How bipolar is bipolar?

Just how Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde do I have to get before I can self diagnose as bipolar and self medicate with alternating doses of chocolate and cabernet?

I’m asking because spending a lot of time with a three-year-old (again) and carefully observing our seven-year-old, and adjusting to a foreign exchange student are all making me…um…how do I say this…volatile?

In one moment, our family is a unified ball of bliss, talking about what makes us grateful, in the backyard while slurping down locally made ice cream. In another, I’m silently plotting a scenario in which I lock them outside and call the old-school cartoon truant officer to take them to the pound. (Or is that the dog catcher? I don’t care, really, since this is 2013 in Berkeley and everything I’ve said in this paragraph is so patently offensive to the current culture that I’m going to be taken away in a paddy wagon, anyway. Ooops. There I go again. I don’t care. I’m holding on too tight, Goose. Except that it should be tightly. And I doubt I’ll ever hold on so tightly that I say that I’m holding on too tight. So I’m clearly totally fine, right?)

Our lovely houseguest is trying so hard. She’s curious and attentive. Sometimes. When she interrupts a conversation to ask about Anne Frank I’m too engaged in the answer to notice she totally just interrupted. When she timidly asks if the T-shirt she just bought, emblazoned with an ad for a performance of The Vagina Monologues, means what she thinks it means, I’m too intent on explaining performance as a way of bringing violence out of the dark to remember that she’s just spent more of her money on crap she doesn’t need.

And she’s direct. In my best moments, I’m proud of how adventurous she is, quite aware of her challenging status as a stranger in a foreign house, doing her best to engage but not get in the way.

But when I’m not vigilant, a nasty little creature takes over my brain and wonders why on Earth our sweet temporary family member is so impossible. It’s too cold here every minute of every day, until a heat wave. And then woe is her, it’s so hot. Our food is terrible and awful and we are just crazy to eat the way we do. And then she supposes this homemade cookie is okay. “It’s okay, I guess.” Well then you can hand it over, Missy, because if my cookies aren’t good enough for you to smile and make yummy sounds, why then I’ll eat that one, too. She’s so intrigued by everything and can we please take her everywhere we go, but oh dear that’s too boring and can she take a nap in the middle of a potluck? She’s dying to go running and can I please take her running and when are we going running? But then when I get up at 5:30 a.m. to take her for a jog, after one block she’s dying and did she not mention she’s never been running before?

Sheesh. Teenagers.

Which brings me to the three-year-old. A delightful blogger tweeted a few weeks ago that she’d rather parent a two-year-old for seven years than a fourteen-year-old for one year. I begged her to please tell me she was kidding.

You already know about Three. I don’t need to tell you about Three. All I’m saying is, I feel a bit bipolar courtesy of the insanity that is Three.

Cute. Hitting. Adorable. Screaming. Deliberate. Random. Focused. Crazy. Kind. Mean.

And Seven is his own ball of contrary and erratic. Sweetly offering to set the table, then yelling”NO!” when I ask him to choose the book I’ll read him. Kindly teaching his brother how to find bugs in the backyard one minute then swinging handcuffs at the “stupid jerk who doesn’t play right!” the next.

So if the chicken comes before the egg, I’m bipolar and the kids inherited it from me. Including the exchange student. If the egg comes before the chicken, the three insane people in my house are driving me to the edge.

I’m wondering, I suppose, if roller coaster days are contagious. Or if we’re allergic to summer. Or life. Or something.

Which came first: the hot side that stayed hot or the cool side that stayed cool? And since when am I a McMetaphor?

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7 thoughts on “How bipolar is bipolar?

  1. Great post! I can see how you can be Bipolar with all that going on. Well, all I can say is “Keep on keeping on!”

  2. i don’t know enough to know if that little gremlin (what i call my own “nasty little creature”) is common, naturally occurring, or primarily stress induced, but i DO know that over here, at different points, it can be all of the above. and i have no small humans or teenagers in the mix – just roommates, and bosses, and a variety of other characters). it could be a temperament thing (i am coming from enneagram 5, intj/infj [too close to count most times!!], and highly sensitive personhood land – i think i recall you writing about at least a couple of these as pertaining to yourself), or it could be just a we are human and no one likes their space and routine and preferences messed with. i’m not sure about where it comes from, and sometimes i’m definitely much more stable and able to go with the flow. but other times, allah help me, i just want to throw out all the babies and bathwaters i can find.

    so, i guess all this is to say: i feel a pain quite similar to this one, in my own version of life on planet earth, and i hope you stumble your way into a window of peace and stability soon!!

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