Choosing Depression or Mania Without Disorder


Learning to choose our states changes everything we know about bipolar disorder. Choosing mania without disorder is an option people want but believe impossible. Choosing depression without disorder sounds like something nobody would do but you might be surprised what a difference it makes.

Do you have bipolar disorder or know somebody who does? What would change if you could learn how to turn depression and mania on and off whenever you wanted to? The entire way we look at bipolar disorder would change in profound ways. Some of them are beyond most people’s imagination, but a simple illustration will help you to see why some of us say bipolar is an advantage that we do not want to give up.

Please understand that I am not talking about people who do not know how yet say “snap out of it” or any other offensive phrase, but the actual ability to do it which is an incredibly advanced skill.

I have been openly sharing my journey and exploration of the possibilities with bipolar for over 10 years now. It seems that sometimes I push the boundaries a bit too far and am met with pretty hostile pushback. This is a dilemma for me because I want to help others but I am afraid that this time it may be perceived once again as going too far. Nonetheless I have been thinking about and working on this idea for the better part of this year and I feel it is the most significant breakthrough that I have made so far in my understanding of bipolar.

I have shared before how I have allowed deep depressions to happen because I felt that I was going to gain some great insight from them. Although I don’t masochistically choose to be depressed, I do allow it to happen and look for insight into it whenever a depressive cycle happens. Last fall as I was going deeper into a depression I wondered what new insights were in store.

I was still being very productive in my work and I saw no harm in allowing the depression to go on, yet after several months I was beginning to feel like there were no new insights available to me. My spiritual advisor had suggested that I had mined depression for all it was worth and no longer needed it in my life, so therefore should not let it go on any longer. My psychiatrist agrees with that assessment even as he has been supportive and trusting in my ability to safely pursue my explorations.

Choosing To End Depression

As the conversation drew to a close I was relatively convinced that perhaps it was time to stop being depressed. I hung up the phone resolved to end the depression and in that moment it dawned on me. The mere idea that it was time to end the depression combined with my rich experiences and deep understanding of depression gave me the ability to turn it off at will. I no longer needed any external actions to make it go away.

Ever since that moment I have dedicated a substantial amount of time towards working out the idea and practicing ways to turn both mania and depression on and off at will. My initial inclination was to never tell anyone about these ideas because they are clearly far too radical for most people to believe, yet as I grew in my ability to comprehend and actually put the ideas into practice I thought it imperative for the ideas to be shared.

I came up with a way of explaining it and gave that explanation to several of the more advanced students that had already found success in the Bipolar IN Order program. Based on their feedback I modified the way of explaining it and expanded the number of those that I shared it with. The more feedback I got the more I was able to refine the concepts and presentation of them, which is exactly how I developed the Bipolar IN Order program in the first place. Perhaps not surprising to the Psychiatrists in my audience, the ones I have shared it with have been the most receptive.

So here is my current way of explaining it: Imagine you have a funeral to go to tomorrow for someone that you love dearly and tomorrow afternoon you are competing in a soccer match where you need to be at peak performance. If you could switch states at will you would be at an advantage during both events.

Assuming that you understand depressive states so well that you can function highly during them, you would see that perhaps even a deeply depressive state might be advantageous during the funeral. If you could choose that state upon entering the funeral you would be able to share your deep understanding with others while knowing how to help them best process the situation.

You would, for example, hug aunt Nancy and openly cry with her which would allow her to more freely express the pain that she is experiencing and not pathologize the feelings. Uncle Ralph, on the other hand, might be best served with a philosophical discussion that would help him express his feelings in a way that works for him. With your enhanced perception and clear understanding you would be able to help everyone process the experience in their own unique way.

When you got to the soccer match you would turn on a hypomanic state just like everyone else on the team is trying to do by jacking themselves up for the competition. Your high energy, faster mind, and ability to multitask that comes with a hypomanic state would be a major advantage that you brought to the game.

Don’t Try This At Home

If you think about method actors this is exactly what they do in preparing for a role. One might argue that bipolar people have a much greater level of intensity in both mania and depression, but that does not negate the fact that I can do it, nor that perhaps you can too with enough understanding and practice. This practice, of course, could only be done after the foundation is laid through the Bipolar IN Order program. I am not suggesting someone who melts down during depression should even attempt such an exploration.

Yet I was still convinced that it was far too dangerous to expose the idea to the general public in fear that I would be roundly attacked for such a blasphemous idea that goes against very strong beliefs held by everyone from those afflicted with bipolar disorder to those who consider themselves experts in treating it.

And then another breakthrough occurred. I knew I could turn fairly strong levels of depression and mania on at will during normal times but I was not sure that strong triggers would not overwhelm that ability. But as September came to a close , a very strong event happened that would likely trigger a powerful depression in just about anyone. I considered testing my ability to choose another state, but I allowed depression to happen because I felt that the depressive state would help me to analyze the situation in a more realistic light. I was familiar with the many studies that have shown that depressed people have a more realistic picture than either non-depressed or (hypo)manic populations.

After two days of ruminating the details I had come to a conclusion of how to move forward with the circumstances. I consciously switched into a moderate hypomanic state which gave me the ability to rapidly develop my solution to the problem.

I must admit that there is still a very strong part of me that wonders whether I could have actually chosen not to be depressed in the first place. But that exploration will have to wait for another day. I will be sure to pursue that option the next chance I get but will have to wait for an appropriate triggering event. Even while exploring it, though, I would still see depression as an appropriate response to situations where the advantages outweigh any potential negatives, especially since most of the negatives I experienced in the past no longer plague my states.

In the meantime I am exploring ways to teach these abilities to some of the more advanced students. My hope is that I will, like I have with the Bipolar IN Order program, find a way to make it applicable to as many people as possible. Please let me know if you know of or have heard of anyone who is pursuing a similar path.

What do you think? Have I gone too far this time? Should I continue to share my journey or am I saying things that are so far out there that nobody will listen? Do you think I should reserve these ideas for only those who are ready to hear them? Or do I have a duty, as I believe, to stand up to the naysayers because the status quo is holding everyone back? Should Columbus have just told everyone he went to the edge of the world when he came back from his journey?

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Tom Wootton founded Bipolar Advantage with the mission to help people with mental conditions shift their thinking and behavior so that they can lead extraordinary lives. His most recent work focuses on moving beyond recovery in bipolar disorder to what he calls Bipolar In Order.