Stable but Still Cycling

X-ray

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

Despair Takes a Holiday

Breaking Clouds

Well I knew it was bound to happen. I knew that if I just waited it out I’d feel better in awhile. Not that I’m not still depressed. I am. But I feel like I’m in a strange sort of bipolar mixed state, where I’m depressed but also a bit hypomanic and so I was able to do things like go for a walk with my partner earlier today in the brief Seattle winter sunshine, and to go to an appointment with my Oncologist later on.

He told me my PSA is way down and I still have no trace of the prostate cancer that attacked me a couple of years ago and caused me to undergo Brachytherapy surgery, the kind where they insert radioactive pellets inside your prostate. We used to joke that I glowed at night and it made certain things easier.. ahem…. Geez, if I can joke like that I Must be better eh?

Anyway, in looking at some things in my past, I’m clearly doing pretty OK now. I’m still dealing with some severe problems, and I’m still upset about them. I don’t like it when things get me down like this tho and I had to first just give in to them and let them drag me to the bottom of the Pit of Despair. Then I wallowed around down there for whatever length of time I seemed to need to and then I started to come back out again, like now, finally.

That began yesterday and I’ll credit my counselor for at least a good part of it. It helps to have someone who’s known you for years as a therapist and can tell you that you’re in a depression and not thinking clearly. I knew I wasn’t OK, but I couldn’t really grasp it and hold onto it till we talked and I got the objective observation that I was over magnifying my problems as I usually do when I’m in that state. So, thanks to him and to good counselors everywhere who help us out when we’re down.

I also talked to my partner about my troubles and the issue that has me most in despair – my sexual dysfunctioning. He can’t do anything about it and neither can I but it helps to have someone to voice things to when you’re struggling with an issue that affects you both, even if it’s a problem with my body. He doesn’t judge me for it and is simply there as I need him to be and it helps so much.

I’m lucky to have a lover in my life who is so unflappable even if it galls me sometimes when he doesn’t react the way I want him to, like I do in other words….<grin> He’s a blessing in my life and I’ll keep saying it as long as we’re alive and together, hopefully forever.

They say Life is Uncertain and that you should eat dessert first. Well I haven’t been eating much dessert but I have had a few holiday cookies. And I’m letting the spirit of the season infect me as much as I can. I’m just not up to writing holiday cards yet, but I will be in time. But I have worked at decorating the house and yard with lights for the Solstice, as you can see on my other blog in my most recent post called “A Garden Of Lights”. How can you stay depressed and write a post that glowing, literally?

I’m lucky to have 2 blogs going at once. I decided when I started them that I’d always be positive in my Gardening blog and I have been. I leave my troubles to this space where I purposefully use it as a place to talk about the hard things in my life. Kinda Bipolar I guess but it works for me.

This blog is so helpful to me, to be able to share my thoughts with the world, whether anyone reads it or not, tho I do so appreciate the readers and the feedback they give, believe me. Talking about my problems has always been one of the ways I do best when I’m in a stew and this blog allows me to do that. So thanks for reading it.

I’ve also done some conscious work on myself in the last few days, and I’ve allowed things to just shift of their own accord, in the Way of the Spirit of Life. Time does heal me when I allow it to. My motto of “Give it Time” is true for me and has been for years. I just need to remember it and not get all twisted up in my angst and anger at my problems.

Tho actually anger can be a good sign I think, compared to bleak despair and depression. Anger has energy to it and helps me shift out of things faster, as long as it’s appropriate and not directed at the wrong targets. I’m careful to not just vent, a lesson I learned from a boyfriend years ago who did that to me. I thank him for the lesson but I don’t allow people to vent at me anymore. It’s damaging and I don’t do it to others if I can help myself, and I usually can.

So even tho I’m still unhappy and having to struggle to maintain a decent state of mind, I do seem to be taking a brief holiday from my despair and I’m grateful for that. It’s good to have breaks in the drudgery. Who knows where I’ll be at tomorrow after all? The one constant is Change and I know that one all too well. I’m glad I’ve changed a bit recently and just hope that it stays with me for awhile. I hope the same for those of you who are struggling with your own demons right now too. Hang in there and give it some time. It’ll change….

In a Holiday Spirit,

Steve

Coming Out of the Closet

The Proverbial Closet

When I say that what do you think of? If you’re like most people you’ll think of someone who is gay and is coming out about that. And it’s true that I’m gay and I’ve talked about it some already here on this blog, especially in About Naked Nerves, but elsewhere as well. I’m doing it again here. It’s a constant process, coming out is. It’s not something you just do once and it’s over with. You do it everyday in many ways whenever you’re with someone who doesn’t know and you want them to. Or when they find out somehow or guess. But most people don’t see me as gay unless I want them to. I don’t act in a particular way or look or dress in a specifically Gay Way, whatever that might be. That’s why I’ve included it in my list of Invisible conditions I live with.

Coming out isn’t something that just gay people do. It’s something that we all do. We all have to come out at some point about who we are in this life. About what moves us and makes us tick. What we share with others and what we don’t. Especially for those of us who have Invisible Illnesses it can be a challenge to come out. Is it something that you want people to know about or not? It’s always a question for anyone to come out as to whether or not you want them to know the real you. After all what you’re talking about might impact a career or your job, or a relationship or a possibility in your life for happiness. You have to really think about it and decide what to do.

When you have an Invisible Illness you are constantly put in this position about whether or not to come out.  On the one hand you may want people to know what you live with, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to gain support or understanding. Sometimes it’s to gain an adjustment at work or in school. Sometimes it’s so you can have a more real relationship with someone. With a partner or spouse. And sometimes it’s in our best interests to come out to let people know what we deal with all the time.

Sometimes it works against you  and you don’t really want people to know. It could cost you a job or a promotion if they knew. And sometimes you don’t Want people to know you’re sick because of the pity you might get or the “help” people often mistakenly offer that we don’t want or need. Or it could stop a relationship cold. I’ve had people tell me that when they found out I was Bipolar that they didn’t want to have anything more to do with me anymore. It’s hard sometimes. I’ve lost friends because I’ve come out and been judged unfairly about who I am. It hasn’t always worked in my favor, whether its about being gay or being sick. It’s a tough call to make.

I’m going to suggest that it’s a good thing to come out when you can. I’m not being absolute about it. But consider that it’s the very act of coming out that helps us gain support for our causes and for our illnesses. It’s been true for gay people that coming out has gained us greater visibility and this changes societies mores. This is true for mental illness too tho that’s a really tricky one. So are many other illnesses. But again if people know that you have a condition or are a certain way and they know you then there’s a good chance that they’ll think about that condition with favor and not condemnation. You certainly find out who your friends are, and aren’t.  And you may help change the world if you do.

I’ll agree it’s not for everyone. I know a lot of closeted gay people and people with Bipolar who just don’t share it with anyone. I don’t fault any of these people. It’s an Individual choice and the first rule about coming out is that you Never come out for someone else! You let them choose and I’m not pushing you to do something that’s against your will. It’s up to you.

I am asking you to think about it. This is how the world changes and how morals and attitudes and mores change in our societies. Remember about the squeaky wheel getting the grease. If we want people to understand us it’s ultimately up to us to educate them about who we really are. It can make or break a movement, which is how I see things here. “The personal is political” is an old saying and it’s true. How we act in our lives affects our society and changes our world. Is it time to change yours?

Good luck with your decision,

Steve

Feeling Threatened

I used to feel on top of the world. I had an attitude about me when I’d walk thru the world that basically said something like “Don’t Mess With Me”. Not in a hard core punky sort of way, but just in that way of being strong in myself, of having a good self image and self esteem. I didn’t take guff from people and I stood up for myself as well as I could given that I’m not a big guy or a tough or trained in Martial Arts or anything like that. In fact I’ve never even been in a fight in my life except as kids. So when I had a breakdown and found that I was disabled I also found that my self image had shifted somewhat.

Speaking in part here as a gay man but more as one who is disabled, I feel like I’m now a target of people who would do me harm. I can’t run away anymore, my favorite tactic when I couldn’t stand and fight, with words I mean, not physically. I can still hold my own with words pretty much but then again not when I’m in a depression. I can’t do it then. I’ve tried and failed miserably. I’ve had people trash me when I was depressed and haven’t been able to fight back and defend myself and know that I didn’t deserve it. In fact often I’ve felt that I Must have deserved in the nature of my illness.

I also grew up as a kid with severe asthma and was the subject of some bullying when I was a child. Nothing major but enough to let me know even then that I had to develop my wits to survive. And I did. As I said I had an attitude and it carried me thru. But that attitude isn’t around a lot of the time now. I can still call it up when I’m feeling particularly good and not in too much psychic or physical pain. But I Always know that in fact I’m Not OK anymore when it comes to protecting myself. I know attitudes about being gay have changed over the years but we’re still vulnerable to hate crimes everyday and people who are homeless or look like they’re not on top of it are considered easy prey by muggers and those who would do us harm.

So what do you do with this? I’m asking because I haven’t figured this one out yet. I try to stay calm and think positive thoughts and believe in myself as I used to but I find it doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s my mind that betrays me as I’ve said. But mostly it’s my body that’s the culprit and I hate to think of it as a culprit of anything. But the fact remains that I’m now prey and it’s a disturbing feeling. How do You cope with it? Do you take classes in how to defend yourself? I’ve done that but I don’t think I can even do the moves I learned anymore. It takes too much Umph!.  I have to rely on staying out of dangerous places as much as I can and try my best to stay as strong as I’m able to do. I’d really like some feedback on this if you feel the same way I do. It’d help me and maybe others here as well.

Thanks.

Steve