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My Bipolar Brain and Jackson Pollock

Posted Oct 18 2009 5:46am 2 Comments

For me, one of the hardest parts of having Bipolar Disorder is trying to hold on to the unrelenting chaos that thrashes about wildly, frantic to escape my head during an episode. Desperate to come forth are thoughts and reasonings that have been mangled beyond recognition: a secret that should remain unspoken (symptom: attention gathering); an allegation of an imagined betrayal (paranoia); an elaborate explanation when simplicity would have served (a loss of self-control). Little of this makes sense to me much less to anyone with whom I struggle to share the experience-akin to explaining a Jackson Pollock painting-you either “get” it or you don’t (If you are unfamiliar with Pollock’s work – Google it and share the adventure). My thoughts and the processes used to arrive at them can prove no less intangible then the Master Abstract Expressionist’s life’s work.

In my world, thoughts and dreams are a synthesis of colors laden with feelings of urgency (I think it; therefore I say it…out loud). Similar to Pollock’s “All-Over” style of painting, my thinking alters points of emphasis or avoids identifiable parts of the whole. In other words, my thoughts and feelings, at times, share no relationship to an actual event-especially when paranoia creeps in. I can mangle an innocent moment into an argument resulting in accusations of infidelity and lies (my poor husband). Low self-esteem doesn’t help the situation yet sadly seems to be par for the course of Bipolar Disorder. Lucky Me!

Pollock’s surreal “drip and splash” method can certainly be used to illustrate my erratic thinking. I’ll demonstrate: a random comment (to me, not to me…doesn’t always matter) is spoken and a select portion of it “drips” into the cauldron of my subconscious. As the words begin to swirl and bubble, imaginary ideas are sprinkled in for flavor, intensifying meaning and misconception. At the moment the fires would normally be lowered to a simmer allowing cooler heads to prevail a little voice in the back of my head begins whispering for me to be quiet, begging me to reconsider the direction I have wandered towards, or to simply pause and reflect. Alas, my brain and mouth come together on a shared mission and “splash” (or perhaps that should be spew) the molten lava that has erupted inside of me. No one within a 100 yard radius is safe. Seriously, even I have to wonder WTF?

In my teens and twenties I was unusually incapable of hitting the brakes on my mouth, especially if alcohol was involved. And since alcohol was/is the self-medication of choice for many people, particularly those with a mood disorder, it was almost always involved. In the land of Ultra Rapid Cycling Mania I could tell little truth, extravagant stories were woven with precision for all to revel in, if not quite believe. Once banished to the depths of Depression no secret was safe as I tried to save the world with the honesty, friendship and love I could not show myself. This crap got me into a great deal of trouble as I tried to tell everyone my version of the error of their ways; or explained how a girlfriend really felt about the guy who liked her (yes, I was telling the guy) or telling one friend what another friend had meant when they told me the secret I was revealing (Oy). Worst of all was when I tried to explain myself…one shouldn’t try to teach what one has yet to learn. Needless to say, life without a filter between mind and mouth creates a dangerous liaison.

There is a saying in Maine, referring to directions from one small town to another: “You can’t get there from here”. Most people would believe the same to be true about a logical thought process (i.e. a conversation between a coworker and our boss does not equal an attempt to exclude me/an attempt to get rid of me/actually anything to do with me). Unfortunately, my train of thought has a GPS and it can locate any place it desires no matter how convoluted the trip.

Maybe it’s time to turn off the GPS and jump the tracks and take control of the wheel.

Comments (2)
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You have managed to used a great analogy and wonderfully accurate and descriptive examples to describe MY life. How do you and I know eachother? :-) Oh yeah...I guess I just 'get it'. Having lived it my whole life and 'blessed' the lives of so many others in the sharing-of-it all (husband, children, friends, innocent passers-by......), I like to think I am personally aiding in their ability to get to heaven, having served their purgatory here on earth in my company. Not that this ride has been all bad mind you...living life in technicolor beats black and white any day...well most days. As my friends and family have often said, its the quick blunt response-of-it all that, at the very least, makes guessing what's on my mind unneccesary. This bi-polar life we lead can certainly be a burden to both those of us who are encased by the mind that frequently blazes its own trail. It also is not always an asset for those in our lives who stick by us and often find themselves going along for the bumpy ride. But....if humor can be maintained and self awareness remains a productive pass-time, I do believe the benefits of a condition which often forces us to see life with very different eyes can be both enlightening and soul strengthening, if we allow it to be.

Beautiful article! I'll be laminating a copy and plastering it to my refridgerator door as both a warning and an explaination for things I am often not so capable of explaining myself. 

Your words warm my heart.  Your post has been a lovely way to start my day.  You're correct...technicolor has it's advantages.  :)  Take care and keep in touch!
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