Many people with Bipolar disease suffer from what is called an identity crisis. Individuals with Schizophrenia suffer a break from reality, unable to discern reality from psychotic images they see and hear. The Bipolar sufferer, on the other hand, including myself, substitutes another identity or identities as a result of a loss or transposition of their own identity during a specific time in their past.
In my case, in face-to-face communication with others, in order to compensate for that loss, I temporarily take on the identity of the person with whom I am speaking. I'm a chameleon of sorts. I absorb their traits, their conversational style, their intellectual level of communication or their type of genre of humor; in fact, depending on the strength of the personality, sometimes I take on more than one trait at once. Others may think I am a great conversationalist; after all, who wouldn't want to converse with someone who thinks and acts a lot like you do? Unfortunately, after a while, it gets boring and is not very stimulating. This makes it very difficult for me to be a good conversationalist, since I lack the basic foundation necessary to create the context upon which to base base my identity for that conversation. Once a conversation has begun and content has been provided, I take my cues from the other person and can rely on knowledge I have stored over my lifetime to manage a successful conversation for a reasonable period of time.
This trait becomes extremely complicated and devastating for the BP sufferer in a group situation, when the BP sufferer is expected to communicate with more than one person at a time. The stimulation from being around many people can be so overwhelming that it is nearly impossible to "attach with" a single identity in order to remain grounded, leaving the sufferer with a barrage of wordless noises and swirling confusion that have no meaning and create a threatening and frightening environment for the sufferer.
Another tough area of identity centers around happiness and anger. My general genetic makeup is one of good humor and a positive attitude, so when I am with others who are angry or upset about something, if I am in good mental health, I am capable of maintaining my positive demeanor. But if I am in poor mental health and face-to-face with an angry or rage-filled person, I go into full anxiety mode. The chameleon in me has nowhere to go; since my strength is in being upbeat, the clash is tremendous. Wanting to latch onto the identity confronting me, and not being able to fully identify with that offending beast sends my mind reeling and usually sends me into a corner or onto a couch with a blanket for a long day of anxiety and restless, disturbing sleep.
I am exploring a type of therapy called Systemic Coaching that is intended to resolve the identity break associated with Bipolar disorder. I'd appreciate any feedback on this coaching.
Losing my identity has been tough. I've been looking for the "core" me for a long time.
My motto, as always, remains:
"Learn, Learn, Learn...and never, ever give up."
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