A Question

Grief comes in waves, and yesterday, I was experiencing a wave of grief for my relationship that ended 2 months ago. I chatted with my best friend about it. I had questions about my ex-boyfriend and his feelings that, of course, my best friend could not answer. I didn’t expect him to. I simply wanted to express my thoughts. He answered with a question:

Why is everyone broken?

And it stopped me in the middle of my stream of thoughts. It was the perfect question.

We are each one of us broken. We have all experienced pain.

My next question is more important:

What are we doing about our brokenness?

Being broken is not the real problem. What we are each doing about it is. I have been actively working on my brokenness for more than 30 years. It has been a long process. I can honestly say that I’ve healed some truly big traumas. I can say to anyone who needs to hear it that healing is possible. It really is. I did it. The work is worth it. There were times the work was painful, but the reward is so good. I feel whole today.

I’m still healing more broken bits that I find under the healed places. It never ends, but it truly does get better.

My healing comes through meditation, therapy, medication, exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet. Your healing will come through ways that are appropriate for you. If you need guidance about how to start, I recommend talking to a doctor or therapist first. You’ll know what’s right for you. Use that.

Advertisements

Walking Through It

In my last post, I wrote about my recent break up. I’m still experiencing varied moods due to the end of that romantic relationship. I have good days and bad ones.

I’m happy to say I’m using the tools I have, and they help a great deal.

My most important tool is meditation. I am able to release a lot of difficult emotions very quickly and thoroughly by doing some simple meditative techniques I’ve learned over the years. I wrote about one technique in that last post.

I’ve used medication, too. I have some medicine I can take for anxiety. I have used them occasionally. I used them daily just after the break up.

I’ve spoken to my therapist often, and that helps give me clarity.

I’ve chatted with my best friend multiple times each day. He’s a rock in this situation, and I’m grateful for his love and support.

I’ve exercised a lot, too. I’ve walked and walked. I enjoy speed walking, so I do it daily these days.

I’ve been careful with what I eat. I allow myself some junk every once in a while, but I’m careful. I eat an almost completely vegetarian diet. It feels like the right thing for me to do.

I’ve been getting good sleep most nights, which is an enormous help. Sleep resets me, so I can start fresh every morning.

Yesterday was a rough day, but I used the tools, and I survived. Today feels better except for the fact I didn’t get enough sleep for some unknown reason. I’ll be fine.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Enduring Difficult News

The news is full of difficulty these days, and it’s unlikely to become easier in the very near future.

In good times and in bad times, my first priority is my recovery. In difficult times, I must concentrate on the steps I take to maintain my stability.

  • I take my meds as prescribed, because they work for me.
  • I have increased the frequency of my visits to my therapist to weekly. Talking to my therapist is a valuable tool for me to use to keep my mind clear.
  • My meditation has become more important than ever. I use it to clear negativity, and I meditate multiple times each day.
  • I exercise. I speed walk 2.5 miles a minimum of 3 times each week. I am convinced exercise helps me stay stable.
  • I eat food that is good for me. A year ago, I drastically cut the amount of processed sugar I eat on a daily basis. It has made a wonderful change in my mood, and I’ve lost 45 pounds (20 kg). I eat a lot of vegetables.
  • Finally, I do my best to get good sleep. It’s the only time my whole body is shut down in order to refresh itself.

When the news is full of difficulty, my most important response is to maintain my own recovery. I cannot be an effective advocate for my mental health peers if I’m out of sorts. I am my #1 priority.

Nineteen Years

Today, I celebrate nineteen years of sobriety. A friend reminded me that’s a long time. At first I thought about the fact that it’s only a string of single days all put together, but you know what? It is indeed a long time, and it’s a big deal.

It’s easy to live through the single successive days and lose sight of the larger picture. In that string of single days, I’ve built up a lot of really good stuff. A lot has happened that was truly good. There was some bad, too. I remember the bad, but today, I feel the good more.

The best is that I healed. I drank because I was broken. Sobriety helped me know how important it was to reach out and get the help I needed to heal. I did that, and it worked. Read some of the past posts on this blog to understand how I’ve used therapy, medication, meditation, exercise, and sleep in my recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

And today I celebrate nineteen years! Hooray!

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.