Opiates!!!

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I got home from the University of Washington Pain Management Clinic a little while ago. I’d been sent there by my new doctor who wanted a review of my condition so she could treat me appropriately. It was an interesting experience. We went thru the usual tests of range of motion, gait analysis, mobility of limbs, needle pricks to see if I felt the sharpness (I did) and so forth. Nothing new from this testing and no new information about what was going on with me. But I did gain some important new knowledge.

I learned that the brilliant legislators in Washington State have decreed that no one shall be allowed more than 120 mgs. of opiates a day. Period. No discussion, no rebuttal, no recourse. This is a bit of a problem for me, you see, because for the last dozen years or more I’ve  been taking close to 300 mgs of Morphine as well as 15-20mgs of Dilaudid (Hydromorphone) a day. Imagine my surprise when they told me this. I was not shocked, because I know what the climate of the country is like these days around opiates. I was expecting something, but nothing this extreme. I mean they wanted to cut me back over 1/2 of what I’ve been taking for Years! Fuck!!!

Part of me wants to go down to Olympia and break the legs of every (probably Republican) legislator who voted for this draconian measure and leave them in pain forever while they beg for some relief. After all, that’s what I’ll be doing pretty soon – begging for relief – as soon as they drop me down to the 120 mgs. I’m now allowed. Sigh. I have what’s called Chronic Intractable Pain, so called because it’s constant, severe, disabling, and causes detectable changes in your heart rate, blood pressure, etc, and if it’s not treated it ends in death. Yep, a fun diagnosis for sure. I’m lovin’ it myself… I can function, but I’m always in pain and if I do much of anything it spikes so that I have to take some dilaudid for breakthrough pain. It helps a lot but it doesn’t make it go away completely.

I’d changed docs from the one I’d been seeing for 13 years because he stopped prescribing opiates. He never asked me to pee in a cup during that whole time because he trusted me not to mess with my meds, and I never have. Why would I? It’s Stupid! But the new doc at the UW clinic requires me to do that so that they can see if I’m honest. I am, and soon they’ll learn that, if they can keep treating me that is. I dunno if they will or not. Most doctors won’t touch me with the proverbial 10 foot pole. I sure hope the UW helps me or else I’ll be so sick I’ll be in the hospital for withdrawal symptoms. I mean 300 mgs a day is a Lot of morphine, let alone the dilaudid.

I understand that people are freaked out by the rising epidemic of opiate deaths due to mis-used pain medication. I feel badly about this. After all, addiction is a disease, and maybe they can’t help themselves. But a part of me is furious at them and at the politicians who seek to make headlines with new laws to keep people like me from getting the medicine they need to live a good life. Before I got the opiates I was a mess – I fit the portrait of Chronic Intractable Pain I described above. I spent a lot of time resting and I didn’t do a lot because I hurt too much. I still hurt, even with the meds. What will I do without my usual dose? I’m freaking out here!

No, I’m not – yet. I’m trying to stay calm. After all it’s only been a few months that I’ve felt relatively stable with my Bipolar Disorder. I’m not out of the woods yet and I still get suicidal and all, but I’m doing better than I have in ages. So imagine what this will do to my mood. Pain and mood are inextricably intertwined and if I hurt I often get depressed, and vice versa. It’s a vicious circle and I’m trapped in it for life. I’m not playing victim here – it’s just my reality. I do my best to live with it and I do pretty well, now – but what about 6 months from now? Where will I be then?

I hate that because some people overdose on opiates and die that the country is overreacting so severely as to limit what pain patients truly need to be OK. Obviously none of these politicians lives with severe chronic pain. If they did maybe they’d have some compassion for us. I’m angry at them and at the ones who abuse the opiates I need for survival, thus keeping them from me. The old rotten apple syndrome for sure. I never get”high” from these meds. I’m just in less pain is all. So for them to take my medicine away because some people do get high is totally unjust and wrong. Just because a few people screw it up for the rest of us is no excuse for this travesty. I’ll be writing my  congressperson soon, you can bet on it. Not that it’ll  do any good, but maybe I’ll feel like I’m doing something to change things that are so wrong. It’s an overwhelming feeling to be in this position.

I’m 65 now, and I’ve been living with chronic pain since I was 25. That’s a long time to live in pain. I hate it. But I have a good life because of the opiates that keep me functional and not in so much pain. I can live my life as I choose to. Maybe I don’t deserve to, I dunno. But that’s my depression talking. I do deserve to be OK and not suffer so much. We All deserve that. But the politicians who want to control our every breath don’t give a shit, and they make the laws so I have obey them. I’ll go along, because I HAVE NO CHOICE!! Such is life, eh?

Pissed off royally,

Steve

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I Was A Different Person Then…

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I used to think of myself as a competent person. I started my first business in my early 20’s and created several more over the years, ending with a non-profit Healing Arts Center I founded in 1991. I thought I’d found my place in the world and would be working at it for the rest of my life. But it didn’t work out that way. I finally got “caught out” and had the worst breakdown in my life at 44. I was diagnosed with Bipolar and was forced to take a hard look at my life. What I found was that I hadn’t really  been as competent all my life as I’d thought. I was just Hypo/manic.

I don’t mean to say I never accomplished anything good. I did some good community service work and created some beautiful landscapes and gardens. But it was my headspace that messed me up. I’d thought I was good at what I did, and I guess I sorta was. I got by anyway, mostly by being a good bullshitter. I was good at projecting competence, even when it wasn’t real, as so often happened. People accepted me for who I said I was and who I pretended to be. I was good at it.

Now I look back at the work I did and see how much of it was fueled by mania or sometimes just hypomania. I doubt I ever had any real competence at all, tho I knew enough to get by, as I said. I was a con man, tho I never would have said I was or thought it at all. I always thought I was doing good work and helping to make the world a better place. And I did. But the cost was enormous. And not just to me. I cringe when I think of some of the gardens I planted that weren’t as good as they should have been. People live with my mistakes even now. It drives me nuts.

I know that hiding ourselves is a big part of being Bipolar. (Having bipolar?? – whatever…) A lot of us hide who we really are because we somehow know we’re not quite “right”, even tho we don’t know what’s wrong at the time. I always thought I was just a high energy, hyper person who was very creative and able to do amazing things that other people couldn’t do. I was a bright sparkly light in the darkness at times and I relished it so much. But there was a darker energy lurking just under the surface.

It didn’t stop me tho. I did a lot of good stuff and created some amazing entities. I did so much that was wonderful and I thought I was a pretty neat guy for doing it. I transformed the places I worked at. And the ones I started myself were unique and treasured. I got lots of compliments and good strokes on what a good role model I was for striking out on my own and creating good things for my community. It made me high I’ll admit. Too high sometimes… And we know where that can go don’t we?? Whoa!

I’ve always been a rapid cycler, tho I didn’t know that’s what it was of course. I’d do a big job and then I’d crash and burn for awhile and then I’d get it back together and try again. And the damn same thing again, and again, and again. What a mess! Those down times were awful, often going clear down to suicidal ideation and one time going even farther when I tried to off myself. A bit extreme but it fit my life at the time. Luckily I got caught – but not diagnosed correctly of course – not for years…

I have a diagnosis now – several of them fact. BP I, PTSD, Dysthymia, Chronic Intractable Pain, and more I won’t go into. It’s been 20 plus years since I got that initial Dx of BP and in that time I’ve been mostly a mess so that I really couldn’t function too well. I lived in public housing for over a decade until I met Louie and moved into his home. I’m lucky now but I wasn’t always so lucky. I’ve had to accept that who I am now is Not who I used to be. I just can’t pull it off anymore, and maybe that’s a good thing.

I think I’m more real now than I’ve ever been. More true to who I really am. But those hypo/manias are a thing of the past for the most part. I still get too high/angry sometimes and have to down myself with drugs, but mostly I’m more depressed than manic and stay at a low level of energy and interaction. I’m doing some volunteer work for the city right now and I try to keep something of a social life, tho I lost most of my friends when I had the breakdown and afterwards. But that’s mostly OK. I miss having more friends, but the ones I have are good ones.

I’m still a decent guy I think. I try to live a good life and not mess the world up too much. In fact I try to help it when I can. I garden a lot and teach people about trees and the like. But I’m so much more cautious now. I’m so scared that I’ll screw up again like I did so often in the past. I’m afraid most of the time in fact. That old Impending Doom thing so many of us have. It’s so debilitating at times I can’t even function. I walk carefully through the world these days.

It really does make life more difficult and I look forward to the day I heal from this attitude I have now that nothing I ever did was really real or that I was real myself. I know that can’t be true but it sure feels like it. Those damn feelings again. Not rational at all, but so overwhelming that you can’t ignore them and it feels like they’re all there is to life. I get caught in this so much. I’m afraid to even act much of the time for fear I’ll blow it. I’m not like I used to be at all really, when I had so much courage and self confidence to do such incredible things. I miss that.

That guy is gone and good riddance. He was a braggart and a poseur and a con artist and I’m none of those things in my heart. I’m not who I used to be tho I still have a core of Self that will always be inviolate and that will keep me OK forever, I hope. It’s real now, not some false mania or hyper action that I jump into without thinking of the consequences. I may still do that and I sure still make mistakes, but I feel like they’re really my own now and not some unreal thing I manufactured to get by and get ahead without knowing the results completely. I understand more now.

Yes, I was a different person then. A good one but not always solid and real and true to myself. I was so confident and I miss that confidence a lot. But was it real confidence or just mental illness? I guess it was a little of both, but I think it was tilted toward the illness. Now that I know what I’m dealing with I can do it better. I can’t always control my life, but I try hard and I try to be as real as possible. It seems to be working to some extent and I’m in better shape than I have been in a long time now. So I’m glad I’m different, but I miss the highs and the bravado and most of all the self confidence.

I’ll just have to get used to it, eh?

Steve

At Peace at the Ocean

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My partner Louie and I just spent a week at the ocean about 3 hours west of Seattle and a bit north along the coast. We went to a little town called Moclips, right next to the Quinalt Indian Nation lands. We had a full week of sunny weather and no rain with just a bit of  breeze at times to keep the air moving, as it always does near the sea. It was a peaceful time.

I spend so much time writing about hard stuff in this blog that I thought maybe it was time I wrote about how well my life is going right now. I’m stable, for the most part, with my Bipolar Disorder and my back is in decent shape except for a twinge or two now and then lately. It went out on me a few weeks ago but it seems to be OK now, I hope.  It’s much easier when I’m not in such pain all the time.

It’s been very nice here in Seattle too lately, with sunshine and clear weather, tho it’s supposed to go back to rain again tomorrow. I hope I can get some w0rk done on the veggie garden today before that happens. Louie is out of town for a week at a funeral so I have the house to myself, a mixed blessing. I miss him a lot but I’m getting a lot done too so it’s a trade off I guess.

Spending time at the sea near the Rain Forest was an incredible experience. I never feel so close to a sense of divinity as when I’m at the forest or some other wild place on earth. It just feels like I’m in my Temple and it’s all the spirituality I need to stay solid in my sense of connections with all life on the planet and beyond it. It’s easy to feel connected in a rain forest.

It’s so truly primeval and primal in it’s lush growth and fullness of life. There are creatures growing everywhere you step or look and it’s OK because the Forest Service has built in some nice trails that let you be able to go into the forest because it’s so dense and not hurt things. It isn’t a place to just wander in the woods at all. You have to cut your way thru and that’s not something I like to do. I prefer to find old animal trails and follow them. If I do it at all.

Being with trees that are hundreds of years old is a remarkable experience. It really puts your own life in perspective. We matter so very little in the great scheme of things yet to ourselves we’re all we have and must make the best of our lives while we have the chance. I don’t believe in reincarnation or an afterlife, and believe we have to make the best of the time we have here on the planet to make a good life and be good people.

When I’m stable like this and not wandering all over the place in my mind I can truly appreciate the wonders of the natural world. I can slow myself down enough to listen to the woods and the sea. Really listen and hear what the voices of the land and ocean have to say to me. Mostly I get that I am a part of all this and that my presence would go unnoticed by those creatures of the forest and so I try to leave it as I found it so no one will know I’ve been there.

As they say – take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints. That’s the way I do it. Of course along the beach the sea covers your tracks almost immediately after you leave them but in the rain forest they could last for awhile, til the next rain comes and washes them away. It makes one’s visit seem very transitory to these ancient beings who inhabit this land.

We saw the world’s largest Spruce tree and some of the other large trees of the rain forest area in this valley we went to. See: http://gardeningingreenwood.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/trees-of-the-rain-forest/ for more information on the specifics of these amazing trees and how many of them are in this valley. It’s an ancient land and largely untouched by human hands.

Being with these huge and ancient trees always makes me feel humble and insignificant. The stories these trees could tell if we only knew how to listen to them. I “hear” them talk to me all the time and always have, but I question whether or not it’s the trees or just my mind that is talking to me. I don’t really care. I get good information from them and they help me stay sane so it’s all good to me.

Whether or not it’s actually the voices of the land or sea or trees or birds or animals talking to me doesn’t really matter to me if they seem to be reasonable and tell me useful things. When they just goof on me and tell me stupid things I’ve had to learn that sometimes the voices in my head are just that – voices in my head.  I should ignore them. But the good ones I listen to and get good help on occasion. Why not?

This last week at the ocean gave me a much needed break from my usual reality of chores around the house and working in the garden, as much as I love to do that, and just from city life for a little while. It’s so beautiful there and I could hear my thoughts and those voices in my head were mostly kind to me and gave me solace instead of grief as they do so often. At the ocean it was all about the natural world and I am clearly a part of it.

This is so important to me when I tend to lose it so badly at times and feel so disconnected with life. It’s impossible not to feel connected with it when you’re in the midst of such riotous abundance of it like you find at the rain forest. Life is just so full and rich there and it’s easy to wonder how humans fit into this harsh environment.

But really it’s not that harsh as it seems. The Indian communities along this coast always had plenty of food to eat from the sea and had time to make beautiful works of art that they used to decorate their ceremonial places and their own bodies. They had give-aways where they shared the wealth among them and always took care of the lesser members of the tribe. It’s a bountiful area to live in til the white man came and took so much of it away.

I won’t go into that now because it’s too painful for me. I feel a deep resonance with Native cultures and always have. I learned many of their ways studying with a Native medicine person for many years and learning the ancient ways of his people. It helped me a lot but I had to leave in time and I stayed as long as I should have and needed to find my own path again.

I’ve done that now, tho I tend to fall off of it now and then, as I write about here so often. But as I said this post is about how well I’m doing and I want to end with that part of it. It’s not often that I can write such a positive piece as this one so it’s kind of a big deal to me. I go up and down so often with the bipolar and the pain and all the rest of it, that to find a moment of peace is worth a great deal to me. I’m grateful I had this time.

Thank you Mother Ocean,

Steve

Being a Light in the World Award

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I’m happy to say that Naked Nerves has been nominated for a “Being a Light in the World” award by Dr Rex. She has one of the most prolific and eclectic blogs I’ve seen on here and I’m simply amazed at all her energy and how she follows so many diverse areas of experience. She posts several times a day and always has something good to say or to put out something good someone else has said. She re-blogs a lot of wonderful posts as well as telling her own in her forthright style that pulls no punches and tells it like it is. That makes it an incredible blog called “It Is What It Is”, and you can find her here: http://hrexach.wordpress.com/. I highly encourage you to visit her site and learn something new. You’ll find it here I’m sure. She stays up on all the current stories in our vastly changing world and she does it with such ease and grace it seems like it must be easy. But I know she does a lot of work to put all of the things on her site she does. I’m glad to call her a friend on WordPress and to have been nominated for this award by her. Thanks a lot Horty! 😉

This is a new award that was just founded on March 4th so I guess I’m one of the first to receive it. It’s for those who write their blogs in order to make the world a better place to be with their work and I hope I live up to that in my blog here. I try to, that’s for sure. Here are the words of Barbara, the founder of this award, describing its purpose:

“I’m creating this Award to celebrate all those wonderful people in the World who spread Light, and Love and Hope and Peace in the name of All. 

These bloggers should consistently promote these qualities and work to be a force for peace and light in the world.”

I’m very honored to receive this award and I do try my best to bring light into the world however I can. I do it by writing about illness and the struggles those of us who have them face in dealing with the world and life. I hope my posts help others to recognize what it’s like to live their ways and to learn more and educate them about these conditions I face and that so may others face. I may write about hard subjects but I always try to put a good face on them when I can and stay positive as the award states. It’s a wonderful thing to receive and I’m very grateful. As Dr Rex says “We’re all in this together”. We surely are…

~~The Rules~~

“Thank the person who gives you the award

Spread this award around to the people who you know who are doing this work, so that the work continues and the light is spread

Let your nominees know 

Never give up on your fellow human beings”

I’ll do my best to honor those people who I believe are following the tenets of this award. I honor so many people I really don’t know how to choose just a few and I’m leery of doing too many. So just take it that You are receiving this award just by reading about it. That’s what it means to have carried it forward in your own way and if you want to put the award logo on your blog please do so. I did and it’s in my sidebar now. I know it’s not the same as nominating specific people but it’s the best I can do and I think it’ll go a long way to honor all the wonderful folks who do read what I write about. I hope that follows the spirit of the award if not the letter of the award. I tend to do things a bit differently anyway. So consider yourself nominated and keep putting the ideas of this award into practice as you already do. I’ll never give up on my fellow human beings to do the right things and be a light in the darkness and be a joy to the world with their work, art and all the things they do in their blogs. I have so many people who appreciate me, in my view anyway, and I’m grateful to all of you who do and who read my stories and like my words. I’m very grateful to my community here on WordPress and hope it contiues for a long time. Awards like this encourage me to keep going on. They help change the world with their energy. Thank you Dr Rex, and thank you Barbara, for creating this great new award.

For Peace and Love and Light!

Steve

Aging with Invisible Illness

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I’ve always enjoyed getting older. I’ve found that I discover new ways to live my life every day and that as I age I’m developing a greater sense of who I am and how to live a good life. I have a good home to live in and a partner who loves me dearly. I have good food to eat and medical care and many other good things in my life. I’m glad to be where I am at this point in my life.

But I worry about getting older as well. Especially with all the illnesses I suffer from. I worry about what’s going to happen to me as time goes on. I’ve heard conflicting stories about people aging with Bipolar Disorder. Some seem to say that you can get better as you get older as long as you take good care of yourself. That seems to be the way to me.

I’ve seen what happens when people with Bipolar don’t take care of themselves, either because they are too sick to do it or are in denial about having the illness and won’t seek treatment or get help. I have a difficult time with the latter folks who suffer so much and cause the ones around them to suffer too because they are too scared to want to know the truth of their situation.

But I don’t blame them either. I understand not wanting to know I guess, tho it’s not my way of being. Maybe it’d be easier if I pretended that I just don’t have these illnesses and try to live a normal life and see if I could get by OK without the drugs and the therapy and all the help I receive from my partner and friends. Maybe it’d be easier to be in denial, especially as I get older. Lots of people do it.

It’d be so much simpler to not have to deal with all these things I deal with on a daily basis. It’s truly overwhelming sometimes and I crash and burn just trying to keep myself from doing just that. It’s a vicious circle and as I age the circle seems to get tighter around me. The options seem to be fewer and I have to make better choices.

I have to be very careful in how I live with my aging body now having all the same things that happen to anyone who is 63 years old. A lot of my problems are just because I’m getting older and it’s part of human nature to age and deteriorate, at least to some extent. But doing it with illness just makes it seem impossible to handle. It makes it much harder if you’re sick.

I take something like 50 odd pills every day, most of which are allopathic medicines tho many are also supplements I take from my Naturopath. I think complimentary medicine is a good way to go and I see various MDs, a Psychiatrist, a counselor, a naturopath and an acupuncturist, at least for now. We’ll see how that all goes but it’s helping me now at least.

I’ve talked about most of the problems I face on here already but for those new to my blog I’ll update a few things with a link to a previous post I did early on that describes my conditions well. Read this to get a good take on things you probably don’t know about me and my illnesses here: https://nakednerves.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/30-things-about-my-invisible-illnes-you-may-not-know/. It’s grown a bit since I wrote it but it’s still true.

I live with Bipolar Disorder Type II and it’s probably my most serious illness, tho the chronic intractable pain I live with is a close second and at times it’s number one. Both are too challenging to really be able to cope with well or easily. But I do it and I’m so grateful for the help I get to do so. Without the help I’d be dead I’m sure. Such is life.

I wonder what will happen to me in the same way most people do – will my partner outlive me or will he pass first is probably my biggest concern. I really don’t know what I’d do if I lost him. I don’t know if I could go on without him in my life. He brings me so much joy and caring. I guess it’s the way for anyone in love isn’t it? But being sick adds an extra poignancy to it. I not only love him, I need him and his help. A lot…

I have good health care – having both Medicare and Medicaid because of my split disability. It’s good coverage and I’m lucky to have it because it pays for all my medical bills except for some co -pays. But I don’t trust the way things are going in the Congress as far as people on disability and pubic assistance. There are too many mean people who’d like to take it away from me and I wouldn’t have a way to live then.

This is a huge fear – that of losing my medical care for some obscure reason the government comes up with to save money by taking it from the poorest among us. And I have been poor. I lived in public housing for 12 or 13 years before I met Louie and moved in with him so I know I can do that if I have to but I sure don’t want to.

Public housing is awful and tho it’s a good roof over your head and I’m grateful for that it really curtails your freedoms and it’s difficult a lot of the time. At least it was for me. Plus there’s a lot of stigma attached to being on disability and living in public housing. It just adds to the burden of being sick. People can be so cruel…

But really the biggest fear I have is that they cut my medications down to below my threshold for pain and I’ll have to live with the pain I experience on a daily basis without enough medication. I take a whole lot of morphine every day and have to get a special permit to get that much. Each time they renew it I come unglued till it’s approved. Someday they might not approve it, and what do I do then?

I’ve tried to cut back on the morphine but it only showed me that I need this much to stay OK and not be in super bad pain all the time. I need it and I’m dependent on it too. It’s all a hateful situation to be stuck on opiates and listen to all the hoopla about people dying of it and how it’s misused so they want to take it away from all of us. It’s terribly scary and frightening. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Stay in bed all day I guess. Sigh…

And my mind is slowly slipping too. Of course some of that is aging naturally, but some of it is because of the depression and manias I go thru. The pain makes me nuts too so it’s all a vicious circle and as I age it’s getting worse to handle it. I don’t have as much mulch as I used to have to deal with it all. It’s getting to be too much.

I suppose the take away from all this is that when you’re really sick you already have to live your life very carefully so you can survive and thrive. But when you get older and you’re sick it doubles the responsibility you have to yourself and your family to really do a good job of being good to yourself and being smart about what you do with your time and energy.

You only have so much of it as you age and it’s really important that you put it to good use. It’s imperative to live honestly and openly and to ask for help as you need it, which you will, and to accept the good will that there is in the world around you. There are helpers everywhere if you allow them into your life. Don’t shut down as you age. Stay active and awake and you’ll be able to live a good life as you get older, even with Invisible Illness.

Consciously Aging,

Steve

The Shauny Award

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I’m very proud to say that Naked Nerves has been nominated for the Shauny Award by Jane Adams at “Jane Adams Art: an illustrated journal of eastern and western wisdom”. Jane’s blog is full of her beautiful artwork and images that encompass work from many years of her life. Her writing is as profound as her images and I always find something different and educational to read and see when I come to her blog. She has a deep sense of the wisdom of the planet and shares it in ways that are meaningful and accessible to each of us. I am continually amazed at the beauty she shows us in her work and her deep appreciation of life and all its mysteries. She’s a self described seer and lover of the wisdom of the ages in many diverse ways. You can find her blog at: http://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/ and I sincerely hope you’ll take some time to stop by and read what she has to say. I guarantee you’ll be as amazed as I am at the wonder she infuses into her work and how profound her understandings of esoteric teachings are, and how they can apply to real life every day. I learn new things every time I visit her and that’s very cool to me. She’s also a very kind person and has befriended me in a generous way and for that I’m truly grateful. Thank you Jane for offering me this award and for being such a knowledgeable, resourceful and friendly presence in the blogoshpere. Your work has deep roots and you exemplify the excellence this award is all about with your writing and artwork. It’s a privilege to know you….

This award is a relatively new one, and is given for Blogging Excellence, something that Jane does admirably and well.  It’s named after Shaun Gibson, a lad from Scotland who has offered us a unique set of “rules ” for this award. In essence the award says to:

“Show humanity, show love, be yourself,

don’t be others, don’t gossip

and then share with 10 others”

I do try to embody the tenets of this award in my life and work on Naked Nerves and elsewhere, and will continue to do my best to honor the spirit of this award in my life. These rules are just simple common sense to me and are so ingrained in my thinking that it’s not a hard thing for me to do at all. I’m sure the folks here on WordPress would agree with them and their aim – to create a better world. Shaun blogs about how that might happen on his site at: http://prayingforoneday.wordpress.com/ and I encourage you to check it out to see what he writes about there. Tho the rules may seem simple I think Shaun has hit on a profound recipe for kindness and love in this harsh world we live in. He’s a gentle soul and cares deeply for the state of the world as you can see in his writings. The rules may sound simple but they’re very deep in their wisdom. Thank you Shaun….

While I’ll follow the rest of the rules for this award I’m not going to nominate anyone for this just now. I’ve just gotten too many awards recently and have given them to others too frequently to feel comfortable in giving more of them out just now. Maybe some later day I’ll be able to nominate 10 people but for now I will just thank everyone who has come to this blog to read it and listen to my words and who has found some bit of help here, I hope. I know it helps me to write about the things I do here and I hope others appreciate it too. It’s not everywhere you can read about such things as bipolar illness, chronic pain and disability, and all the other invisible illnesses and mental health issues I  live with in one place. I’m grateful for this platform to be able to write from and for the acknowledgement of its good work. Work like this can change the world if we take it all in. I need to be honest about it and say I’ll just have to do the nominations later and respect the award in my own way. I’m truly honored to receive this and will do my best to play it forward when I can. Thank you again Jane…

Peace and Love to all of you who stop by to visit me here,

Steve

Blog for Mental Health 2014

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I’ve been meaning to write a post about what Bipolar Disorder has meant for my life. And here comes a situation wherein I’m asked to do just that in order to qualify for putting this badge on my site and being a part of the 2014 Mental Health Blogroll. Here are the words of the Founder of this project:

“I pledge my commitment to the 2014 Blog for Mental Health Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think that everything I write in Naked Nerves is about mental health in one way or another. That’s my perspective at any rate. It all comes down to your mind and how you treat it and to your interactions with others and how you deal with them when you have a mental illness. And how you stay healthy with one and don’t fall off the edge of the earth as it’s so easy to do.

A bit about my story. I wasn’t diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder until I was 45 years old. That’s pretty old for this disorder and all I can say is that I just plain didn’t get caught any sooner because I lived below the radar by living such an alternative lifestyle my whole life. I used different paradigms for my ways of being. I was just a hyper guy with some mood swings. No big deal eh? Wrong!

I’ve always been an alternative type and I never even knew what Bipolar was until shortly before I was diagnosed with it. But ignorance is no excuse and it’ll get you anyway. My mom gave me a book on depression and in it were stories of folks with Manic Depression. I recognized myself much better in those stories, so I went to a psychiatrist and said I think I’m bipolar. Am I? And he said, You Bet You Are!!!

At the time I was running a non profit educational center I’d started back in 1990 and I worked pretty hard at it. In fact I totally burned myself out doing it. I was grandiose in my Vision of what I’d created and I worked my ass off to make it happen. I overdid it and didn’t have enough help and it nearly killed me. Pretty classic I guess, for this disorder anyway…

I reached the point where I had such a severe mixed state episode that I lost it completely and had a mental/physical/spiritual/emotional breakdown that changed my life forever. I haven’t worked since and doubt I ever will since I’m now 63 years old and still too unstable for the job market. This cycle has happened to me Many times in my work life and it’s affected my career thru that my entire life.

Even tho I was 45 when I was diagnosed with BP, I was treated for depression when I was 29 and tried to kill myself in the process of coming out and dealing with identity issues and just felt too crazy and horrible about myself to live. Fortunately I survived that attempt and I’ve never tried it again, tho I want to often still.

But I have responsibilities to people and I can’t leave my lover, friends and family. I have to stay alive now, but it’s hard sometimes. I don’t care about myself then and wish I could just die, but it’s the love of others and my caring for them that keeps me here. I”m so lucky to have people to love and to love me. It keeps me alive.

I figure I’ve had this illness since I was a little kid. I can remember many rages and mood swings as early as then. I was a handful as a child and my parents didn’t know how to deal with me much of the time. I wasn’t a bad kid, just supper hyper and always changing in my moods and behaviors. I embodied the forms of bipolar even then before I knew it and it’s affected how I’ve lived forever.

I don’t mean it’s been the cause I’ve been the way I have been for my life. But I do recognize that it has had as big an impact on me as just about anything in my world ever has done. It’s allowed me to create so much in the world in the way of my work and cool things for my community. I did that when I was hypomanic and I’ve been that way most of my life so I got a lot done.

But I also had the crashes that came after my super creative days. I’ve fallen into the Pit so many times I can’t count them. But I always come back out again and that’s the main thing I try to remember about this disease. It always changes and if I feel like dying one day I can count on the fact that one day soon I’ll feel alright again and go on with my life. Knowing this can save me if I let it in.

I have to save myself. No one else will. I constantly work on my issues and my awareness of being bipolar and what it means for my life. I have to live Very Consciously and take good care of myself in all ways – diet, rest, people I hang out with, things I choose to spend my time doing and all the rest.

It takes a lot of concentration to do this and that comes and goes but my will is strong and I have excellent help from my partner, counselor and psychiatrist and other healers so I’m lucky and grateful for their help. I still cycle every day and some days I fall so deeply into depression that I just can’t believe it. In so many ways I’m a model of recovery, but in others I’m still a basket case.

But you wouldn’t know it to meet me. I seem fine, a curse in itself in some ways. Looking like you’re not ill and yet being ill is challenging and why I started this blog in fact. To write about what it’s like. Mental Health issues are about as Invisible as you can get, unless you’re in a super bad state of course. But usually you can’t see it and that’s a problem. It needs to be more Visible.

The folks who started this Mental Health Project seem to feel the same way I do as far as talking about it and how so much is connected to our mental health. You can read more about their project here: http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/. I feel a connection with these folks because of our similar views and my support of what they’re trying to do in making the invisible more visible.

As they say, mental health is Everyone’s issue, not just those of us who have a mental illness. So please do check out their site and learn some more about this cool project that has been going on for a couple of years now. I think it’s great and I hope you’ll consider putting their badge on your site too if you feel the way I do about it.

Education is our salvation if we want to lead whole lives and be accepted in our societies. I’m trying to help others by blogging here, and to help myself too. I always feel better after I write a good post, not to say they’re all good…. but I try. So remember that we all have mental health concerns and it’s important to acknowledge them and come out about them. We’ll change the world if we do….

Blogging for Mental Health in 2104 and beyond!

Steve

Going Within at Sun’s Return

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Today is the day. A few hours ago the Cycle moved a notch and the Wheel turned and we started to begin the slow journey back to the Light. It’s been a dark time lately for many of us and it still is I know. But there’s a change in the air and it’s affecting us all, deep in our bones, as we go about our daily routines.

It’ll be a few days til we can see this change with the Light, as the sun revolves and the days get longer each day. Each day we have a chance to make new choices and to let go of the things that have been holding us back from our true selves. I know for myself I have a lot to let go of still, even tho I try to do it all year around. Aligning ourselves with the energies of the Cycle can help us if we just plug into them.

Today is the tipping point as I think of it. It’s the day when the energies are all beginning their slow turn toward the summer when it’s all bright out and the sun shines every day. We have to be out with the world more and deal with all the things that we’ve been putting off during this dark time. Maybe we should let them go first, ya think?

It may be getting lighter each day but we’re still coping with the fallout of the past few months of going into that darkness and it hasn’t left us by any means. It’s still in our deepest beings and we have to let it work in us and flush out all the detritus that has gathered in our psyches over the fall and into the winter.

I follow a calendar that changes with the cross quarter days- Mayday starts the summer, August the beginning of autumn, Halloween the start of winter and February the start of spring. So the Equinoxes and Solstices are actually the middle of each season to me. It may sound strange but millions of people have used this calendar over the centuries and it still works today.

So tho we’re at the beginning of the return of the light we’re still in the middle of winter and it won’t end till early February. By then when the groundhog can see its shadow again, we know that spring is coming soon and then we really have to be strong to stand the changes of that new growth. It may start small but it’s a grand scheme and it gets far more intense.

That’s why it’s so important to deal with the dark things now when it’s still dark out and in our psyches. We can access these things more easily now because they occupy our minds with dark thoughts and difficult ideas. It’s the time when we have the energy to go deep within ourselves and see those places where we hold all our darkest desires and passions.

It takes a lot of courage to do this. And it’s not easy to do at all. These things have often been with us for a long time, decades in some cases, but we know it’s time to let them go and we better do it now while we have the energies of the universe on our sides. It’s easier to go into the dark when it’s already dark. You’re more accustomed to it, so to speak.

I know it sounds crazy to think of purposefully going into the dark parts of ourselves. But it’s the way it has to be if you want to get over those things that have been holding you back from living your life. From being yourself, or in my case, from accepting myself. Lack of acceptance is one of those things that live in the darkness if it’s denied. You have to acknowledge it.

There are many things that live in that darkness – lack of self worth, hopelessness, self-hatred, despair, depression and all the rest of the things we deal with in our lives as people with mental illness. It comes with the  territory and it shifts as the seasons do in turn. Sometimes it’s easier but now’s not one of those times. It’s hard now.

I’m not suggesting that we should do things that are too hard for us, but I am saying that we have more working to help us now if we take advantage of it and use it to clear out the crap. We’re in alignment with the dark in ourselves now and it comes out daily for many of us unfortunately. But when it does what do you do with it? Do you let it take over or do you try to befriend it?

Befriending our dark places is the first step in coming to terms with them. Letting them be as they are and not trying to make them out as something they’re not is the best way to neutralize them. It’s difficult to do and I have a hard time of it myself but when I can do it I make great strides in my development. I can change myself if I try and make peace with myself.

There’s a theory that if we want peace in the world we first have to make peace with ourselves. That’s what I’m talking about here. Making peace with our deepest fears and lack of confidence. It can free up so much energy to do this if you can let it happen. What it takes is not necessarily an active process. It’s more of an allowing that has to happen.

So now as we start the journey back into the light we have a chance to allow our false selves to dissipate into the ether of our consciousnesses. Just let it go and be at peace with yourself. Sounds so easy doesn’t it? It’s not but it’s the path we all have to take to get to the other side of despair and depression. It can work if you allow it to.

Just be gentle on yourself and look within and see what you can find. Maybe you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make peace with yourself and with the world as a result of it. This is called the Season of Peace by many and we can plug into that energy too. It’s all part of the Cycle and if we align to it we can make our lives more comfortable. Give it a try…

Happy Solstice to you and yours,

Steve

Physical Pain and Mental Health

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There is a strong link between physical pain and ones state of mind. I suffer from Chronic Intractable Pain, as well as Bipolar Disorder and the two are so often conjoined it’s difficult to tease them apart. In fact I usually can’t do it very well. When I hurt I feel depressed more often. And vice versa. It’s an ongoing cycle of misery.

I know this is obvious to anyone who deals with both of these things but maybe it’s not to other people, so I’m writing to educate as well as to empathize. Pain can shift your mood as quickly as a mood disorder can and when you have both going on it’s challenging.

I take medications for both these conditions every day to be alright. It doesn’t always work as I’d hoped tho and I’ve been trying to adjust things a bit lately to see if I can make a difference in how I feel. It’s being a mixed bag. I’m having to take a lot of extra drugs and I don’t like it. But I have to do something…

I’ve been trying to cut back on my morphine lately and it’s not going as well as I’d hoped. I take a large dose of extended release tablets so I can’t cut them in half and I have to go down a lot each dose. I went down a dose and I did OK, but I hurt a bit more. Then I went down another dose and did pretty well but I hurt even more. And my mood was getting bad.

When I went down the third dose I hurt too much and my mood started to go to hell. I was so depressed I was suicidal as I wrote in my last post. I couldn’t maintain well at all and was having a hard time holding onto my good feelings. So I decided that maybe it’s time to go back up on them again. I started out with one dose a few days ago and it’s already changed my moods. I hurt less.

Many of you may know that they used to give opiates for mood control back in the day. They did it because it works, tho the side effects are too dangerous to use it as a mood stabilizer and it kinda freaks me out that I’ve had this reaction to cutting back on my doses. I don’t want to be dependent on opiates for my moods as well as my pain control.

I haven’t spoken to my doctor about all this yet but I will next month when I see him. And if I can cut it back more slowly maybe I can do it and be OK. But it scares me to do it and have so much more pain and instability in my mood when I cut back. I take a large dose of opiates every day just to be alright and I see why I need that much when I stop them a bit now and then.

It’s good to check it out occasionally just to be sure I still need such a high dose. This experiment is telling me that maybe I can take a little bit less but not much. I need help to figure it out I think. I want to take less opiates for several reasons but it may not be possible for me. I may just have to live with it. Sigh….

But getting back to my story about the link between pain and mental health… In order to be OK with this kind of double whammy you really have to take good care of yourself. It’s so difficult to do when you know you need exercise, for instance, but you’re too tired to do it and you’re too depressed anyway, so why bother?

What a terrible attitude that can be. It’s not intentional it’s just the way it is. I have to work extra hard to do things that keep me limber and stretched out so I can feel looser when it gets so that I start to hurt. That requires a lot of exercise on my part and I don’t always do what I need to do. It’s not good.

So I try to stretch most every day and go for walks with my partner who also needs the exercise and it’s good we can do it together. We do the stretches that way too and work out on our weight machine in the garage when the weather allows us to. It’s been chilly here lately so it’s been hard to do that part of it.

Having both pain and a mental health condition requires you to always be on your best behavior. Even when you don’t feel like it you have to try. I know that sounds like a simple answer but it’s all we have. If we don’t take care of ourselves no one else will, and we live in pain and suffering and never gain our full potential. Pain holds us back as do our moods. When they conjoin it’s doubly hard.

Depression hurts all by itself they say, and I don’t know how much my pain is caused by that and how much is the back and body injuries that I have. Like I say it’s hard to tease them apart. Either one can precipitate a flare up – of depression or of pain. Either one can lead to the other in a loop effect that is always there. It feels like there’s no escape, and I guess there’s not. Triggers are everywhere.

But they say Living Well is the Best Revenge, and it’s true for suffering too. Living a good life and taking good care of yourself can go a long way towards alleviating both the pain and the depression when they take a hold of your life and turn it inside out.

It’s not the life I thought I’d be leading at this age but it’s what I’ve got and I’m so grateful for it. Now if I can just stay OK for a little while. I’d like to make it into the new year in one piece… 😉

Be as well as you can be,

Steve

Faith in Life

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This post may not be exactly what you might think it is. Most people when they speak of faith are using it in a religious context. That’s not what I’m doing here as my title might suggest. I’m not a religious person, tho I consider myself spiritual in many ways. But I’m not a Theist or a Deist. I don’t believe in a God or Goddess or a Creator of all we see. I don’t believe in Spirits. I believe in  Life.

What I mean by this is that I have faith in the continued movement of the cosmos, in the turning of the stars and the suns and the planets. I have faith closer to home too. That the sun will rise tomorrow and the flowers will grow and bloom, that the mountains will stay strong and only fall to the ground when it is their time, just as all life does. I have faith in the Cycle of it All.

It’s not that I haven’t been exposed to other ways of thinking. I was raised in a benevolent Christian household and in church I learned the Golden Rule and to respect others. I learned about Heaven and Hell but they never seemed real to me. I played the piano in my Sunday school and the organ in church and I was the president of my Young Life group, an organization for Christian youth. But it didn’t take…

By around the age of 14 I started to question things. It was 1963 and the world was in upheaval. Everyone everywhere was questioning the satus quo and the current beliefs about the Nature of Reality. Politics were the big game of course but religion took a close second place as a strong contender for challenge. Many of us came to doubt the words we’d learned in church or from religious people.

We learned to rely on each other and on ourselves, which is what I still do. I trust my lover to love me, my friends to care for me and my community to sustain and nurture me. I have faith in the goodness of people as well as the badness in them too. I have faith that people will be who they say they are and when I see differently I adjust my thinking to mirror reality.

I’ve also followed many different spiritual paths, from Eastern thought to Western. I did Yoga at a young age, and read about Zen and Taoism and Buddhism as well as mystical Christianity and Rumi. I was initiated into the Way of Medicine by a Native American teacher in my 30’s and then into a form of witchcraft (don’t get scared…) that was mellow and focused on the  turning wheel of the seasons and of life. It nurtured my sense of being a gardener and the cycles of the seasons we constantly follow. But I never deified it.

Of course there were so many politics in the pagan community that I finally came to an ending with all of them. I just couldn’t take the pronouncements of people who said they communed with Spirit and told me things that seemed wrong to me and challenged my world view of loving kindness. Not bad people, but some bad intents were all a part of my experiences and I stay away from that crowd now, tho I still note the passing of the seasons with good cheer and my own simple rituals.

I still have faith in that cycle of the seasons and the turning wheel of life. It helps to keep me going when I lose it and can’t find my way. I Know that tomorrow the sun will rise and the trees will grow and provide solace for me and for those like me who have faith in Nature, and in their fellow humans and in themselves most of all. When you have Bipolar Disorder you need an anchor, and Faith in the cycles of Life is mine.

I believe in a current, if you will, that travels throughout all life and connects us with one another. It’s pretty obvious when you go into quantum mechanics and new wave physics that we’re all made of the same stuff. Stardust some say and I like that metaphor. Of course it’s also a truism. We Are stardust and are made of the same elements that make up the cosmos. We’re all One with it. The same Energy is in us all.

So it isn’t hard to have faith in the way I’ve described it. You don’t need some entity of whatever sort telling you what to do. I’ve had it with higher powers that use me to embody their words and then turn their backs on me when I need them. Yes I have voices in my head all the time and they tell me some strange things. But as time has gone on I’ve learned which ones are goofs and which are real and I only listen to the real ones now. I hope… 😉

I used to follow many of those voices in my head because I was taught that they were the source of my spirituality and my connection to Spirit. But I’ve found that many of them lead me into blind corners and just goof on me and treat me badly. Some are in direct contradiction with my “Elders”. So what do I do then? I’ve learned to keep my own counsel and my own brand of Faith.

I lose it so easily it seems and it’s hard to stay positive sometimes but faith is the thing that keeps me going when all else fails. Faith that it’ll wear off and I won’t be in a depression when I come out of it. It works. I have faith in a change. It always changes if you just wait it out, like a bad drug trip or something. It’s just chemicals in your brain so why sweat it? Keep faith in yourself and all will go well.

That’s what I believe in keeping faith in and so far I’ve done well with it. I try to love myself these days and I have others who love me too and that’s what counts to me at this point in my later life. I have faith in Love, along with Nature and people and all the rest of reality. It is what it is and I have faith in it’s continuance. It’s all I need.

Keeping the Faith,

Steve