In managing my cognitive symptoms, I’ve found power in research and observation—even though self-monitoring can feel like taking a selfie in the dark!
Taming the Dragon … with Science
Since so much of my bipolar is outside my control, I’m always searching for new ways to tame the dragon. And in my journey, I’ve found that research and observation are some of my greatest sources of power.
different meta-analyses confirm that most patients with bipolar disorder show
neurocognitive dysfunction, even during euthymia.”
That means that even during times of stability, our “bipolar brain chemistry” has the potential to monkey around with our cognition. Not cool!
This is where that power I mentioned comes
into play; if I can observe a behavior, I can find a way to change or manage
it. The tricky part—for me, at least—is making that observation. Even if you’ve
managed bipolar for years, you gotta admit: it’s pretty hard to rise above your
very own comprehension of yourself and your perception of the world around you.
It’s like trying to take a selfie in pitch-black darkness.
Since there is no lab test or brain scan for bipolar disorder, our doctors base their diagnoses on observations of us. They are trained to notice things we sometimes don’t even notice about ourselves. For instance, our rate of speech, the presence or absence of basic hygiene, or the intensity/scope of our ideas.
But cognitive abilities are the most important ones we have—and they are internal, so we have to be aware of them ourselves rather than relying on others. Thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation are the human ways of experiencing life. It’s painful to admit that bipolar is a cognitive disability. So, to monitor and measure changes between “current me” and “previous me” regarding these important skills, I created my very own system, which I call “My 4 Jekyll–Hyde Bipolar Barometers.”
My 4 Jekyll–Hyde Bipolar Barometers
#1 Dumb as a Box of Rocks — Walking Dictionary
Honestly, sometimes I cannot seem to string
together a complete thought. It’s incredibly annoying to me! Other times, I
could give a postgraduate lecture in linguistics, filibuster-style—which is
probably incredibly annoying to others …
#2 Ambidexterity — Catatonia
I’m right-handed and normally can’t do much of
anything with my left hand. I think this is typical. But every few months or
so, I’ll find myself with markedly improved left-hand ability. I can also type
very quickly without looking at the keyboard during these spells. Other times,
all I want to do is stare at a wall in silence all day—and even that feels like work.
#3 People Pleaser — Cranky Beast
I’m from the South originally and, at times, I
can really fit the trope of hospitable Southern hostess. I’m all Welcome to my humble abode! Can I get y’all
some bourbon punch and bacon-wrapped pretzels? Other times … I will launch
an ugly, profanity-laden social media attack on your company if you don’t
respond to me adequately.
#4 Shrinking Violet — Kamikaze Pilot
Sometimes I’m all wrapped up in a straightjacket of foreboding. It’s like I’m a character in an Edgar Allen Poe story: filled with fear and dread, I’m just waiting for something terrible to happen. But on the other end of that pendulum swing (ha!), I can be a hapless amnesiac who forgets who they are and thinks they can conquer the world.
An Electric Slide
Oscillating from one extreme behavior (or
feeling) to an opposite behavior (or feeling) is something to which we all
can relate—that’s just bipolar by definition! And in my journey, I’ve found
that if I simply observe the signals that indicate I’m sliding toward one of
these cognitive extremes, I can do a better job of steering back to a steady
course. I wish the same for you!
P.S. I’m curious to know if others would/could describe their experience in this way. What about you? Which (cognitive) poles do you bounce between?
Source: International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Brooke Baron has a BA in English, a minor in philosophy, and a lifelong obsession with language. She is the author of A Beginner's Guide to Being Bipolar.
Although born and raised in Alabama, she has been a proud California resident for 10+ years. During a professional stint in Silicon Valley—in both the corporate and private business sectors—she handled internal and external communications, office design and construction, photography and graphic design, executive assistance, and functioning on very little sleep.
Brooke now specializes in "New Human Orientation" from her home in the suburbs. She has a young, loving, growing family of five and is fueled by that love and coffee.
In addition to caring for the rest of Team Baron, she enjoys writing, reading, researching miscellaneous topics, and funneling manic energy into creative projects. With so many balls in the air—including bipolar II disorder—balancing her life is like balancing two kangaroos on a see-saw. She offers consulting services for the bipolar community at Better Bipolar Balance.
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