Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Finding BIP Soul Mates: A Confession (Part 3)

"Why is that?" my husband asked, after I told him I thought I might be frightened of developing relationships with other people who are bipolar.

"I'm not really sure," I said. "Part of it might be that I'm just not a group person. I don't define myself by my vocation, religion, or political party. I certainly don't see myself as "mentally ill." Years ago, when I first started visiting chat rooms, I felt worse, rather than better.

"I was desperately seeking advice to real-world problems and I couldn't find anyone with insight. To me the Internet felt like the World Wide Wound. At the time I couldn't identify one BIP (bipolar) who had a good job (that wasn't in the field of mental health or illness); was married, had children, and responsibilities; felt good about him or herself (despite the illness); was a problem-solver by nature; had a positive attitude; was self-disciplined; had a sense of humor, and thought about the bigger picture.

"Later, when I read bipolar blogs, I couldn't relate to anyone. I even discussed it with my psychiatrist."

"What did he say?"

"He said that I'm 'unusual' and it would be difficult if not impossible to find other people who are like me."

"Did that make you feel better?" my husband asked.

"No. At the time, I really needed to identify some other BIPS to discuss this illness with. I was feeling isolated from my friends. Even those people who are sympathetic couldn't provide insight. I was hoping to compare notes with other like-minded people and try to figure out some solutions."

"I was sure that somewhere in the universe there must be people who are bipolar thinkers and problem-solvers--if only I could find them. The problem with all the bipolar books I've read, mostly by doctors, is that they view this illness as a form of pathology. What if it's not? What if BIPS are just different? What if we share certain personality traits that are not as common among others--that make it more difficult to survive?

"What if every BIP was given a Myers-Briggs Personality Test (that's the only one I've taken), and it turns out that we're mostly one particular personality type (which is quite rare), and that this is the cause of our problems? What if we deal less well with stress than others? What if we're more idealistic? What if we tend to be dreamers or thinkers rather than doers? What if we're more likely to idealize situations and also more likely to feel disappointed when things don't work out? What if we see the world more in terms of "black and white" instead of gray and are less adaptable?

"While none of this may be true for others, as far as I know, no one is doing this kind of research. What if the solution to this illness--at least for some of us--is simply that we need to understand our differences, and learn different coping skills?"

"Those are interesting questions," my husband said.

"But I can't seem to find other people who are asking them," I said. "Either people are waving the NAMI banner and declaring how proud they are to be mentally ill, or they're not discussing these issues at all. Maybe, the BIPS who have figured all this out--don't feel the need to talk about it."

(to be continued)


Anonymous said...

You certainly pose interesting questions. I'm not sure whether "BIPS" share personality traits but it certainly should be considered. Once a diagnosis is made (and in my experience it's after one consultation), that's it. You're now officially a "mentally ill" person and they try to figure out what drugs you should take. It's never made sense to me either.

Thanks for today's post!


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could be the spokesperson for those of us who just have the illness but don't consider ourselves "mentally ill." I'll vote for you! Also, I'm going to vote for your blog as the best under the health category in the Blogger's Choice Awards. Congrats on being nominated.


Jo said...

So what is your type? I'm an INFP. And all your questions are interesting, for sure. I'm not sure I'm over the shock of learning I'm bipolar and moping around about it, but I'm starting to emerge from the fog and going back to the more powerful person I once was.

JayPeeFreely said...

Those ideas seem like a definite research field to pursue.

Far a field, but relates I think:

A little over a year ago, I began my own personal crusade to determine what if any connection Steroids had to Power Surges in baseball. I contacted a few professors in the medical, physics, communications and economics fields for their assistance or viewpoints on some initial studies I made.

I reach some far different conclusions than the pervasive media - in short - Steroids are not the DRIVER of this phenomenon.
But I got very little feedback from those contacted sources - who all were studying baseball/sports in some way, shape or form.

How it relates: You obviously understand BiPolar from an intuitive (through the web), personal and educational background. You MAY be the best to solve the problem, not the doctors.

In one study I saw, 87% of doctors asked to review pharmaceutical products were paid upfront for their "conclusions." The Bias is inherent with that paid conflict. Sure, doctors need payment for their time, I just think we can surmise a better way. It is little wonder we are haphazard about the side effects or long-term problems with meds for all types of illnesses or concerns.

You have a vested interest, but the conclusions are not bought. You NEED the answers to the questions you seek. You are passionate, but not blinded from what I've read...of your blog.

A little revelation here:

I was diagnosed by the Navy with an alcoholic problem after a "near miss." I took it to heart, stop drinking cold, and got out of the service honorably for failure to complete a 30 day dry out program.

I turned around my life for two years, worked hard, had success and began to dream of better, but had another episode with a person who pushed every button a man has. My life has not been the same since...

This is way personal, but it reflects a rollcoaster ride. Sound familiar? I have my moods. I withdraw. I've lost alot. But when I am honest, I know I'm not a fool or ne'ver-do-well. Or at least I can't think that.

So, figure out what you need to do. Your blog, resources you got, professionals, personal insights and write that book that helps us all understand IT ALL!!!

Keep it up!

marja said...

I've always said bipolar had nothing to do with personality or character (are these two the same thing). I mean - for example - there are kind bips and there are cruel bips. But I do feel that I have a hypomanic personality, in that I'm constantly creative, whether I'm high or not. I developed this creativity since I first got sick 42 years ago, at the beginning using creative projects to ward off depression.

Do our moods make us take on a lifestyle that helps us survive the steep highs and the deep lows? Does that lifestyle end up pervading our lives so much that it seems to become part of our personality?

In reading and communing with bips in bloggerland, I find there is a difference between "old" me and the young ones who have only recently been diagnosed. There is a difference between people who have lived with it a long time and those who still have to learn.

I love the way you make us think, Susan.

Polly said...

Jo, I'm an INFP, too! Is anybody else who's reading this an INFP?

Susan, although I think you're a special person, of course, I'm not sure how right your doctor is in thinking that you're "unusual." As I've said before, most manic-depressives I've known were as "high-functioning" as you are.

I have responsibilities, feel good about myself, am a problem-solver, am very self-disciplined about some things but not as much as I'd like to be about others, have a sense of humour, and think about the bigger picture. (Oh, yeah, and I'm modest, too, ha ha.) I do not necessarily have what everyone would consider a "good" job, but I just finished graduate school in the fall and I have two part time jobs, both of which I like, and one which is the closest thing possible to being in my career field without actually being in it. I'm not married and I don't have children, but I'm only in my twenties and have been in a stable relationship for the past two-and-a-half years.

I DO see myself as mentally ill, by the way, but as someone who copes well with her mental illness.

The Crazy One said...

I'm an infp... and bipolar... this is starting to get interesting.

The Crazy One said...

To add to what polly said, most manic -depressives I know are high functioning. Just ignore what, everyone says. I mean mean I have bipolar disorder, but it doesn't define me. I want a career as a psychiatrist because I always wanted to be a psychiatrist. Many people in my family are bipolar and they are all in the computer fields.
I've been thinking about myself as mentally ill for a while. Frankly, I'm sick and tired. I take a few pills; I'm okay; let's get back to business now shall we?
theRealCrazyOne (a nickname I got before I was ever diagnosed)