Often when we encounter mental health labels, or labels in general, our mind plays a little “not me” game. It’s almost imperceptible. We view a person’s circumstances sympathetically – like an alien experience we may never know – as opposed to empathetically – literally feeling what the person feels as they describe it, or at least attempting earnestly to put ourselves in their shoes.
The word “bipolar” exemplifies this. Anyone caught in the exhilarating movie of their own extraordinarily emotions – we tag as bipolar – dismissing them with pity and perhaps feeling relieved, even smug, that it’s “not us”.
The following is a beautiful essay by accomplished Jazz Pianist Aaron Parks. There are lessons here for every soul who reads.
It is especially compelling because he writes with undeniable self-awareness. He is not illustrating an alien affliction we might never understand – rather – he describes a completely normal life, occasionally overwhelmed by vivid feelings. Rather than regarding himself as a victim, he shares what it’s like to be a person – like any of us – who is prone to exceptional highs and lows. And while the extremes may feel unfamiliar – every human alive can relate to highs and lows – and the circumstances that precipitate them. Particularly our health – physical and mental. This is the essential lesson for everyone.
Beyond bipolar, he shows how the artist life specifically can be so grueling if allowed to be, and raises a really important question – why? He demonstrates the importance of creating barriers for oneself and always preserving your own locus of wellbeing. Is this not something we can all relate to, as we pursue our passions and goals?
We must take care to preserve our locus of health. We can’t take it for granted – can’t ignore the massive ripple effect it has on our wellbeing and emotional regulation, which, color every iota of our movie – our human experience. Is this not consequential enough to carefully consider?
Aaron’s essay, here.