to the point of agitation or even outward aggression, might not sleep or eat, become very impulsive, talk fast or a lot, or just experience a false emotional "high" (which is usually followed by a crash).

Neither of these sides was made to act independently, and neither of them are good by themselves. They each need to be pushed and pulled by the other in order to act as one and bring harmony. This sounds like utter chaos to most people, but it's actually the way the entire world works. Think about the force of gravity - if it wasn't for the constant pulling of objects on other objects, this world would be in disarray. Hence, the chaos brings order.

That said, I rather enjoy my chaos normally. It is what sparks my creativity and drives my entire personality. But it's when that chaos becomes unbalanced that I have a problem.

Often I tend to keep these things to myself. Let's face it - no one wants to be around someone who is depressed. Very few of my friends and family try to reach out to me when I'm in this state - simply because they don't know how to handle it. Hell, I'm still learning...its kind of an ongoing process, but Ive learned a LOT about myself in the past few years. But it turns out that Bipolar is a rather lonely disorder, so I do end up pretending to be okay a lot when I'm really not. I've become so good at this that there are only a few people who can tell if I'm faking. But it gets to a point where you just can't pretend anymore, and that's when I tend to hide from the world, because I feel like that's NOT who I am. I am NOT this constantly depressed/agitated person.

Why pretend to be okay when I'm not? The obvious answer was already stated: no one wants to be around you when you're depressed! The less obvious answers are as follows:

1. For my daughter/family - if I always showed them how I really felt, it would probably scare them or make them sad. None of this is their fault and I don't want them feeling that way.

2. People with Bipolar still need jobs. I am classified as "high-functioning" which means I have managed to hold a job for a considerable period of time, and I can function better than a lot of Bipolar patients. This doesn't mean its not a constant struggle however. I figure it's because I'm really stubborn, and even if i don't "win" - I don't want to come in last, or give up. Giving up would be the ultimate fail. I think that's what drives me. Someday I'm going to live up to my ambitions, or die's just going to take me a little longer.

So these are my reasons for faking happiness. That being said, it is utterly exhausting doing this, especially when I experience a long stretch of depression. I am constantly at battle with myself. But, it is a coping mechanism.

Here's a quote from "Support or Stigma? Bipolar in the Workplace" an article by Lauren Cox, ABC News.

"People with the disorder often have trouble keeping a job and are 40 percent less likely to be employed than the average person, said Ronald Kessler, a public health researcher at Harvard University. On the other hand, Kessler said, if treated properly, they can be creative and invaluable individuals. Many highly successful authors, artists and professionals have the disorder."

This social stigma is everywhere. Here's another quote from the same article:

"There's still quite a bit of stigma in the public," said Sue Bergeson, CEO of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. She herself has bipolar disorder. In a 2004 poll, the DBSP found one out of five people believed that people with bipolar disorder were incapable of holding down jobs or keeping up personal relationships. One in six said they shouldn't have children, said Bergeson."

A lot of people are afraid when I tell them I have Bipolar. I am not a criminal, I've never hurt fact I've never even been in a fight. Unless you're a zombie, you have no reason to fear me. I am most likely not going to try to decapitate you unless you try to eat my brains. And yes, that was a joke. I do rather like to laugh at myself.

I may be weak in a lot of ways, but experience and knowledge have made me strong, and I'm a better person because of it. It's part of me, but I will not be defined by my disorder. I do believe, however, that my brain works slightly different than most people's, and that's why I often see things differently. It helps me to think outside the box, I guess.

And back to what I've said a million times before: take me or leave me, this is who I am. Now you know me a bit better, even if you didn't want to ;)




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