A stranger gave me lemon seeds.
“The more energy you give these seeds the more lemons it will bear,” said the stranger.
My seeds never grew into sturdy trees that bear lemons, but rather, vine-like bushes.
The more the bush grew, the weaker my energy became. I was determined to fix my weakness, yet the more I tried, the more drained I became.
One day a friend stopped by to buy some lemons from my tree.
“I have tried, but no lemons seem to grow on this tree,” I said.
“Well, you were given these seeds, you must be doing something wrong,” said my friend.
“I might just be the wrong person for the job” I responded.
“Or maybe you are giving lemon love and care to a grapevine....”
In shock, I laughed out loud.
“Everyone knows this is a lemon tree, we have all been told the same have we not?” I asked.
“We could have all been told the same thing, that does not make it true” she reflected.
“Care for your grape vines the way grape vines are intended to be cared for, maybe you are not a waste of talent after all”.
And so I listened to my friend and tried something new:
I stopped fighting the plant's nature and desire to grow along a guided path. I listened to the vines as they grew towards the sun and stood amazed at the glistening Sun rays on the plump fruit. The grapes.
When my friend returned, she was delighted to see that my bushes became grape-bearing vines.
“You grew what you were meant to grow once you stopped growing what others intended for you to grow. You gave the love, water, and light to the grapes when the grapes needed it, not according to when a stranger said they needed it. Clearly, the stranger intended to grow lemons, but it is just as evident that your purpose lies within an understanding and managing the art of growing grapes”.
“How did you know my lemon tree was actually a grape vine?” I asked my friend.
“Never have I seen a fruit-bearing plant carry its fruit without the plants' unique needs being met. My peaches need shade as much as your grapes need sun, and I have never seen a plant grow strong and bear fruit if placed under pressure and strain to grow, especially if they are being pressured into bearing fruit that simply does not sprout in respective nature of that plant”.
I realised then that I was right, to an extent, that I was doing something wrong, and that is just exactly that. I was DOING something wrong, I wasn’t “the wrong”. I also depended on the senses of others to guide me on my growing path, instead of listening to my senses.
Metaphorically, this is my personal experience of how my Bipolar diagnosis went from being a socially crippling, emotional, and self-loafing detriment to being my greatest Strength.
So metaphorically you understand the mind shift I had to make, but what, in reality, actually happened for me to go from type 2 Bipolar to a functional young woman with super powers she only wishes she gave the recognition to earlier?
My journey with regards to Bipolar started at a young age, much younger than the majority of individuals diagnosed with Bipolar, especially in the 1990s where Bipolar disorder, or previously known as manic depression, was solely seen as a mental illness of adults. I was around the age of eight, and have at that point been too many therapists, phycologists, and doctors to see what on earth could be wrong. My mother would tell me that from very little she would have two extreme sides of me and wouldn’t know what to make of it. One moment I’m walking on walls, jumping around and chirpy as ever, and the next she would go looking for me and find me hiding under the dining room table or behind a washing machine. For her, the final straw was when she had a dream of her walking into my playroom and finding that I hung myself. I was around the age of three years old when she had this dream and what felt like a never-ending spree of adults asking me questions and making me do odd exercises and tests started.
As I said, I was around the age of eight when I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar disorder but my mom only told me about the diagnosis when I was around thirteen. Understanding she didn’t want to tell me due to age-appropriate aspects of such things etc, but oh this new knowledge became a pedestal for me to route any mistake, flaw, and what I now perceive as only being human attributes to my newly discovered mental “illness”, “disability” or “disorder”.
My overall energy became directed towards fixing me, I was a problem that needed medication to function. I was a problem that made me less capable than my peers. I focused on drinking my medication, 1500 milligrams of Epitec to be exact. According to the phycologists, any form of struggling to cope with life and every tear I cried meant my condition was getting worse and my tolerance had to be increasing, so they just up the dosage.
Once I reached my early twenties, I became the embodiment of Bipolar, in all its negative glory. I had no understanding of my emotions, I had no healthy coping mechanisms other than drinking my meds, and burning myself out when it came to my studies because at least that made me hard working and driven, according to the social ideological constructs of our societal norms anyway.
I could not discern between wrong and right and make a simple decision for myself because I had no other defined value for myself than being Bipolar, and knowing that Bipolar individuals can still be contributing members of society to an extent, I was determined to prove my value and hopefully be accepted into a place where I might not have to be seen as a problem but rather a contribution. That was where my energy and focus were now driven from as the epicenter of my worldview, Bipolar.
By now you are probably feeling one of the following, you may relate, you may feel indifferent because everyone has a past to deal with and you may even feel bad for me because bless your soul for being hardwired that way. Now, as valid as your feelings are at this point within your worldview, my intention isn’t to evoke emotion but to plant a seed of thought.
Think: Was my detriment my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder or was my detriment my focus on my Bipolar disorder and it is a problem that I had?
I’ll tell you, my detriment sprouted from focusing on what was wrong with me instead of focusing on what was right with me and investing my energy in that.
When teh Gallup StrengthsFinder "found" me, I was around the same age as when my mother told me about my diagnosis. This shifted a large part of my family's world view of thinking and functioning solely according to traditional phycology and introduced a world of Positive Phycology. If you are familiar with the awareness process and how each person's growth and level of awareness is completely tied to their timeline then you will understand how easy it was in the beginning for us as a family, and especially myself to fully function in both the traditional or how I view it, the negative phycology and the positive phycology spectrums. I viewed my report with my top 10 strengths as strengths that belonged in the positive world and that my diagnosis of bipolar completely belonged in the traditional phycology world, and not that I was wrong about that because your perspective constructs your reality. Never did I think that my Bipolar might simply be the result of a mismanaged talent with a lack in its needs being met. Never.
This was until I was having a strengths discussion with my father specifically about my talent of Positivity. I remember when he explained Positivity in its essence and he said the line “Positivity loves the gladness, sadness, and madness of life” ……” the talent is incredibly hopeful and intense”…. And I remember sitting there, not really listening to him anymore but fully engaged in that internal moment of realisation….of awareness.
My positivity talent was so mismanaged that I would be completely driven by my feelings, and react according to them, so much so that I became disconnected from my actual emotional needs.
My new awareness brought my focus to meet those specific needs.
I allowed myself the grace and self-love to freely play and express where my emotions were, not becoming the emotions but expressing them so that they can simply get the recognition they so badly craved.
I focused on constructing the different environments I found myself in to be respective to my different emotional states. Positivity experiences emotions, happenings, and basically life overall on an intense level, more so than people who don’t have Positivity as a strength which results in the need of having people or environments that match your energy in the specific moment. So I made sure my room is a place that will match my melancholic moods. I moved to the Garden Route where I found a lot of like-minded individuals who don’t see intense excitability as immaturity or crocodile tears as depression but rather a human response to a beautiful or sad moment.
When I started to intentionally meet my needs, I could see the contribution I was making in my life, to the people in it, and the overall quality of it. I started to contribute hope where others struggled to find it. I became so focused on what was right with me that where I once was a girl who had Bipolar that was an unpredictable energy bunny that moulded to her reality, I became a woman that shapes her reality. My bipolar went from being a crippling emotional rollercoaster that just took me along for the ride to a Strength-based focused strength called Positivity. That could, just as an alchemist takes chemicals and potions and shifts and shapes them into something new, my strength of positivity can walk into a room and change negative energy into a good one.
Positivity experiences life's madness, sadness, and gladness so intensely that it also has an intense understanding of them and what it needs to exist and thrive within itself, and only through my awareness of this could I start to shift my energies and others' energies for the better by understanding what needs, need to be in place for energy to exist and thrive from both a positive and a negative point of view. From shifting atmospheres to spawning new cultures.
Bipolar is now a term I use to refer to my tree when it is bare and has needs to be met. My tree’s purpose is to bear positivity, and has the potential to, it has before and it will again. That is my value and my contribution to society. Bipolar is simply the term given by society when its systems and structures are disabling you and you can’t carry fruit. Positivity is the term given when you are enabled to do what you are naturally meant to do and cared for accordingly.