Ideas of Reference

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Creative TechnologyNothing is more disheartening than making resolutions that are broken by January 3rd. For this reason I didn’t even begin my list of resolutions until Fall. This way, I can look at my behaviors and say, “I haven’t done X yet, maybe this is the year I won’t do X at all.”

In making my list, I could take the easy way out and just jot down things I have never done. Two problems with that approach: first, there aren’t that many things I haven’t tried at least once. (E.g., “I won’t call beauty salons asking for pricing on a bikini wax” … tried it, liked it, may do it again.) Second, the things I haven’t tried aren’t great candidates for resolutions as I will never be tempted to do them (E.g., “I won’t get a bikini wax” … waxed my back, it hurt bad, won’t go any lower.)

So my approach is to pick things that I have, in fact, done in the past but haven’t done the first nine months of the year. Odds are I will be willing steer clear of these actions for the rest of the year. For example, my resolution for 2014 is:

I will no longer allow Ideas of Reference guide my actions,

Of course what is a blog without a little overly wordy explanation?

For those of you who aren’t diagnosed as Bipolar 1 with psychotic features, you may be wondering what ideas of reference are. Ideas of reference or delusions of reference involve the belief or perception that it’s all about you. Everything that happens happens because you are center stage. This may include experiences such as:

  • feeling that people on television or radio are talking about or talking to you
  • believing that headlines or stories in newspapers are written especially for you
  • having the experience that strangers are talking about you behind your back
  • believing that events (even world events) have been deliberately contrived for you

At the peak of a manic episode these thoughts are very real and, once the manic subsides, very unsettling. Ever thought former Phoenix Suns’ coach Danny Ainge was giving you hand signals during a television interview? I have. Ever tried ordering an ice cream cone at a crowded Baskin Robbins when you were certain everyone in the store knew who you were and were analyzing your every move? Been there, done that, don’t want to go back.

Fortunately, ever since I got meds and a little counseling I have been able to control these episodes and, when they do flare up, see them for what they are. Unfortunately, there is the lingering side effect that I always think I am being observed. Surprisingly, this really doesn’t instill me with paranoia. Rather, it tempts me to put on a show for an unseen audience.

Wired the way I am, having an audience, real or imagined, is not a good thing. Consider my last trip to Disneyland. I was there with my daughters enjoying a day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Not getting the thrills I get at my favorite amusement park-Magic Mountain-I decided to liven things up a bit. Coming off the Indiana Jones ride I saw my opportunity.

The ride exits from a dark tunnel that empties out onto a walkway that runs parallel to where the people waiting to enjoy the ride are lined up. With my daughters behind me and slow moving line of bored line wait-ees in front of me, I did what I thought would be most amusing to all concerned. Running full steam out of the darkened tunnel, I began shrieking and waving my arms hysterically. As I bolted past the startled and confused park guest I gyrated with wild abandon. Keep in mind that those observing this little episode weren’t watching some hormonally-crazed teenager, but a short, pot-bellied, middle- aged man.

This proved to be rather amusing (or did they say “horrifying”) to those with me. And as they can well attest, this wasn’t a one-time loss of control. Truth be told, my mind is continuously plotting such exhibitions.

What’s troubling is that I often want to perform when there is no audience other than my imagined observers. A typical day looks like this:

On the way to work, stuck in traffic, I am tempted to dance erratically in my car to catch the drivers next to me off guard. Once at work, the problem worsens. By mid-morning, nature calls. That means a trip down the hall. I dread using public urinals. If someone is standing nearby I get a nearly uncontrollable urge to moan suggestively, shriek in horror or say things like, “Come on little guy, you can do this.” Though I rarely act on these impulses, the thought of how these actions would amuse an onlooker forces me to stifle laughter as I make wee wee.

My trip to the gym at lunch time is by far the most difficult part of the day. The invisible audience in the locker rooms tries to entice me to slap naked bottoms, rub my nipples suggestively as I shower or peer down at my neighbor’s groin and say, “Wow.” Again, I am often caught giggling in the nude as these thoughts race through my mind.

Back at work I am OK unless I get called into a long, tedious meeting. As the discussions drag on I amcompelled to doodle vigorously so that my mind won’t wander. If I let up, in comes the thought of how
amused my hidden observers would be to see me begin to bark like a dog or exclaim, “Here’s a new paradigm for you!” as I stand and drop my pants to the floor.

Stopping by the grocery store on the way home, the committee in my mind is at it again. Forget the eggs and bread. I imagine myself grabbing an armful of adult diapers, standing in the longest line possible and dancing nervously while muttering “Can’t this line move any faster?” Again, I rarely act, but I am often seen suppressing out-of-context laughter as I let these fantasies play out in my head.

I wish I could say I have taken a little literary license in writing this blog. But such is not the case. Welcome to my world.

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