This is the Preface from the book Bipolar In Order:
- “Those who dance are considered insane by those who can’t hear the music.”
- – George Carlin
When Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world, the common belief was that the world was flat and he would fall off. Once he saw the world from the other side and spoke of its many wonders, the world became a far more beautiful place.
Yet many people still clung to the old belief and could not accept the new evidence. It took many years for the world to adjust to the truth. To this day there are still some who believe the world is flat, but most of us consider them ignorant and unable to accept reality.
When I set out to explore the inner world, the common belief was that I would fall off the edge too. But just as Columbus discovered a world filled with beauty, I have seen depression, mania, hallucination, and delusion from the other side and found incredible vistas. With training, you too can visit those worlds without falling off, and discover a life far more beautiful than you can imagine.
What is unfortunate today is that far too many people continue to cling to the old belief that it is impossible to live a full life with a mental condition. On the other hand, a growing group of people are beginning to consider a life that is not restricted to a narrow range of experience. I look forward to the day when we all rise above the ignorance that keeps us in fear and denial of a better life.
Bipolar In Order is based on a very simple premise: we can learn and grow to the point that we see our condition as an advantage in our lives. Because this concept is often difficult for many people to accept on blind faith alone, I encourage everyone to simply begin by accepting that this new perspective is possible. To make this perspective a reality requires persistence, determination, and commitment. If you will give this perspective a chance, you will prove it in your own life.
There are so many examples of bipolar “disorder” that it is easy to understand why so many people try to avoid it instead of facing it and getting it under control. We can choose to view depression, mania, hallucination, and delusion from at least two different perspectives–either as “disorder” or as “in order.” Knowing that we have a choice of perspectives leads us to the understanding that we do not have to accept a diminished life. We begin to see what bipolar can be if we get it “in order” instead of trying to make it go away.
For me, Bipolar In Order is the greatest state there is. Once you begin to see the new perspective, everything changes. You see why the current approach of avoidance is all wrong. You cannot get to Bipolar In Order by figuring out how to avoid the symptoms. Avoidance is accepting a diminished life tragically below that which is possible. This book is about what bipolar looks like from the perspective of “in order” and how you can achieve it in your own life.
My first two books detail some of the steps and show the early phases of my thinking that have led to this book. The brief descriptions below are to put this book in context.
The Bipolar Advantage is about more than simply accepting your condition and how difficult it can be; it is also about learning to employ the tools to create a better future. More than anything else, it is a marker for where my thinking was in 2005. Many of the concepts are just as valid today, but looking back on it from today’s perspective, it shows what kind of growth in thinking and behavior is possible in a short amount of time.
The Depression Advantage is about rising above depression and realizing you have it within yourself to handle the condition. It was where my thinking was in 2007 and shows major changes in the two years since The Bipolar Advantage was written. While the concepts from the first book are still included (as they are in this book), depressive states were also addressed as I had begun to change my perception and ability to understand them. When I wrote The Depression Advantage, I still saw depression as a burden to overcome, but saw great benefits in “rising above the pain” and gaining from the lessons that are available from doing so.
In my talks, workshops, and personal experiences during 2008, I realized there was much more to explore. A huge breakthrough occurred during a keynote speech I was giving for San Bernardino County Mental Health Department. I realized I was experiencing the same symptoms of my deepest depression several years ago when I tried to kill myself, yet was now functioning at a very high level. I didn’t develop this ability by “rising above the pain,” I got there by seeing the pain as no different than any other state. This perspective is called “equanimity.”
I began to realize that no state of mind is better or worse than any other. It is intensity of experience that really matters–realizing that we can live with equal intensity in all states. While in equanimity, we can appreciate any state for what it is without prejudging ourselves or the state as either bad or good. These states of equanimity are often called self-realization, ecstasy, or bliss.
Of course, the only way to prove we have attained equanimity is to change our behavior, which is what self-mastery is all about. We all have it within ourselves to master our thoughts and actions to become more saint-like in our relations with others.
Bipolar In Order is about defining success on our terms, developing the skills to achieve it, and doing the work necessary to turn it into a reality. The book is divided into four sections and a conclusion: Results Worth Striving For, What Is In The Way, How To Get There, and Advantage Program Components; concluding with Where Do We Go From Here?.
Results Worth Striving For sets the bar for what we are capable of. In spelling out real ways that our conditions can be advantageous in our lives, this section is the most challenging part of the book. We may not all desire to achieve such states as described in this section, but we must understand that our beliefs about what we can achieve create the limits of our success. Much better to believe we can achieve greatness and settle for a good life than to believe that even a good life is out of our reach.
What Is In The Way? looks at the beliefs about mental illness that are holding us back. Pulling no punches, this section examines the wrong beliefs and practices that contribute to the tremendous suffering experienced by the majority of the people who have been diagnosed with a mental condition.
How To Get There lays out clear measurable steps we can use as a roadmap to success. The steps include building an integrated team, education, assessment, life planning, and treatment.
Advantage Program Components outlines the main components to assemble an integrated team. A representative from each discipline briefly describes their point of view, integration with the team, assessment process, goal setting for the Life Plan, and treatment regimen. By seeing all of the main components and how they relate to one another, you can use this section as a guide to building your own team.
It is important to point out Columbus had highly developed skills, worthy tools, and an able crew. He was well-trained to navigate to his destination and had the skills to handle the rough seas that he encountered on the way. It also helps that he may have been bipolar or at least hypomanic!1
The path to Results Worth Striving For includes developing the skills, using the tools, and building a team to help you accomplish your goals. I look forward to joining you on a path to a better life.
- Gartner, John D., The Hypomanic Edge, 2005, Simon & Schuster, N.Y., p.28 ↑