Bipolar: Stunted Maturity

In the article Immaturity in Bipolar, the author states that people with bipolar often have stunted psychosocial maturity.  She writes:

Development of a psychiatric disorder, in turn, prevents the individual to go through a normal development. Hence, these people may very easily fail to become mature. And once they reach adulthood, the brain is much less malleable, therefore it becomes even harder if not impossible to reach complete maturity.

maturity-cover-001My bipolar didn’t fully present until my  late 30s (I’m 43 now).  I feel that I have a good sense of what my maturity is.  I believe that I was at age-level maturity in my  20s and early 30s.  But at the point when bipolar (and perhaps alcoholism) hit me, my maturity ceased to progress or possibly even regressed.

I say things that are rash and emotional.  I slough off adult responsibilities. I treat my teenage kids as peers. I’ve become vain.  These are all qualities that I feel a 43-year-old should have outgrown.  A mature person is wise in what they say and what they filter out.  They take care of business.  They behave as an adult and parent with their children.  They put away vanities (especially men) in favor of maturity.

These are 25 signs of maturity according to

25 Signs of Maturity: How Mature Are You?

1. Realizing how much you don’t know.

2. Listening more and talking less.

3. Being aware and considerate of others as opposed to being self-absorbed, self-centered, and inconsiderate.

4. Not taking everything personally, getting easily offended, or feeling the need to defend, prove, or make excuses for yourself.

5. Being grateful and gracious, not complaining.

6. Taking responsibility for your own health and happiness, not relying on others to “fix” you or placing blame for your circumstances.

7. Having forgiveness and compassion for yourself and others.

8. Being calm and peaceful, not desperate, frantic, or irrational.

9. Showing flexibility and openness as opposed to resisting, controlling, or being unreasonable.

10. Helping yourself, not just expecting others to do it for you out of a sense of entitlement.

11. Doing good deeds even when there is nothing in it for you other than knowing you helped, being selfless.

12. Respecting another’s point of view, beliefs, and way of life without judgment, not insisting you are right, belittling another, or using profanity or violence to get your point across.

13. Sharing your good fortune with others.

14. Being able to turn the other cheek without wishing harm on another.

15. Thinking before acting and having good manners, not going off half-cocked, lashing out, or being rude.

16. Encouraging and being supportive of others.

17. Finding joy in the success of someone else, not envy or criticism.

18. Knowing there is always room to grow and improve and reaching out for help.

19. Having humility and laughing at yourself.

20. Recognizing that which does not work in your life and making an effort to do something different.

21. Passing up instant gratification in favor of long term benefits.

22. Accepting, liking, and loving yourself, not needing someone else to “complete” you.

23. Standing up for fairness and justice for yourself and others and choosing to do the right thing.

24. Making sacrifices for the good of others without resentment.

25. Not clinging to materialistic items or bragging.

I don’t do terrible but I fail on 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 13, 15, 21, 23, 24, 25.  In looking at the list, I can see a lot of improvement, but that’s only 56% mature.

Of course these are judgments.  Adults will be what adults will be.  Who is to say what is mature?  I would suggest that the expectations are societal.  Employers expect mature qualities in employees.  Families expect mature qualities in spouses and parents.

There are other sources for why this is the case, but what I intend explore here is my experience.  Even on the way I write my blog, I’m not as mature as I would like to be.  I cover my personal experience; my frustrations, my stories, and sometimes my ideas.  Other bloggers my age or even younger are writing about solutions and giving helpful information.  I’m just not there.  I’m all about me.  I hope my sharing is helpful to someone, but it’s mostly about me working out my issues. And I’ll be honest, I like the attention. I like to count my likes, views and comments.

My wife would probably say that it’s frustrating to be married to a man who is less mature than she or many men she knows.  Men who know when to be serious, know how to take care of business without whining, and who do not seek praise. No woman wants to be married to a man who does not have the strength of maturity.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that many if not most women would rather have a partner who is more mature than they.

At work, I try to be mature probably more than anywhere else.  I hold my tongue as best as possible.  I try not to get to personally involved with coworkers, but I eventually give in.  I’m often unprofessional with both men and women.  I push the limits of appropriateness with women.  I struggle with staying on task. I dress the least professional as I possibly can without getting into trouble. I’m often unprepared for meetings and I even miss them sometimes.  I struggle to handle paper work in a timely and precise manner.

The thing is, now that I’m in treatment, I know that I’m less mature than I should be by a long shot.  I was a much better worker in my 20s.  I worked very hard and very smart.  Mind-numbing medicine doesn’t help.  On my doctor’s advice, I quit gluten to reduce “brain fog”.  It works, but I lack the disciple some days to stick to the diet.

I’ve done a lot of maturing in the last year since I joined Alcoholics Anonymous.  It’s a great program for anybody who wishes to grow.  It did much more for me then help me quit drinking.  I’m learning how to be less selfish and more giving which helps me take care of things and people instead of only focusing on my selfish desires. But I know that I’m not there, yet.  I know that I’m still behind in the game.  I recognize maturity when I see it, and I envy it.  I feel embarrassed around mature men, especially.  I’m so much more silly and flighty and…immature.  It’s just part of who I am, but there’s a time and a place.

I also find that in defense of myself, I resent men who are more mature than I am. Who do they think they are being all serious and “appropriate” all the time?  Perhaps I’m more mature because I can be myself?  Hmph!  But I know that control is the missing component.  I would like to learn how to control what I say and do within any given context.  The thing is, I can’t seem to make myself do it.  I’m just not that mature, yet.  But I’m hopeful that I will be one day.

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2 thoughts on “Bipolar: Stunted Maturity

  1. I have also encountered the concept of bipolar disorder leaving one with stunted maturity, and when my psychiatrist brought it up to me and there was definitely both an element of recoil and a “woah” reaction. During the period I was working at alleviating symptoms of PTSD it seemed that I needed to fully process the traumatic event to move forward with acceptance and the associated “maturity” that came with it. I can’t help but wonder if bipolar disorder is the same way, after all I feel like the more I learn about myself and my symptoms, the more I can process figuring out where I fit and feeling comfortable with the idea of how things have turned out (acceptance) I’m much more likely to be able to help others and offer up that maturity, even if only in spurts sometimes.

    Other times my ability to act maturely seems to correlate directly to what symptoms I’m having or if there is an episode occurring. In periods of stability I feel like I am able to build that up a bit but once depression or mania come on it collapses back in on itself and I have to start over fresh once they dissipate.

    Having said that, the primary reason I found myself wanting to write a comment was in response to your claim that women don’t want to be with men who aren’t mature. Frankly I’ve never been attracted to typical “mature” men, I don’t know if it is because they tend to make me feel inferior, or that I need people who are more emotional and passionate in my life, or maybe because sometimes it can be nice to have a partner who needs my help (because normally I’m always the one who needs help). I recognize that my values and what I look for in a partner may be different than the majority of women in America, but just because we are a minority doesn’t mean we don’t exist!

    Thanks again for an insightful, interesting post!

    • Honestly, I’m more likely to be drawn to women who like my emotional and passionate side. The whole maturity thing is a lot of pressure. But wudya gonna do? I’ve considered myself a feminist for many years. I even took my wife’s name (hyphenated) to demonstrate to the world that we were an equal partnership. But my experience is that when women get serious about finding a mate, they instinctively look for guys who “have their shit together”. Some women like the idea of a fixer upper, though. I know that my wife is tired of always having to be the mature one. When I see her form a crush on a man, it’s maturity that is attracted to. I’m pretty good looking, charming, funny, and smart…oh, and hu mble? Lol. But what revs her up is paying the bills and doing the chores. On the flip side, maturity in a partner isn’t unattractive, but attracts me to her is being interesting. I like to to see…or sing in…an opera or a Broadway show, go to music festivals, go see a locsl band, read great literature, use my talents for the sheer joy of it. When I catch her doing something besides watching TV in bed with a glass of budget Cabernet or doing chores it gets my juices flowing…her beauty has always been a factor as well. When we entered the marriage in 1994, we wanted to break gender roles, and we did that a little. I do the cooking and we share the housework, for example. But when we had kids, that changed. She quit her job, and I stopped music and teaching to make more money. I wanted to support her. Next thing I know, I’m the traditional provider and she’s a homemaker. We just went with it. But I’m not right to generalize what women like or dislike. There are so many factors.

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