Last week (When Normal People Freak Out, Not Us), I posed this scenario:
Two tons of crap have fallen out of the sky from nowhere, landing on the feet of a couple in a loving relationship. One of the parties has bipolar. The other has “normal.” How many think that the one with bipolar is the one most likely to freak out?
I originally put this question to about 50 people at a talk (to the International Bipolar Foundation) I gave a month ago in San Diego. Nearly everyone - most with the bipolar diagnosis - raised their hand. Only one person thought the “normal” partner would be more likely to melt down.
Do you see the significance of this? We have been conditioned to believe the totally ignorant rubbish people say about us. We have been programmed to accept the stereotype. Of course we’re not more likely to freak out, and we will talk about that in a minute. But for right now, imagine what the world would look today like if gays, African-Americans, and others had bought into the malevolent straight white male version of themselves?
Do you see a major civil rights issue, here?
Okay, let’s go with the facts, and, as always, you here at HealthCentral are my best source. Alfredo put it this way:
We suffer so much, and are ready for things to go wrong, that we are best placed to cope with disasters.
We’re used to the world crashing down on us in other words. Often, when things go wrong, it’s no big deal to us. As Tabby put it:
We handle the TWO tons of crap better than the "normies" because we live with FOUR tons of crap in our minds every literal day. So, two tons seems manageable or it's just added in, so really, what's a bit more?
Meanwhile, says Cathryne, “those caught up in their own delusions of control - when something ‘out of control’ happens - they crumble.”
Joanne was right next door to Ground Zero during 9/11. While most of those around her (including her ex-military boss) were caught in a state of helplessness, Joanne managed to block out the terrible stuff going on around her (which included jumping burning victims) and plot a rational evacuation strategy out of the city.
Later, thanks to consulting her executive coach, who is a psychologist, Joanne managed to conclude that:
Looking back I can see that the PTSD also triggered hypomania which certainly came in handy for analyzing data and making quick decisions. The not-seeing of flaming, falling victims? I don't remember witnessing any of the many instances of my father's domestic violence before I hit puberty either. It's a protective adaptation.
Joanne’s comments prompted me to revisit Tom Friedman's 1989 book, "From Beirut to Jerusalem." Friedman is Pulitzer Prize foreign affairs correspondent for the NY Times. Lebanon had been embroiled in four years of bloody civil war when he arrived on the scene in 1979, and the country was still in a state of an adult version of “Lord of the Flies” when he sat down to write his book.