Looking Back on Bipolar / Seasonal Transitions and Disruptions

See also related Circadian Rhythm posts –

I used to be bipolar; diagnosed long ago, before Asperger’s was a recognized “thing” (1994) and not considered applicable to females. Looking back, I think this was a mistake – the “bipolar” symptoms I experienced can logically be seen as evidence for “Asperger-ness” as a brain type that processes the environment in a distinct and even radically different way than the overwhelming majority of Modern Social Humans – neurotypicals. One notable problem for me, was and is, a response to seasonal change; lack of sunlight and outdoor activity in winter produce a direct physical effect: extreme restlessness (anxiety) and a longing for the world to “come back” – to revive, to be washed in sunlight and present a landscape wide open to movement. This is not an uncommon condition for many people! The experience can be grossly represented as  claustrophobia. Winter is a time, that once adjusted to, can be very productive; a time of internal focus, mental activity and concentration.

The transition into summer, while eagerly embraced, can be disruptive, unsettling, and “mind-blowing” – Where I live, it’s a long process; inter-leaving of days of increasing sunlight that fool fragile plant life into attempts to emerge, but which are discouraged by snow storms and overnight freezes. The energy gained by extended sunlight at high altitude (6,000-7,000 feet) hits a certain point – and suddenly, our tan and brown,  heavily dissected desert is GREEN. It’s “shocking” to the eye; strange and brief. The sagebrush steppe is covered in prickly shrubs and myriad bunch grasses, which  must reproduce in the short window of mid May through June, and then pack away their chlorophyll for another year, leaving only yellow leaves and seeds to be dispersed by the famous Wyoming wind.  A palette of rich yellows, pale earth, and dusty gray green returns; a much more interesting landscape for sunlight to change in appearance, from moment to moment, throughout the day and evening. A “light show” transforms our two-part landscape of land and sky – a daily cycle of color and shadow that passes into cool night.

I don’t know if this experience of reality is common to Asperger individuals; that is  – the direct influence of the environment on mood, emotion and energy. This responsiveness to the land is not exclusive to Asperger’s types.

This desert has no “social” uses; agriculture is futile. Few people can live here, and without resource extraction for “dollars” and importation of food, even fewer could, or would stay. There is something extremely luxurious about a landscape that can’t be “socialized” – unitized, divided, owned and exploited by human agriculture, trade, commerce – made useful or productive. There’s something extremely luxurious about a life that grows to fit this type of land. I was made for this place: finding it meant “letting go of things not meant for me.” The Bhudda.

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Original post about transitioning from summer into winter:

This is my 65th transition from summer into fall. Of course I don’t remember most of these changes. Fall is a bit of a drive-through season; the way we get to winter. It says so on the calendar: First Day of Fall, but for me it’s a long drawn out state of confusion, instability, moodiness: doom. What has disrupted my normal, careful, mostly peaceful days? Normal for me: my “writer’s routine” of coffee, computer and coming awake. Sometimes writing is easier while I’m still a bit stupefied by sleep.

Anticipation: that’s my experience of Fall, as if something momentous is about to happen, but it never does. One morning the garden plants have frozen, cells bursting; really physically dead; mush with frost rimming the remains. Light snow that melts quickly, the rocks damp and shiny, their colors deep and revealing.

It’s not that I don’t like winter, but some innocent intuitive organ believes that the earth is dying, and me with it. These experiences are so strong and consistent year after year, that I’m sure that being bipolar has something to do with ancient humans -tropical creatures who pushed too far north for their mental health. People whose brains and bodies were extensions of the seasons: work like mad in Spring and Summer and semi-hibernate in winter. Expend the least energy possible obtaining food and water; curl up like most of nature and sleep and dream an alternate existence filled with giants, heroes and mortal powers.

 

 

 

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