I’ve recently seen an uptick in questions about deciphering the decision making process of Bipolar people. Today, I thought I would elaborate on some of my perceptions on how the decision making process works from my own mind and what I’ve seen dealing with a lot of people.
There is a kernel of truth at the root of most, if not all, Bipolar responses. Much like a legend, there is a fragment of truth that has a lot of fantasy built around it. That fantasy is pieced together in a logical (for a Bipolar person) way that may or may not reflect the reality of the situation. Let me use a few examples from my own life.
1. I once had a three week suicidal flat-spin because of a TV commercial. The commercial was about a father and son spending time together. The kernel of truth at the root of that unwell cycle was my guilt at not being there for my own son for about the first decade of his life. So my brain decided- you can’t have that, you can’t fix that, you fucked it up all, killing yourself is the only solution.
2. Being a High-Functioning Autistic; several of my emotional and social processes function very differently. Combine that with Bipolar Disorder and you wind up with some weird combinations. As I was growing up, no one else in my immediate family was mentally ill so I always had this perception of being the odd man out. When I was 15, I was screaming through insanity but internalizing it all because I thought it was “just a phase” or something I’d “get over”.
At that time, I experienced my first real love. However, I was also a HFA; so my emotional processes just worked differently. I didn’t know how to approach or talk to this girl, I didn’t know how to build a friendship with the idea of working towards a relationship, I understood none of these things because I was 15 and do not have many of the same processes that non-autistics do. Her subsequent rejection in combination with the mental isolation and the emergence of the Disorder threw me into a suicidal depression that ended in my only active suicide attempt when I put my father’s 9mm to my head and pulled the trigger.
At the very core of the issue was my misunderstanding of people, how they interacted, how they functioned, and how to function in their world. My brain concluded that since I didn’t fit with my family, my friends, and this person I felt so purely for rejected me- then I didn’t belong here. To me, that is the very root of that explosion. Logical- but entirely irrational and warped by insanity.
When I get emails or people asking questions- I’m always looking for the absolute root of what caused the problem. Without understanding that how can anyone really expect to make meaningful gains? I defused the two examples I cited through educating myself and correcting them. My guilt is less in regards to my son because we interact and visit at least somewhat regularly now. As for relationships; well I’ve still bombed plenty of those but I studied how you HU-MANS conduct them, interact, and worked to remedy or adapt my own deficiencies in those areas.
Having identified those roots I am also able to tell when the Disorder is screwing with my perception of them. I know what the truth and reality is so if my thought processes depart too far from there then I know something is up.
As a supporter, it is so easy to take things personally and feel like you did something wrong when your friend or loved one inevitably implodes. They will. That’s life being Bipolar. The most important thing to keep in mind is rationality. Are the actions of your loved one rational? Do they make sense given the context of the situation? You have the benefit of having a clear mind so you must exercise it to ensure that you aren’t over-exerting yourself in the process. You have your own life, mind, and responsibilities to take care of. Your loved one may want all the best for you but not be able to provide it because yunno- insanity and all.
The key to getting through these periods is open communication and the truth. The truth doesn’t care about how you feel about it. It simply is. Diverting a person’s mind and keeping it focused on the truth and other avenues in a situation is the way to go. “Okay, you lost a job. Tomorrow, you can start looking for a new one. It’s not a reason to drink yourself into a coma or go “confront” your former boss. Let it go, find a new job.”
And in my experience, you usually have to just keep chipping away and refocusing the person’s thoughts towards what the reality is. If you find yourself stumbling through it; just get them through the moment. Tomorrow is another day. “If it’s such a great idea now, it still will be tomorrow or a week from now.” Many destructive decisions made while unwell are the result of a single impulse. You may not be able to knock them out of the unwell period but you can help them avoid making insane decisions in the moment that will fuck their life up.
What if they clam up and go completely silent on you? Well, you’re at a major disadvantage. If you confront, you’re probably not going to win an argument with the person because their brain will just be warping your motivation and words. So long as the person isn’t being threatening to himself or others; it is best to back off and let the person work through their cycle. If you’re the source of it, then your trying to contact or talk to that person is just fueling the fire. Sometimes you have to be able to take a step back and just wait.
Encourage the person to seek professional help or talk to their doctor as soon as possible. As always, anything extreme like suicidal or violent threats should be dealt with by emergency personnel.
I’m going to make this blanket statement to everyone that does their best to love or care about a mentally ill person; and the people that have been burned by we, the nutcases. You’re good people for actually giving a shit. Regardless of whether you think you fucked up or caused an unwell cycle or whatever; you actually care. A lot of people couldn’t give less of a shit if we were alive, dead, or locked away in some asylum of yesteryear chained to a sink.
So don’t be too down on yourself or feel guilty if things don’t go perfectly. You’re not perfect and neither are we. All we can do is the best that we can.
And to those that had to walk away- it’s alright and I can’t say I blame you. Doing what I do here, there are people I’ve had to distance myself from because they were toxic and perfectly content to wallow in their own misery. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.
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