Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Today Is my birthday.  I have been spending some significant time elaborating a vision for myself for the next year – itself a very positive act on a day on which, in spite of it being my birthday, I am relatively depressed.  I actually started out today more like a manic depression 9 (very contracted), but this visioning activity – and going to a very good Overeaters Anonymous meeting – have moved me to my current 8 rating (definite physical contraction).  And I again today sit in a complex healing state – with that definite physical contraction cohabiting with some positive internal elements. Very significant parts of that vision for my next year have to do with my recovery from bipolar disorder and my vision for this blog.  I’ll write about my personal healing today and about my vision for the blog in a later post.

A friend of mine is making me a gluten-free, sugar-free (agave) flourless chocolate cake for my birthday - and I know it will be scrumptious.

A friend of mine is making me a gluten-free, sugar-free (agave) flourless chocolate cake for my birthday – and I know it will be scrumptious.

First, my recovery.  My vision includes:

  • I don’t have a vision of complete recovery from bipolar disorder.  This could disappoint or upset some of my colleagues who write and teach about bipolar disorder.  Unless some new medication comes down the pike that controls the oscillation of my states from manic to depressed, my vision of healing includes that i heal through bipolar disorder rather than from it – that it is the walk I need to walk, a disease I need to manage, even if I some day get off of all meds.
  • I spend more time in what I’m calling complex healing states – states where elements of up and down coexist together, where the polarization of my manic and depressed states gets a chance to heal because the two parts of myself get a chance to know and influence each other.
  • My prevailing state shifts gradually more towards the peaceful state (md 6) on my manic depression scale.  I spend less time on the more extreme levels – further from the balanced 6 – and more time right on it.  This is supported and facilitated by all the elements that support my healing – from psychotherapy to Overeaters Anonymous, the 12 Steps and wrestling with the concept of a higher power to ecstatic dancing and all kinds of other relationships and resources that are detailed elsewhere in this blog.
Balance - the elusive state that for me is the Grail for people with bipolar disorder.

Balance – the elusive state that for me is the Grail for people with bipolar disorder.

  • Because of this healing, I am able to negotiate with my psychiatrist and to manage successfully a gradual decrease in my psychotropic meds.  I hold out the possibility that eventually I will be off them altogether, but I don’t see anything like that happening in the next year.  I don’t think it’s in the cards for everybody with bipolar disorder to get off of or even reduce their meds, but it is part of my personal vision.
  • Last night I attended my first meeting of Magnetic Minds (http://magneticminds.weebly.com/), the Asheville chapter of the national group Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (http://www.dbsalliance.org).  I liked it and intend to go back.  I visualize that this group will support my own healing, that I will be able to offer helpful support, inspiration and information to other members (partly by offering them this blog), and that the group will deepen my understanding of bipolar disorder and the impact it has on those who deal with it.
  • Writing (this blog and my memoir) supports my in my own healing through bipolar disorder.
  • This year – partly based on this blog and my memoir – I begin to do some public speaking and teaching on the topic -some volunteer through NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and progressively more for pay.  This supports me in my own healing.
  • I will continue my own reading on bipolar disorder, especially books and blogs by others with the disease, but also including scholarly and professional writing.  This will both give me more to share on the blog and support my own healing.

Read Full Post »

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.”

Read Full Post »

I’ve been depressed for the last six days – and again not writing.  Around 6 p.m. this evening, I was staring at a threateningly empty evening.  I asked myself what I could do this evening that would be most encouraging on this very discouraged day.  My roommate Will is a sculptor and painter.  He’s anxious about a relationship – and this afternoon and evening is channeling that anxiety into painting.  “Why not me?” I thought.  “I’ll create – I’ll write.  I’ll write a blog post.  I don’t know what it’s going to be. i don’t want it to be discouraging. I’ll find something.”

So the fact that I’m writing is encouraging.  And there’s more.  I have for the last few weeks been involved in Overeaters Anonymous for my sugar addiction and compulsive eating.  Shortly after making my resolution to write, I got a call from one of my OA friends. She and I have been trying to connect by phone, so I was glad to interrupt my momentum towards the computer with this call from her.  And that call gave me the material to write about.

When I was high a week ago, I was enthused about lots of things – including  my progress around my food.  In the last few days, my eating has fallen apart – and has reinforced my nihilistic mantra of “Nothing helps and nothing matters”.  But my friend helped me name several things I’m doing right, several areas of progress, and I’m going to name them here.

  1. The first one starts with a setback, but also has a positive dimension. I had, almost as soon as starting OA, named peanut butter as a problem food.  It’s a food that I am most likely to eat compulsively, most likely to overeat – a food that I genuinely binge on.  So I just completely cut it out – huge progress.  But I left two jars in the cupboard.  This morning, in my “Nothing matters” mode, I pulled out one of those jars of peanut butter and – having already eaten a little breakfast – ate four spoonfuls – and then a couple more.
    I get it - I really get it.  Peanut butter is not an innocent food for me - it's a problem.

    I get it – I really get it. Peanut butter is not an innocent food for me – it’s a problem.

    Then, a couple hours later, I went back for more.  But here’s a sign of progress: I struggled with it.  The 12 Steps encourages you not to trust your willpower, but rather to turn it over to a Higher Power.  I tried to figure out how to do this, but couldn’t get there.  I considered making an outreach call to an OA friend, but didn’t manage to do it.  But, as someone said later, “If you can insert a pause, you can insert a call.  You’re this much closer to making the call next time.”  I’m picturing doing that – and knowing that it will feel enormously gratifying when I do it.

    After giving in and eating more peanut butter, I poured some hot sauce in the rest and threw it out.  I’ve learned the hard way that just throwing it out won’t necessarily prevent me from fishing it out of the garbage.  Later on, I dropped the other jar – and a jar of almond butter – off at the food pantry.  It was out of my way, but felt like a big symbolic step.

    So where do I focus my attention? I can focus on the slip, focus on the regression to an old behavior.  I choose to focus on the new behaviors – the struggle where in the past there was only abject surrender, the taking of the food to the food pantry.  And the fact that this offending food, which up until just a few weeks ago was a staple part of my diet, now is an intruding stranger.  What a huge change that is!

  2. I went to an OA meeting.  I judged myself harshly for “going to meetings instead of eating right”, but the meeting was actually encouraging and good connection.  And what a totally new behavior for me!  These meetings are a completely new presence in my life.  And I told people there how much I am needing to make calls, to break up my isolation.  And made a specific plan to call one woman, whom I like very much, tonight.  I’m going to do that when I’m walking the dog, right after finishing this post.
  3. This wasn’t from today, but yesterday and tomorrow.  After many months (a couple of years, actually) of trying to find the right focus of attention while I’m swimming laps, I’ve got one that’s really working: creating and repeating mantras from the first three of the Twelve Steps.  I described this at length on August 30 and 31, but three of my favorites are “Came to believe” (that a Power higher than my own could restore me to sanity) and “turn over my life and my will” “to God’s care, as I understand God.”
    "Whatever this Higher Power is, in some mysterious way it cares about me" shortens down to "Life cares about me."

    “Whatever this Higher Power is, in some mysterious way it cares about me” shortens down to “Life cares about me.”


     I don’t understand God or Higher Power, but I think there is some kind of power or energy that underlies the separation of the material world – and it feels like a very positive step that I am spending all this time opening myself up to it.  In fact, this is huge.  This could actually turn out to be the biggest development of this phase of my life.

So who says I’m stuck?

Read Full Post »

I talked yesterday about how while swimming laps on two recent days I used as mantras phrases from the first two steps of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous – and Overeaters Anonymous, with which i have recently gotten involved.  Here I’ll write about how on both of these swimming outings I’ve used the third step (as far as I’ve gotten, and I’ve just barely dipped into these three).

3) “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.

I’ve described earlier that for me God is not a person, much less a guy.  I mostly avoid the God word, though I’m working at being less allergic to it.  I’ve actually been positively impressed with how allowing these particular (Asheville-type?) OA folks are of all the variation in how people understand their Higher Power, but there still is a fair bit of God talk in these meetings.  When I use the word Life to describe my Higher Power, I imagine some of these folks internally translate that to God – and I some of the time am doing the flip of that.  But notwithstanding the God word, this step is working some real juju on me – including while swimming laps on Wednesday and again yesterday.

Made a decision“. Am I making a decision?  A decision to be more open to spirituality – to make it more a part of how I really experience the world, not just how I think about it?  I used this phrase as a mantra for a lap or two and it felt good to me.

Turn our lives and our will over“.  This one is huge for me.  I’m usually trying to run the show.  I feel alone in the universe – who else is going to make the decisions, run the show?  The OA person I connected with on the phone when I was in such a difficult place on Wednesday morning suggested that before I go into the meeting I was feeling anxious about I practice thinking “Thy will be done”.  But who is this “thy”?  The great mystery.  And it worked!  I had a great, actually enchanted, visit with my friend.

This morning, when I was struggling with whether to have another little bit of a food that I had already overeaten, I interrupted the struggle by thinking, “Maybe I don’t have to fight the fight – I’ll just turn it over to my Higher Power.”  My first reaction to hearing myself think this was, “Where did that come from?  That’s not how I operate!”  But it felt kind of soothing – and it amazingly got easy to let go of having the food.  So this phrase, which for part of the time I shortened to just “Turn it over” (one of the most popular 12 Step phrases), really had a lot of power for me.

To the care of God, as we understand him”.  This is the one that most took me places Wednesday and especially today.  What if, when I turn my will and my life over to this Higher Power/Life/Spirit/Great Mystery, it genuinely has my best interests in mind?  No, more than that, cares for me.  What if, when I let go of trying to have it my way, i drop into being cared for, cared about?  After a couple of laps thinking the phrase “the care of God”, I really went for it: “Life loves me” (two laps), “I am loved” (another two laps).

Then I spent a couple of laps thinking about people in my life who I really do believe genuinely love me.  Two days ago, as I was sitting on this very same front porch writing, my 37-year-old roommate Will – who is a wonderful artist – brought out a beautiful drawing of the Buddha, which he had shown me on day 3 of him working on it and which I had enthusiastically loved.  He said, “This represents what it’s like for a bipolar person to be in balance – I want you to have it.”  That completely blew me away.  I spent about a lap today thinking about this gift – then going on to ways that other people (including Tom, my other roommate) have recently expressed care for me.

I probably don’t need to belabor the connection of all this with depression.   I more and more getting it that being out of control of my food is discouraging and depressing.  One of my core depressive mantras is “Nothing works”.  Opening up the possibility that OA might actually work for me – might lead to some real, concrete, positive change in my life – is really torqueing my stuff around.  Yesterday morning I was kind of jumping out of my skin with the internal battle between the forces of hope and despair.

But, as much as thinking that i might make significant change in how I eat is kind of blowing my mind, the 12 Steps are messing with me on a deeper level.  What if this program were to significantly change my relationship with Life as I understand it?  What if this network were to – as it promises – provide me with relationships that offer real support, real intimacy? (I’m already getting glimmers of this being true.)  What if working this program were to help me shift my life (not just my eating) in some healthy, life-affirming ways?  People talk about the 12 Steps changing the whole way they approach their lives.  I’ve been in the periphery of various 12 Step programs and people in recovery for much of my life, but I have never really thought about it as a system that could have a big impact on my life.

But who knows?

Read Full Post »