In this piece, I explain why I think we might all be bipolar and suggest we entertain the idea that humans are much more complicated than we think. Do you sometimes judge others for being too happy or too sad all the time? If you find yourself doing this, all the more I’d love you to continue reading….
Before I begin, I am going to define what bipolar means for me. I used to see several psychiatrists in the past and was diagnosed as having bipolar by three of them. The doctors had asked me about my mood and I said that I get angry and depressed sometimes. With two of the doctors, I had just mentioned my anger. That was it. They both suggested I take bipolar medication. From this I had learned our moods should be consistent. We are supposed to be happy all the time and anything outside a smile is a mental illness that medication can treat. I obliged. I went on the meds. Granted, while there are people who have legitimate diagnoses and while medication might be needed, it was not the case for me. When I say the word “bipolar”, I am aware that there is a Bipolar I and a Bipolar II. I am talking about the second one. I define it based on how my doctors did. Bipolar people are, mood-wise, inconsistent. In our culture inconsistency is instability. Instability is crazy and needs correction.
In spite of the mask I wear in front of those I am not sure can handle me, I am an authentic person. What you see is what you get. If I am laughing or smiling, you can count on it I am feeling really good. If I am sad or upset about something, if I trust you, you’ll see that part of me. I am a multidimensional person (as we all are) and I love all parts of myself and each part of me is valid, worthy, welcome, warranted and important to my growth — be it part of my light side or my dark side. I love all of me. Anyone who is honest and authentic will acknowledge, embrace, accept and express all parts of self.
Authentic people might be confusing: People get confused when they see a person they are used to seeing happy all the time have a nervous breakdown. People get confused when they just found out that a happy person has recently committed suicide. Isn’t that the cliche? People get confused when a depressed person laughs or goes to a party. During the time when I was chronically ill for 13 years, I had some good days and I took a video of myself dancing in my living room. Those who didn’t know me better would have thought I was lying about being sick because I had a lot good days of laughing, dancing, making jokes and having fun. People get confused when they see a conservative person sport liberal characteristics or vice versa. People generally get confused and sometimes suspicious when they see a lack of consistency in a person. People have to be either all good or all bad, all depressed or all happy, all positive or all negative…. all THIS or THAT — whatever it is. The black-and-white thinking model will expect people to be one or the other — no shades of gray. So, when we see people who exhibit complexity, we freak out. And while there may be a kind of bipolar that is legitimate, in my case, the doctors diagnosed and medicated me due to my admission I had other parts of me that weren’t always people-pleasing, smiling and laughing.
Anyone with a simplistic way of thinking or anyone who doesn’t understand human nature will get confused or suspicious easily when they meet authentic people.
Well, I theorize there is a good reason people think simply and get confused when they see a diverse human. This is because our culture frowns upon authenticity. We are taught from infancy that who we are is not good enough, so the child, as a means to survive, creates a different personality they deem might reduce the chances of being rejected by others. This false personality might be created by the subconscious mind so most of us probably aren’t aware this false character even exists. Most of us wear a mask and it is pretty consistent. Only those close to us see us when our masks are thinned or completely off. The outside world thinks they have a pretty good idea who others are when it is only a mask. We become almost predictable. However, those who show all their faces or at least admit to having many facets will scare most people since so many of us are conditioned by the masks we see everyday and even the masks we wear ourselves. Real people are definitely scary. If we are being honest about who we are, we will be inconsistent; we’ll be expressing happiness and sadness, excitement and gloom, rage and joy, resentment and forgiveness, positivity and negativity, love and indifference, laughter and tears, shame and confidence, terror and safety, self-doubt and self-esteem… It will be different from person to person, but the point I’m trying to make is that the most authentic people are diverse. You will see most or all parts of them. They are either wearing a thin mask or no mask. Even in my will to express how complicated we all are, my opinion is still too simplistic. I cannot even begin to remotely describe just how complex we all might be. And the more honest we are, the more complicated we might come across to others.
“But your mood shouldn’t change so quickly.”
I wonder if this might be another myth we are conditioned to believe? Flashbacks from past trauma are not just visual. They can also be physical and be accessed through all of our senses. You could be laughing one moment and be sad the next after you were suddenly reminded of something that happened in the past because of something you saw, smelled, heard, tasted, or felt physically. For the most part, this happens on an unconscious level. Triggers might not be so accidental or random as we might think. So long as we are alive, we are experiencing the world with all of our senses and so long as we are in a physical body, we are remembering things and some of those memories are not pleasant and we may emote as a result. Have you ever heard someone say they were crying, angry or sad and didn’t know why? We’ve all heard of “sad spells” or “crying spells” or “rage attacks” and people might be clueless as to their cause. We call this “crazy” since it cannot be backed with reason or logic. But is that really crazy? Hormones and medication might make these feelings even more accessible as they might thin the veil between us and our feelings and memories. All these sensory flashbacks might be happening on a subconscious level and this is why we don’t know why we feel what we feel. Just because we don’t know consciously what is going on, doesn’t mean another part of us doesn’t. When trauma happens to children, in order to survive it, we must split OFF from ourselves. So as adults, when we feel things and we cannot make sense out of them, for another part of us, it DOES make sense. Shadow work and some therapies can help us gain access to all the parts of self so that we may integrate them facilitating self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Once we start thinning our masks, the less friends we might have since generally people prefer the mask, the consistency, the happy smiles, the shtick we are used to…. People, in order to feel safe, might prefer predictability and consistency. Keep the mask on and keep your friends. Keep the mask on and your doctor won’t recommend meds. Keep your mask on and get through the day much easier. Cling to your identity and keep your fan base. And the more popular you become, the harder it might be to disidentify with your stage presence.
Even though we might lose friends once we begin to show the world who we are, even though we might be diagnosed as being sick or crazy, if we are strong and brave enough to stick with it and keep being ourselves, at some point, I wonder if we might begin attracting better quality people in our lives or others who are also authentic. It’s a tough road to thin the mask…. The longer we have held on to it, the longer it might take to thin it out and eventually remove it. Watching your friends disappear is traumatic, but if we just allow that and surrender to those feelings of heartbreak when it happens, we might find that it will be easier to watch people leave our sides in the future. The more we give full expression to those feelings that come up when we feel lonely, the less lonely we might realize we are. Because that is what the self-actualization process causes sometimes: Loneliness. It’s just another stage we reach on our journeys. We might start to resent others in this stage and fault them for our loneliness. We’ll want to put them down and call them “sheeple” or “asleep”. I think we all go through it when we begin shedding our mask since we might be tempted to blame people for how alone we feel. But again, when we allow the heartbreak that goes along with this process and feel the feelings instead of acting them out, the loneliness might shift.
In short, what is construed as mentally ill might really be what makes us real. I think we are all naturally bipolar per the human experience. We are a spectrum. We have the rainbow inside of us. We are transient beings. Our moods can change on a dime. Flashbacks from the past are happening probably every day outside of our awareness. We are not just one color, but ALL colors. And until we embrace our inner diversity, our light and Dark side, and integrate all parts of the self, we remain stagnant. Becoming naked without the protective skin of falseness is the hardest thing we might ever do, but at the same time, the BEST thing we’ll ever do.
If you see someone at work, online or wherever in life and it appears they only have one side to them, chances are, they are a spectrum just like you. They just might not feel safe enough to express all the other colors. They might be behind a wall they created to protect themselves from getting hurt again. Or maybe their Facebook account is used for other purposes. Just because you only see one side of a person, doesn’t mean that is all there is. We are all diverse. The difference between us is whether or not we acknowledge and express those other parts of ourselves.