One of my earliest memories is of learning to ride a bike. I remember the fear, exhilaration, and hyper-awareness, along with the tension in my body and how my breath became both more rapid and shorter. I was outside of my comfort zone and challenging myself to grow. It was also a blast!
My father had a wisdom common with most dads. He didn’t push me down a steep hill and hope I survived; he ran along next to me making sure I was not too far outside of my comfort zone as to be incapable of handling it. He taught me one of the most important lessons that day about what it is to be human. We need to challenge ourselves to grow, while at the same time making sure we don’t go too far outside of our comfort zone.
The thrill of learning something new and challenging myself to grow has been a constant companion ever since my first bike ride. On too many occasions, I took on challenges far outside of my comfort zone and was either debilitated by the fear and lack of skills, or took risks that caused more harm than the potential reward from succeeding.
Another notion that needs to be challenged is that depression and bipolar are “mood disorders,” while hallucinations and delusions are “thought disorders.” There is nothing wrong with having moods, thoughts, feelings, visions, delusions, or any other experiences. The problem is our behavior.
Mood is “a conscious state of mind or predominant emotion.”1 Psychology likes to add disclaimers to it like long lasting or long term, but the essential element is not how long it lasts, it is the emotional feeling that we have.
Behavior is “the manner of conducting oneself, anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation, and the response of an individual, group, or species to its environment.”2 I would include our thought process as part of the response.
It is interesting that bipolar is called a “mood disorder” but is treated at a behavioral health clinic. If you think about what the “disorder” is for people around a person with depression, mania, hallucination, and delusion, it is the behavior that is the problem. Does it matter if I hallucinate all day long if my behavior does not bother anyone or myself? Does it matter if I am manic or depressed if my actions are completely under self-mastery?
John Grohol wrote an essay the other day called Psychology Secrets: Most Psychology Studies Are College Student Biased. It is one of the many must-see articles that John has written, but my personal favorite.
John mentions that 67 percent of the people in the studies of mental illness are undergraduates studying psychology. This presents a picture of mental health that may be way off base from what actually exists.
When I started speaking and doing workshops, I went to support groups, organizations like NAMI, county mental health departments, clinics, colleges, and other groups focused on bipolar and depression. I thought that I was getting a picture of the “real” bipolar population. As it turns out, those groups are even more skewed than the studies John mentions.