Question: You often refer to the poisonous influences of the world that bring bipolars to their knees. Can you tell me some specific instances from your own life of toxic influences that you were able to banish and how this contributed to your freedom?
Answer: The poison influence of the world is a constant rainfall and bipolars by nature have no raincoat, no hat, no umbrella, and no waterproof shoes. When we are young the adult world of cocktails, cigarettes, and sexual tension, foul language, violent outbursts, intense competition, pride and patriotism, glamour, secrecy, climbing the ladder of success, strict male and female role playing all seems too mysterious and alluring to resist. How could the adult world possibly want what we children have, when it has film noir to our neighborhood puppet show? I tried my first and last cigarettes when I was twelve just for the reason of being beguiled by what adults could do with paper, tobacco, and a match. It was pure magic to my young senses, yet, somehow I knew that it belonged to a class of poison and, so, two cigarettes were my childhood's sole act of rebellion, my only traceable leaning toward adult sensibility as a child.
What impels us to trade childhood virtues for adult vices? Coming of age for some young men is tantamount to drinking to inebriation, getting stoned, having sexual intercourse, sometimes with a stranger or a prostitute. These are leaps from a childlike sensibility and the disappointment is that they are leaps to nowhere. A rite of passage should ideally take us from one land to another higher or greener, or wider land. My sense of the college version of rite of passage is that these promising young people are led like lambs to slaughter early in their matriculation and, before they are aware that they dwell in a poisonous atmosphere, they are tempting other, younger lambs to self-slaughter. College was my first encounter with widespread, senseless imitation of adult sensibility. From personal witness of excessive drinking and indiscriminate sex to cocaine snorting, pill popping, and mushroom tasting, I had my vicarious fill before the end of my first semester. My roommate took a Freshman shine to marijuana and decided on one occasion to bring the bong and party into our room. I played parent on that occasion and, unwittingly, did my best to protect myself from the poison rain a little while longer.
If bipolars needed only to keep their bodies free of poison chemicals, bipolar disorder would have been wrestled into submission centuries ago. The spread of the poison may begin with the mimicking of adult appetites by young men and women, but it moves quickly into the belief that these unhealthy, unmindful practices are an essential part of becoming mature citizens of the planet. That belief system is stronger than some religious doctrines and, in many cases, religious people are found practicing active faith in God and a more active faith in their sense of what it truly means to be an adult. If being an adult is mere license to drink, smoke, and sex your way to a belief oblivion of vanity, sentimentality, chauvinism, prejudice, profanity, violence, tradition, exploitation, greed, and pride, then I propose a new title for myself as a fifty-year-old bipolar man: responsible child.
People might imagine my senses to be so precious that I could not even withstand violence and profanity in films. Well, I don't cheer between gunshots and curses, but I'm not a fool for fiction; it's the rain of reality that potentially beats me down. Art, I once understood, was for the sake of lifting the human consciousness to a higher plane. There has long been a split in that particular theory of art and we in the modern world have become the customary beneficiaries of high-minded and below-the-belt offerings, both. With or without highbrow sensibility, art is still art, not reality. We are supposed to know the difference as readers, viewers, and listeners. If the poison atmosphere of the world is being perpetuated or exacerbated by contributions from the art world, then there exists another poison in the human realm, that of an inability to sort fact from fiction.
I am not naturally protected from the world's chronic lack of innocence, but lean on my own sense of reality, when it only takes one perspective to shape a reality that heals us more than it mutilates us. Smoking a cigarette is not tantamount to being an adult. I knew that when I was twelve and I know it now. More adults than I can recall have mentioned to me how much they miss their childhoods. So many of us children wanted to be precocious adults - some of us succeeded. Bipolars do well to make their rite of passage one of adding responsibility to their childlike approach to life. Responsibility is the only salvageable feature of adulthood, in my opinion. My responsibility to my mental health, to the regard of others' well-being is my handmade raincoat, my protection from less desirable realities.
- The Blue Bear