Sunday, May 19

One Heart, Many Minds

This post is pretty haphazard. Just a warning.

It's strange. Just a few days ago my life felt almost worthless. I was smashed flat and felt awful, unwilling to reach out to anyone. Today I almost don't remember it happening... and if you asked me to re-live the moments when I was down, I don't think I could.

I think it has to do with the mix of being bipolar and having ASD. Maybe. Because a lack of empathy fits with one... and dramatically different emotional experiences in the other. Maybe I have trouble empathizing with myself.

Who knows.

I had the thought earlier today that there are some amazing benefits to being bipolar. One of them is the ability to literally see life, the decisions I make, and my goals and dreams from multiple different (and often exclusive or contradictory) perspectives.

Some days I think I'm Superman. I read once that megalomania - the belief that you are the center of the universe and have significant influence on the outcome of events - is a common aspect of the hypo manic or manic highs of bipolar. When I was younger, I though I'd grow out of it. All the adolescent development books said I would. But at that point I was 21 and dealing with issues that they said middle-school-age kids overcome. It hasn't happened. And then sometimes, some part of me tells me that, I'm so awesome that it's really true - the world revolves around me and I can do anything. Except believing that, regardless of any evidence my brain could share, would be about as arrogant as possible.

Some days I think I'm worthless. Depression is part of bipolar. An inferiority complex is pretty common, too. And on days when I'm down, I honestly believe that I'm worthless... totally and completely useless. Most people can't see this side of me. One of my dance teachers did, though. Her name was Kathleen Sheffield, and during a conference in her office she told me that she could see through the assertive, confident outside shell... and that she was concerned for me. She asked me if I lacked in self-esteem and I told her yes. I think it shocked her that I was willing to own up to it... but it's never really been a facade. It's just been the perception of others. Inside my head, I realize that feeling inferior and worthless is probably part of depression. Or, maybe, it's true, and I really am worthless. Except that would be horribly self-effacing... and goes against the whole "divine worth" idea of the gospel.

And then sometimes, most of the time actually, I believe both. Superman and worthless. Useless and invincible. Able to change the world and yet unable to do anything worthwhile. I realize that both are unreasonable. But as long as I believe both of them - that on my own, I can do nothing, but with God all things are possible - I find that it works somewhere in my mind.

It's like having a committee of people with different goals and values, but all mostly aligned, running my life. Sort of. Maybe this doesn't make sense...

During the lows, in depression, I find myself only motivated by the deepest motivations. Only moved by honor, duty, love, and others. Fun disappears, as do a thousand other things. But I refocus on the important things in life.

During the highs, I find myself drawn to change the world, burning with desire to make a difference, wanting to save the world in every way possible. And with the energy and willpower to make it happen. All the things on my résumé began during a high - with a spark of hope and the impetus to learn something new to shake the world.

Then the résumé building disappears, and I re-center on what is truly important in life again.

Sometimes people ask me about the things that have happened in my life - wondering why I've taken so many sideroads, why I am who I am today.

The reality is that those pathways follow a pattern. During a high, I have greater capacity and desire to do things, so I do more. I branch out into new ideas and new territories.

I spend the in-betweens fulfilling the commitments I've made.

While I'm switching into depression, my emotions turn off completely, and fierce rationality takes control. Things that don't make sense, or lack substance, disappear.

Then depression hits, and every commitment comes under the microscope. Only a few things remain. In those moments, when my own personal self-worth has zeroed out, anything that focuses on me loses its value. But things that subvert my own desires and needs to those of others - service, honor, duty, and love - become the only way to value what I do.

Coming out from depression, I've grown closer to God and look to Him for guidance in choosing the right things to do... and the cycle begins anew.

There are deep issues with this cycle. Most of my relationships suffer when I'm depressed. More than suffer - it's like trying to be friends with someone who has multiple personalities. Outward-facing to inward-facing, rational to emotional, with switches that can happen overnight.

But I'm honestly grateful for it. For the person that it has made me.


  1. Have you ever looked into the possibility that you might have DID and not just be bi-polar? With "one heart, many minds", that pretty much describes one with DID. I have DID and was told for years by medical doctors that I was bi-polar. I am not bi-polar at all, just had healing I needed to do with the DID. Michael

  2. Your post reminded me of when I read the first few chapters of the book of Moses (The Pearl of Great Price) and really applied them to myself. There we learn to discern the difference between how our Heavenly Father sees us, and would like us to see ourselves, and how Satan tries to convince us otherwise. Those of God's children who experience mental disorder challenges deal with this "battle of true perspective" more frequently and with more extremes than perhaps those who do not have those specific challenges. It is a fine balance between humility and recognizing our need for salvation/transformation and finding strength in our divine inheritance and possibilities. I too can often not empathize with the part of me that experience periods of worthlessness when I am no longer in that place, although I do tend to keep my ability to empathize with others who require my compassion and non-judgment. I easily forget how real and bad that place feels. Of course I've been through it so many times now (I'll just say I'm a little older than you) i recognize the pattern as it transitions and try to be more understanding and compassionate with myself as it does.

  3. If you are comfortable with a reflection from the catholic side, Ignatius of Loyola counsels that when one is up by the strength of the holy Spirit, must be humble and prepared for the time one be down; and when one is down, must have hope that the holy Spirit will takes us to be up.
    Hope this helps.
    Armando Bravo


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