Hoist On My Own Petard

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It figures. Last time I wrote on here I did a post on re-framing my past and how I tried to look at my life differently so I could unhook the bad stuff and be OK with it all. So what happens? I run into an old friend I haven’t seen in 10 or 15 years and all of a sudden I’m thrown back into the times I knew her and what all happened then. She was around for much of the dysfunction I went thru when I had my breakdown in ’95 and before and after that. So she knows my story, or thought she did….

I thought I could just relate some of what happened to me back then, but I found myself slipping into the emotions of the past as all the pain and hurt I experienced when I fell apart back then came flooding back. I couldn’t shut it out and I wrote her things I wish I hadn’t just to vent some and get it out of my system. I couldn’t stop myself and I made a fool of myself, tho she kindly didn’t think so, so maybe I’m being too hard on myself. She thought so.

I was caught right in the middle of the situation I’d just written about where I had to look at things differently. Over the course of a few emails we worked out the issues thru discussion and I came to a feeling of acceptance, which was my goal, but it sure was hard to do. I talked in my last post like it was something that I’m good at doing, and I guess I am, but man it’s hard. I had to re-frame in progress and that’s not easy.

I found myself defending my actions instead of just trashing myself tho I did plenty of that too. You see I feel responsible for losing it and letting the Non-Profit Educational Learning Center I created in ’91 fall apart when I fell apart in ’95. It was a great community resource and I lost it and couldn’t keep it going. I thought I’d be doing it for the rest of my life but life intrudes in strange ways and changes things.

My emotions got pretty whacked by the experience back then and it’s clear I’ve still got some residual anger and bitterness about it all, even tho I can say I did a great job of it and helped a lot of people. But that flies out the window when I go down the low road to depression, which I did in the time it took me to write a single email. Wow.

That resonates with my earlier post on Cycling. What I did was do an Ultra Rapid Cycle in a couple of minutes. It really did happen that fast. I’ve had this happen hundreds of times but I still can’t get used to it very well. It’s so powerful. I feel overwhelmed by it and I hate feeling disempowered. I’m used to being in control, tho that’s a joke when you have Bipolar Disorder with rapid cycling and mixed states so often, even tho I’m a model of recovery in many ways.

I see my lesson here as once again being myself and accepting my foibles and crashes and not beating myself up for them. I do the best I can and it’s pretty good. I’m in a bit of a shaky state right now in that I’m both trying to figure out which of my supplements is making me sick, so I’m doing a trial of quitting them all and then adding one back at a time to see if I can see which ones hurt me. And I’m also cutting back on my morphine and that’s causing some withdrawal I think.

I take a huge dose of the stuff for my pain and it comes as 30 mg extended release tablets so I can’t cut them in half. So when I decided to go down on them I had to do it 30 mgs at a time which is a big dose. I went off the first 30 and I did OK for 2 weeks so I went on down another 30 and it’s been a week and 1/2 and I’ve been feeling it some. My pain is coming back and I feel lousy. So I have those extra bits of emotional triggers to add to my distress in the emails I did.

It’s all part of my life and I have to just go with the flow and do the best I can. It’d be so nice to cut my opiates and not be so dependent on them for my survival. But that may not be possible. I may have to take a large dose of them for years, as I have already. And of course I still take my Bipolar meds too – an Anti-psychotic called Abilify and some Klonopin and Buspar for anxiety. I can’t take antidepressants like most people with BP, as they can make us manic. Not good…

So what is this rambling post all about anyway? I guess I’m just reflecting on my own attempts to live my life without so many regrets for my actions and behaviors of the past, and acknowledging that sometimes I’m a bit too facile in thinking that I can fix things easily. I can’t. I made a lot of mistakes but I did a lot of good work too, and I have to remember that part and not put so much emphasis on the bad stuff.

It’s that simple but it’s so difficult to do. I keep saying that and I don’t mean it to sound like I’m a victim. I don’t feel like one. But I do feel  out of control often and that’s a challenge for anyone, especially when your mind is playing games with you and you hurt all the time.

But life is grand anyway. I have so many good things to be grateful for and I give thanks for them every day. I’m grateful for the people who read my blogs here and on other sites I belong to. I don’t get out as much as I’d like to and I intend to change that soon, but the web has been a salvation for me in terms of airing my opinions and feelings about my life.

This blog in particular is about my feeling Invisible in my Illnesses. That’s still my main theme here, and as you can see, all that I’ve just been thru was invisible to anyone else I didn’t let on to about it. I told my partner of course but he gets it pretty well and cuts me slack. I have to cut myself the slack tho. And I am. And here I feel like maybe I’m Visible for a change.

Do you see me?

Steve

Re-Framing the Past

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I seem to spend a lot of my time reliving my past. I try hard not to do this. I do exercises of non-engagement with my thoughts. I do cognitive therapy and change my thinking to something else.  I read and listen to music or watch movies or tv to distract myself. But it’s always there, underneath it  all. All the things I haven’t let go of yet that haunt me to this day.

It comes bubbling up when I least expect it. All the things in my past I wish I could forget. But of course forgetting isn’t really what’s called for. It’s remembering the lessons and then re-framing it to something bearable and acceptable, something that you can live with and feel OK about your life still.

I write a lot in my journals. It’s a mixed bag. I do good work there, in terms of working thru my issues and trying to see where I’ve blown it and where I could make changes. But so often I find that I ruminate, running around and around in my head. Instead of writing I get caught in many of the things  in my past that I’ve messed up on. Ways in which I’ve let my Bipolar disorder run rampant and done things that I feel ashamed of and need to desperately stop thinking about. So I’m working on re-framing them in my mind as to what actually happened.

You see I think that memory is a tricky thing and that no two people ever remember the same event the same way. Just as we can’t step in the exact same river twice. We know that we change and grow as we age. so it’s absolutely true that the person who did those things in my past is Not the same person that is siting here writing this piece. I can look back at what that person did and divorce myself from the attachment to the feelings I have about the event. It’s like unhooking yourself from a tether in a real way. It’s the first step.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? There are plenty of people out there who will do trainings with you to help you do this, and charge you a lot of money for it. That’s fine, but I think we can do this for ourselves, tho it’s hard to do and I can’t say I’m always successful at it. But I keep on trying to get it right and I’m getting better at it the more I do it, as is usual when you practice something. You just have to see yourself as a separate person from the one in your past. You are, if my theory of memory and not stepping in the same river twice is true anyway.

Letting go is hard for me and I seem to have a tendency to hold onto the bad things easier than the good ones. I wrote a bit ago that it’s wonderful how when you’re happy you tend to forget the bad times and when you’re depressed you can’t remember the good times. But it’s not always like that. Sometimes the bad times gain ascendency and take over the mind, and when that happens – look out. Things can become irrational very fast and it takes a lot to hold on and stay in the present and not back in those bad times in the past that just popped up into your mind.

I dunno why memories do it that way to me. I guess it’s just the nature of them. I can be fine and having a wonderful time and all of a sudden out of nowhere a memory will come into my mind of a time in the past when I messed up bad and my world shifts and I’m in Depression, bad. All it takes is a second but it takes me away from this reality. I have to stop it immediately or I lose it and go back to where I was and I hate that, ya know?

So I have to re-frame it when I get over being upset. I can’t do it when I’m in a bad place too well tho I need to learn how to someday. If I can re-frame something to a better scenario when I’m OK then it’s better the next time it gets me when I’m not OK. It’s not like I forget the past or it didn’t happen. It surely did and I need to remember the lessons I learned from that time. But I don’t need to beat myself up for them and feel like I was a monster like I do sometimes. It can be hard to remember that you’re really a nice guy…

I guess I’ve talked around this enough and I should say what it is I actually to do when I re-frame things. I go back to the time and I look at the context of where I was at and what was happening at the time and at who I was and the person I was pretending to be then and see how hard on me it was to try to pretend I was OK all the time. Usually that’s when I mess up. I saw that I often did/do things that were not nice in ways that I saw as simple self defense at the time but in reality may have been cruel and unkind to others. It’s way different to see yourself as a scared person trying to survive than it is to see a mean one that was bad to others.

I cut myself some slack is what I do then. I see myself differently, as a person in need of compassion, not judgement. I relieve myself of having to have been a perfect person then, whenever it was – 40 years ago or last week – it’s all the same. I absolve myself of wrongdoing and I empathize with myself for being tough enough to make it this far in life and not kill myself before I got here. It’s been close more than a few times….

I Don’t Forget the Lessons tho. That’s pretty key for me. If I don’t learn something in this difficult process then what good is it really? It’s necessary to remember what you’ve done in life, it’s just not necessary to look at yourself in a poor light because of it. I guess some people call this forgiveness. I just call it Acceptance of my whole Self.

Whatever you call it it’s required for re-framing your past. You have to let go and get over it and go on with things. Oh, it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But we know it’s not. Those of us with a mental illness that causes us to berate ourselves all the time for things we’ve done and not done and never giving up on it. We know that our minds can be our allies or our enemies. The trick, I think, is to try your best to befriend your mind. Maybe I’ll write about that sometime…

Remember to allow yourself to Let go….

Steve

Stable but Still Cycling

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I just turned 63 this week so I figured maybe it’s time to check in here again. I’ve been so busy trying to stay OK and working in my garden and on the house. Through it all I’ve been healing from my surgery last May that I discussed I was going to have in my last post. Finally I’m healed up enough to enjoy having sex again so that’s a huge relief and my mood has taken a giant turn for the better since then. Hooray for Bionic Sex! But I still cycle all the time and it’s sometimes getting to me bad.

I did a homework assignment for my counselor the other week. He asked me to write down the good things in my life. Instead I did an old exercise I’ve done for 30 or more years. At the top of the page I wrote down “Who Am I?” and then I wrote down whatever came into my head. You can’t censor it, you have to write it all. Positive or negative. It could be “a piece of crap” or a “sparkling bit of light”. I get all sorts of weird concepts but overall it gives me a snap shot of my feelings and thoughts at the moment, and I had a lot of good ones in there with the bad.

It’s a great exercise and gave me a different perspective on all the negative emotions I’ve been going thru lately. It was like a catalyst and it changed my thinking for the better. Even in the midst of working hard on the house and gardens and accomplishing good things, I’ve still had this recurring cycle of downward spiraling thoughts that make me feel like dying and like I’m a useless human being. This is old stuff to those of us with cycling Bipolar I know but I’ve been doing it recently so I’m writing about it. I’ve been worse many times and couldn’t have put this on the page before.

My mind feels like the picture I posted. All open to sensations and input from the outside world that I can’t keep out very well. I shift each day from one kind of feeling to another without much break sometimes and it’s hard to cope. But I’m a lucky guy in that I have a wonderful partner to help me thru it all. He keeps me grounded and we’re so in love that the it’s wonderful and makes me feel like I deserve to live perhaps, tho it’s still a hard call sometimes. I’m so lucky to have him…

Anyway the exercise that I did is one I’d really recommend to other people struggling with their self image right now. It’s really easy to do but you have to honestly write down all the things you hear in your head, whether they’re good or bad, that’s what counts. It’s all who we are and none of us are purely saints or devils. We all have a range of possibilities of acting and thinking, and if we focus on that and the positive aspects of our lives it’s a lot easier on us, tho it’s often hard to do it.

Today has been especially hard for me. I’m trying to cut back on my Morphine a bit and I did so last night and I didn’t sleep well and woke up in pain and in a terrible, awful mood. I was so angry listening to the news I had to quit and go take some meds to calm me down. I also decided to write this post. It all helps me when I get this way. I’m better than I was an hour ago but I still feel wonky and uncertain. I feel fragile and like I could break too easily. A common feeling and one I know how to deal with pretty well. Drugs aren’t my only answers. I  have some nice Ravi Shankar sitar music playing on the computer as a backdrop to aid in my mood restoration, and I’m actively Trying to feel better. It’s working…

I suppose most people would say that I’m a good model of Recovery in my Bipolar reality. I can interact with people well and mostly enjoy my life. But these cycles keep me reminded that I have a serious mental illness that I have to constantly monitor even in my best of moods. I can snap in an instant and become totally enraged or become so depressed I want to die right then. It’s the story of rapid cycling and many of us do it. It’s hard to stay OK when your mind keeps sabotaging you.

I have a hard time with the biochemical explanation of Bipolar Disorder, but I don’t know what else to say about it. I clearly can’t control my mind on occasion no matter what I do, and I’m good a rearranging my  mind. So I feel forced to accept this diagnosis as a biochemical disorder that is beyond my absolute control, even tho I have a lot of that control. But I don’t always have it and I have to recognize that and go with the flow. If only I could remember how good life can be when I’m depressed. It’s a curse to forget that while it’s a blessing to be able to forget how bad the depressions are when you’re not in them. What a paradox, eh?

So I’m trying my best to go with that flow and to stay stable in the midst of my mind telling me I’m not OK. I’m doing good with it all but I sure wish life was different sometimes. It gets so hard to stay sane in an insane world. I’m hoping to be able to write more about my journey in this blog this winter when I have some time. There are a lot of things I’d like to say if I can get the words out and make sense of them.

And if my words can help others at all I feel blessed and grateful beyond measure. I get so much from all of you on here that it’s only fair to try to give back when I can. I try to do that in sharing my story and hope that some one recognizes themselves in it and is comforted by the empathy and camaraderie. I do get it…

Be well, and cycle carefully,

Steve