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Posts Tagged ‘Emotional pain’

Something New

I am old
This life is old
These bones are old
These thoughts, old
These fears, old
These hopes are old
These dreams are old
From where might come something new?

I have searched the horizon
For a sign of hope, from anywhere
My ship to come
A rescue plane to pick me up
From this desert isle
“This is Radio Majo
Come in, come in – is there anybody out there?”

I’m giving up
There’s nothing out there
But the ghosts of my life past
The phantasms of my wandering
In this landscape of broken dreams
Giving up…
Giving up…

But what is this?
When I give up
Something rises…
When I give up
Something rises…
When I give up
Something rises…

I have become so empty
Empty of hope
Empty of the will to try
Empty of sails on that so-empty sea
Empty of a dream of what might come
Empty of what I thought was me

I have become so hollow
So transparent
So lacking in mass
That my empty has turned to light
My empty has turned to light

This gentle breeze
Stirring beneath my hollow limbs
Lifts me – oh so slightly
Up
The golden sun, which shines on
Nothing that I want
Begins to shine
Through me

I have become
So empty
So hollow
So transparent
That the breeze lifts me up
And the light fills me up
My being in this world
So exhausted
So used up
So empty
That I am become
A being of light

Like no one I remember
But one I recognize
Was hidden, covered
So encased in doing
‘Til I could do no more

I will continue to give up
Life will show me how
It is one more thing that I will not do
In this empty, used up

Hollow, radiant now

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I’ve been in a tough place.  Since my dog died almost two weeks ago, I have in some ways crawled in a hole.  I’ve continued to work (actually started to work – my first day on my new job as a cashier at a healthy supermarket was the day after I put Buddy down, which was in some ways very good timing,,,to have a new beginning and something to focus my energy right then).  I’ve continued most of my self-maintenance activities – which are quite a lot by most people’s standards.  I go to therapy every week.  I do peer counseling over the phone (30 minutes each way) with my friend Byron every week.  I went to a meeting of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance the other night. I talk with my buddy Monty on the phone every week.  I talk on the phone with my friend Lynn 2-3x a week.  i swim 2-3x a week.  I dance on an average of twice a week.  I talk with my housemates – especially Tom who is an extrovert and loves to engage.  Several friends have called me since getting the word about my dog, and talking with them has been good for me.  I got a flood of condolences after I put the word on Facebook and there has been some comfort in feeling a community around me.

IMG_1957

All these extraordinary resources and support have not kept me from being in other ways quite lousy.  Before this one, I’ve written one blog post in three weeks, At the Sunday dance I was in a miserable place – tight, contracted, depressed –  mostly not even able to dance.  The same weekend Buddy was dying, I went to parts of the three-day retreat for my entrepreneurship program, where I dramatically expanded my vision for my business – but I have since (until today) done nothing to move those plans along, and that has been seriously discouraging.

And I have been staying in bed.  With Buddy, I was almost always up by 7: “Hey, I have a dog to feed and walk – let’s get going.”  Not hard, really – I naturally wake up early.  It’s rare for me to sleep past 7.  I often wake up well earlier.  When I’m on the manic side of things, I get up and at ’em.  When I’m depressed, I lay there awake, trying to be asleep, getting myself in a progressively more and more foul mood.  Until 7.

Now it has felt like there is nothing to get up for.  I have stayed in bed until 9, 10, 11, 1.  Last Saturday I woke up at 6:30, but kept going back to bed until 1.  That’s a very long time to lay there awake.  It’s a depressive thing, I know – people with depression do this.  At my depression and bipolar support group the other night, there was a whole little conversation about how many of us have done this.  But I haven’t done it for over a year.  I’ve been miserably depressed at times, but not stayed in or gone back to bed.

Today was different – and I owe a lot of it to my friend Kate.

I’ll give myself kudos for making the call.  When I got off work last night, I was in a lousy mood, so I made two calls.  I left a message for my friend Johanna – and then I reached my Milwaukee friend Kate.  Kate and I have been friends for over a dozen years.  We usually talk every few weeks and it had been about that long.  She is under a lot of family stress and was glad to first talk about that – and it felt good to provide supportive listening to my friend.

Sometimes you need help from a friend.

Sometimes you need help from a friend.

Then she turned her finely-honed, intuitive, professional counselor attention to me.  She knew and loved my Buddy – and deeply loves dogs – so she gave me great support around that.  Then, when I talked about staying in bed, several positive developments tumbled out:

  • She asked me if my local friends knew what a tough place I’m in.  I acknowledged probably not.  After I got off the phone with her, I had a talk with my roommate Tom in which I fessed up.  It felt good to do.  I had a similar conversation with my other housemate Will today.
  • I committed to get up today at 7 a.m.
  • Kate suggested that I be a good loving father to myself and take myself for a walk.  She also shared her belief that Buddy’s doggie spirit is still with me and that I should practice feeling him with me when I walk.
  • Kate knows about my entrepreneurship program: almost took it herself, and completely jumped in my shit when I got depressed and almost didn’t follow through with it.  (“It’s not right for me – but it’s totally right for you.  You need to do it.”  And she was right.)  She got me to commit that today I would spend two hours working on my plans for my business.

The commitments I made to Kate turned my day around, though not without some pretty significant wavering.  I woke at 6:45 and got myself out of the bed by 7.  But then, after a trip to the bathroom, I came back and sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the floor.  I had told Kate that I would call her when I got up (more accountability).  After a half-hour of this stupor, I texted her about what was going on.  She texted back, “This is a loving kick in the ass – GET GOING!!!”  And it worked – I went downstairs and had breakfast.

But then I spent another half-hour doing the same thing before my 9 a.m. conversation with Monty – then afterwards spent 30 minutes more sitting and staring at the desk and another 30 minutes back sitting on the side of the bed.  I was precariously close to going back to bed – “I never told her I wouldn’t go back to bed” – but I knew that if I did that my commitments to work on my business and go for a walk would be greatly at risk.  And I remembered a woman at the support group the other night who spoke very compellingly of how she reached a point where she knew she had to summon all her force and just will herself out of bed.  I felt myself tapping into her determination as I finally headed to the bathroom to shave and, at almost 11 a.m., to get dressed.

Getting down to business 11-1-13

Then I spent 90-120 minutes working on my business!  That went extremely well and left me in a really pretty good mood.  What had felt intimidating and overwhelming and discouraging – developing an 18-day email class on healing through bipolar disorder – now felt eminently doable.  I practically did a little victory dance.

Then I wrote a few emails (including one to Kate), paid a few bills, then went for that walk.  On the walk I rehearsed two poems – one that I’ll perform at Jubilee in a week and one for a big poetry concert in March.  Then I mowed the front yard lawn: the front yard was where Buddy spent most of his waking time, and this was a hurdle for me – but it went fine, felt like a success.  Now I’m writing this blog post.  In 90 minutes I’ll go dance.  At this time yesterday, I would have been pretty nervous that dance could be a lousy experience – today I’m very hopeful that I will have a good time.

Thanks Kate – and your well-timed, virtual, loving kick in the ass.

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On two Wednesday evenings a month, I sit in satsang (spiritual dialogue) with a very wise and loving woman named Alayah.  I always receive some comfort or inspiration or both – and last night was no exception.

The primary activity of these satsangs is “inquiry”: people will present some issue or problem they are having in their lives and Alayah will help them to inquire, to look at it more deeply.  A central subtext is always “Who are you?” – to help people probe beneath the surface appearance of the separate self to a deeper layer of oneness with all life.

Alayah is a householder - a wife and mother - who also happens to be fully awake.

Alayah is a householder – a wife and mother – who also happens to be fully awake.

A woman had just been exploring some emotional pain she had been experiencing and Alayah was encouraging her to follow the pain deeply within.  “Where is it in your body?”  Alayah was telling her that if she followed it deeply enough within, it would all dissolve into Spirit.  “When you go into your deepest self, that is where you will find God – God is nothing but who you really are.”

The woman asked Alayah, ” But what about giving my pain over to Spirit or Life?”  Alayah said, “There is a place for that, but we’re going directly to the source – the straightest path to real truth.  When you go deeply enough within, you realize that there is nothing out there that is separate from you.”

This woman had reached a point of peace with her work and Alayah surveyed the room.  “Anybody else have questions or issues?”  I was sitting right next to this woman and caught Alayah’s eye.  “I have a confusion.”  “OK, bring it on.”  “I have been involved in a 12 Step program and have been wrestling with the idea of Higher Power.  Specifically, I have been trying to practice the 3rd Step – turning over my life and my will to God’s care as I understand God.  That’s all new to me, but it feels like I have been having some success with it.”  (see yesterday’s post)

Alayah said, “That’s a totally valid way to go, but if you keep coming back to these meetings, the concept of turning things over to something or somebody outside of you will fall away.  The surest path to God is to go deep into the heart of who you really are.”  This spoke deeply to me and to the real sticking point for me with the Higher Power concept in Overeaters Anonymous (my 12 Step program).  I deeply believe that I am not in any way separate from God or Life (my preferred term).  I want to experience more sense of connection with this mysterious force that I call Life – but not as something different from me.

When I first saw this picture of this t-shirt, I knew it didn't sit right with me, but I didn't know why.

When I first saw this picture of this t-shirt, I knew it didn’t sit right with me, but I didn’t know why.

I said to Alayah, “My best buddy Monty and I have had numerous conversations over the years about the depressive emotional pain I experience.  His wish for me is to drop beneath my mind, my thinking about the pain and to go into my body.  Where do I feel the pain in my body?  And to ‘be with’ that.” Alayah smiled broadly and said, “I like the way Monty thinks.”

And at this point things really came together for me.  I sat there beaming at Alayah, drinking deeply from the pool of love in her eyes.  After some deliciously long moments, Alayah asked, “We’re sitting here looking at each other – what’s going on for you?”  I said, “I’ve gotten exactly what I needed.  I’m just sitting here with it – I don’t need any more words.”

And I had gotten exactly what I needed.  Afterwards, as I was sitting in the car waiting for my friend Lisa, who had stopped to chat with someone else, I wrote down my new current revision of the 2nd Step, changing the words “power higher than my own”: “Came to believe that a power deeper than my ego….”  With this revision – and putting my own spin on “God” in the 3rd Step the first three Steps now fully work for me.

  1. Step 1 – Admitted that I was powerless over food (or my emotions), that my life had become unmanageable.
  2. Step 2 – Came to believe that a power deeper than my ego could restore my life to sanity.
  3. Step 3 – Made a decision to turn my life and my will over to the care of God, as I understand God.

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Up and down together is good news!

I’m inhabiting a mixed state today.  There’s lot of evidence that I’m still down (for the last ten days – today I’m calling myself a mania-depression 8, “Definite physical contraction”): on the conference call I was on this morning, my responses were really flat; my unconscious is still trying to generate the “This is all bullshit” mantra (though i have new tools to wrestle with this – which I will describe in a different post).  So it’s clear to me that my biochemistry has not shifted – I’m still down.

When I’m up, I’m very keen about this blog.  I believe that it has lots of value to offer – to mental health professionals and other helpers, to family and friends of people with bipolar disorder, but especially to my brothers and sisters who also suffer with this condition.  I picture that writing these mostly autobiographical posts will spill over into finishing my memoir, which is largely about bipolar disorder – and that this will then also reach and help people.  And I picture more books – why not? I have the professional credentials and the lived experience.  And finally I picture public speaking on the topic.  Again, why not?  I’m a terrific public speaker and get tremendous satisfaction from it.  All this will spill from the baby steps of writing this blog, day by day.

When I’m down, as I have been, I’m usually discouraged about my writing.  This blog seems useless.  “What do I have to say to anybody else about bipolar disorder when my own condition is still so out of control?”  And if my blog is worthless, the whole scenario of books and public speaking falls apart.

Today I’m clearly down.  Yet I’m encouraged.  Yesterday I had three separate encouraging experiences around my blog.  I had two days earlier sent the link to this blog to an associate who is very centrally positioned in the local mental health community.  I got her reply email yesterday morning, in which she raved about the blog up one side and down the other.  Then the piece of stand-up comedy that I performed at church yesterday (see yesterday’s post “A piece of manic comedy”), which in my down state I thought was badly written and would not reach people, did reach them – in spades.  More affirmation about my writer’s voice.  Then, in the evening, I wrote that blog post i just referenced – and couldn’t resist the assessment that it’s a good piece of writing and one that has a lot to say about bipolar disorder, that it could be useful to many people concerned about bipolar disorder, especially my cohort with the disorder.  My carryover from all this today is that I’m more believing in my writing voice, in this blog – and in all the other elements of a positive future that I see spilling from this blog.

So today I’m down – and encouraged.  My take on bipolar disorder is that the target is not so much mood stability as what I call bipolar integrity.  The problem is that these two states, mania and depression, operate so separate from each other – they polarize. We are like two different people that have no crossover, that don’t talk with each other.  Each side has gifts to offer, but those gifts don’t come to fruition as long as we are so split down the middle.  We need to integrate those two parts.

The da Vinci Vitruvian Man represents for me an image of wholeness, of integration.

The da Vinci Vitruvian Man represents for me an image of wholeness, of integration.

Today my up state and my down state are co-existing.  I’ve got flat responses and self-destructive rumination – along with encouragement about my writing and my future.  I’m not having fun – my mood is not up.  I would not say that I am happy even.  It makes me realize how attached I am to my up state, even with all its negative implications (ungrounded, out of control, creating the crash that comes after).  But I’m not discouraged.  So I have elements of my up state, but am not really up.  And I have elements of my down state, but I’m not really down.  I would not say that I’m in balance, because when I’m there I don’t have the elements of suffering that I have today.

Yet this is fundamentally encouraging.  The integration that I see as central to my healing is happening.  Part of me wants to try to leverage the good elements, to pull hard to get out of or away from the down elements – to get myself feeling good.  But another, i think wiser part, is saying, “Soak in this state.  Appreciate, relish this state.  Out of this mixed state will come the integration that is the key to your positive future.”

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If I am to make my life’s work reaching out to other people who also have bipolar disorder – and being an expert on the condition – that means embracing the pain that people with this disease suffer.  Because people with this condition do suffer – suffer tremendously. People with simple clinical depression also suffer tremendously, but there is something about the exquisite pain of – again and again – dropping from feeling good to feeling so bad, that is incomparable.  So I need to be ready to really embrace the pain of my brothers and sisters with bipolar disorder.

I cannot do that, except to the extent that I embrace my own pain – and I don’t embrace my own pain. I don’t love my downs.  I don’t love me when I’m down.  I love being up, I hate being down – and when I’m down I hate myself.  And I don’t write when I’m down – or if I write, I don’t post it, because it’s “too dark”.  That’s got to change – this blog has got to be balanced.  I just went through eleven days of being down – and I didn’t write one thing.  If all of my posts come out of my up place, the blog will be imbalanced and it won’t work.  So far it is imbalanced that way.

You gotta do the work, walk the talk - take it all.

You gotta do the work, walk the talk – take it all.

 

There’s this support group for bipolar folks here in Asheville (Magnetic Minds, http://magneticminds.weebly.com/) – that I don’t go to.  Is it because I can’t bear to face what we go through?  My work, in part, is to go to that support group – to really ante up, to belly up to the bar, to really take if, full.

I’ll keep you posted on this.

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