Oh my goodness. Am I bipolar? Have I been bipolar my whole life? I don't have an official diagnosis yet but I am going to discuss this with my therapist next week. She's not big into labels and neither am I -- especially when it comes to mental health. In the west, we have a tendency to become our diagnoses and get so wrapped up in it.
People say they have IBS or have the flu. No one says "I am irritable bowel syndrome." But when it comes to mental health -- we are what we have. "I am depressed" or "I am bipolar."
That aside, I've always known on some level that I experience a greater range of human emotions in one hour or one day than many people do in their lifetime. This has been the case since I was a small child and like many sensitive, emotional kids – I was taught that some emotions were acceptable and others weren't so I became really good at hiding how I really felt. To most people, I'm the most chill person they know. It's because I became so adept at hiding the other sides and only letting that monster out around the people who loved me the most.
I've had periodic depression for a long time and have learned to live with it and manage it through nature connection, prayer, self-care, and mediation, but the mania is something I'm just becoming aware of. Maybe it's getting more intense. After all, the say -- the more light, the more dark. The more awake I get, the more intense everything gets and so the more I have to double down on my practices and offer to myself the medicine that I offer to others.
After feeling so depressed this August when I broke up with my partner and had to move out of our dream/home, I was afraid to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge because I didn't trust myself to not hurt myself. And then something flipped and all of a sudden I felt so high on life — a higher vibration than I had ever experienced. It felt so good and I didn't want that feeling to ever stop so I kept chasing it. I called it "living the flow" and I was going from one social event to the next, barely making time to eat, sleep, or do any work. I knew if I slowed down long enough to feel, that the sadness might come back so I just kept moving so fast — packing my social schedule, staying out late, and meeting lots of new people. This lasted for a bunch of months until I completely exhausted myself and needed two months to recover. It wasn’t until I got a stress fracture on my foot and had to completely stop moving that I got the memo from my all-knowing body.
I'm just learning that there's all types of mania. Mine was a social high. My friend says she knows she's on the way up when she gets urges to smoke cigarettes or watch porn, things she says aren't really "her."
I asked her what to do when you're on an up and she said, "The best thing you can do is go to sleep. Meditate and drink water. But go to sleep." It's funny because when I have that feeling of intense energy rushing through me, I don't want to sleep.
So what would it mean to be officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder? For one, I don't think it's a disorder. I think it's a gift. Here’s why:
This new awareness gives me a lot of self-compassion. I can now fully forgive myself for all those times my mood has swung, my decisions have flipped, or I have "ruined" relationships. I was doing the best I could.
It helps me empathize – no matter what you're feeling, I've probably felt it before. And given that I am a hyper empath, I'm probably feeling it right now, too.
It's a reason, if I needed one, to be hyper-vigilant of how I am feeling and ever the more dedicated to my personal practice. My morning practice sustains me. It's my own mash-up and the content varies but it always involves some yoga, meditation, and personal prayer. I can put up barriers and turn down social engagements to take care of myself without feeling selfish because it's a serious psychological matter with intense repercussions.
I can accept where I am it. I'm like a bellow. I have periods of expansive, openness and periods of internal quietude. I'm both an introvert and an extrovert.
And after all, the Earth is bipolar, too. Polarity is awesome. We have morning and night, new moons and full moons, winter and summer. The duality is in everything. Yin and yang.
This also explains why I feel so drawn to living a nature-connected life and helping others do the same. We are the Earth and so when we tune into her natural rhythms, everything flows. This means going inward in the winter, sprouting in the spring, being wild and fully in blossom in the summer, and then harvesting the fruits of the year and taking stock in the fall. It means partying on the full moon and going inward on the new moon. It means honoring the liminality of sunrise and sunset. This is how my Jewish ancestors lived and also how many of our ancestors lived. It’s what my body craves and what modern life hinders. But we know that modern life was not designed for out mental/emotional/physical health.
When we attune to nature, what we create with our lives is more aligned with the natural processes of the Earth. We allow ourselves plenty of time to BE. We don’t burn out. We let what doesn’t really matter fall by the wayside. We take time to dream, refresh, prototype, celebrate, and reflect.
So maybe I’m not bipolar. Maybe I’m human.