Those of us who are bipolar spend our whole lives trying to find the middle way. It is much easier for us to feel on top of the world or down in the dumps. Those clichés really do express the emotional states of mania and depression. We’re either flying high or lying low.
To have any kind of peace and well-being, however, we need to find the middle way. Medication may help us get there. So does life management—making sure we get enough sleep, exercise, healthy food, and a routine that works for us. But mind management is also a necessary path to health.
It’s easy to get so caught up in our thoughts that we ride that train off the tracks. When my energy is unbounded, I want to keep on keeping on, not stop to get some rest. And when I find myself in a downward spiral, I want to take that path all the way down.
The first step in stopping a destructive thought pattern is to be aware of what our patterns are. Only then might we interrupt them when we see a danger signal.
The middle way is also spoken of in Buddhist teachings. My interpretation of this term is to avoid falling into the trap of extremes—total self-indulgence or denial--but rather to be present in the life you are living. This is not a passive acceptance of what comes your way, but a continual openness and honesty about what is really going on.
The middle way can get boring when we’re used to having high highs and low lows. The drama disappears, but equanimity may come out of it if we’re patient.
I would never have chosen the middle way when I was young. I wanted drama and action.
Now I am choosing the middle way every day. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I want to start my life over again the way I have so often in the past.
I want more excitement.
I want bigger projects.
I want a change of scenery.
I want that powerful feeling back that makes me think I can solve any problem and gives me the energy to accomplish any task.
But I don’t want to pay the price for it.
So I choose the middle way.