|Image: American Mensa|
There's a stigma to having a high intelligence, and discussing one's own intelligence is awkward in a similar way to discussing one's own mental illness. I was diagnosed with a high IQ ten years before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I. Perhaps already understanding that I marched to the beat of a different drummer made it easier for me to accept the fact that I have a mental illness.
Now I'm a member of Mensa, "The International High IQ Society". I joined in 2000, and it wasn't until this year that I disclosed my bipolar disorder to anyone in my local chapter. To my surprise, the day I made my announcement by sharing this blog in our chapter's Facebook group, a woman who's only three years older than I am, let me know that she has Bipolar Disorder II, and commented, "I'm also on the L&L regimen". It's great to know that I'm not alone in being exceptional in ways that society views as both positive and negative. It's funny how high intelligence is considered to be a good thing, but you're never supposed to mention that you possess the gift. Since I made my disclosure about having bipolar disorder, I've learned that in addition to one other member of my Mensa chapter having bipolar disorder, there's one person in my chapter with dyslexia, and another with Asperger's Syndrome. It is clear that having a high IQ does not ward off life's disorders!
Sometimes people ask me if my intelligence has helped me deal with my bipolar disorder. Although I have flashes of intelligence during mania, hypomania, and even depression, I feel that I'm at my most intelligent when my mood is stabilized by my medication. When I'm stable, I'm able to be rational and logical, and it's easy for me to understand that I have to do many things in order to be at my best: eat healthy food, exercise, reduce stress, follow my routines, get regular sleep, etc.-- and I do these things. So, I don't believe that intelligence means that I can conquer bipolar disorder, but I do believe that intelligence makes it easier for me to participate in my treatment by choosing the right psychiatrist, medications, therapist, and support group for me, and realizing that I have to adapt my lifestyle in many ways in order to save myself.