Saturday, December 20, 2008

Get to know your brain

It's a common misconception that the self and the brain are one and the same. Not so. The brain is a very complex and capable computer. The self is the user. There are aspects of the way the computer functions that make it very efficient, but can also lead to poor judgments and decision making if one is not aware of them. One to be very aware of is rationalization.

The brain doesn't like uncertainty or not knowing. It wants an answer and it wants one now. It will make one up if it has to. If you suddenly experience fear, the brain wants to know why. The emotion is supposed to give the brain a heads up to something that has changed in the environment or situation. If you look around and take stock of the situation and there is no obvious answer, the brain will move from facts to possibilities and it will keep piecing bits of data together until it has something plausible.

The problem is the brain will find an answer whether the alarm bell was legitimate or not. If you're experiencing fear or anxiety due to a chemical imbalance and not due to any real danger, your brain will find something for you to be afraid of. It works the same with depression. If you're in depressive mode your brain will make mountains out of molehills for you and give you something, many things, to be depressed about.

Awareness is your counter-measure. Objective, logical analysis is your best tool. Your brain and your emotions are your advisers. You are the boss, or at least you're supposed to be. If you've been derelict in your duties, take back the reigns and get back to driving.

Don't let success lead to burning bridges

I have had four episodes in the past 25 years that required some hospitalization due to my irrational behavior. Three of those times, I saw it coming and couldn't stop it. I am under no illusions that because I haven't had such an episode in a long while, I'm no longer prone to one.

Both my doctor and therapist wondered if I needed to continue to see them. I said absolutely, if only because it keeps me in their system. I now see the therapist for a few minutes each month and the doctor for about 5 minutes every six months. This ensures that if things go south in a hurry, there will be no mountains of paperwork for my wife to sit and fill out on top of all the turmoil she'd have to deal with.

I may go the rest of my life without another episode, but keeping the supply lines open in terms of treatment (or plan B) is still a great investment. If it only brings my family some extra peace of mind, it's paid off in spades.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't let your ailment define you

My son is low-functioning autistic. He's now 19 years-old. By the time he was 6, I realized that there was no cure for the condition and the medical community really didn't understand where it came from. I put the notion of a "cure" out of my head and accepted Max as Max. The most frustrating thing I had to deal with from that point forward was the school system insisting on more and more tests. For some reason, they needed a more refined label for him. I just wanted them to teach him as much as he was able to learn. They wanted to find a just the right pigeon-hole to put him in.

Giving your problem a name isn't a solution. Learning to survive and thrive in spite of it is. I've had a handful of diagnosis to explain my occasional vacations from reality. I've settled on bipolar because I no longer care what anyone calls it. I'm becoming more aware of it and learning to work-around it, regardless of what you call it. While I don't really care if others know about it, I don't need them to know, or understand or make accommodations. My condition may be described as "bipolar" but "I" am not "bipolar". My son is autistic. He is not autism.

No doubt, there are times when making others aware of your condition and the nature of it is helpful and advantageous. But, don't live there. You will never excel if you convince others (and yourself) that it's not possible. Trying to force people to accept you as their burden, rather than an asset is not progress. You can't be a champion and a victim. Pick one.