If you’ve experienced genuine spiritual insight, whether during a bipolar episode or not, that insight will remain profound during periods of mood fluctuation. It won’t matter if you are sedated, sad, gleeful, manic, full of anxiety, or painfully agitated. The truth is the truth, no matter how it makes us feel.
For a lot of us, getting a diagnosis automatically wipes away any spiritual insights, rolling them into a long list of painful symptoms. We had glimpses of spiritual realization perhaps, but we also couldn’t sleep or eat, or we dropped out of school, or we hurt a loved one, or we made some other horrible decisions with detrimental consequences. We sort of accept that any movement toward spiritual awakening belonged in the same heap of garbage as those unsavory symptoms. And this would work wonderfully, except that even when all those symptoms go away and we feel stable and functional, the spiritual piece may remain. Then what?
Typically, we stay silent and pursue spiritual material on our own in isolation, closeted about our affinity for mystical phenomena. These states of consciousness remain dormant, stagnant, and inaccessible without drastic perceptual shifts—something fairly automatic during a manic episode. If there wasn't so much shame and stigma and internalized oppression, we might be able to openly discuss our spiritual insights gleaned during times of madness without fear of being further pathologized. We suspect with a great deal of certainty that others don’t understand.
It is so important to remember that these perceptual shifts, which lead to expanded states of consciousness, are not exclusive to bipolar disorder. Mystics and masters of all traditions have approached this oneness, transcendence, and boundless love innate to the human psyche. Such perceptual shifts may be pursued through the incremental, systematic practice of undoing conditioned mind found in many wisdom traditions, but for those experiencing a mental health crisis, these states are often experienced amid uninvited psychological chaos and turmoil.
Integrating such profound insights, whether they come on a meditation cushion or during a psychotic episode, is a lifetime of practice. Spiritual insight and bipolar symptomatology are not the same. Spiritual insight can fuel and exacerbate grandiosity, which is often part of the confusion. Realizing you are God, and running around naked telling everyone about it, is drastically different from sitting in still contemplation and feeling into the truth that we are all God. Both realizations touch on insight, but one gives way to manic behavior while the other yields unitive consciousness and widening compassion.
This is all to say, “treat the symptoms, not the insight.” Spiritual insight during bipolar episodes must be honored alongside the need to manage symptoms. To dismiss spiritual insight invites hopelessness and despair—a kind of sin against oneself. But to dismiss symptoms as part of a singularly spiritual ideology might result in recapitulating the same psychological challenges over and over again. Find order in bipolar disorder by incorporated a holistic view, where all parts are welcome in an integrated whole. There is space for it all.