Is It Bipolar? Test Yourself - Second Edition
How good are you at spotting bipolar behavior? This is my second installment. You can read my first one here. Below are five hypothetical situations. Let’s get started:
Situation One. You have a brilliant idea about starting a colony on Mars. Everyone thinks you’re nuts, but you’re not about to let that discourage you. They all laughed at Columbus, right?
Situation Two. You never felt so good in your life. You strip off all of your clothes and run around naked in front of hundreds of people.
Situation Three. You post a funny cat video on FaceBook. Your FaceBook friends start clicking Like.
Situation Four. You’re holed up inside, playing video games. You sister calls, deeply upset that you blew off your auntie’s birthday party.
Situation Five. The love of your life has left you and you are are falling apart, inconsolable. The situation has gone beyond normal grief and your friends are worried.
Situation One. Colonizing Mars? Everyone would agree that this is the classic manic grandiosity scenario. But what if I were to tell you that Elon Musk - founder of PayPal - was obsessed by the exact same notion some 15 years ago? Not only that, he channeled his wild idea into his own improbably successful rocket company, SpaceX.
Plus his equally improbable Tesla Motors is changing the way we think about autos. Plus, in a matter of years we may all be living off the grid, thanks to a new battery one of his companies is developing.
Oh, and earlier this year, Musk announced a plan to drop a payload on Mars, with a view to eventual colonization. Musk has a net worth of $12 billion. No one is laughing.
Situation Two. Running around naked? Clearly manic, right? Oh, wait, I forgot to add: You’re at Burning Man and feeling the love, along with hundreds of naked people around you. You are behaving in a perfectly appropriate fashion, fitting right in.
Situation Three. Posting cat videos? People do this all the time. What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, in this situation, you happen to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and your out-of-character behavior is alarming Wall Street. But you’re too interested in the FaceBook Likes you are racking up to notice. One more cat video and you’re toast.
Situation Four. Holed up with video games? This is your classic isolation scenario. This doesn’t look good. But wait a second. Everyone needs their down time - time to themselves, a bit of peace and quiet, time to regroup, rest, reset the brain. It’s a crazy world out there, and your disapproving sister and those suffocating family affairs are part of it.
You are doing what you need to be doing to stay well. If this means setting boundaries and occasionally blowing off your social obligations, so be it.
Situation Five. The heartbreak of lost love? Depression is a legitimate cause for concern, but the more worrying response could well be misplaced optimism. You need to let go and move on, and depression - however painful - is one way of allowing that happen. The rose-colored glasses come off. In good time, you can pick up the pieces and the real healing can begin.
A common theme …
It’s all about context. A grandiose idea may turn out visionary. Eye-popping behavior may be perfectly ordinary, the seemingly ordinary frightening. Avoiding social contact in certain situations may be just what the doctor ordered. Even depression has a time and a place.
On and on it goes. We always need to be mindful of our behavior and where it may lead, but we also need the wisdom to discriminate at all times between what is appropriate and what is not. Sometimes, we need to listen to our friends and family. Other times, their failure to appreciate what is good for us may throw us off.
We learn from experience. Be wise. Live well …
Further reading …
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.