Posts Tagged ‘Music’

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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I’m going to give it a manic-depression rating of 6 (in balance) for now, but I’m watching it.  Since Monday, I have been saying that I’m inhabiting a very fruitful mixed state – in some ways still clearly down, but also encouraged about my writing, which leads me to be encouraged about my life in general.  Today is the first day that I am clearly not down.  This was especially apparent walking the dog in the woods, rocking to Ani DiFranco on Spotify on my phone.  When I’m down, I don’t respond to music – it mostly irritates me.  All through my recent down stretch (9 days clearly down, then those 3 mixed), music didn’t work for me – though honestly I didn’t try it during the last 3 days.  But today I was really rocking.

Am I in balance? Or on my way from too down to too up?  Breathe and watch - and trust.

Am I in balance? Or on my way from too down to too up? Breathe and watch – and trust.

I don’t want to be an alarmist – I want to be able to enjoy just feeling good.  I am definitely revving kind of high, but that could be just the pressure I am feeling to get a lot of things done today before I leave early tomorrow for a weekend trip to see my son and new grandbaby in Louisville, KY (about which I am excited – and want to be excited).  I have had way too much mania over the last few months.  The Lithium I started two weeks ago is supposed to help me keep my feet on the ground – but I may not have been taking it long enough or may not be on the right dose.  (I took a blood test a few days ago that’s supposed to tell them if it’s the right dose for me, but I haven’t heard anything back from my psychiatrist.)

So meanwhile, just to be on the safe side, I’m practicing all the tools I’ve learned over the years for grounding myself.  I don’t have time to write all that up right now, but expect a post on it next week.  But one thing I know that i absolutely need to do is to slow down, every which way I can – and get a good night’s sleep tonight.  I’ll be away from the computer for a few days, but will give you an update next week.

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I’m not integrated today – I’m fragmented.  My concerns about an out-of-control mania have passed: I got seven hours of sleep last night and am not particularly speedy – just enough to call myself a 5, slightly expanded, rather than balanced (the grail and a state in which I spend very little time).  As always when I’m not depressed, I worry when the next depression is coming and how bad it will be.  Walking the dog this morning, I was not very responsive to the Spotify music playing through my phone (Steve Earle, who just yesterday was really rocking me).  Is this an early warning sign that a depression is looming?  Or just a part of how mentally preoccupied I am today?

And i am mentally preoccupied today.  I have a whole lot of writing queued up for this blog – posts that I have unfinished or unedited, dictated in my phone and handwritten in the little spiral notebook I carry with me everywhere.  This is some of the standard fragmentation that comes with running too high, which i have done for a week now.

But even more than that I have the disconnection between the grand vision that emerged for me last week for where I am going with my business (see Depression and Life Purpose, August 9) and the day-to-day reality of my life.  These aspirations for three books and a public speaking business are as yet pretty ungrounded: the first book, my memoir, is only part finished – and the other two books are as yet just a vision.  And the public speaking business is also right now just in my mind’s eye.

This wonderful vision crystallized in part as my response to a 6-month entrepreneurship training that I signed up for last week.  They came together from fragments that have been floating around in my mind for months and years.  They came together with a force that was a little shocking.  Was the mania that I teetered on the brink of last week a result of so much stimulation or the cause of it?  Is this vision just one more manic plan that there is no way that i can in reality make operational?

Aren’t these always the fears for someone who wrestles with bipolar disorder?  Can I possibly reach that mountain I saw so clearly just a few days ago?  How do integrate these two realities i inhabit?  Where are the baby steps that can link my grounded (or even depressed) reality with my bigger vision?

For me today, the baby steps have everything to do with this blog.  This blog is the link between my current reality and my vision of books and a speaking business.  I have posts and pages to write and edit.  I have several ways I want to improve the blog before I start promoting it with mental health professionals, an effort I want to begin within a couple of weeks.

And today I need to not get compulsive or too driven with these tasks: I need to spend time with my friend Badria.  I need to swim, big-time.  I was sick at the beginning of last week, got rained out of a swim another day – and it has been over a week since I swam, which is so integrating for me.

I have work to do, baby steps to take.

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When I am depressed, it is almost impossible for me to enjoy music.  Music that I have otherwise grooved to just irritates me.  If I try to listen to music while I’m exercising, I turn it off.  When I am even a little bit up, I love music – it  takes me to some wonderful places.  In my recent long spell of depression, I mostly lost track of music – now, praise God, I’m starting to get it back.

About ten years ago, I was hospitalized in the same state hospital twice in a month.  The first time, I came in suicidally depressed, then within my first day there flipped over into being pretty manic.  There was a terrific young woman staff member who rotated among the units doing I don’t know what she called it: “exercise therapy”? “music therapy”?  She would come on our unit maybe every day, using just a cheap boombox, and would play very upbeat music while she had us up on our feet following her in some series of aerobics.

Well, I pretended to do her exercises, but I mostly just danced.  I had a ball.  i was totally all over the rhythm, owned the beat.  I pretended i was dancing in some wonderful, magical night club – not a dingy and oppressive mental hospital.  I loved the (mostly not so special) music over this less than mediocre sound system.  I do think she was genuinely terrific – upbeat, supportive, charming.  But then I may have been exaggerating that, too.

They let me out of that place in just a few days – I was no longer depressed and they don’t keep you there if you’re not dangerous to yourself or others.  I was back again in just two weeks – the shortest time ever between two hospitalizations, but I hadn’t stayed long enough the first time to really do much good, and had left seriously manic.  This time my suicidal depression didn’t lift for a couple of weeks.  And I hated that exercise class.  I couldn’t find the beat.  My body would not move.  It was all painful.

I’ve been doing a meditation called Modern Day Meditation, which is all done to music and they encourage you to get up and move if that is what is wanting to be expressed through you.  They also encourage you to do this at home, and when you are having a hard time to try at least to let yourself to go with one song: to dance hard, cry, shake, scream, whatever – just to get the energy moving.

One day a few weeks ago, when I was really bottomed out, I went up to my room, played some of my favorite Spotify music, and did most of these things.  I had a very hard time getting into it – at first most of it felt like hard work.  The music just didn’t work for me.  I several times changed what I was listening to, some of my favorite music just grated on me.  But little by little, over the course of about 40 minutes,  I did get some release.  Then I went out on my front porch and wrote for about an hour and ended up feeling pretty good.

So I know it can work.  And I believe there must be music out there which is soothing when I’m depressed – I just haven’t found it.  Know some?  Put it in a comment where we can all see it.

For the last two weeks, I have again been mostly depressed, and I have let go of the music that three weeks ago – through the magic of Spotify – I was happily discovering.  This morning, a couple of days into being at about a 5 (slightly expanded) on my manic-depression scale, while walking the dog I discovered Ani DiFranco (not dance music, but warm and rich and human and poetic) on Spotify – and life is good.

My current Ani DiFranco fix

My current Ani DiFranco fix

Knuckle Down cover - doesn't she ever look full of life!?

Knuckle Down cover – doesn’t she ever look full of life!?

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