Thank you for your patience

I am grateful today for your patience and your continued support of this blog while I’ve been away living life. I am grateful today I have a life to live. I have indeed come very far from the inception of this blog.

I have an amazing life today. Let me tell you about the changes since the last time I wrote here more than two years ago.

The most important change has two parts: I got a job, and I moved. I was living on disability in a small town, and I gained a great deal of strength from the quiet. Today, I live in a city, and I work. These are enormous changes in my life. They would not have been possible if I had not had a solid recovery. There are many people who helped me with my recovery. Each one of them is precious to me.

I am now working in the mental health field training my peers to be Certified Peer Specialists. It is an honor to watch a group of my peers as they learn about the aspects of recovery and how to help their peers. It is pure pleasure to hear them report about the work they are doing one-on-one with our peers.

I have my own apartment! I got very lucky when I moved. There was an opening in a building where a friend had moved a few years prior, and they accepted me. It’s wonderful to have friendly neighbors that I know by name.

I bought a car! I got very lucky and found a good, used car that gets superb gas mileage.

Parking is by permit where I work, and that’s based on seniority, so needless to say, I do not have parking. I take the bus to work. It’s honestly a pleasure. I get on the bus near my apartment. I’m always able to find a seat where I can pull out my Kindle and read or scroll through my phone. I have conversations with my seatmates, too. It’s usually very quiet, though. About 20 minutes later, I hop off in front of my building.

When I moved, one of my first orders of business was to get the pieces of my support network in place. I asked some knowledgeable people about psychiatrists and psychologists. The next thing I knew I had appointments with some very good caregivers.

I rely on my caregivers a great deal. I count on them to help me remain stable. My recovery is the most important thing I have in life. I tell people who ask that my recovery has five pillars holding it up: medication, meditation, therapy, exercise, and sleep.

I’m lucky. Medication actually works for me with only a few side effects. In my work, I have had the pleasure of getting to know peers for whom medication does not work. They maintain stability using other means. Most have a WRAP. Some are close to their pets. Some use talk-therapy; some don’t. It’s up to each individual to determine what works best for themselves.

I meditate every morning. It’s not long: 10 to 30 minutes. It varies. Meditation gives me a few minutes of calmness to start my day. It gives me a calm core that I can go back to at any time I feel myself straying too far one way or the other.

I’ve been in therapy for 30 years. I swear by it. It is so valuable to have a disinterested third party to tell all my thoughts to. That person guides me to decide for myself what I think about my many situations. My therapist is a guide. He is not a director. I am in the driver’s seat.

I powerwalk. I used to go out every morning, but I had a hurt foot that prevented that. I’m starting again, and I’m walking 3 mornings each week. It feels so good to move and breathe deeply. I love it.

Sleep is very important to me. I went through a period of sleep difficulties for almost a year that was quite painful. I’ve found a working solution that I’m happy with that does not involve sleeping pills. A good night’s sleep sets me up for success the next day. Sleep resets all my circuits.

There are other parts to my recovery that are important. They are so imbedded in me now that I give little thought to them. I’m sober. It’s been seventeen years since I last drank any alcohol. I have a WRAP. I am fully committed to staying in the “what I’m like when I’m well” place. I eat good food. I eat very little processed sugar. I never drink soda. I am sure my good diet aids my recovery.

I am glad you still want to read my blog. I will be writing in it again. Thank you.

How to Help Someone with Depression

Today, a friend confided in me that her son has been diagnosed with clinical depression. It is a great honor that this friend trusts me with this information. We all come to mental illness with many ideas of what such a diagnosis means, and we all have to recognize that many of our ideas are true and some are not.

This friend is doing so many good things, and it reminded me of so much I’ve been through and how far I have come in my own recovery.

The son is also doing many hard things the right way. First, he sought help from his mother. He returned home where he could be nurtured and where he can heal. Next, he actually called a doctor himself. Then he did a very hard thing by going to his appointment with the doctor. Now, he’s continuing the hard work by taking the medicine prescribed. All these steps point to one vastly important bit to know. Since he’s actively reaching out for help, he wants to recover. With this attitude, he can get better.

I made some recommendations to my friend on how she can help her son.

1. She should use physical touch to maintain contact with him. Depression makes us feel so very lonely, and touch reminds us we are not alone.

2. She should encourage her son to exercise. A walk in the sunshine and fresh air will help him very much.

3. She should use ample positive reinforcement when he does anything to aid his own recovery like keeping doctor’s appointments or taking medicine as prescribed.

4. She should tell him often that he is worthy of recovery. Depression robs us of all our good feelings of self-worth and replaces those with hopelessness.

5. She should remind him often this is a disease, and there is no reason to feel ashamed.

6. She should mention often that his current feelings are not permanent. He can and will feel better with the help of a good doctor, good medicine, and helpful people.

7. She should help her son look for a good psychologist for talk therapy where he can learn many valuable tools to help him feel better.

8. Importantly, she must not neglect herself. The caregiver needs nurturing, too.

These ideas can be used by anyone to help another hurting from the disease of depression.

Suicide Prevention Help

In the wake of actor Robin Williams’ suicide, I have added more important suicide prevention help numbers and sites to my page marked “Resources.” Please, feel free to take a look.

Through the statistics page of this blog’s host, I can see the broad categories people use to find me. Since yesterday, many people have searched for suicide prevention. To you, I say I understand. I have been there. I really have. I know that black pit very well.

I do not want to take your decision from you. I would like to say, however, that before you make a final decision you talk to someone anonymously. There are numbers you can call, sites you can use to chat, and other ways to reach out for help.

You are worth it.

I know you may not feel like it at this moment, but it’s true.

You are important.

A Notable Suicide

Robin Williams, the Oscar-winning actor and comedian, died of suicide today. It is a very sad event. In a very brief statement, his grieving wife said he had been battling depression.

I am very sad, because he had a great talent that was wide ranging. He was a brilliant comedian, but his prowess as an actor won him an Oscar in 1998 for a dramatic role in the movie Good Will Hunting. I was a teenager when he made a hit on television in the show Mork and Mindy. He was indeed very funny, and he will be greatly missed.

Whenever I hear about anyone killing themselves, I remember my own story. It’s been a very long time now, but I understand the black pit of depression so deep and dark that no light shines. There is not even the slightest hint that light is shining anywhere. No light. Not an inkling. Not a tiny dot. All oozes blackness.

I was saved from my suicide attempt miraculously by the phone. It rang at just the right moment, and the person on the other end heard my cry for help. I was whisked away to the hospital and received help.

Over the years of living with bipolar disorder, I spent much time contemplating death, wishing for it sometimes and fearing it at others. I no longer think about death. Recovery has taught me many things about living with mental illness. I live with hope today.

I am reminded also of the simple words on the website Metanoia.org. They say

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

Those words are true. People with mental illness like depression think a lot about suicide, and they do not contemplate it from selfish motives. Suicide results from pain that is so great it outweighs a person’s ability to deal with it.

I meditate daily, and in my meditation, I call down light. I believe that light brings hope, and hope brings life.

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.