“These hands could hold the world but it’ll never be enough”– From The Greatest Showman, “Never Enough”
Scientists still don’t claim to know exactly what causes bipolar disorder. Some say it’s likely passed down through genetics. Others say it’s brought on by drug use or intense traumatic events like a death in the family or divorce. The more I attempt to understand myself and this “illness” that I’ve been diagnosed with, the more I see that the way I was raised and socialized in this culture is probably a huge reason I’ve developed these “manic depressive” mood loops. It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that all of this is on a spectrum of how deeply people are able to “feel” within their own psyches.
In a culture of “not enoughness,” to feel as deeply as someone like myself is incredibly painful, leading to patterns of suicidal fantasies, constantly looking for a way out from the pressure of an invisible audience, the approval from a nonexistent authority figure. Because of pain from the lows, I have to chase and grasp at higher highs, and in this modern technological culture where stimulation is around every corner, the idea of “balance” starts to seem more and more impossible. Unless you start to raise awareness of your own cycles and face the consequences of what its like to get swept up in the extremes — how it affects those you love, your health, and your future. It’s tough to admit, and for a bipolar mind, incredibly painful to face. After tons of breakdowns and buckets of tears, this awareness has helped me immensely to commit to this healing journey of trying to understand myself from within. But just like one of my teachers says, this scarcity story, this need to chase the next high is not my fault, but “the sea we’re swimming in.” The narrative fed to us by a culture that just wants our attention, money, and information. Even though some of us may handle it better than others, we are all susceptible to the distractions and temptations of a modern technological society.
Bipolar, like ADHD, is often mis-diagnosed, and the more I open up about my symptoms, the more I find people who relate to these extreme shifts in moods and wonder “am I bipolar too?” Many of them update me later and tell me that they had actually been diagnosed with “anxiety” instead. It makes me realize that we always want to label this “brokenness” we feel, this “unbelonging.” Because so few of us actually feel like we “fit in” anywhere. But seriously — can someone tell me what “NORMAL” actually is? I don’t think so. Why? Because this idea of “fitting in” in itself was something programmed into us for generations, ESPECIALLY to the boomer generation, leading to mass burnout and unhealthy workaholic tendencies in a society just trying to get by.
Perfectionism is a tool of oppression in our patriarchal, white supremacist + capitalist society. An instrument to enforce oppressive power structures.“– ditchperfect.com
The idea of “perfection” was always a fake world presented to us to try and control us, to keep us down. Here’s a great article about how overcoming perfectionism is actually a form of activism, an instrument to enforce oppressive power structures.”
This is especially obvious in this footage from the 1950s. It’s pretty chilling to know that this video was ACTUALLY PLAYED IN SCHOOLS!!!
NO ONE WAS EVER GONNA “FIT IN” TO THIS!! All it created were unrealistic expectations, and now the world has gotten SO overwhelming that an incredible amount of people have no idea how to handle the sensory overload, and a reality where “perfection” is actually impossible yet we’re all programmed to seek approval and validation to let ourselves know we’re “ok” because we don’t trust ourselves enough to believe we’re not crazy. It’s all so fucked. Plus, worrying about such an uncertain future in a country now ruled by the billionaire class has us all struggling to survive. Sold the idea of “The American Dream” — the concept of working hard to “become something” and strive for an unattainable ideal of “success” and to fit into a culture of a “normalcy” that never even truly existed.
No wonder so many people relate to these “bipolar” and “ADHD” sensibilities — we live in a dualistic existence, with that gap between balance getting larger and larger seemingly everyday as more comes out about the division between race, class, gender, religion, and everything in between. With more and more shit being sold to us every second, sensationalistic news headlines to hopefully win our clicks and valuable information, just so we can be sent another email persuading us to buy more garbage that will eventually end up in the ocean or a landfill somewhere, destroying more of our fragile ecosystem. Of COURSE this is going to affect our bodies and minds! We’re seriously at a point in history where we NEED to take our power back!
Anyway, from what I’ve seen, what sets bipolar apart is the propensity for mania, carried away by the highs of a magical fantasy world where all those worries melt away. When I began to start really looking at the difference between how mania and depression manifest for me, I realized I had become addicted to the highs of my own mind… how fucked up is that? (At least it’s been great to never need caffeine.) But who can blame anyone being addicted to any of these distractions and numbing agents (drugs, alcohol, the internet, etc) of our new world? The highs and lows of the actual physical reality we live in are so MASSIVE, that if you ever attempt to actually look at them, it’s DEBILITATING.
My point being… we live in an extreme world, and I believe that my sensitive bipolar mind functions as it does because I was raised by extremely opposite parents, with extremely opposite values. My mom being an immigrant from the Philippines, COMPLETELY sold on the idea of that “American Dream,” that anything was possible in this country of “plenty”, and my dad being a hippie who dropped out of high school – knowing it was a crock of shit from the beginning – and took all sorts of psychedelics, expanding his mind but being diagnosed schizophrenic and labeled crazy even in his teens.
My mom pushed that idea on me of needing to “work hard” and “get a good education”… no one could take that away from me. I was encouraged to take classes for “gifted” children,” pushed to get good grades, win awards and trophies, and pursue this academic life so she could brag to people about me, meanwhile filling my head with ideas of fear. Everyone was out to get me, everyone was constantly talking about me behind my back. Trust no one, even my own father. Focus on myself. This was obviously her way of protecting me, and my submissive dad, although all about peace and love, had no real voice in the relationship. I grew up under the heavy hand of perfectionism and toxic masculinity as seen through the lens of an immigrant woman who could never, and still can’t, see America for what it really is — a land of a people in denial of a history of wealth built off the backs of people of color. A land of cheap thrills, of doing anything to make a quick buck at the expense of your integrity. A culture of workaholism — giving your life and energy to people who don’t give a shit about you. This was the dominant narrative in my life, with my dad’s idealistic “peace, love, magic” outlook on the world taking a backseat. It sucks that my mom always just wanted what was best for me. A life that she didn’t — couldn’t — have in a third world country like the Philippines. But it became an intense pressure for me to become something unattainable, leading me to seeking extreme highs to distract myself from that pressure, and crashing to the extreme lows of feeling like I would never be able to meet the expectation I now had in my head, developed from the fear instilled in me.
I watched The Greatest Showman for the first time on my plane trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the first stop on my grand trip to Antarctica, the ends of the Earth. (After that experience, talk about “Never Enough…” ugh). I’m a sucker for musicals, and I’ve always been a fan of the concept of a “circus” — the awe, wonder, and magic part, not the violent exploitation of animals and those who were “different”. But I’m willing to suspend my disbelief to be entertained and moved by this romanticized Hollywood rendition of what we’d like to think of a circus to be. The sentiment is nice, and it’s such a perfect metaphor for my mania — darkness, contradiction and all. Nothing is ever as it seems, especially with a bipolar mind 😐 Plus, with my past of being practically raised in Disneyland and taught escapism early… it’s no wonder I have high expectations for life to be grand, and difficulties facing the “reality” of history. When I get swept up in that “high,” it’s as though everything gets more colorful and anything seems possible — my rose tinted glasses are on full blast! Childlike joy, awe, and wonder — all of that MAGIC you felt as a kid, when life was simpler, when fairytales were real, and the world was less complicated. That feeling of being truly ALIVE.
To me, that’s what mania feels like, and ohhhhhh man does it feel good. But the shittiest part about it is that it can never be enough. And that’s what I love about the message of this film The Greatest Showman — they address this pretty well, in a nice, lighthearted PG fashion that I’m hoping can get through to younger generations. It’s flashy and fun, with a nice hopeful ending that this self obsessed guy chasing fame, money, and self preservation will eventually turn it around and realize that spending time with his family is actually enough. Not realistic, but idealistic in the way that REALLY appeals to me lol… I am ashamed to admit but TOTALLY relate to Hugh Jackman’s character, and it was so great to watch it with Eddy because we frequently talk about how I share tons of similarities with his own father who passed away when he was a child. We think that he was an Enneagram Type 7, just like me, falling into the traps of gluttony, of seeking approval from an invisible audience. He ended up losing everything, including a successful business, his family, and eventually his life… all to the detriment of this “not enoughness.” Sometimes I wonder if all Type 7s are bipolar, or if bipolar and this ADDICTION to the highs and inability to handle the lows, is more of a negative pattern built into us as a result of this culture and ancestral wounds than anything else. And sometimes I worry I’ll never be able to overcome this insatiability… but never say never, right? I’m working on it.
There is so much to be grateful for in this world we live in, but it really does seem like the more we have, the more we feel we lack. I love this song from Greatest Showman that sums up how nothing can ever be enough… it’s beautiful and seriously makes me tear up ;_;
During THIS song, Tightrope, Eddy said “what story ISN’T this? This is also like Hook… it’s just different people experiencing different parts of the same tragedy.” It’s such a universal, repetitive issue that we seem to never learn from. What I keep seeing… in my own life and in films… is that regardless of these constant messages from media, so many of us have to experience these things for ourselves, go through this pain firsthand to truly learn the lesson. But I don’t want that for me… I want to learn instead of continually making this mistake as I have for years. Eddy relates to much to the wife in this song, and it hurts me to know that I constantly fall into the trap of being swept up in my mania, running off to “the next thing,” getting caught up in “novelty” rather than appreciating what I have right in front of my face. Then when I’m brought back to reality, I just fall into depression and am completely useless. It’s always great, and painful, to see such a disgusting part of yourself in display right in front of you.
I’ve mentioned before but last month I took a class at Shakti Feminine University called Cultivating Currencies, where I was introduced to my money story. We discussed how in the world economy, but especially the United States, we’ve been sold this narrative about “scarcity.” Nothing is ever enough. We’ll always be broken so we continue to be consumers and contribute to this capitalist system. We’re not appreciated for what we contribute to society, just what we contribute to this broken economy — to the detriment of our sanity, of our self worth, and of our values. And I believe that all of this extremity absolutely affects people’s minds in fucked up ways.
Gosh it’s so easy for me to get fired up and go on a tangent… I don’t even know if anything I ever write makes sense lol. But FUCK PERFECTIONISM, conformity and the need for validation — amirite? xD
The major assignment for my Resilience class these next 8 weeks is to meditate on “Enoughness,” and although I’m only on Day 2, it’s already starting to shift my perspectives and see more of the scarcity bullshit that plagues our lives.
It’s a trip to really start to connect with your body and start to be aware of what these sensations mean when serious mood shifts occur. Awareness really does seem to be the key to achieving any sort of feeling of balance… and after my manic episode last week I feel like I’m making a serious commitment unlike ever before. Enoughness needs to become the new norm! Gratitude is everything, each moment is a miracle, our body takes care of so much for us… “It’s” not out there — everything we need is already inside of us.
I’m truly sick of this extreme roller coaster bullshit. All it does is keep us in chains of our own making. Feeling whole is way more satisfying than this insatiable torture we’ve been fed. One last point to make that all of this reminds me of —
According to Lama Surya Das, when a student asked the monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “What is life like in the realm of the hungry ghosts?”, he replied, “America”.– From “Hungry Ghosts On The Couch,” an entry from Robin Cohen’s blog
The concept of the “Hungry Ghost” is one of my favorites to perfectly illustrate just what mess we’ve gotten ourselves into because of capitalism and our economic structure. Listen to Thich Nhat Hanh talk more about it here: