Staying Calm in the Midst of Chaos

It’s no secret that there is a great deal of turmoil in the world at present. There are large protests in the US. Many countries in Europe are experiencing difficulties related to the large numbers of refugees coming in. I don’t know about yours, but my news is full of stories of upheaval and tumult.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed when the headlines are shouting about mayhem. Those of us with mental illness know the importance of remaining calm and maintaining equilibrium.

Here’s my plan.

First, I remember the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

There is a great deal in the world that I cannot change, and it is important for me to recognize where I can have an effect and where I need to release. For example, I have a vote, but I only have one vote. It is important for me to exercise my choice by voting, but I must release the outcome since my single vote will not determine any winners. I am one voice in a sea of many. I do my part and release the rest.

Second, I simply do not read all of the news. I pick and choose. I have a few topics that I am passionate about, so I read that news. I skip over the rest. As a solitary individual, there is little I can do to affect the vast majority of situations. I choose to invest my energy in only a couple of major issues. I keep myself basically informed of some of the other major issues in the news, but I simply skip over a great deal. I’m not hiding from the news. I’m editing my consumption. I act this way to maintain my sense of inner peace. I had a friend who tried to stay abreast of all the news a few months ago, and it had a disastrous affect on her mind. She was quickly overwhelmed. I protect my personal calm by limiting what I ingest from the news.

Next, I give a small amount of money to causes that I believe in. I have limited money at my disposal. I cannot give great sums to every worthy cause, so I have chosen a few that I feel the most strongly about, and I donate there. It makes me feel good that I’m helping organizations who are battling for ideas that I believe in. Helping these organizations makes me feel like I’m a part of the fight, and in actuality, I am. I am very active in theatre in my city, so I support those organizations that bring live theatre to brighten our lives. Giving them small donations helps me feel good.

Finally, I take care of myself. This is my greatest contribution to making the planet a better place for all of us. When I concentrate on being the best possible me that I can, I know that my little bit of humanity is running smoothly. Honestly, isn’t that a great gift to give the world? I like being me, and I like making me a happy member of the world. I do it by living in recovery. I have a few pillars of my recovery that I work diligently to maintain: medication, meditation, exercise, therapy, and sleep.

I am lucky in that medicine works for me, so I take my medicine as prescribed. I have friends in recovery who maintain themselves other ways than medicine.

I am also an avid meditator. I have a set routine that includes a period of meditation, and I do it every morning without fail. Meditation gives me a calm center to cling to. When I feel emotions that encroach on my calm, I know I can return to the even feelings by just doing some simple breathing techniques.

Exercise is an important part of my recovery, too. I enjoy powerwalking, so I go out for a vigorous walk 4 mornings every week. I feel exhilarated each time. It’s such a joy!

I believe wholeheartedly in talk therapy. I’ve been involved with it for 30 years. I have a therapist that I tell absolutely everything to. I tell him about all the little things in my life that arise, and we talk about how they make me feel. I’ve discovered a lot of people don’t really understand the nature of a therapeutic relationship. A therapist is not like a medical doctor who assesses symptoms and administers a cure. Therapists cure no one. Instead, they listen to my situations, and then they guide me through a discussion, until I settle on my own cure. In essence, a therapist is a guide while I cure myself.

Finally, sleep is an amazing balm for me. I am adamant that I get adequate and high quality sleep every night. It resets all my inner world, and I can start each day fresh.

These things work for me. I hope you can find the pillars of your own recovery.

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.

Stopping One and Starting Another

I had to stop the lamotrigine. It has some potentially fatal side effects, and I noticed the symptom of one of those within the first week of taking it. I called my prescribing nurse practitioner, and she agreed that I should stop it immediately. She then asked me how my mood was, and I lied saying I was fine. I lied.

I called her back this morning and took responsibility for my words and told her the truth. I’m still manic. I’ve lost my appetite completely. I’m sleeping very little. My mind is racing a mile a minute. I find it difficult to concentrate on anything. Taking care of myself has gone right out the window. I’m still spending money I shouldn’t.

I wanted to buy two shirts off eBay today, but luckily, the phone rang and I forgot about one until the auction was over. I let the other one pass as I engulfed myself in a project. Getting easily distracted can have benefits.

The nurse is prescribing a different mood stabilizer that has fewer side effects. I’ll start that as soon as I can rip myself away from all the distractions I have at home and can go to the store to pick it up.

Ah, euphoria. How I wish you didn’t feel so good and would simply leave me alone.

Whee!

I’m a little bit manic. How are you? Fine, you say. Good. I’m glad to hear it. I’m going to win the lottery today. Yes, I am. I’ll start by buying a house with enormous closets to fill with beautiful clothes. I think I’ll eat another cinnamon roll. Ooo! I’ll go to the French bakery in town and buy their fresh croissants. I’ll eat those smeared with real butter and the most expensive strawberry jam I can find in town. It’s time to drive to the top of a mountain and do a dance. I’ll bring down the rain. Yes, I’ll do a rain dance, and then I’ll take off my clothes and dance in the rain. I’ll race down the mountain burning up my brakes and buy a new Audi when I get to the bottom. Purple. I’ll paint the walls purple with a green stripe about 3 or 4 feet up from the floor, and if paint drips on the carpet, well, never mind, it’s just a rental and the clouds in the sky are telling me stories about Native Americans of long ago and their secrets are whispering in my ears just below the point of hearing, while I pace around my little house and watch the trees outside swaying with the wind, and my curtains blow with the wind, and the mailman will be here soon with my invitation to the White House dinner all because of my birthday; then there’s ice cream to eat, and pots of boiling water to prepare for the spaghetti dinner that I’ve forgotten to invite anyone to and the table will be set just right, move the pumpkin now, but be careful, we’ll carve it into a jack-o-lantern soon and set it out to frighten away the ghouls and ghosts. Spell check is the best invention ever. There.

Yes.

There.

That’s my manic mind. That’s today.

It’s time for a pill and sleep and then a call to the psychiatrist and then a therapy session with the psychologist.

It’s also time for a good cry. If only I could. I wish I could.

Hold me.

A Dream

I had an odd dream this morning just before I woke up. I was in a train that was going the wrong way. I decided to take matters into my own hands and took control of the train. I stopped it and started it going the right direction. However, my sight ahead on the tracks was limited to a tiny peephole in the front of the control room.

Sure enough, there was someone else on the same tracks that I couldn’t see, and we crashed. What was humorous was they were driving those long skinny cars used for what were called drag races when I was growing up.

If I had to guess what the dreams might mean, I’d say that I’d better make sure I have clear vision before I go my own way, or I might run into some surprises.

I saw my psychiatric prescribing nurse this week. She’s moved into a new office, and it was my first time there. We talked about the normal things like medication and such, and I brought up that I’m having some benign auditory hallucinations. I’m hearing chords of music. It’s nothing that makes any sense or has any meaning. It’s just descending scales of sound. It actually woke me up one night, and I had to go to the open window to make sure I wasn’t hearing something from a neighbor. I wasn’t. It was just me.

I take this to mean that I need to be diligent in my medication regimen. Like the dream, if I were to suddenly stop taking my medication, there would be some surprises.

I feel lucky to live in the time that I do. I’m glad that there is medication to help me with my mental illness.

A damn shame

My psychiatrist is moving. He’s actually being transferred from one public clinic to another one in a town two hours away. I’ve been seeing this doctor for three and a half years. He knows me inside and out. I’ve built a solid relationship with him.

Now, I’m going to have to start all over again. His replacement is a nurse practitioner. That’s not the problem. The difficulty lies in dealing with somebody new. I’m going to have to build a new relationship, and that takes time and effort.

I’ve been feeling like quitting lately. Not life. Everything else. I want to cut myself off from all the hurt the world throws about. I have been seriously thinking of quitting the few clubs I belong to. I want to lie down and sleep. Just sleep.

Simultaneously, I’ve been putting out personal ads asking for men interested in long-term relationships. I’m tired of hurting, and instead, I want touch. I want intimacy, yet I desire isolation.

I am conflicted.

This too shall pass.

Depression Day 3 or 4

Here’s what I’m feeling: sadness, heaviness, guilt, shame, loathing for self and others, anger, and so much more.

Here’s what I’m doing that may not be helpful: denying myself food, sleeping long hours.

Here’s what I wish I was doing: walking, meditating, being grateful for my life and circumstances. But concentrating on those just reinforces the guilt, making me think that once again it’s all my fault.

Here’s what I’m doing that I know is right: taking my medication as prescribed, brushing my teeth.

I once had a friend who suffered from debilitating, major depression. I talked with him on the phone daily and asked him to do just one nice thing for himself that day. Today, I’m going to do just one nice thing for myself. I’m going to eat a full meal.

It’s a start out of the pit.