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.

Five Stages of Recovery

The stages of grieving have been written about extensively and are well known. Receiving a diagnosis of a mental illness often runs through a list of stages, too. Not all people with a psychiatric diagnosis will experience these stages. Some may skip one or more, but I believe it’s safe to say most will move through all of them in one form or another.

Initially, a person will may feel overwhelmed being diagnosed with a major psychiatric illness. I was. I had grown up with constant reinforcement that I was very smart. I thought of my brain power as my major asset, and then a doctor told me that same brain was my worst enemy. For the longest time, I felt lost and scared.

Second, a person gives into the power of the diagnosis. I felt abandoned by everyone and everything and that I would never be any better. My life would not amount to anything. My days of being a contributing member of society were over. I was caught in despair for many years. It was a dark time.

Thankfully, I moved on to the next phase, which is questioning. I began to wonder if I could be more than simply defined by my illness. I looked at my capabilities and entertained ideas that I could be whole again. Maybe I couldn’t work, but maybe I could be productive in other ways. I volunteered at the library and other places. It improved my self-esteem greatly.

I believe regular readers of this blog will understand the next stage as challenging and educating myself. I put myself in places where I was forced outside my comfort zone. I exercised when I really just wanted to stay in bed. I brushed my teeth when I didn’t give a hoot about anything related to taking care of me. There are too many examples I could give of challenging myself to live fully when I wanted to crawl in a shell and disappear.

Finally, I am currently in the last stage of recovery, moving beyond the diagnosis. With my job training to be a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health, I have decided not to allow fear to rule me. I am scared, but I won’t let that stop me. There will be more challenges ahead, but I will go slowly and face them one at a time and one day at a time. I don’t have to be overwhelmed.

What good does it do us to know about these stages? I believe it helps those struggling with mental illness recognize where they are and then to move further along in recovery. Instead of remaining stuck, it allows us to stride towards a better life. It’s all about recovery and wellness.

[I did not come up with these five stages on my own. They were taught to me during my first week of training. The originator on the enormous binder holding all the information says, “Appalachian Consulting Group – 2006”. I do not claim to own the copyright to the stages, but I do maintain my rights to what I’ve written here and anywhere else on this blog.]

Being Bipolar and Being Angry

Anger is a normal human emotion. Everyone feels it at one time or another. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, educated or not, healthy or not. It’s a common experience. Events occur in our lives that evoke emotion. At times, that emotion is anger. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being angry. I believe it’s what we do with that emotion that might cause one to label it right or wrong.

I recently had occasion to be angry at another adult during a community event. The adult did something I found outrageously offensive to another person close to me. I voiced my opinion, and it escalated. There was never a threat of things turning physically abusive, but verbal taunts were used. The situation continued for some time, and they finally settled down enough for all to disperse.

The result was that the other adult was relieved of her responsibilities in the community event. However, in an effort to remain open to healing, the organizers asked that we be willing to meet for mediation after the event concluded.

The day following the verbal assault, I was shaken.

And then the poor sleep patterns started. I would go to bed at a reasonable hour but wake up only 3 or 4 hours later to memories of vivid dreams. I wrote those dreams in a journal I keep next to the bed given to me by my therapist. The poor sleep continued for a couple of weeks.

There were many images, but it wasn’t until I was discussing them in a session that I made the connection. The common trait was anger. I had repressed my experience, and it was looking for a way out. This can’t be unique to people with bipolar disorder. Repressing emotions is an unhealthy way of dealing with unpleasant feelings, and quite probably all people experience it at one time or another.

As I’ve written in other places on this site, I grew up in a household where only one emotion was tolerated: joy. If I wasn’t overtly happy, my feelings weren’t to be voiced. Everything but elation was squashed. I learned early to suppress unpleasant emotions. When I began therapy at age 23, I actually had to read a book and follow instructions to learn to express emotions.

Readers of this site will also know I’m a recovered alcoholic. I drowned my negative emotions for many years in gallons of gin.

My erratic sleep pattern set off alarms in my head. Something was amiss. It was in therapy that I had to face the ugly demon of repressed emotions yet again. The difference this time was my acceptance of my part in repressing the emotions.

I will be meeting for mediation on the matter that began all this sometime this month. I’m willing to own my part in the affair. I want to work past it.

Do people with bipolar disorder have a different experience with anger than others? I don’t believe so. Do we express it properly? Do others? Who knows? All humans get angry. It’s up to us individually to grow past it and move on.