Question: If, by your description, careless young adult use of drink, drugs, sex, and cigarettes are the primary bipolar poisons, how is it that a wholesome teetotaler like you managed to have three breakdowns?
Answer: Bipolar breakdowns are like lightning bolts to the bipolar, especially that first one. One tends to discover his or her life limitations entirely by accident, certainly by surprise, when too much poison enters the bipolar consciousness. To be clear about my sense of poisonous adult influences, it isn't alcohol or sex unto themselves that threaten a bipolar's state of mind; it is the despoiling of these otherwise benign and often wondrous life pleasures. Illicit drugs (and cigarettes) are naturally an unhealthy influence for any bipolar because they don't come in standard doses that have any effect other than to alter the chemical make-up of the body and mind. Bipolars need mind and body-altering drugs like a ship needs an iceberg. Alcohol and sex can be experienced mindfully, wondrously, without adversely altering mental or physical states, but this mindful application is far from the root of so much bipolar suffering, as I see it.
There is a formal stage production in the NYC Off-Broadway domain called, DRUNK SHAKESPEARE. It is a theater performance that demands one of its actors (each night) to guzzle several shots of whiskey before joining the troupe for an unpredictable, besotted evening of Shakespearian excerpt. This concept sounds like a silly, offhanded remark during a long-winded theatrical company meeting, not like a legitimate show design. Its inherent flaws are that it is unmindful of the potential, damaging effects of overindulgence in alcohol on those who participate in the performance and it sets a mood in the world of children and adults that there is clearly a divide between the two, that it is a perfectly acceptable adult practice to become grotesquely inebriated, even to get drunk for the sake of your profession. DRUNK SHAKESPEARE is an insult to those of us who care about composition, sober thought, mindfulness, and innocence. It is also a good example of worldly poison that we bipolars can avoid experiencing actively within a theater, but one that we cannot ignore in concept.
As we adults apply our too often misguided appetites for alcohol and sex, we can find ourselves in escalating expressions of primitive behavior, alcohol as a delightful complement to cuisine being traded for binge drinking and competitive shot glass-tippling, sex as a private enlacing of lovers' limbs and devotion somehow deviating to sportive encounters with strangers, striptease, live sex shows, pornography, and rape. Love and innocence are the missing ingredients in most unmindful adult practices. Too much of a void of love and innocence in day-to-day life is what leads many bipolars to breakdowns, in my opinion. It was not the poison of mishandled alcohol and sex on a college campus that had me lose my mind in the summer of 1986; I believe it was a lack of love and innocence in countless expressions of life around me that made my life suddenly unmanageable.
After one violent breakdown, then two, then a third, over a period of twenty-two years, what moved me to declare that three breakdowns were more than enough practice with the abyssal darkness was my sense that there must be poisonous influences beyond the obvious that are undermining my overall pursuit of whole mental health. My life depended on me becoming a master detector of any atmospheric poison at all. What I discovered in my forty-second year is that I needed to examine all of my thoughts, my words, my actions and those of everyone around me and to make a formal decision to commit my life to a minute-to-minute practice of meaning and protection from unnecessary, seemingly innocent emissions of less mindful thought, expression, and behavior. I sought to become the keeper of innocence in my own life, when no one around me seemed to have the same limited threshold of life tolerance and no one seemed to have to pay such an exorbitant cost for any compromised personal regard.
Having committed these past seven years to an non-medicated, constant life vigil and a whole life embrace of high-minded thought, expression, and behavior, I report that I am entirely bipolar symptom-free and that I have surprisingly become much more tolerant of the chronic, poisonous adult atmosphere in the world. I have healed not only the wounds from my perspective of the world around me, but the perspective itself. Apparently, it takes a long time to figure out that one's ideal vision of the world is the world. When you take up power as a mindful, loving, and deeply feeling, reasoning person, you conquer the world enough to keep it from destroying you. That is the gift that my symptom-free bipolar life has accorded me: a veritable breakdown blockade, a surprising tolerance for the same poison that once put me in the hospital, a fighting chance in the adult world atmosphere as long as I continue to rid my mind, my words, and my actions of any of its influence.
- The Blue Bear