Using Our Bipolar Radar: Our Best Protection
This is a post about protecting ourselves from bad situations, and how I failed to do it last week …
One can make a strong case that our illness confers a certain heightened awareness that others view as uncanny or strange. The brain science strongly suggests that we aren’t as selective as the chronically normal in filtering out our environment. We notice a lot more that goes on around us. Plus, it seems, we have the ability to connect all these dots to come up with startling insights.
That is the gift to our illness - our bipolar superpowers that make us so creative and intuitive and empathic and just plain really cool people. The curse is we are easily overwhelmed and overstimulated. Plus we may jump to frightening conclusions.
Either way - gift or curse - we are bound to draw unwanted attention to ourselves. The chronically normal don’t understand us, which is never good considering that they constitute the overwhelming majority. Our challenge is having to adapt to them. They do not feel a reciprocal obligation.
I am usually very careful and selective about how I negotiate these situations. Often I am very successful, but last week I messed up. My bipolar superpowers told me to give a certain scheduled meeting a miss. I knew I should have put my car into reverse as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. Instead, I pulled myself together and walked straight into the St Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Keep in mind that our low capacity to filter out our environment translates to many of us not being able to fully engage our shield walls. I will spare you the details. Don’t worry - I’m fine now. But the incident got me thinking:
We lack effective shield walls. When they are breached, our ability to connect dots compounds the damage. Our only protection is our early warning system. When something appears on our radar, our ability to connect dots presents solutions and work-arounds.
Of all things, the same brain wiring is responsible for both the gift and curse, the lack of shield walls as well as the radar, our uncanny ability to make intuitive leaps as well as our unfortunate tendency to see reality for what it is.
So - we are extremely vulnerable. But we also have superpowers. Our bipolar superpowers are there for a reason. We need to pay attention.
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.