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Posts Tagged ‘Healing’

On Sunday, March 2, another poet (Tracey Schmidt) and I are offering a poetry concert here in Asheville.  For me, it brings together light and dark and finally offers healing.   Below are one of my darker poems and one of my lighter ones (neither will be featured in this particular show.  Here’s the link to the Facebook event page for the concert: https://www.facebook.com/events/1432431080323647/.

White

I went to the beach this morning
Caked with the dirt of my life
And of my ancestors.
The gray sky reflected
The despair of my soul.
The beach was covered with fresh snow
All its detail and edge cloaked
In a mantle of brilliant color
Or lack of color
Unimaginably bright in this dark time.
I quietly slipped under the snow
And wore it home.

With my poetry partner Tracey Schmidt

With my poetry partner Tracey Schmidt

Dancing In the Supermarket Parking Lot

My friend is late to meet me
In the Ingles parking lot
Neil Young, on my new-to-me CD
Is rocking “Cowgirl in the Sand”
12 minutes worth
On my 7-speaker car stereo
The early spring, early evening
Blazes light
And the lot is filled with space

And I just gotta dance

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I have given the name “complex healing states” to states that have some of the qualities of up and down.  A complex healing state is different from a psychiatric “mixed state”, which combines some of the toxic symptoms of up and down.  Here the difficult symptoms of one of the poles is combined with one of the positive gifts of the other side, e.g. something encouraging may happen when you are down – when it never usually would happen.  Most of psychiatry is solely focused on symptoms and does not recognize that mania and depression each hold gifts to be harvested.  More on complex healing states is in the page/tab at the top of the blog.

Complex healing states are healing fundamentally because they get the two sides mixing it up – up and down learning from each other, rather than polarizing from each other.  But additionally, they are healing because they say they are.  It’s actually a little more complicated than that.

You don't have to feel good to be healing - you just need to take your down state and make it more complex.

You don’t have to feel good to be healing – you just need to take your down state and make it more complex.

When someone is really depressed, they may genuinely believe that nothing helps.  I’m a prime example: when I am deeply depressed, one of my mantras has been “nothing helps and nothing matters”.  So when someone says “Why don’t you go for a walk?”, the answer of someone in a state like that is likely to be, “Tried it – didn’t work.” And that answer can come to all manner of interventions that seem like they might help.   You don’t believe they’re going to help, so you’re liable to not do them.

If however your goal is not to feel better, but just to make things more complex, then you’re liable to try it – because there’s not just a chance of succeeding, there’s almost a guarantee of succeeding.  If you do something that tends to sit on the up polarity – if you walk the dog, if you write, if you call a friend, you have just made your state more complex.  And if you are either taking on faith that complex healing states are good, or if it seems intuitively plausible to you that they are good, or if you have already had the experience of them being good for you, then when you create a complex state – when you take a down state and make it complex – you get encouraged.  Because you are doing something that you believe can help.  And guess what, being encouraged helps – right there, things start to shift.

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It’s been a complex day – a day where I have inhabited a complex healing state.  You can read more about my concept of complex healing states in the page (tab) at the top of the blog, but in short they are states where up and down co-exist.  Today I started out depressed (have been for over a week): I had a very hard time getting out of bed and wasted an hour trying to be asleep – getting up an hour later than the 7 a.m. when I like to start my day.  This left me in a foul mood.  My biochemistry has not left that zone.  My mood is still down.  I’m liable to wake up tomorrow in as bad a mood as I was this morning.

But several things have gone on to make my day more complex – things that would not usually happen when I’m down.

  • I spent an hour on the phone with my friend Byron.  We do this every week, splitting the time and giving each other very good listening.  This often lifts my mood, but mostly did not today.  What was exceptional for me was that, as I laid out my fairly ambitious work agenda for the afternoon, I committed myself – more than achieving my goals – to loving myself as I did my work.
On one call, I committed to loving myself regardless of accomplishments. On the next call I practiced it.

On one call, I committed to loving myself regardless of accomplishments. On the next call I practiced it.

  • My afternoon did not go as I planned.  A friend who has been in a florid manic state called shortly after I got off the phone with Byron and kept me tied up for almost an hour. And I felt very unsuccessful in my attempts to ground her.  When I got off the phone, I spent another hour digging up resources for her (she’s in another state) and sending her a couple of long emails.  This threw my agenda way off – and somehow another hour evaporated.  But I told myself that all this is part of being a resource for people with bipolar disorder – and was not off my mission.  And I genuinely care about this person.  I was not accomplishing my original goals, but I was accomplishing my higher goal – I was loving myself.
  • I went for two good walks.  Now that’s something that I’m capable of doing when I’m down, though I have been doing it much less since my dog died four weeks ago.  That’s also been part of me not getting up in the morning: “What’s there to get up for?”  Going for the walks was nonetheless not so unusual.

    What was unusual was this: I genuinely appreciated the afternoon sky.  Granted it was pretty remarkably beautiful.  But when I’m as depressed as I have been today, I don’t appreciate beauty.  I don’t enjoy music – even music that in a better mood I totally rock with.  I don’t like visual art – museums and galleries are a waste of time.  And I don’t appreciate nature – even great skies.  But today I did.  I bet it had something to do with my earlier commitment to love myself and then loving myself right in the middle of my goals for the afternoon falling apart.

Appreciating a beautiful sky may seem like a no-brainer, but when you are depressed this kind of beauty can feel like one more assault: "I'm so messed up that I can't even appreciate this."

Appreciating a beautiful sky may seem like a no-brainer, but when you are depressed this kind of beauty can feel like one more assault: “I’m so messed up that I can’t even appreciate this.”

So a base of depressed, but several things that don’t usually happen when I’m depressed.  I’ve created a new rating on my Mania-Depression Scale (page at the top of the blog) to reflect this kind of state: 6 CHS (Complex Healing State). Six is right in the middle of this 11-point scale.  I call a regular 6 “Peaceful”.  I don’t call it “Balanced”, because a 6 CHS – which definitely is not peaceful – is also a kind of balance, holding within it light and dark, up and down.

I believe that this state is powerfully healing – maybe even more so than a “Peaceful” state.  It is the place where up and down learn from each other, stop warring against each other.  It works to reduce the wild fluctuation of up and down, because the two poles are not polarizing – they are integrating.

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I’ve been using the term “complex healing state” to refer to a state where some of what is usually part of our down, depressed state mixes in with some of what usually is part of our manic or up state.  They all get mixed in together, which is so unlike the polarizing that they usually do with each other, that it is genuinely healing.  It’s where the real healing happens with bipolar disorder.  My friend Tony Godwin is encouraging me to call these states “paradoxical healing states”.  I like both terms, but tonight “paradoxical” really works for me – things coming together that seem like they shouldn’t come together.

Paradox - sometimes things show up where it seems they don't belong.

Paradox – sometimes things show up where it seems they don’t belong.

Sometimes a complex healing state happens from pure coexistence – where I spend the whole day maybe depressed in many ways, but also for example encouraged about my writing – which doesn’t usually happen when I’m depressed.  Tonight, it was not so much them coexisting as something happening late in the day that seemed like it shouldn’t happen on a day like today.  I had a bunch of days of complex healing states last week, but this week has been more down than that – not as much mixing, more just solid depressed.  Yesterday was like that.  It was not a socially isolated day, but it was internally a very isolated day: I had several extended interactions with people, but the contact I had with them couldn’t carry through beyond the boundaries of our visit.

Last night I went dancing – Asheville Movement Collective ecstatic dancing (see the page at the top of the blog).  Most of the afternoon I felt too depressed to go.  But I had been energized by a call shortly before going, so I had some limited hopefulness.  I had spent the day depressed enough that it was more likely that I would have a bummer dance – the kind of dances that frequently I have been leaving.  And it looked like it might go that way.  As the regular dance started, I really started to sag.  My body couldn’t respond to the music, I was feeling more and more isolated – was psychologically leaving, was picturing myself really leaving, and might have.  It was at that exact moment that my friend Forrest came over, planted the side of  his head against the side of my head, and got us moving together.  I don’t know what moved him to do this.  When I asked him after the dance if he had picked up the signals that I was in trouble, he said no, just that it was his intuition to do this.  He just felt moved and he moved.

Did Forrest somehow know I was in trouble?  Not consciously, apparently - but something moved him to come over and dance with me.

Did Forrest somehow know I was in trouble? Not consciously, apparently – but something moved him to come over and dance with me.

That was the turning point for me – it got me back in the dance.  I then went through several cycles of starting to lose it, my mood going south, feeling like I was dropping out of the dance – and then someone presenting themselves to dance.  Two of these dances were with young Kristin, whom I had never met before.  She was a wondrous dancer, with way more energy than I – especially in this particular low-energy state – but I rose to the occasion and pretty much kept up with her.  We had two terrific, fun, very alive dances.

So it was a paradoxical experience for sure – a day when this should not have happened.  In spite of some instances of social connection, the overriding theme of the day had been personal disconnection.  I came very close to not going to the dance at all.  It was totally unexpected to have so many magical connections on the dance floor.  It was a day when my body was dense and contracted; it was very unexpected for my body to get so loose and expressive.

When I came  home from the dance, was I happy?  I would say I was relieved. I would say I was grateful.  It had been a few days since I had a complex healing state – much less feeling good.  So, at the tail end of my day, that it got so complicated – so much more complex – is paradoxical and pretty wonderful.

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On my birthday last week, I created a vision for the next year of my life.  A lot of that positive vision has to do with bipolar disorder.  Last Friday I posted an entry on my personal healing through bipolar disorder in the next year.  Here I will share some elements of my vision for the blog this year.

  • Even though the blog is currently read by only a few people, I continue to honor and invest energy in it as if it was being read by many.  If one person with bipolar disorder gets help from it, that is more than worth it.  And treating it as valuable will form the basis for having it reach more people.
  • In the next year I promote the blog more – let people know about it: mental health professionals, friends and families and people with the disease.
  • By a year from now, there are many people out there who get from the blog tremendous comfort, inspiration, a sense of direction, information, and concrete tips.  It genuinely makes a difference in more and more lives.  It is the centerpiece of all of my work.
Healing.  All humans suffer from the illusion of separateness and so need healing. Our path for healing is through bipolar disorder.

Healing. All humans suffer from the illusion of separateness and so need healing. Our path for healing is through bipolar disorder.

  • In the next year, I do lots of research to deepen my understanding of bipolar disorder and the impacts it has on us – both the commonalities we have with each other and all the myriad ways we are different individuals and manifest the disease differently.  This research includes reading, attending workshops and conferences, and participating in support groups.
  • I add several additional features that make the blog an even more valuable resource.  These include a section (page) on treatments (though my eyes – treatments I have personally experienced or personally know a lot about), theories (especially my own ideas about the causes and healing of bipolar disorder – and a few others that have had a strong personal impact on me) and another page on resources (groups, books, other blogs, etc.).
  • All the writing I do on this blog – much of which is essentially memoir – supports me in finishing my memoir, which is so much about bipolar disorder.  This book, currently titled A Dark Awakening, itself helps lots of people and draws more readers to this blog.
  • Writing this blog and that memoir support my own healing and personal growth.

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