Let’s consider the armadillo. Better yet, let’s consider this brief video. Take note of the armadillo’s defense mechanisms, if you will.
I have always identified with the armadillo, for a variety of reasons. It is the symbol of Texas music, which I love. I have a purse shaped like an armadillo. I also have toy armadillos, crocheted armadillos, wooden, stone, cement, armadillo jewelry, you name it. My uncle and I have a catch-phrase: El armadillo amarillo de mi tía es sobre la mesa.
What does all this have to do with bipolar disorder? I’m glad you asked.
Most of all, I admire the armadillo for its defense mechanisms, which resemble some of mine. For those of you who skipped the video, here’s a recap.
The armadillo has armor (obviously). I have tried to construct a similar impervious shell. When I have been even partially successful, it has proved counterproductive. When you wall off feelings, you wall off the good ones too.
The armadillo rolls up in a tight ball. I isolate. This has also proved counterproductive. If sorrow shared is halved and joy shared is doubled, then isolation – well, you do the math.
The armadillo leaps vertically when threatened. My anxiety makes me jump and release fight-or-flight hormones. This defense is also counterproductive, both for the armadillo and for me. One of the armadillo’s main predators is the automobile; the armadillo jumps straight up to bumper height. I waste energy on panicky behaviors even when I’m not threatened.
The armadillo has a low body temperature and is therefore useful for research on leprosy. This is not a defense mechanism, but it is a Fun Fact to Know and Tell. I have never had leprosy.
All things considered, the armadillo is not a good role model for a person (me) with bipolar disorder. But I like them anyway. They remind me that I need to check whether my defenses are doing me harm rather than good.
Plus, with my armadillo handbag I get lots of practice in the social skill of making light conversation strangers – and even children!