On my dog-walk this morning we bumped into Sue, another regular dog-walker, who has the most beautiful Border Collie (sheepdog) called Tara. Tara is usually fairly excitable and eager to be fussed, but today she was more subdued. Immediately Sue shared that Tara has been having bad fits regularly over the last few weeks. The vet’s treating her for epilepsy.
Apparently epilepsy is a common condition in Border Collies. Sue mentioned that the vet advised her to keep Tara as relaxed as possible and give her lots of piece and quiet as stress can be one of the triggers to fitting. (From what Sue told me, her house is dominated by her boisterous older kids, so can be a little chaotic!).
Border Collies and Balance
Border Collies are highly sensitive dogs that are very high maintenance. They were bred to be working all day in the fields, rounding up sheep. Even dogs kept as pets need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to prevent boredom. A bored Border Collie can easily become snappy and aggressive, destructive and obsessive- they will stare at shadows for ages and fixate on them, or become obsessed with bringing their ball to you to be thrown. (I’ve experienced this one first hand- these animals have insatiable appetites for play and interaction).
However, they also need a fairly stress-free environment to live in. They are especially sensitive to noise and can easily become chronically stressed if living amidst chaos, which in Tara’s case, could possibly have triggered her epilepsy.
But a happy, healthy border collie is capable of amazing achievement, evident in agility competitions, performing routines to music and of course their fantastic work with sheep farmers.
How does this relate to Bipolar Disorder?
This got me to thinking how closely the Border Collie resembles us Bipolar people! We are often high maintenance too and need to find a happy balance in life, just like the dogs!
Depression: As bipolar sufferers we are usually intelligent, creative and have a need to be stimulated in these ways in order to prevent boredom. Boredom in Bipolar often leads us to fixate on our thoughts and become obsessive, anxious, depressed or irritable.
Without a purpose we are liable to analysing every little thing we do or don’t do, often judging and criticising ourselves in the process. We can eat up our souls with our innate ability to analyse ourselves negatively. Our minds are hungry to work and without mastery, they run along of their own accord, often with negative consequences for us!
Hypomania/Mania: On the flip-side, if we spend too much time working, we are likely to end in a similar situation or possibly with hypomania or mania.
We are so intense in our focus, with many many ideas- so many that we often have to work faster and faster to keep up with our minds. The highs we can get from immersion in our occupation can then be exacerbated when, feeling so confident and drunk on life, we go to too many social events/nightclubs or spend too much time shopping. Mania here we come!
Peace and quiet are therefore essential in keeping us from becoming self-destructively high!
Balance: The Path to Reaching Our Potential
Like Border Collies we have a very strong need for balance. We are easily tipped either side of the scales. Learning to keep that balance seems to be one of the lifelong challenges for those of us with Bipolar. But once we have that balance through finding the right vocation, environment and (usually) medication, we are capable of fantastic achievements and can really thrive. Just take a look at any list of famous people with Bipolar Disorder and you will see that we can be just as successful as those without, and in some cases, even more so!!
Famous Bipolar Sufferers: Van Gogh, Carrie Fisher, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Spike Milligan, Stephen Fry,Virginia Woolf, Amy Winehouse, Schumann……They’re all Border Collies!
List of famous Bipolar Sufferers taken from List taken from Wikipedia.