Well, not exactly manic in the strictest sense, but definitely deflective (not depressive)! I happen to be one of the fortunate people in the world whose parents are both clinically diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, yet I don’t actually suffer from the illness myself. Sadly, it did skip over me and land squarely on the shoulders of my oldest son. He has been hospitalized twice and has been under routine mental health care from our local county for years. Even though I am not a clinical professional of any ilk, I have had a lifetime of close personal observation of serious mental illness.
My highly educated, philosophical, and otherwise sane father (when medicated), once declared that a US space station (Skylab) was going to fall out of orbit and land on Moscow, and that the Soviet Union (Russia now) was going to nuke Hawaii in retaliation. He then proceeded to drive around the island of Oahu (where he lived at the time) throwing pieces of clothing out of the car at a specific interval so that they would not all be in the same place in case he needed them when the bomb fell.
My mother once declared that her birth occurred to signify the second coming of Jesus Christ, and that she was chosen to usher in the 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth. Oh, and there was a mothership orbiting the planet ready to pick her up at any moment. She also went into a jewelry store and put $50,000.00 (that’s what I was told, but I am not sure how accurate that number is) worth of jewels on her corporate credit card. At the time she snapped, she was a high powered executive in corporate America, but her mental break put an end to that forever.
My son walked off of his job as a night time gas station/convenience store clerk because he feared that there was an invisible presence there that intended to rob and kill him. He abandoned the store and went to call the police at a pay phone, leaving the place completely empty, and the cash register unguarded. This psychotic break with reality got him admitted against his wishes as an in-patient for the second time in his adult life.
In all of these occurrences, I have felt completely helpless. I could do nothing to help these very important people to me, other take them to professional care (in the case of my mother and son), or watch as a helpless spectator (in the case of my father).
Why Am I Telling You This?
The backstory in this case is to give a sense of what has formed me to a large degree when it comes to certain aspects of my emotional intelligence. In an earlier post I asked the question “Is It Manly to Cry?” I told a story about how a childhood event caused me to disconnect from an innate part of my personality. Specifically, my natural inclination to be sensitive and cry. Watching mental illness thrive all around me frightened me so much. I was afraid that at any moment I would succumb to the demons that plagued my family members and go crazy. As a result, I have been careful to be on guard when it has come to anything I perceived as mentally unstable in myself.
As an inventor and serial entrepreneur, I have always had to have a very positive and upbeat attitude. I have even watched myself on multiple occasions go over the top with exuberance and passion when it comes to pitching an idea, or designing a new product. As a business owner, one thing you always have to be is a positive and upbeat salesperson. One thing you can never be is down! When you think of well known successful people, depressed is not usually an adjective that pops into your head.
If I had to count, I would say that there have been maybe 5 occasions lasting 2 days tops, other than the death of my best friend when I was 16, where I would say that I was depressed. In clinical terms, I am not sure any of those actually count as depression. I have never been lethargic. I was withdrawn, but approachable and would put on a decent face the best I could for those around me. I continued to eat. I only slept my normal amount. So, I have to say that even those 5 moments are questionable as to official depression. 10 days of “depression?” … not depression.
Here is where the Manic-Deflection comes in. Though many many people would tell you otherwise, I have always had an unseen governor on my emotions. The biggest governor was powered by fear. I always feared I would go crazy. I have never been truly and fully unbridled in my emotions. That may be perceived as high EQ (Emotional Quotient) to some, but in reality it might actually be low EQ. Deflection or substitution (often humor) has been my goto response when things get too tough for me emotionally. In relationships, I vacated emotionally when it got too tough. Oh I remained congenial, friendly, and funny, but disconnected emotionally. I was pretty good at appearing connected while being very withdrawn. I did this from 2008 until 2016 with Ex-4 until we divorced. If, in a relationship, I couldn’t remain congenial, then I didn’t remain at all. This was the case with Ex-1, Ex-2, and Ex-3. Ex-4 ended up leaving me on paper, but in reality, I had left her 8 years earlier. I just left her while still in-place.
So then what exactly is this Manic-Deflection thing? Well, manic in this case, is forcing an excessively upbeat attitude onto situations that call for a different emotion. You know “Keep your chin up!”, “Look on the bright side!”, or “Never say die!”, when what might be called for was grief, feeling of loss, sorrow, disappointment, or any other emotion I would have previously categorized as negative and not worth my time and energy. Deflection is the mechanism by which the forced coping attitude would manifest. In reality, this is just another way of running away that I invented to not have to deal with my brokenness. It was the ultimate game of cosmic kick-the-can. One I was willing to play to my grave. But all that being a Manic-Deflective ever really did for me was to delay the inevitable and accumulate all of these emotions into a big garbage dump soaked with fuel that was waiting to ignite.
Recently, my friend encouraged me to go visit the dump and put it in order. This is one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. Scary for a couple of reasons. One, I don’t want to do this because it hurts! But like a little child that doesn’t want a vaccination, I need it. And two, I am afraid it might be the tipping point into total craziness like my mother, father and son. I know I am genetically predisposed to mental illness, and I have fought my entire life to keep a lid on it. What I have realized is, I would actually be crazy not to go straighten this stuff out. I can’t allow myself to avoid what the universe has been screaming for me to do my whole life in order that I can begin to fulfill my true calling. Part of that calling I had never even imagined before, like this blog, for example.
So, I am not sure exactly what to label what I am becoming in place of a Manic-Deflective. If you have any thoughts on that, please let me know! I know this though, I am meant to feel every emotion I was designed to feel. They were built into me for a reason. Avoiding them and deflecting them, even to the grave, might suffice in getting me to the grave without my own stay at the mental hospital, but it will disconnect me from my purpose. I need to be willing to risk crazy in order to be whole and authentic.
P.S. The crying streak continues, and it is beautiful…