|I Can't Cure Bipolar Disorder?|
Wikipedia tells us: "It has been noted that the bipolar disorder diagnosis is officially characterised in historical terms such that, technically, anyone with a history of (hypo)mania and depression has bipolar disorder whatever their current or future functioning and vulnerability."
"This has been described as "an ethical and methodological issue", as it means no one can be considered as being recovered (only "in remission") from bipolar disorder according to the official criteria. This is considered especially problematic given that brief hypomanic episodes are widespread among people generally and not necessarily associated with dysfunction. Flux is the fundamental nature of bipolar disorder. Individuals with the illness have continual changes in energy, mood, thought, sleep, and activity. The diagnostic subtypes of bipolar disorder are thus static descriptions - snapshots, perhaps of an illness in continual flux, with a great diversity of symptoms and varying degrees of severity. Individuals may stay in one subtype, or change into another, over the course of their illness."
Remission or Improved Self Awareness?
I admit the common perception of my current freedom from disruptive bipolar symptoms would be remission at best and illusion at worst? How could I possibly have freed myself from a 30 year history of classic manic depression without medical intervention? No drugs, no surgery, surely it could only be a matter of age and lucky change of circumstances? Approaching my 60th birthday my life energies must be winding down and unable to sustain the classic bipolar pattern, or perhaps experience has enabled better self deception?
Belief is dependent on available information and subjective viewpoint, and prior to my education in developmental neuroscience my own belief was similar to the common view of mental illness. Only after another failed attempt to find stability with medication and a chance encounter with a book on affective neuroscience did I begin the solid shift in belief that now sees me fully recovered. Its been eight months since a six week long psychosis allowed me to further dissolve the fear and hidden freeze response at the core of my bipolar experience. A six week sojourn into madness that I gladly experienced in the hope that it would lead me to a deeper awareness of my disorder.
Even though that six week psychosis was the longest and highest manic episode of my 31 year experience, it has NOT been followed by depression in a repeat of my old pattern. Despite the harsh reality of family rejection that I write about here, depression has not claimed me in line with the classic medical model. After four years of solid research, of reading and re-reading the neuroscience literature of brain and nervous system development, my belief has changed along with my improved self awareness. My belief is a bipolar condition of natural autonomic nervous system responses, of instinctual energies trapped by a hidden and denied freeze response.
Illness or Instincts?
As I wrote in bipolar disorder instinct most educated people believe in Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, although feeling its reality dwells uncomfortably within the human psyche. The medical model of mental illness has grown alongside a well proven method of identifying disease and discovering cures, weather by accident or design. The assumption of an organic brain disease is logical enough when behavioral disorders like bipolar are observed by a profession charged with a responsibility of care and action during periods of individual crisis. Yet beyond strict medical models of illness, a more holistic approach to mental anguish is effecting a quiet revolution. Consider this review of the "Theory of Structural Dissociation" by David Hartman, MSW and Diane Zimberoff, M.A.
Healing the Body-Mind in Heart-Centered Therapies:
Some of the most profound influences on human behavior may be found within the deep evolutionary streams of human nature, flowing through the hormonal and nervous systems, regulated by the instinctual “reptilian brain” (limbic system). That part of the brain controls emotional thought, including rage, fear, aggression, and arousal. The influence of these systems is especially direct as imminent threat increases. And yet the “new brain,” the prefrontal cortex and especially the hippocampus, are capable of moderating that influence, putting into context the reality of the threat, and making mindful conscious choices of behavior.
These influences operate in a number of different layers of depth within the continuum of conscious/unconscious, yet are accessible through the body. These archaic, archetypal patterns, when denied or thwarted or undischarged, split off from the whole self and become trapped in the
body. That is where we find them, and how we heal them. “According to Jung, bodily experiences relating to instinctual discharges constitute the most deeply unconscious psychic elements, which can never become completely conscious". Healing the Body-Mind in Heart-Centered Therapies
Cure Bipolar Disorder? - Cure the Human Condition?
As I said above belief is dependent on available information and a subjective viewpoint, and no one can say exactly what bipolar disorder is? All our descriptions of bipolar disorder symptoms/behaviors are subjective, including my current belief in a natural nervous system disorder. Unlike the kind of diseases that bipolar is often compared to such as diabetes and cancer, there is no medical test available to prove mental illness of any kind. In my article meaning and mania I cite the astonishing power of self hypnosis and the annoying reality of the placebo effect in psychotropic drug trails.
I ask the question, "Does psychiatry have a chemical imbalance theory for any of these amazing abilities?" and elsewhere I ask if psychiatry is at all interested in what goes on during the universal experience of wellness during the onset of a bipolar manic episode? It is obvious to anyone with any self exploration experience that there is far more to the human condition than out objective observations perceive. As the brilliant neuroscientist Antonio Damasio points out:
In everyday life we are immersed in mostly unconscious reactions to our individual circumstances, as our unconscious nature tricks us into a sense of objective reality? Exploring the leading science discoveries beyond the commercial delivery of our everyday media saturated lives, brings surprising revelations. Stephen Porges groundbreaking "The Polyvagal Theory" is leading a revolution in somatic therapies that deal with the effects of trauma. In the article "TRAUMA Exit & The Tiger Trapped Within" I point out the brilliant work of Peter Levine and his use of insights gleaned from "The Polyvagal Theory."
In his book "Waking the Tiger" Levine asks a potent question, "Why do animals living in the wild, not suffer trauma after the kind of experiences that would cause PTSD symptoms in so many humans?" Birth trauma more than likely lies at the root of my own bipolar disorder experience, even though such a belief can only be a matter of faith and not science. Further reading after my last psychosis in Sept/Oct last year led me into a deeper self awareness about the physical tensions of avoidance at the heart of my bipolar condition. Reading Levine's latest book "In an Unspoken Voice" gave me a method of self exploration I had avoided in the past, even with positive experiences of a similar approach.
Approaching My Real Sense of Self?
Reading "In an Unspoken Voice" helped me to combine the knowledge I'd gained from reading developmental neuroscience with a felt sense of my core being, beneath the acted persona I presented to the world. It also allowed me to make sense of the last psychotic episode and the enabled "approach" at the center of what looks like emotional chaos. Internal tensions have always prompted my behaviors, from the congruent avoidance of childhood to the hesitant approach of adulthood. Now Iv'e discovered my real sense of self beneath the mask of consciousness, in motor movements and internal tensions which fire my subjective thoughts. Now Iv'e discovered the motivational importance of my autonomic nervous system, and its blind feedback signal information to my brain.
Our Autonomic Nervous System is a prime motivator of ALL our reactions including thoughts!
The oldest levels of the brain-auto nervous system control all our Freeze/Flight/Fight reactions. This is the limited activity within a bipolar disordered brain/nervous system, with FEAR the root cause.
Deep unconscious FEAR motivates the posture and movements of bipolar sufferers, triggering manic thoughts of escape and depressed sensations of defeat. FEAR causes habitual over use of the two older levels of the auto nervous system. Sensing how internal tensions trigger energy levels and tone your thoughts, will allow you to practice a felt correction to this bi-phasic disorder.
Test muscle tension feedback signals yourself?
Relax the muscular tensions of your head and face, your jaw, around your eyes and your tongue. Be mindful of spontaneous shifts in your breathe as your thoughts slow down? Feel this action, don't try to focus thoughts on it and you will feel the spontaneous actions of your auto nervous system. The mind gets in the way of our instinctive nature and interrupts our auto nervous system in its job of maintaining balance. Feel how feedback signals from muscle tensions fire your thoughts? Let go of your minds need to know and your auto nervous system takes over, doing the job millions of years of evolution designed it for?
My writing here on this blog has been very much part of my process of recovery, as I grapple with the articulation of my experience and what I have learned. In other articles I have described body/brain/mind as an organic computer needing time to integrate new knowledge with experiences that fire those "I get it" moments we all have. Recovery seems to involve a certain resistance and persistence? Resistance to the instinct, the impulse to act and have wellness now, the trick nature plays on us while we pretend to be rational and insightful? Persistence in learning about new information and different points of view, gaining new experience and slowly changing limiting beliefs. The brains primary function is to maintain organismic homeostasis, a thermo-dynamic comfort-zone based on life experience, overcoming this known comfort-zone is perhaps what recovery is essentially all about?
Affective Psychosis - Mania, Myth & Meaning
Meaning and Mania
Mania Dreams & the Roots of Psychosis
Neuroception? An Unconscious Perception?