Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The bright side to bipolar parenting

One of the fun parts to having a bipolar mother is getting to break out into spontaneous dance numbers for no real reason other than mommy decided to start bumpin rap music at full volume while doing homework.

Sometimes my lack of impulse control is a great stress reliever. At least I got my burst of energy at three in the afternoon instead of trying to rock out at three am, right?

I am still knee-deep in my interpersonal relationship assignments for class, and today's focus was on barrier to intimacy and ways to overcome them. One of my largest barriers, apart from my bipolar tweekiness and sometimes strange behavior, is definitely pas trauma. I mean, if every time you try to pet the dog you get bit, how many times are you going to keep sticking your hand out? (Assuming you aren't into pain, or something.) The majority of my interpersonal relationships are formed during my hypo-manic phases. I'm a rock star! I'm friendly, confident, cracking jokes and outgoing and friendly. I meet friends quickly and since I am an honest and compassionate person, I tend to form deep bonds with people in a short time.

Unfortunately, a few months later my personality changes ans I'm back to wanting to hide from humanity while curled up into a ball of anxiety. At this point, other people decide the party is over and the friendship/relationship crashes and burns because I'm just not "fun" anymore. After the zillionth time of having to start making friends from scratch, it has become very difficult for me to want to put myself out there as being emotionally available for others. One of the other factors is that my personality type on the Myers-Briggs scale is that of an INFJ, or "the counselor". This is a fancy way of saying "Congrats, you are a doormat!" I relate well with others and am extremely empathetic and nurturing, but it is hard for others to interact on the level I crave because they are just too different. It's difficult to feel like your own species all the damn time and it has given me a sort of "Can't win don't try" mentality. Unfortunately, being a human and therefore an inherently social being, this is like shooting yourself in the foot. It's hard to want and need interpersonal relationships when they scare the beejezus out of me.

I find myself constantly attracted to the monkey experiments of Harry Harlow, although he is kind of like the Mengele of Monkeys and well, I'm not a big fan of torturing shit. One of the most relevant to the way I feel is called "The Pit of Despair" (charming, right?) In this experiment, Harlow took baby monkeys away from their mothers, stuck them in a box with sloping sides, totally isolated them, and determined that they went batshit insane. Although he sorta discovered the obvious (social animals are social? WHO KNEW?) - when asked wtf he was trying to accomplish with these isolation chambers, he was quoted as saying "Because that's how it feels when you're depressed."

And yeah, it IS. In my case, I'm not stuck in a physical BOX, but I am definitely all up in my own mental one. It yields similar results... Although I don't consider myself psychotic and totally incapable of relationships, and I don't sit around biting my fingers off, I don't thing that this level of social anxiety is something you ever really come back from. Stuck in my box, with light at the top, but the sides are too slippery to crawl out. The best I can do at this point is try to find people who can "get it", and try to slowly invite them down here with me.

Pit of despair party, anyone? My only requests are that you bring booze. Top shelf only, please, as I do have SOME standards.

Another Monkey Mengele experiment I refer to as the "Rag Monkey". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow Here's a little more info if you are looking for something a bit in depth, but I can sum it up as "Monkeys will pick a cuddly statue over a statue with food but made of wire." So does Sandi! During a phase of overall acting the slut after the nasty breakup between myself and the father of my children, I decided bed-hopping and false affection was well, better than a wire monkey. Feeling loved is just so important to me, I'll take what I can get. This always ends up with me back in experiment #1, but for the few hours I could pretend somebody loved me and I was "normal", it was like getting a little peek over the side. And it was nice. Although it was destructive, I think it kept me alive - or the closest I can feel to it.

I'm in a wonderful relationship with my fiance, don't get me wrong...but my little pit causes me to keep trying to sabotage things and run him off before he can kick the ladder out from under me and I'm back at the bottom, like I'd be able to cling on the edge with my fingertips if it ended on my own volition. I need to keep reminding myself that "At least I'm honest" and "But I really do love you" don't give me a license to act like an ass. It's slow going, but the past two years of him putting up with my bullshit have taught me a lot. I'm starting to feel like I'm moving forward, and for the first time someone I've allowed into my pit hasn't created a "crabs in a bucket" scenario with someone else grabbing my ankles and yanking me further down.

He's a really good guy. And he's cute too, which helps.

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