The Shauny Award

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

Highly Sensitive Men

You know who we are. You’ve seen us around your whole life, those of us who just don’t fit the mold. Men who don’t seem to be as tough or “manly” as the rest of our peers. Some estimates claim that 1 in 5 men, and women, are highly sensitive. That’s 20%. I believe it because I’m one of them and I’ve met so many others in my life.

Men who are highly sensitive are generally not valued by our society, not openly at least, tho without us society would be a poorer and sadder place to live. We tend to value a tougher aspect in our men and want them to just shut down their feelings and go along with the program. But for some of us that’s impossible.

Some of us have our hearts on our sleeves and are always willing to let our feelings out and be open about who we are, but not all HSM are able to do this. It’s a difficult thing to do and you don’t get a lot of support from anyone else in this except others who understand our dilemma, or our blessings, depending on how you see it. It’s OK for women to be this way, but not for men.

I’ve always fit the profile of being a sensitive male. Been called names like sissy, wimp, faggot and others all my life. I’ve always been told I’m just too sensitive for my own good and I need to toughen up and get over it. Well, I’m here to tell you that I haven’t done that. I’ve stayed sensitive even tho it’s hard work. Here’s what I’ve done.

First I’ve reclaimed the concept of toughness. I Am tough, tough as nails, and I have to be to withstand all the slings and arrows from a society that doesn’t value me for who I am. I’ve had to hide my feelings too many times when it was too dangerous and I’ve had to learn which battles to choose to fight. In so many ways it’s about the choices we make in how we live our lives.

I’ve chosen to embrace my sensitivity. It takes a lot of courage to do this but it’s what is required if you want to live a good life as a sensitive person. I’m an empath and I feel the things that others don’t too often. Sometimes it gives me an edge in knowing a situation or gauging others’ feelings and thoughts. It’s a blessing to me then. But sometimes it just plain hurts.

Sometimes I wake up and I just cry. It hits me so hard. All the pain and suffering I see around me in the world, and in myself too. It’s overwhelming to me, a common thing for HSM to feel. Life is just too much to bear sometimes and when you feel it all so deeply you can get hurt by just about anything. I have to be compassionate with myself.

But I am compassionate by nature, and so are most sensitive people. We tend to be aware of how someone else is feeling and base our actions on that awareness instead of our own beliefs about them. We Feel them in our guts. This is what I meant by calling my blog Naked Nerves. I feel so much I’m stripped of protection, naked to the world.

Highly Sensitive Men tend to feel too much most of the time. We feel the pain of the world too deeply and the suffering of others causes us personal pain and distress. We have to learn how to deal with that and still be able to function in society. We have to learn to engage with our sensitivity and honor it and make it an upfront aspect of who we are.

I talk about reclaiming ourselves a lot it seems. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned that it’s so important to be who you are in life, and not pretend to be someone you’re not. I’ve done both and life is much richer if you’re real about who you are. If you’re a HSM then you have to reclaim that part of who you are and let it shine in your actions. You Have to be Real.

This can mean some people will still trash you and chastise you for your way of being. Being sensitive for men is seriously stigmatized in our society. It’s like any stigma – rooted in fear and ignorance about who we really are. That’s why it’s so important for us to come out about who we are and show ourselves and Be who we are in the face of the onslaught of incivility that is sweeping our country these days.

The world needs us! It needs men who are willing to take the risk to stand out and say what’s right and what is wrong. Men who have been great leaders in our world have often been sensitive men who used their skills to enlighten society. They shower us with compassion and empathy for those that are without the basic needs of life. They show us a different way to be.

HSM are kind people as a rule, tho some who haven’t accepted themselves can be truly whacked. If you continually stuff your feelings they may tend to come out as anger and rage in most inopportune ways. Anytime you try to withhold yourself from who you are you face this risk, but it’s a serious one for HSM. We risk losing who we are if we stuff it. That’s not OK.

We can be wonderful partners and spouses to our mates because we care so much for them and often put their needs ahead of our own. We shouldn’t really do this but it’s so easy to do. But we risk losing ourselves in others too easily anyway by feeling what they feel to allow it in a deep interpersonal relationship. We can care, a lot, but we have to keep it in balance.

Balance is all part of this dance. How do you balance your own sensitivities with the needs of keeping up a bold face to the world? If you try too hard to meet society’s expectations of you as a Man, you can obscure your true nature of being a HSM and betray yourself. There’s a way to be who you are and still be strong and face the world on your terms.

It just requires you to allow those parts of yourself that Feel to come out to play whenever you can.  By being who you truly are people around you will gradually realize your gifts and accept you for what you can offer to them and the world and you can be yourself and just let it be. Sound real? Not really easily…. But it can be done.

It’s up to you to be real and accept who you are and to know that you are a Gift to the world just as you are. Don’t ever forget that. It’s a big deal to remember this. The world needs us and we owe it to both ourselves and our communities to be who we are. Our particular gifts are so needed these days and it’s just getting worse.

It’s time for us to stand up and take our places as Sensitive Men who are still able to withstand the difficulties of our heritage and yet change the world while we’re at it. Why not think big? It’s your life and you have to choose how you will live it. I sincerely hope you choose to let yourself be as sensitive as you need to be and let others see it and let it affect them. It will change the world if we do this.

Sensitively yours,

Steve

Depression Abounds

I’ve been reading a lot of posts on the Bipolar Blogroll this morning and it seems like a Lot of people are suffering right now with severe depression. Like the type where you just want to die or hide out from those in your life, or tell all your friends to go away and leave you alone. Bad stuff. It hurts to read all these posts because they’re so close to home for me right now.

I’ve been in a depression for weeks now I guess. It’s so hard to tell sometimes. I just feel bad and out of it. I wake up crying every day and not just for me, it’s for the world and all the suffering in it. I cry at the strangest things and at the most inopportune times. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Too much pain and sorrow to have seen.

But I know I’m not alone in this. There are so many of us who suffer from this horrible disorder. Sometimes it feels like my whole being has been taken over by an alien life form and I don’t know who I am anymore. I used to be a happy person in my life, didn’t I? I think so. Or at least I could fake it well enough to get by.

But faking it is real hard right now. I try to write about it but I just get stuck and can’t say what I want to say. I’ve deleted my last two posts here because I just hated what I was writing so much. I wonder how many others do that, or do they just let it be and see what happens. I can’t risk that I guess.

I feel too vulnerable already. Like my world is falling apart. And the strange and awful thing is that my life is really pretty damn good. I have a lover and partner who loves me and a house to live in and food to eat and even have mental health care that’s pretty good. I have a lot of good things in my life, but I’m still suicidal. Why the Fuck do I feel this way?

Going up and down all the time gets so old. It’s so hard on you and takes away your sense of self and your ability to just feel OK. It’s a cruel disease and I’ve read that they’re now being able to image it on a MRI when someone is having a bipolar episode. Maybe it’ll be better if we can “Prove” we’re sick, but I dunno.

There’s so much stigma against mental illness. I’m pretty open about it to people who I feel safe with, but it’s a difficult call and I’ve been burned more than once by being honest. So I watch who I tell but I tell everyone I can. Does that make sense? See, I figure that only by telling our stories will we ever gain the respect of the world and let them see us as humans who are damaged and sick and need help instead of ridicule.

So I keep trying to stay OK and not kill myself. It’d be way too hard on my partner and my few friends. I’ve lost most of them over the years due to this disorder because it does have a chilling effect on relationships at times. Especially when they don’t see you as sick.

That’s why I wrote about this as an Invisible Illness. It’s not often that people see me as sick or ill in any way let alone in my head. I hide it really well and I function well enough to be able to pull it off. Hit in my weaker moments when I’m all alone and feeling bad about myself and none of that matters. All that counts is the way I feel at this exact moment.

My counselor tells me that I’m in a depression when I feel this way and that it’ll change. I know that. I guess that’s the one awareness that keeps me going. But I don’t believe it much when I feel this bad. It’s hard to stay positive tho that’s my usual attitude. But sometimes it’s just too hard as I’ve spent days being depressed every single day lately and it’s being way hard on me. I want to die so badly.

But I won’t do anything rash or kill myself. People care about me even if it’s not that many. I’d leave a big hole in my social circle if I wasted myself, so I won’t do it. I did try it once and failed, fortunately, but I could try again and I sort of made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t do it so this is all so much more anguish because I can never end it.

If I thought I’d stop it by dying I would, but I doubt it’d end the suffering , it’d just transfer it to someone else, and that’s not cool. Other people would be hurt and I can’t do that to them. They’ve cared too much for me to betray that confidence they have in me now.

I do love myself and I’m so grateful for all the good things in my life. But I sure wish the depression would give me a break. I want to stop my antipsychotics so I’ll get hypomanic but I know that’s a bad idea. I’ll just get irritable and angry if I do that, too manic. I would love to feel Good like I used to when I’d get hypomanic. I used to revel in it but these days it’s so rare and damaging it scares me. And it’s “just” hypomania not full blown stuff. It’s bad enough.

They say Bipolar II is “Bipolar Lite” sometimes because we don’t have full blown manias, tho I have had them but never got caught in one…. So I was diagnosed with BP II and it fits me cause I’m so depressed so much. I can’t imagine thinking this illness is anything like “Lite” tho. It’s so hard on me how can it be a light disease? It kills people damnit.  It’s not an easier way to be than BP I. It’s just different.

I have a lot of rapid cycling and mixed states, when I’m either going up and down all the time or I’m in both places at once. It’s not supposed to be possible with BP II but there it is. I do have mixed states a lot and they’re so dangerous. I have plenty of energy to kill myself and the desire too, so watching out is the way to proceed.

I just need to keep it up. With the pain and the depressions I have a lot to deal with. But I have a lot of good help and support too. Without it I’d be dead for sure. So I’m grateful and thankful for my life despite all the traumas and dramas. It’s a good life and it’s mine. What else do I need?

Struggling with the rest of you,

Steve

Faith in Life

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

Keeping My Sense of Humor

Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. Sometimes it just gets so absurd that there’s nothing else to do about it but take a totally different approach. When working on yourself to change your state of mind becomes burdensome laughter is the answer. I couldn’t stay alive if I didn’t laugh as much as I do. It gets me thru some very hard times.

I’m lucky to have a goofy partner. He has a great sense of humor that transcends my own, and often when I reach that point where I just seem to come unglued all I need to do is talk to him and he throws out a non sequitur or a pithy remark and my mood changes instantly. His goofiness really does help me change my life for the better, and I’m so grateful for him in my life..

The issue for me seems to be that I cycle so frequently from up to down that I can’t seem to keep a hold on my thoughts or my mind. When I get that way I’ve found that I often need help to change my mood. I can’t always do it for myself so having his humor is often critical for me. It cuts thru my melancholy or sadness or freakouts like a sharp knife thru butter. It’s amazing. Humor is like that.

Poking fun at oneself has been a tradition in oppressed cultures around the world for centuries I’d guess, since it’s so prevalent today. Gay humor, Black humor, Jewish humor, Native American humor… I could go on. All of these cultures have developed a way of laughing at their sorrows and problems that is inspiring to me and helps me do it for myself too. When you’re down you might as well have some company, eh?

It’s hard for me to tell if I’m always like this when I cycle so much. My style of Bipolar Disorder is called Rapid Cycling with Mixed States. That means I flip from up to down a lot and often, or I’m in both places at once. This is a challenge to say the least. When I’m in this state it feels like I’ve been in it forever and am there all the time. But I know that’s not true. I hope it’s not anyway.

I get so serious about it. It takes me away from myself and my life so quickly and without warning that it catches my breath and I fall into the pit in an instant. On the other hand something good can happen and just as fast I’m flying high and feeling so good about my life that the bad parts seem not ever to have been there. I really do try to live in the present, but so much is in my emotions, for better and for worse, and the emotion of laughter is the one that’s most important for me to keep strong.

It’s not easy to do this when I change so often. I never know just who I’m going to be each day. Or each minute sometimes. To be precise, I have Ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar, which means I often cycle several times every day, not just the 4 times a year that the DSM says is my criteria. What’s so hard about it is it’s intensity and suddenness. It just happens so fast I can’t keep up with it. It takes me over almost completely for at least awhile.

Anything can set me off. I have tons of triggers – those things that can flip me into a different state of mind so quickly it’s almost like it’s hard wired in me. This attitude I have that if I mess up or make a mistake I should just kill myself for instance. It’s so common for me that I live with suicidal ideation much of the time. I went thru a period when I didn’t feel this awhile back but it’s come back again and doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. Winter can be a hard time for depression.

I don’t mean to whine or complain here. I’m just stating the facts of my life in the hopes that others will recognize these traits in themselves and connect with my words and know that there are others like us out here who cycle so often that we just flip out. That’s when I try to laugh at it and turn it around on myself to something else. Something I can enjoy, instead of simply endure.

So getting back to where I started, you can see why I have to just laugh at this. I mean c’mon… how  silly is it to think that I should actually Die, just because I messed up or did something not as well as I should have or just because a thought came into my mind that I should die. What can I do but laugh at this absurdity?

It’s so crazy and Louie helps me realize this so quickly that I’ve learned that I need to just talk about this stuff when I can. Getting it out in the open often is what brings on the laughter, or at least a bemused smile of recognition that I’m doing it to myself once again. I, like many of us, am my own worst enemy. Since I Know that I can ask for help without shame or guilt and just let myself Receive. But, man, is that a hard one!

Accepting help is one of the toughest things I have to do when I’m not well. I want so much to be in control and that’s when I’m least in control, so what do I do? Either I spend time ruminating on how bad things are or I try to shift them to something different. Something lighter and not so heavy on my spirit. Just receiving help is hard enough, but asking for it is a whole other level of difficulty. I’ve gotten way better over the years but it’s still difficult for me.

I’m so grateful to have Louie and to have a great counselor who is very proactive in helping me to work on myself in hard ways sometimes. He helps me laugh at myself too, tho it’s not as quick a fix as it is with Louie. It’s more work to delve deeply into the heart of things than just to have a realization that you’re being stupid and change it. Working on yourself is hard work and yet it’s the only way to get thru this stuff, or so I believe.

I recently asked my Psychiatrist how she thought I was doing. I’ve been seeing her for many years and I’ve been thru some very hard times with her around. She said she thought I’d gained a lot of insight into my condition and was doing really well. We even decided that I could stop seeing her every month and go to every other month. I guess I’m a model of Recovery…

This is great news for me. I feel so under the thumb of the Medical Establishment sometimes it drives me nuts. But they help me so I go to them. Accepting help even when I may distrust the source as I do with Psychiatry. They have their models and frankly I subscribe to the idea of neuro-chemicals flooding my system and making me crazy. I Feel them in my body. But I go on with my life and find humor even in the thought of me being a Model of Anything… It makes me laugh.

I do seem to be a model of Recovery tho, and I am doing well. I have to give credit to the fact that I’ve kept such a good sense of humor about the absurdity of life in general and mine in particular, and the great joys that can come when you can let go of the suffering and pain for a bit. I’m so grateful to those times when I can laugh at my problems instead of wanting to kill myself. I guess that’s kinda simplistic isn’t it? But it’s so real to me that I take it seriously. Laughter is serious business after all when it means that you might live or die.

Jeez, I’m such a drama queen, aren’t I? 😉 Enough…

Steve

Stable but Still Cycling

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

Illness in a Relationship

It’s a challenging thing to do to be in a relationship when you’re so sick. When you just want to go hide in a hole so much of the time and close the world out. When you feel like you just can’t stand a cheerful face in the morning and wish to hell that you could just be alone and never see anyone ever again. But that’s not how it is when you’re in a relationship with someone. You have to learn to cope differently.

I’m a lucky guy. I have a man who loves me to death and would do most anything for me, and has. He’s really a great guy and I love him immensely and hope to be with him for the rest of my life. This is a different thing than I’ve known for most of my life. I’ve been in several relationships but none that were this intense or had the potential to last as long and be as much as this one. We might even get married but I’d lose my benefits so I can’t. But that’s how we feel about each other.

What I want to write about is the way that I try to cope with living with a basically healthy, cheerful, stable person when I’m so often none of those things. He greats me each morning with  “Yay, Steve is awake and up and about again! Hoorah!” Sounds goofy doesn’t it? And it is. It’s also so sweet it makes my heart clench when I feel so rotten and like I’m the last person in the world who should have someone say something nice about me. Why should I be showered with loving attention?

But I accept it because not to would just be churlish and tho I can be that way I’m choosing not to do that these days. I’ve grown up a lot in the last 5 years we’ve been together, first as friends and lovers and then as partners. We’ve come thru a lot in that time, more than many people might have done. We’ve traveled across the country a couple of times and down to CA twice. That’s a lot of one on one time and if you can travel well together you know you’ve at least got a chance. And we do travel well together.

And we went thru the death and loss of my only brother to AIDS during the time we’ve been together and he helped me thru that difficult time like we’d been best friends forever. He was totally there for me and didn’t ever complain about the difficulties, which there were, and all the problems we had to face with his passing. He earned my trust then and has kept it ever since thru many issues.

I have a hard time not resenting him sometimes tho and I really hate myself for that. It’s unwarranted and unkind, but perhaps understandable in the circumstances. He’s so healthy and really doesn’t understand what I live with tho he does try as hard as he can and he does a good job. But it’s impossible for someone to really understand someone who’s got as many health problems as I do and is in so much pain and distress when you’re Not. It’s OK, it’s just at odds with one another.

This is where communication comes in. Without it we’d be dead in the water. We talk. Not obsessively like I could do, but he’s not that way and so I’ve toned it down a bit and realized that maybe I talk too much sometimes about my problems. It’s good to give them a rest sometimes. But I do talk with him and just let myself be who I am, whatever that is, and he accepts me for that and doesn’t hassle me. Even when I just discovered that I’m totally impotent he just said “well you’ve had a good run and we still have a good sex life so don’t worry. I still love you.” I had a hard time with that one, but he’s right and I know it. He’s stable that way and I’m not so much so. So I adapt and change and grow.

And he’s changed a lot since we’ve been together too. He listens to me better than he used to and he’s more patient. He’s seen enough times of my losing it and at the end of my rope to really get it by now. He listens to me tell him when I feel like I want to just die and he reminds me of all I have that’s worth living for. He keeps me here as do some of my friends, and for that I am so grateful. He may use humor when I feel like crap but I’ve learned that underneath it is a deep caring for me and so I may not laugh at his stupid jokes but I appreciate where they’re coming from and it helps me. And he gives me hugs too. I like the hugs a lot…

Many times I’ve come to him in tears when things didn’t go my way or I hurt too much or I still feel like the world is crashing in on me and he’ll listen and offer some obvious statement about how things might be and it changes me. It forces me to live up to all my ideals about how I know I can be in the world with other people. I have to change my attitudes and expectations and not just to please him. I don’t mean that at all. I do it because he gives me another way to see things that is so different than mine that it helps me. And I need all the help I can get, believe me.

So tho it’s a hard way to live sometimes and I really hate it on certain days I let myself get up and face the day with him every day, open and alive to the myriad possibilities. It’s a great life and I wish everyone who wanted a partner could have one like I do and experience the joy I’ve found and the stability. I’ve been more stable since we’ve been together than I have been ever maybe. I dunno, it’s hard to tell. I’ve been such a mess so much of my life. And I still am sometimes.

But not nearly as often and I know this relationship has done this for me. That, and a hell of a lot of hard work on my part too. It’s work to be in relationship with someone as close as this. But it’s worth it every minute, even when we argue and disagree we’ll talk about the problem because we want to work things out and deal with our differences in good ways that are clean and honest. Honesty is paramount for me. I need to know I’m being dealt with fairly and I do the same for others. And I get that with him, even when it’s hard for us both.

I’m not saying we’re a perfect union. I don’t believe there are perfect unions I guess. But what we have is so amazing to me that it’s worth all the work I have to put into it all the time. I have to swallow my bile and get over myself and just let things be. And he has to do the same. It’s a mutual affair and we’re doing well at it despite our problems. So for me being in a relationship and being sick isn’t insurmountable, in fact it’s a good thing for me and I thrive in it.  I wish the same for others.

Peace,

Steve