The following is an excerpt from my upcoming memoir, BrainStorm: From Broken to Blessed on the Bipolar Spectrum.
Because you are fluid with the darkness, you can be fully present with other people’s fears.
There is no place their fears can take you that you have not been. No matter how scary that place might be for them, it’s not for you. You are an able partner and guide. You can accompany them on their journey.
Here’s an example. A magnificent woman I know professionally, let’s call her Jane, came to me for coaching. Jane was a super accomplished educator, mom, gun control activist, and community leader. I was in awe of her energy. But something was gnawing at her that she knew she needed to unpack. She felt intuitively that her passionate work for gun control was driven by fear of social collapse. As we started working together, I found out she is the daughter of two French holocaust survivors. She had the child-of-survivors syndrome, embodying on a cellular level her parents’ trauma. She was terrified for her own two beautiful sons. If disaster struck and society collapsed, the worst imaginable violence, like that which permanently scarred her parents, would be possible, even likely. Her work was driven by this fear. And she knew it wasn’t healthy.
I accompanied her in this place as a facilitator and guide. Her terror didn’t scare me. I felt honored to be there. The terrorist in my own mind gave me the survivor’s perspective, allowing me to understand and be present for Jane as she raged, sobbed, wrestled, and came through the other side with new perspective, clarity, and strength. Jane’s fear of collapse did not go away, but our work together helped her see it for what it was. She has a new relationship to fear. My fearlessness helped her be better able to do her work from a place of passion and commitment without being incapacitated by fear. I know I could not have been a worthy and capable coach for Jane had I not been a survivor of bipolar II.