Bipolar, Border Collies & Balance

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!

Resources

List of famous Bipolar Sufferers taken from List taken from Wikipedia.

Photo Credits: Border Collie Jumping by gadgetgirl; Bored Collie by furry-photos; Puppy by andyvanyperen.

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7 thoughts on “Bipolar, Border Collies & Balance

  1. projectwhitespace

    Oh my goodness. My psychologist is determining whether I am bipolar too. Reading this, sounds way too familiar. I like how you compared this to a border collie–because I love them. Makes bipolar seem a little more manageable, you know?

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Coincidence about the bipolar! You poor thing! It’s a nightmare isn’t it? I’ve found the blogging community extremely supportive though- you feel a lot less alone when you can connect with others out there with similar issues.

      Glad you liked the border collie connection- me and my boyfriend thought it one day when looking after his Dad’s border collie: that I was really like her!

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Rachel

      Reply
  2. Summer Moon

    These dogs are so beautifully adorable! I love dogs (all animals really), and to read this makes me feel really good. I recall reading an article some time back about how having a dog can help bipolar sufferers. I really want one, but I’m unable to have one at the current time. I do have plenty of dog stuffed animals though. 🙂 I think it’s so true what you say about Border Collies being closely related to us bipolars. I did not know that these dogs were so high-maintenance. The getting bored easily aspect is very similar to my experience with bipolar. I know for me, it’s hard for me to stay attentive to something for long periods of time, unless my mind is immensely stimulated it by it. I think that’s why I can do my art/design, writing, reading, and gaming so attentively because I’m being stimulated in a way that really works for me. All human beings get bored of course, but I think with bipolar becoming bored is more easily attainable without the right stimulation. The celebrities you listed are perfect examples of what you discuss in this article, and they do indeed prove that we can be productive in both normal and extreme ways. With that said… I’m proud to be a Border Collie too. 🙂

    Reply
    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments- it’s so great that you can see what I mean!! I thin kus bipolar-types get bored very easily too. But equally we can become overwhelmed easily and so that perfect balance is always needed.

      Owning a dog has been one of the best decisions I ever made. But my partner and I were thinking about it for a good couple of years before we made the final decision. They’re such a big commitment. I think the walking is the most time-consuming aspect (our dog needs 1-2 hours a day or she gets restless), but it has been very beneficial to my own mental health to get all the fresh air and exercise!

      The best bit though is when you’re watching TV in the evening, she’s worn out and comes and sits on your lap for a cuddle. It’s the most relaxing thing sitting and stroking a dog! They give you so much love!

      Thanks again for your comments and visiting!!

      Rachel

      Reply

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