Until very recently I was scientifically illiterate despite 17 years of pretty decent education. I graduated high school with high honors taking awards in art and creativity- read basically voted most likely to go insane. I was bounced from “gifted” program to “advanced” program and then University hopped with marks all over the grade spectrum until the babies turned my brain to mush. Lucky me I am now barren and everybody is weaned and oh gosh, I have part of my brain back. The real problem was, I didn’t even realize how scientifically illiterate I was. And my journey to mental skillness has been longer because of it.
I loved science as a child but began to see the arts, poetry as the true places of the empathetic mind. That creativity and compassion were just not a part of science. Public school pretty much backed this up. My outside experiences with science were from my mother who just reinforced my notions that real scientists were basically just pyro-fetishists. I know not everybody was raised with explosions in the darkened hallway on Christmas Eve, but trust me, you wish you did.
Within the arts community I found people on the fringe, that I easily related to and that greatly appealed to me. I mostly knew how to act in public, thanks to the stable, loving, predictable life I grew up with. I was going mad with routine by high school though. My brain was on speed and there was no way to catch up. I burned through books and ideas like a wildfire. I adore my parents, even more as a parent myself for providing me with constant, unconditional love while I let my freak show fly. It’s as an adult; joking about my parents (mostly) fond reaction to outfits I wore from grades 7-12; everyday was halloween and the hair styles I chose- from bi-hawks to bright green chia pet spots to rainbow wigs- that I realize how awesome and supportive my parents are. I was just mind numbingly devastatingly bored. Mostly people who have known me while hypo manic would describe me as loud, fun, crazy. Even though I was stone cold sober, I seemed drunk, or high a lot of the time and this is pretty darn acceptable in the arts, a lot of the time. I felt at home.
However, I was not very self regulated and when the time came to learn new coping skills I naturally turned to the arts and alternative medicines. While I know creative expression lays at the heart of mental health for me there just were not the answers I needed on HOW to live. Lots of philosophy and grand advice about self forgiveness, and positive mental states. That just isn’t enough to get you well. I spent money I wish I hadn’t spent and time not engaged with reality that I can not get back wondering about mystical and magical things.
I was put in a Living with Bipolar 1 class that was 8 weeks long and I felt stigmatized and shaky walking through those doors. Opening new doors has opened a new life for me. I have been gorging myself on neuroscience reading and talks and dialectical behavioral therapy classes. I became interested in other forms of science as well, mostly thanks to a supremely pushy husband on the subject of scientific literacy. As I realized my tiny presence in our grand universe here on our pale blue dot I became increasingly grateful for my chance to make a positive impact on our tiny planet.
I’m now going to pursue becoming an Art Therapist, which seems like such a shockingly obvious fit. Who doesn’t want to do neuro science crafts that will pave down some positive new neuro highways?
It has been years of struggling to figure out how to live inside my own head in a settled and productive way. The struggle has been greatly eased by learning the skills of DBT. Emotional regulation, radical acceptance of reality, and mediation skills are tools we all need.
Current reading: http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp/0739357980
Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Pretty much essential reading for anyone wishing to make use of their human brain.
Quick briefing on DBT. It is CBT with meditation/awareness practices. I found found it so helpful in the “how” part of emotional regulation.