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Bipolar Disorder In Iowa: The Effects Of Our Environment

30, 000 Adults in Iowa have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Note that these statistics only reflect Adults, and only include those who have been diagnosed.

As a longtime psychiatric professional confirmed, environmental influences are one of the strongest contributing factors in this condition; Iowa's statistics are a disproportionately large percentage of the population-- extreme for mental illnesses at all, but especially in one particular condition.

"The human mind is not designed to cope with constant chaos." Human beings thrive on consistency and stability-- at least a moderate degree of routine in their everyday lives, security in their relationships, and a sense of purpose. In an environment which is based in chaos, "something's gotta give."


Time is a precious resource; and it is not too much of a generalization to state that an environment where it is virtually impossible to know what one is doing from one minute to the next, where people are unable to make and stick to commitments, "spinning in a fog" of uncertainty, constitutes a very destructive lifestyle.

In this locale, this pattern has no bearing on such factors as age, background, socioeconomic status; for it encompasses the population in general. If one has a doctor's appointment or a job interview "at one o'clock, " the person one is scheduled to see may show up an hour late, at four, or not at all. If one's friend says she will come over "after work on Friday, " one can assume she most likely will not show, for, as locals explain, everything is merely "tentative, " not "definate, " and must be taken "figuratively" rather than "literally." Not only is this lifestyle a waste of precious time, it is quite stressful to those who were not born and raised in it. At its extreme, non-locals are attacked as being "rigid" and even "controlling" for operating within a framework of time; for those who are used to this chaotic way of life, "spacing everything off" is rationalized as "being spontaneous, " and the term "laid back" is used to describe what is more aptly termed "irresponsible."

When this type of excuse-making enters the way people relate to others, Integrity is conveniently forgotten; when people excuse their indecisiveness and refusal to stick to their word, having no concern about how this type of behavior effects other people and their situations, it is nothing less than selfish and childish.


When one acquires a job, it is common sense to know when one is expected to work; that would be the acceptable way to be able to budget both one's time and income/expenditures. Both of those aspects are impossible when employment is based on "four hours today, ten hours tomorrow, one hour the next day" schedules which have no regularity whatsoever, as well as workers being on-call at the spur of the moment and frequently being sent home because they were not needed. This irregularity has been explained as being a matter of employers hiring many more employees than are actually necessary in order to have a large "pool" of "dispensable" workers.


The two most disturbing aspects of this particular subject are that it is an ongoing intergenerational problem, and also like the saying goes, "they never learn." It seems the foundation of both is that despite the obvious, all is still based on the word "choice, " with little concern or even acknowledgement of the consequences on oneself and the effects on others. Directly to the point, it's "all about Rights" and "nothing about Responsibilities." And it remains that way, as those who base their lives on this are usually unable to recognize anything as mistakes or wrongs, much less to attempt to make up for those mistakes or change their ways.

It is quite disettling to see groups of individuals in their forties, fifties, and even older, looking back at their youth, viewing the results, yet semmingly-blind to make any clear connection. The middle-aged, who "fought for their Rights" to drink alcohol, use drugs, become promiscuous, and run wild at thirteen years of age, often cannot recognize any of it as wrong, nor acknowledge their current life-situations as anything less than ideal. For those who eventually became "clean'n'sober, " most have no desire to confront their "old issues" and remain a damaging influence to those around them, believing that everything in life is solved by putting every minute of their free time into 12-Step meetings, having no ability to gain or hold satisfactory personal lives, and those who became parents rarely undertook the task of parenting. In other words, most of these folks are below the functioning-level.

At the extreme of the spectrum, many whose youth was wasted on drugs are dependent on such assistance as SSI due to damage caused by drug use. Yet even those who have gainful employment are rarely satisfied with that, either.

One may wonder-- if the "right" to do these things in youth and early adulthood was so wonderful, why are so many of these folks now unable to function without "sharing at meetings" and "support-systems, " essentially spending their time "talking about" life rather than actually living it?

On the other side of this issue are those who have not "made the decision" to even go as far as to stop using drugs; in middle-age, still "fighting for the Right to Parrrty, " allowing such places as homeless shelters the honor of providing them with a free place to live, food, supervision and safety, while they assert "the right" to use whatever income they have for their continuing drug use. Not only are they "playing the system" in general, but, in not using it correctly as it was intended to be a temporary source of help, they are taking these resources away from people who actually need them as a short-term "helping hand." It would make more sense to give these folks incentive to kick their drug habits and begin taking charge of their own lives.

The bottom line in this topic is that when children begin asserting their 'Right to" this and their "Right to" that, decades on down the line it's rare for them to get the hang of attaching concepts such as responsibility, consequences, concern for others, or to acknowledge any of their own youthful "choices" as having been wrong. And when you find the middle-aged boasting about their criminal activity, talking about rehabs and 'treatment' is if such things are an acceptable part of everyone's lives, and gleefully describing themselves as "sluts, " perhaps a bit of "Biblical Morality" wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.


In the words of a local Social Worker, "Most of us around here have been married five or six times!" She did not state this in terms of 'problems happen, mistakes happen, ' but rather as it being a given-- that marriage is not taken seriously, it is only another example of people and relationships being disposable and interchangeable. In this locale, both the practice and the viewpoint are widespread. For example, upon offering to conduct a wedding ceremony for a 22-year-old young woman who was pregnant, the girl hastily brushed it off with "I don't ever want to get married, because I don't want to have to go through a divorce."

The government should begin taking responsibility for its immense part in this problem-- not only what it does but the message it gives. For example, when it was tossed to the state government to consider changing its 'no-fault' divorce laws, one of Iowa's authorities commented for the local newspaper that "fewer people would get married if they believed it would be difficult to get a divorce." If this is the state of mind in which people enter marriage, no wonder the divorce rates are so high; and, even more distressing, no wonder people such as my young acquaintance dismiss marriage as nothing but the first step toward a divorce, and choose to avoid the entire "mess."

People who wish to take marriage seriously are told that Iowa will not recognize Covenant marriages-- ones which take a couple's vows as morally binding "til death do them part, " in the absence of adultery, abandonment, or true abuse. What does it say when folks who view marriage as traditional and permanent, are told it will not be recognized?

When one gets to the subject of how all of this affects children-- that youngsters fare better in homes of stability, security, attachment and commitment, which are first based on the marital relationship-- the result is like a remark on the local newspaper forum: "we don't need you &%&% shoving Biblical Morality down the throat of Iowa!" If considering marriage to be a good thing, and concern for the well-being of children, is deemed "Biblical Morality" that Iowa allegedly wants no part of-- what would the alternative be called?

At last check, 72% of Iowa's preschoolers were in one type or another of daycare; it was also added that the state of Iowa would not be satisfied until that percentage was higher. Why does the state of Iowa believe that little children and even infants are better off in the care of anyone from Grandma to Miss Preschool Teacher, rather than their own mothers? And in asserting that Child Support checks are more important than Fathers, what message does this give to the young? And when children, through the lack of parental involvement and presence, are denied the parent/child bond of attachment, commitment and security, they will seek unhealthy and even dangerous means by which to attempt to compensate for the lack.

In Iowa, reported cases of child abuse rose 66% between 2000 and 2005. Somehow, though, Iowans dismiss these as "mere statistics" until tragedies appear on the local news, such as the Bentley brothers who first destroyed and eventually ended the life of nine-year-old Jetseta Gage, or a teenaged girl named Tracey Dyess who is in prison after tolerating so much abuse that she felt it necessary to take matters into her own hands.

Many youngsters are "falling through the cracks" from Adults who refuse to commit to family and parenting. Too many parents are perfectly willing to provide their kids with an endless supply of material goods, cars, computers, games, money, while neglecting their basic need for time and attention. Not only does this give kids the message that they as human beings are worthless, but also that they need not ever earn anything. One eighteen-year-old girl commented that her mother had given her a huge bank account, solely for her own use, and a brand-new car, and then "cut her loose;" the girl remarked that she "wished" her mother had instead told her to not use drugs, to not take on multiple sex-partners; and one day at her worst from a temporary illness, she curled in a ball in the middle of the floor crying "I want my Mommy..." but her mother was "elsewhere, Doing Her Own Thing."

This issue spans through both the well-to-do class and the lower-income class-- the message "stay single. give your kids to someone else to raise. fulfill yourself with money and possessions." And it's a losing game where no one really wins.


It may sound odd-- or even trivial-- but when language is misused, when people do not "say what they mean and mean what they say, " true communication is hindered by vagueness, misunderstanding, misinterpretation; and serves as yet another factor in this chaotic lifestyle.

While each generation has its own special brand of slang, and variations in terminology abound in different geographical locations, misuse of language is different in that it creates confusion, and, if pointed out, occasionally invites attacks such as those who use the English language as it was intended are said to have "the inability to communicate"!

Some examples: in this area, the word "dating" is used to describe situations from a person going to someone's house, having Sex, and then leaving; accepting a ride from someone; a middle-aged mother having an ongoing sexual involvement with her daughter's boyfriend; a couple who is living together; the word does not mean any of those things. "Dating" is a social experience; it is about engaging in some social activity and enjoying the company of one's "date." It does not imply that a relationship exists, it does not imply commitment, and, even if it includes sexual activity, that isn't what it's "about."

"Relationship" is a fuzzy term in this area, but the general idea is a mutual involvement between two people.

"Single, " when referring to one's status, means "not married." It does not reflect whether or not one is "attached, " nor whether one is engaged or living with someone; if one is not married, one is "single."

A word used in an offensive manner is "Female." In its current local usage, people use this all-inclusive term to describe all members of the specific gender; yet the label infers that human beings are considered nothing more than their biological and sexual functions. On a darker note, it also removes any distinguishing line between those who are Adults and those who are children, as if there is no difference between a youngster who would be called a "girl" and an adult whose correct term would be "woman."

Whatever the reason-- ignorance, intentionally putting listeners on the defensive, habit, etc.-- the misuse of words and terms furthers confusion, and, with it, chaos.


Two young men, one aged nineteen and the other aged forty, each expressed the same position in the same words: "I do drugs because I'm bored." Another, in his mid-twenties, scrambled around the downtown skywalk moaning "I need to find something to do! I need to find something to do!"

There are addictions of the well-known types-- drugs and alcohol-- but there are also addictive behaviors which are usually not as widely-recognized as producing chemical reactions in the brain similar to that caused by drug use. And whether it is a physical activity or a mental activity, one also gains a similar state of psychic numbing-- to not have to think, to not have to feel.

What most who are caught up in this frenzy of "doing" and "looking for something to do" rarely recognize is that both the problem and the solution come from within; when one is at peace within oneself, it is not necessary to frantically search for "doing, " nor is it necessary to shove one's thoughts and feelings down underneath assorted "activities." But when one has such a sense of discontent within, there is nothing whatsoever on the outside of oneself-- external-- that will change, solve, or fix it.

Likewise, when one has become so physiologically accustomed to chaos-- one's entire inner-system and life-- they find it virtually impossible to function without it. Considering it essential to surround oneself and absorb constant activity, stress, companionship, noise, etc., not only keeps a person below the functioning level but also diminishes one's capacity to change that way of life. The first step is in recognizing that a lifestyle of chaos is destructive to people's lives and minds; the second step is to set boundaries and more acceptable routines to change it.

Human beings require a dimension of meaning in life; when everything in life is chaotic, not only is there no room for meaning but also no focus. It is not difficult to see when this is a true problem-- when homes look like a tornado has swept through, when Sex is considered a sport as meaningless as a handshake, when people in one's life are disposable and interchangeable, when possessions and money are more important than human beings, when there is a constant flurry of needing things to "have" and things to "do, " it is far past time to assess the situation and find a better way. Otherwise, life and everything in it-- including the mind-- will pay the price.

By C. - ......  

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