Feeling

Ah, yes, emotions. I have those. They’re pesky things that pop up throughout the day. I am a sensitive person, and I feel.

I do have to say that since I my life shifted, my emotions have been very different. They are much more subdued. They don’t wash over me and threaten to drown me. Nevertheless, I still have them. They are part of being human.

As I sit and write this out I’m feeling blue. I seem to have upset or angered someone I respect a great deal. I haven’t found out what he’s feeling, because he hasn’t answered my emails, in which I apologized and asked for clarification. When I say I respect this man a great deal, I am deadly serious. He is a pillar of a local organization I belong to. He’s always witty and has a great deal of fun at events where we meet. Today, he became terse with me, and I honestly don’t know why. I’m baffled.

I’m also tired. I have been waiting for something important for five long months, and there’s no end in sight. The thing I’m waiting for is completely out of my hands. I have done my part, and now, I can only wait, wait, wait. In the beginning, I was impatient, but that faded. When the shift occurred, I felt relief and joy for this thing that I am sure is coming into my life. Sitting here at this second, I’m tired. I don’t ask for the end to be revealed, but I would like the Universe to give me a clue that things are at least moving. As things are, I’m in the dark.

In addition, I am leading an important group activity with a fixed end in sight. It’s going well, but some things were suggested tonight that made me question my capability to lead. I’m suddenly unsure of myself. I feel shaky.

I have a new way of looking at emotions today. I’m not scared of them like I was for much of my life. I was often overwhelmed by feelings. Today, I can look at an emotion and observe it and let it do its own thing. I don’t have to try to control it. Right this second, I have the blues.

I am grateful I have a consciousness that is ever on watch for situations that might require defense. My mind swirls with thoughts that can be viewed as attempts to defend myself from imagined incidents in the future. I really am grateful for this magnificent mind.

I’m asking it right now to relax. I have done what I can in each situation. I give my ever vigilant mind the rest of the day off. Let’s chill out.

Interesting Changes

I took a break from writing for a while, and some things in my life have changed.

One startling change is that I have started to watch a television show. Many regular readers know I have been seemingly allergic to all varieties of television shows. I had a physical reaction to the machine that rendered me incapable of sitting through anything. I also avoided videos online, though this was not universal.

You can read about my difficulty watching television here, here, and here. It was a real handicap, and I have met other people with bipolar disorder who had the same experience. Television caused a switch in my brain to click that incapacitated me.

I have started to watch the new series called Cosmos with the host Neil deGrasse Tyson. In fact, I haven’t missed an episode of it. I enjoy it greatly. I sat down apprehensively to watch the first episode, and I was pleasantly engrossed. I have not felt the old click in my head that forced me to stand and pace or even leave the room. I am very happy with this change.

I have another pleasant change to report. I have had a spiritual shift, and I am now able to experience my emotions with more detachment. When emotions arise, especially the heavy, negative ones, I can observe them, give them the attention they deserve, and watch them pass. I still feel everything a normal person feels, but I don’t succumb to them. They no longer overwhelm me.

I had an occasion to witness this closely just two days ago. An event occurred that made me very sad. My feelings were hurt. I endured the sadness for a whole day, but it did not incapacitate me. I meditated on the event. I recognized the sadness. I welcomed it even. I did not fight the emotion. I simply let it sit in my being, and I watched it.

It was there all day, but as I lay down that night to sleep, I knew it would be gone when I woke the next morning. I was correct.

Many readers may be wondering how I made this spiritual change. I did it through meditation. I sat on my special stool and went to my happy place. While I was relaxed and letting my mind concentrate on itself in my happy place, I asked my Higher Self if it would like to be part of my everyday existence here and now. My Higher Self obliged. I now maintain a conscious connection with this part of me that is new. I walk taller according to my therapist.

This new connection has given me a new perspective on many things. I have a firmer sense of self-respect. I know my worth. I suffered from low self-esteem for decades. That has miraculously vanished. My thoughts are clearer. When negativity arises, I ask it where it came from, observe it, play with it at times, and let it pass.

I am growing, and I like it. I celebrate me today.

Self-love

I have spent five decades of life denying my needs. I was raised to believe it was selfish to take care of me. As an active alcoholic, I practiced a great deal of self-hatred. Being gay in the family and society and time I was taught me self-loathing. I had little chance to learn to love me.

I have often heard it said that we each have to take care of us. In early sobriety, I was told this was not true for me. I was told I had spent many years drinking in a selfish way. Loving and appreciating my strengths was denied me. It now appears to me this was another Puritanical way to get me to practice more self-hate.

Today, I embrace the idea that I must love me first. I have to open my eyes and recognize my beauty and be happy about it. Anything less than loving me first is a disservice to me and my family and friends.

A long friendship of mine ended recently. Learning to love me first played a role in my realization that this relationship was unhealthy for me. It was a relationship born between two people who were unequal. One was the superior and the other the inferior. Over the years, we made changes to try to equalize us, but I was never able to release my inferiority. The fault of that lay strictly with me.

As I have grown over the last several years beginning to love me, I grew uncomfortable in my inferior role. Recently, I witnessed myself being abused by passive-aggressive behavior and manipulation. For the first time ever, I spoke up and stated firmly that I recognized this abuse and that I rejected it. My friend was misusing me.

I reject abuse. I am worthy of respect. I am lovable.

Those simple words have been foreign to me my whole life. I was acculturated early in life to believe I was vile and subhuman, because I was gay. I turned for solace to alcohol and became its slave. After the psychiatrist told me I had bipolar disorder, I felt the natural shame that accompanies a diagnosis with mental illness.

I lived my whole life hating me.

As I sit writing these words, I turn away from self-hate. I embrace self-love. I give me permission to love me first. My hope is by loving me I will be able to love others more freely and completely.

It has been a week since the end of my long friendship that was based in an old way of self-hate. In this time, I have spent hours ruminating over my part of our relationship and its end. I can say I feel free now. I walk taller. I am lighter.

It’s funny. With my new decision to try life loving me first, I find I look at others differently. I care more. I wish to cause less pain. I want to give love.

It’s Time

I am opening up and moving into the future. This was my status today on a social network:

2013 was a momentous year for me. I participated in intensive training to become a Hawaii Certified Peer Specialist in mental health, which led to a 3-month internship at the state-run East Hawaii Community Mental Health Center. All this culminated this fall in receiving full certification in the field from the state.

What most people don’t seem to fully grasp is the word “peer”. It means an equal. What I want to announce for the first time to all who care to listen is that I am an equal to the people I work with. I have a mental illness, too.

Mental illness is surrounded by stigma all over the world, and I have allowed that shadow to keep myself in the dark to everyone but a very few close friends and family members. I’ve been in hiding, and it is a burden I have carried since I was diagnosed 12 years ago.

Today, I choose to lift that shadow from my life. I have a mental illness. I am very lucky to live in the time and place that I do. I receive excellent medical attention, I have a medication regimen that enables me to live a fulfilling life, and I have support from many who know me.

Here at the end of 2013, I leave behind the shame that accompanies so many people diagnosed with mental illness. I march forward into 2014 with a clean slate ready to write a new future. I am happy, and I am loved.

I am opening up on this blog, too. I have been anonymous here for almost four years. It’s time to leave the fear and the shame behind. My name is Jake, and I live in Hawaii.

A String of Losses

It’s been rough for about two months since changing medication. I’ve experienced what I can only describe as a string of losses, and my daily routine has suffered, making me at times sad and at others feeling free.

The first loss was my daily activity on a website I enjoyed. I was a regular contributor to a forum on mental illness on a loosely moderated site. I asked a question one day that was viciously attacked. I was a member of that forum for over three years, and to have the other members turn angrily on a simple question hurt. It’s been two months now since the incident, and I do not remember what I asked that was so roundly despised. I deleted my account, and I have not been back since. I honestly never think about the place. I’m free of it.

Co-directing a play occupied much of my time in the past couple of months. I really enjoyed it. I dove fully into each of the characters I was coaching from the eight actors I was working with. I studied the words. I learned the motivations and thought deeply about the hidden lives of these stage roles. The rehearsals went very well. The other director, a mentor to me in some ways, praised my work proclaiming it “excellent.” The performances were a critical success. People active in the local theatre community all came and openly beamed at the accomplishment. It was a beautiful play.

And then ten days after the show closed, I got a letter from one of the actors I directed. He rebuked me for a change I asked him to make late in the rehearsal process. He made the change in the remaining rehearsals, and his performance was superb. In the letter, though, he said my mishandling of my request to him made him unsure of his characterization, and he was therefore incapable of enjoying any of the normal joy an actor gets from performing.

All of this was new information to me. He was cheerful throughout the run of the show. I took his letter to heart, and it hurt greatly. My happy memories of the successful production are forever tainted by this man’s complaint.

My life is a very quiet one. I live on my computer in many ways. I have many far-flung friends. A number of them are from a small website that I would normally have open on my web browser all day, chatting and interacting with others. It’s a social site with active moderators policing it and keeping it running smoothly. A matter arose on this site, and I voiced my opinion. It was an opinion shared by several users. Much to my surprise, our remarks on the site were removed by the moderators, and we were told to toe the line.

I was flabbergasted. I have been a member of this online community for four years, and suddenly my ideas were forcefully muzzled. I was torn. I complained to the community’s manager and given no answer. I was met with silence. It is a site with many different subjects, and mental illness comes up occasionally. I toyed with the idea of deleting my account, but finally, I decided to tell a few trusted friends there to forward any information or questions that come up about mental illness. I am restricting my interaction there to that subject only.

I have gone from a very active online life to a small one in a matter of weeks. I’m still adjusting.

These are three losses I’ve experienced recently. There have been numerous smaller ones. These three sting.

Changing Medication

I’m going to try to ease back into blogging regularly by mentioning that I changed medication in October. I was taking two different medicines for bipolar disorder, and those have been replaced with one.

I have had a nice side effect. One of the old medicines caused a great deal of weight gain. Now that I’m no longer on that old one, I am shedding pounds. It’s almost effortless. I think I’m at the end of that stage, though, and any more weight loss will require effort.

I have had some not so nice side effects. I went through a period of irrational, high anxiety, and I’ve experienced general irritability. Both are common with my new medicine. I have an anti-anxiety medicine I can take, but I don’t like to. It makes me sleepy. The irritability is another matter.

I have made an important decision. I have stopped explaining and qualifying my experiences. I am what I am. I feel the way I feel for complex reasons. I have stopped apologizing.

A person with a visible disability is not required to volunteer information. I stop the same. I proclaim my independence from judgement.

A Good Quote

“At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.
They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication.”

Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking