Tag Archives: Balance
The idiom “between Scylla and Charybdis” has come to mean being forced to choose between two equally dangerous situations. In Greek mythology, Scylla was a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water, opposite her counterpart Charybdis. The two sides of the strait were within an arrow’s range of each other—so close that sailors attempting to avoid Charybdis would pass too close to Scylla and vice versa. For the purposes of bipolar disorder interpretations, Scylla has an acidic, raging, violent fury about her, akin to the worst of mania. In contrast, Charybdis, was simply a large whirlpool. Downward Spiral, end stop. No recourse. In bipolar disorder our choice is not simply between avoiding one monster or the other. It is between becoming one monster or the other. Between the two, is it any wonder that Odysseus chose mania over depression?
The extreme sides of the political divide have been predicting almost cataclysmic disaster if the election results do not go their way. But listening to extremism can arouse feelings of hopelessness and create the perception that our situation is not safe. If we do not think that we have any impact on a dangerous situation we can feel helpless, depressed, and even give up.
“There is a silence where hath been no sound.
There is a silence where no sound may be—
in the cold grave, under the deep deep sea.”
— From Thomas Hood’s poem “Silence”
For the last couple of weeks I have been seriously out of whack. To try to describe my current experience I began with bobbleheads dolls, a useful analogy for my current experience. All of us respond to whack on the head, but some of us more easily respond to a blow, are thrown out of equilibrium more severely, and it takes us longer to back into balance. But then, in trying to find a video which illustrates this, I ran into a huge pocket of bobblehead culture and veered almost totally off-topic.
Odysseus had to navigate between the two destructive forces — a ferocious six-headed sea monster and a downward spiraling maelstrom. If you read the Odyssey and work through the analogy there are similarities to navigating between mania and depression. [This is a reissued version of my first post. A reader referred me to a George Harrison song, which I felt was a useful addition and so added it to the end.]
Bipolar disorder strongly affects the brain’s neurochemistry and, our best guess at this point, can create brain damage, probably dependent on how many or the extremity of the episodes that we’ve have. My brain has been burned by too much hypomania. I used to be impressively smart. Now I’m down to about 80% of what I started out with, probably just “smart.” And it can’t be undone, or at least entirely undone. I was hypomanic for years at a time. It felt marvelous at the time. But, hypomanic as I was, even so I would have listened to the following information, especially the graphic pictures.
I made this for a different post and didn’t use it, but I like it so I’m gonna hang it up here anyway.
With bipolar disorder, whenever you feel strongly compelled to do something, truly inspired to pursue a relationship, salivate over a potential purchase — just don’t. That way lies danger. And the reverse – when you feel like you can’t live one moment longer, if you don’t have the energy to get out of bed, and when you genuinely do not care about brushing your teeth or even world peace, it is time to get up and out of the chair and out the front door.
“How are you doing?” does not mean what it says. When we ask this question we rarely want to know how the other person is really doing, particularly in depth. When we are dealing with someone that is depressed we need to admit that and respect it. And when are depressed and try to answer this question we should not respond honestly — if that causes harm. Instead we can learn to simply “ping” each other in the situation, to find out if they are there, if they will respond, and to gauge the distance between us.