On Manic Crashes and Failed Relationships…

There is a part of the human brain that is designed to protect us from the end. As Hobbes once stated: there is a greatest evil, the fear of violent death around which a political community can be oriented.

Without that there can be no political structure, and in such an instance:

“There is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently, not culture of the earth, no navigation, nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Hobbes, Leviathan, XIII.9.

Psychologically, the mind has evolved to protect us from this greatest evil. To Hobbes the greatest evil was a society in which the sanctity of life was not protected. To a sufferer of mental illness the greatest evil is doing harm to oneself or unto others.

Indeed, focusing too much upon this evil either personally or as a society creates and environment in which life is more likely to become nasty, brutish and short.   Instead, we must care for others and ourselves before we invite disaster, and though proper self-reflection adherence to the rules of society must be accepted for the greater good.

What does this philosophy have to do with a manic crash? As a sufferer of bipolar I must admit that my depressive side has not been a danger to myself. I may not be fun at parties when I am depressed, but it is when I am manic that I have come close to doing myself permanent harm. It is not unusual for a sufferer of a manic episode to become elevated into frenzy; personally insomnia during my mania has thrown gasoline onto an already smoldering fire.

Furthermore, there is some strange part of the mind that upon seeing the end must renounce it. That is why, in all tendency, a sufferer of bipolar will surge right before a crash in one spasm of denial. There is quite a parallel to the above Hobbesian quotation as the chance for meeting a violent end in this scenario is all too real.

And what of relationships? In my experience denial is an equally powerful force here as well. Once it has become clear that a relationship is irrevocably broken the urge to avoid this realization is quite strong. In fact, a relationship may often undergo a brief Indian summer before the cold winter wind starts to blow. In my personal life I said goodbye to a woman I had spent several years with. In Chicago halfway along a cross-country journey we said our goodbyes. Reviewing pictures of our trip I remember how happy I was at the time, my smile in these pictures was a good bit broader than normal and in the photographs we stood closely, wrapped in one another’s arms. Afterward, I flew back to the East Coast, while she preceded her drive to California. It was the end of a relationship that I believed would last forever. Indeed, life changes slowly and then all at once. One fine morning, I was shocked to hear the news, although I should not have been.

The important aspect of this with regard to self-preservation is that in the beginning of an episode, one never needs to move quickly. During a crisis one’s mental faculties are gradually mulled into submission, this is not a quick process. It is one that takes at least several weeks. Knowing one’s warning signs is paramount; personally my warning sign that precedes dangerous episodes is lack of sleep and racing thoughts. To counter this I must on occasion rely on medication that will force me to slow down. Unfortunately, to the manic brain slowing down is an undesirable outcome. It is the foolish aura of invincibility that prevents one from slowing down. I must reach higher, stretch my arms further in willful disregard that one fine morning things will not be the same. Evolutionarily slowing down could mean death, thus the human brain has evolved to continue dumping dopamine onto tired synapses. Perhaps this is a natural mechanism that protected our progenitors, but can lead to harm in this day and age.

The point of my story is this: nearing the end of an episode it is too late to devise a plan to avoid disaster. We plan evacuations in advance of a fire because when a fire is raging it is too late too plan. Likewise, sufferers of mental health afflictions must have a plan in advance. Know your warning signs, have a plan and if need be call your doctor. Because if you don’t plan in advance it will be too late when the time comes…

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