Friday, April 25, 2008

And now, back to our regularly scheduled bipolar disorder

Someone recently described me as being "intense." I don't think I'm intense; I'm just a deep thinker. I don't intentionally challenge other people to think that way.

When someone says I'm intense, it's usually a euphemism for "May, you're spinning off into the stratosphere again." A hypomanic brain requires some keeping up with. From the outside, it looks chaotic: a mouth that doesn't stop, sleep that never comes, thoughts that go into new and sometimes fascinating places.

The first time my so-called intensity got totally out of control, George W.Bush had recently been elected. In the months leading up to the election, I was consumed by anxiety that the candidate who embodied everything I detested would be elected. Worse, the other candidate, Al Gore, would not be elected solely because the incumbent had an affair that, although it had absolutely nothing to do with running the country or working in service to the American people, was treated with moral judgment that was elevated to tabloid-like fervor. People actually believed that getting a blow job was akin to breaking the law. It made me stay awake at night and kept my brain spinning in a frenzy of fear related to having neo-conservative hawks massacring the Constitution and marching the country's population into something akin to a far right-wing cult.

When Bush was elected the first time, I spent hours and hours on the Internet stoking my fear by visiting Websites that spoke of conspiracy, diminishing human rights, plots to strip the American people of their privacy, conservative social control, and worse. I printed out articles and emailed these harbingers of doom to everyone I knew. Daily. At least. It was making me physically ill. I was consumed beyond reasonable involvement for even the most concerned of citizens. A lot of my fears came partially true, but since it happened when I was in a rational state, it didn't rock my world at all.

I abhor the current administration, though. I'll be relieved when it's over.

Another thing to know is that I am an avid NPR listener. Or was. Most of the last year, NPR was cranking out an overwhelming number of stories about all things Iraq-related. It was getting to be much too much, and then election issues started to crowd out the Iraq stories. The anxiety was coming back. My impatient intolerance started reaching maximum levels very early on. Now, when anything related to Barak, Hillary, or John comes in, I just turn it off. Off, off, off. I can't listen. I'm not disinterested, just anxiety stricken. I can't face the thought of getting caught up in the obsession fueled by worry and hypomanic distortion. I was out of control once, and I owe it to myself and all of the people who know me to manage my behavior appropriately this time around.

This is a very typical coping strategy for those who are faced with bipolar triggers. We tend to latch onto an issue and grow to show an unhealthy, unreasonable, and obsessive interest in things such as politics. For me, it became a tendency to want to warn everyone of the dire consequences of allowing Bush, Rove, and associates to continue unchecked. I overwhelmed myself and everyone around me.

I can't listen to the news this time around. I change the radio station. I cancelled my newspaper, I mute the TV. I am too BP to risk the emotional upheaval and triggered behavior that comes with this particular topic.

I still vote, but I find it a much more rational process if I carefully control the flow of information coming into or out of my head. And in the end, it's all about the in-and-out-of-my head that matters most. Still, it makes me feel very defective because I have a disorder that forces me to change my ability to manage everyday things, including some that I love.

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