If Manic-Depression Were a Gift, Would You Return It?

September 21, 2009 at 4:12 am | Posted in Philosophical Problems | 1 Comment

Manic-Depression: a Pandora's Box poured out at my birth.

Manic-Depression: a Pandora's Box poured out at my birth.

During life’s down times — sitting in the bathroom without reading material, taking a long bath, commuting, and so forth — I often entertain this question: Would I rather be bipolar, or normal?

There are really two versions of this question. First, if I could choose to have been born normal, would I? Second, if I could snap my fingers and have the whole crazy ride end, would I?

I tend to find the first fairly simple to answer. Though I wish often and often that I weren’t manic-depressive, I can’t imagine what a sane life would be like. My mom once read an article in the New Yorker describing what some experts have called the “bipolar child,” and from infancy, apparently, I had every symptom. My mom remembers vividly my crazed, singing excitement about special occasions — birthdays, Christmas — and the violent disappointment that almost always followed. She talks about how I was always plunging into projects that were far beyond my years in difficulty — I remember writing a novel at 12, and apparently it wasn’t my first — and again, weeping in frustration when I couldn’t complete my projects and plans. I had a violent temper — literally violent, including once threatening my sister with an axe — and was deeply shy, spending my time in the schoolyard curled up in my “special place,” a warm corner created by two walls on the dodgeball court. (I still fantasize nightly about having a perfectly private special place.) I suffered my first depression at 12. In short, I may never have been normal.

Of course, it’s often said that bipolar disorder is a combination of genes and triggering events, but aside from my own moods and my dad’s occasional volatility, I don’t remember any particular unhappiness in childhood. My official onset at 19 did have an obvious precipitating factor, but I now believe that any traumatic event could have set me off. And we all do survive traumatic events.

That’s a long way of explaining that I can’t imagine a self consistently sane from birth. My life has not been particularly happy, but I can’t imagine another one. To be normal is so far outside of my experience that I know it would have made me another person entirely; I can’t grasp that, so I can’t wish for it.

I’ll tackle question number two in a separate post; I like to finish off my posts in one sitting, and this still needs editing.

Love to all.


1 Comment »

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  1. I know exactly what you mean. I am doing research and believe I have been bipolar since a very young age. I also would not choose a life of “normality.” Thank you for your beautiful words.
    Nicole at mydualities.wordpress.com

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