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My Bipolar Brain vs. the 'Typical' Brain

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Mental illness isn’t one of those things you should choose to be ignorant about. What you don’t know can and often does hurt someone. And sometimes, you can hurt someone with bipolar who might already feel bad enough about being different.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I have bipolar disorder 1.

Today, I want to give you a peek into the inner workings of a bipolar mind — specifically mine.

The best way to go about this is to compare a “Normal” Brain to my brain (which hereafter shall be referred to as the Bipolar Brain). I realize normal is somewhat subjective, and we all have cracks here and there. People with bipolar disorder can have dysfunction which affects every part of their lives, including cognitive function.

The “Normal” Brain vs. The Bipolar Brain

The “Normal” Brain has a rhythm, a circadian rhythm — a cycle of activity. The psychological and physiological changes of a person that can be affected by light and dark and thrown out of whack by say, jet lag. It’s a pattern over a 24-hour period that generally has you going to bed and waking around the same times, and being hungry, tired, etc. around the same time every day. It is self-sustaining, yet changeable. It’s often referred to as the body clock. The Normal Brain takes a licking and keeps it ticking.

The Bipolar Brain flies by the seat of its pants left to its own devices. Bipolar disorder is associated with irregular circadian rhythms. I am a free-running rhythm. Normal circadian rhythm is a huge effort for the bipolar mind. It is a goal for stability and when achieved, extremely easy to knock it wonky, unlike the normal brain.

The “Normal” Brain keeps its surroundings based on its particular likes and taste in décor and level of cleanliness it is comfortable with. Upkeep of surroundings involves chores, set tasks and a sense of order.

The Bipolar Brain may reflect the state by its surroundings. You really want to know how I’m doing, take a look at my room. The farther the disorganization reaches from the epicenter — the greater my loss of grasp on reality. You see a horrible mess, and you can bet your butt that my brain is a mess too.

I like neat and tidy. I long for one of those perfect clean light-filled houses on cleaning commercials and I can do it.


Structure is good for the Bipolar Brain and calm peaceful clean surroundings are ideal and what I like. But God’s honest truth, even in a moment of complete clarity at the state of my surroundings when there is a mess, I can not just fix it. It’s not an excuse to be a lousy housekeeper. Or a sign of laziness.

It is the Bipolar Brain exploded.

The Normal Brain in matters of the heart may proceed with caution and is observant of cues from the object of its affection and proceeds accordingly.

The Bipolar Brain gives over to my heart and if my heart is in it I am suddenly all for it.

The Normal Brain has levels of openness with others, intimate, best friend, family, acquaintance.

The Bipolar Brain, you are either in or you are out. You either get me or you don’t. I either like you or I don’t. Keeping up the façade of normal well-adjusted blah blah blah is anxiety wrapped with a bow.

The Normal Brain is the train ride around the zoo.

The Bipolar Brain is the Super Duper biggest roller coaster in the park.

The Normal Brain on drugs is a fried egg.

The Bipolar Brain on drugs is a Normal Brain.

Ever wonder why people with bipolar have a high incidence of self-medicating? There you go. A drug that incapacitates the Normal Brain can calm and focus mine. It can turn me into a highly productive person, not by affecting energy levels, but by allowing focus and logical thought.

When everyone else is tripping, acting like complete dufus heads, I am in wonderment that I feel what I think my “normal” should be. No discussion here. This is my experience and I have shared it with bipolar friends who have a similar outlook.

The Normal Brain has to see it to believe it, or some concrete proof of it. It being whatever it is.

The Bipolar Brain can see it if I believe it. No proof needed. I believe in ghosts, and fairies and magical things. I see them. No, I don’t have pictures.

The Normal Brain has a train of thought.

The Bipolar Brain has bumper cars.

The Normal Brain sees words to describe life.

The Bipolar Brain sees colors.

The Normal Brain is fairly steadfast in its fears and beliefs no matter the situation.

The Bipolar Brain when too happy has no fears, and when sad no beliefs.

The Normal Brain thinks, filters and then speaks or writes.

The Bipolar Brain thinks, attempts to translate, then only sometimes filters and speaks/or writes. Quite often it comes out to a drawing or some form of art.

The Normal Brain can follow a logical progression and form a plan, then see it through to completion, even if slightly delayed.

The Bipolar Brain sees pieces and — oh look! A butterfly.

So there you have it, folks, fascinating stuff I am sure. Next time you see a brain on bipolar, remember some of the things I have said. My brain isn’t a bad brain, just a little, OK, maybe moderately more than a little, cracked. I am not a horrible person, bipolar is not who I am. Nor is it the person down the street or your coworker. It is just another thing that is, not that defines me or them completely.

I will always be or have bipolar unless someone comes up with a cure. I am not holding my breath. And so I will always have trouble controlling my emotions, handling social or work issues, relationships will never be easy because so often my lack of control will hurt the ones I love without any effort at all.

I will probably always disappoint to an extent because follow through and focus are not my strengths, and very much a factor of my emotions. Everything is about my emotions.

I will always be a sort of oddball.

I will also love fiercely, feel everything passionately, give my all when I can, be loyal to a fault, apologize for my misdeeds, have compassion more than most people and be the one laughing so hard I have milk coming out my nose.

I will take special care of trust given to me and continue to trust openly. I will always be gullible, which is only another form of innocence to the world’s cruelties and a special trait. I will always be a rule breaker and a little off.

I promise you won’t be bored and if you take the time to get to know a Bipolar Brain, you may find you are enlightened to a whole new view of the world.

I am smart and funny and bipolar. People like me, and ya know what? I don’t blame them. I like me too.

Follow this journey on Running Naked With Scissors.

Getty image via Sky_melody

Originally published: May 13, 2019
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