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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Is it Mania or Just Anger?

I’ve been struggling with some emotions that are too raw and close to the surface lately and I’m worried about my reactions to things. I seem to be on a hair thin trigger these days and my anger levels are right below the surface. I know that the current political landscape, in particular the race for president, is affecting me greatly. But it’s more that that, and I wonder whats going on? It seems worse since I got on this current regimen of Wellbutrin and I wonder if this is one of the subtle hints of fracturing that I’ve experienced before on it, but in more obvious degrees. It’s confusing.

I read an interesting article on mania and anger the other day. A leading psychiatrist here in Seattle said that it was wise to beware of labeling anger as mania in Bipolar disorder because it was more often caused by substance abuse. It’s an interesting theory. I’ve not been diagnosed with substance abuse, but I’ve smoked pot since I was in high school – some 50 years now- so obviously some would say that’s my issue. But I’ve always used it carefully and now it’s strictly medical and I smoke it sparingly. My psychiatrist doesn’t mind and my counselor and ND both suggested I use it. So I don’t put much stock into this notion myself. Denial? Maybe, but I think not…

I believe that it’s more than just that. It’s dreadfully close to wrecking me. It Feels like mania, not just anger. And it’s too sharp and too intense and takes me over so much that even little bits of angst can throw me into a fit of rage where I seriously want to hurt someone or myself or destroy the world. Typical, I guess, but it’s no fun at all. Not like the bright sparkly hypo-manias I’ve had so often in life that inspire me to do good work in the world. This is a destructive mania and I’m afraid of it.

I haven’t had a lot of florid manias in my life. Mostly they’ve been long term experiences where I entered into lands uncharted and tried new things that haven’t been done before. Like creating an innovative non-profit healing arts center with my credit cards, working myself to the bone and finally ending up in bankruptcy and disability. I had a Vision you see but I couldn’t see the whole picture and I ended up in disgrace and struggling with it’s futility. It hurt me badly. It was a 4 year manic episode. And no one even noticed, because I hadn’t been diagnosed yet.

Most of my manias haven’t been that obvious to other people. But they have still been filled with lots of anger and rage, thru my whole life. I can remember times when I was a kid that I would explode in rages that terrified my little brother and caused my parents to label me with ADD as an adult. They told me my anger was palpable and horrible when I was young and had those fits of rage. Sounds like the beginnings of Manic Depression to me, eh? I was a horrible little child I think, tho no one in my family is alive to tell me how bad it really was. I can’t remember much about it but I know I wasn’t a bad kid per se, just angry and unpredictable.

So back to my proposal here. Given my experiences in my life I can’t say what is causing me to be so angry these days. I know I can’t discount the situation in the world. It really does affect me. I’m super empathic and I feel the suffering of others deeply. It hurts me. It also makes me mad. This is a problem and I haven’t figured out what to do about it yet. I hope I can keep it under control but I dunno. I haven’t broken anything or slit my wrists, which I’ve wanted to do many times. I haven’t exploded at Louie or any of my friends. And I actually haven’t hurt myself, except with my thinking, which is bad enough.

I try to calm myself down when I feel this anger growing but it’s very hard to do. I often have to resort to drugs and take some Klonopin, or when it’s really bad, some Abilify, that will knock me on my ass and put me totally out of it. At least it’s better than the rage but it wastes me and I don’t  really like that. But it’s better than the anger for sure. If I don’t know where it comes from and what to do to stop it I can at least alleviate it some and that’s good for me. I also use CBT to tell myself to Stop It! But that doesn’t always work out too well. I’m often too far gone, unless I catch it early. Sometime I can, but not always.

I think this is a bit of a manic response to situations that I can’t control and that cause me distress to the point where I crack up and lose it. Or is it just anger? I’m still confused. It’s been there so long, but then maybe I’m just an angry person. I don’t think so tho. No one I know would ever call me that. But I would. I feel it so much. Sometimes I know that my anger is invigorating and it helps me come out of my depressions really well. But this stuff is out of bounds and isn’t connected to reality. It’s troubling. I’m at a loss as to what to do besides trying to just live with it and try my best to deal with it safely for myself and others. So far, so good. Maybe it doesn’t matter what it is, maybe what counts is dealing with it well. Sounds good to me…

How’s Your anger level?

Steve

I’m an Angel!?

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I hardly know where to begin with this new award. It’s hard for me to envision myself as an Angel. I’m so many people you see. I go back and forth from being such a nice guy to being a jerk and from being happy and bright to sad and depressed so often with my Bipolar disorder. It’s difficult to see myself as an angel in anyone’s eyes, but I am in Dr Rex’s sight and it brings tears to my eyes. I’m so grateful for this look at myself that is so hard to take in and yet feels so good to receive. I’ve talked a lot about Dr. Rex on my blogs and I still find new things to say. I encourage you to go to her blog at: http://hrexach.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/a-new-award-the-angel-award/ and read what she has to say about this award.

It’s a testament to her character that she has been given this award and I can surely see why she has it. She does such a good job of “Being There” for so many of us. She is an Angel in the best sense of the word as I understand it. She loves her readers and her work and is passionate about how she presents it all to the world. She’s very kind and loving and truly cares about the world and its inhabitants. She is an Angel for sure! I’m very grateful to her for giving me this award. It’s a relatively simple one, with no particular rules, so I’ll just follow her excellent lead and say that if you’re reading this blog you’re nominated for this award by me. It means that you care enough about what I have to say to read my work and that makes you an angel in my eyes.

I’m so grateful for all the wonderful readers I have here on Naked Nerves even tho I know that it’s probably challenging for some folks to read some of the topics I write about. I try my best to be real and write about the things that affect my life and those of others who have Invisible Illnesses and how we cope in the world. It’s a hard row to hoe but it’s worth it to receive this kind of wonderful feedback from Dr. Rex. I’ll try my best to keep being an angel in the ways I’m able to and to take in the award and make it feel real to myself.

You’re just witnessing how hard it is for some of us to accept compliments when we’re not feeling our best or worrying that we’re fakes and phoneys. I feel that a lot, so getting this kind of feedback is important to me and it’s important that I “Get It” and rely on someone else’s vision of me instead of just my own. So in that vein I thank you again Dr Rex, for your kindness and vision in granting me this award. I will do my best to live up to what it can mean. Thank you to everyone who reads this and comes to visit my site as well. You’re all Angels and without you all I wouldn’t even bother to be here. You’re the reason for me to blog, and I value you all immensely. Together we build a better world, one blog at a time…

Keeping the Faith,

Steve

Semper Fidelis Award

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Naked Nerves is honored to be nominated for the Semper Fidelis Award from Dr Rex at “It Is What It Is”. This is a relatively new award that is focused on loyalty and I can’t think of a more deserving person to receive this award than Dr Rex, or Horty as she goes by to her lucky friends. She is a model of a good blogger, writing interesting pieces of her own all the time and also re-blogging other pieces people have written that she feels should be shared. I’ve learned a lot from her and her posts and am very grateful for this knowledge and inspiration. I get new ideas and am made aware of things in our world that matter to me in her blog and it’s always helpful to me to read what she has to say. I especially appreciate that she posts other people’s stories as she helps so many of us become more exposed to a larger community thru her work. I’m one of those beneficiaries and it feels good to be recognized by her for my own work. I’ll do my best to be loyal to my readers and to the whole internet community with my writing as she does so well. I’m grateful to have her as a model and I encourage all of you to go to her site at: http://hrexach.wordpress.com/. I’m sure you’ll be as inspired at her loyalty to all her fans and to the world’s needs as I am. She really knows how to make people feel good about themselves and to share those good feelings with all of us. Thanks Dr Rex for this great award and for all your good work!

 

In the words of the Award Creator, Just Patty, at:

http://petitemagique.wordpress.com/

~~The Semper Fidelis Award~~

“I created this award because I wanted to do something special for my friends on WordPressSemper Fidelis is Latin and means Always Loyal.  Loyalty means the world to me.  I am very loyal myself, but I’ve got major trust issues as well.  And I think trust is very important if you are sharing so much of yourself with people you meet through the internet.  So I am working on that!

Why the wolves?  Because wolves have very strong ties with their pack.  Like a family or a great group of friends.  And I just love them!”

This award stands for the loyalty and love between friends.

I think this is a great thing to give an award for. Being loyal to one’s followers and to the folks who read our blogs is paramount to our success as bloggers if we have a goal of reaching out to the world as I do in Naked Nerves. I feel a delightful kinship with so many people on here thru the work I’ve done and the responses I’ve gotten from other people. I hope that my comments to others are as meaningful to them as theirs are to me. I’m always thrilled to see a new “like’ on my blog post or a comment especially. It’s good to get feedback that shows that we’re being true to our goals and intents in writing our blogs. Being loyal to the people who respond to you frequently or who have such worthwhile things to say to you is so wonderful. It makes blogging a precious way to interact with others and to keep up a dialogue with people you might never meet otherwise but have become true friends on WordPress thru our mutual blogs. My goal here is to show that loyalty I have for some of the people I have it for. I hope that folks will accept this award but know that the real intent here is just to let you know that I appreciate your loyalty to me and mine to you. If you’re on my list or if you’re not I’m grateful to you and thank you for your loyalty in your work – to me, to yourself, and to the whole blogging community. Thanks to all of you who have been reading this. I hope you’ll be back for more.

A brief note on wolves regarding myself. I used to study with a Native Medicine Man and received the name of White Wolf Walks Between, a very powerful and image laden name. I don’t tend to use it much anymore but it still resonates deeply with me and the plight of the wolves in our country really alarms me. I so hope that the wolf killing can stop and that the few packs we have can recover well and be regarded as essential parts of the Natural world, as they are. We don’t need to kill them. They were here first after all.. OK, enough of my connection with wolves. Back to the award…

Of course there are a few rules with this award, but they’re not too many and I think I can do them  I’ve listed them below just as Dr Rex has on her blog describing the award. I’ll do my best to live up to this award and to pay it forward.

THE RULES ARE

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Display the award logo on your blog.
Link back to the person who nominated you.
Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them.
Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award requirements.

Well I’ve already done the first two of the rules so I’ll focus now on people who I think show Loyalty in their blogs. Just because I haven’t mentioned  you don’t think I didn’t mean to. I tried not to overwhelm anyone with too many of these awards and so I’m just doing a few people to try to spread it around some more. That’s a big part of these awards and it’s always meant as a compliment to you if you receive a nomination. You’re free to accept it or not as you see fit. I know some folks probably don’t accept awards but that’s OK. You still deserve it! I hope you’ll accept it but if not please do know that I still feel you do a great job of being loyal to your work and to your followers and that you are appreciated for this. So here’s a few folks I think show exceptional loyalty in their work with me, with others and with their work themselves.

The Nominees:

Brenda at: http://friendlyfairytales.com/

Robbie at: http://palmraeurbanpotager.com/

Jane Adams at: http://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

Wild Thang! at: http://tlohuis.wordpress.com/

Owl of Knowledge at: http://owlofknowledge.com/

Dan Riegler at: http://apothecarysgarden.com/

One Anna 65 at: http://cancerkillingrecipe.wordpress.com/

All of these folks have been good friends to me and to the worlds that they have created in their own work. I encourage all you readers to visit these folks and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot by doing so. I certainly have. These are the folks who keep me happy here and make me feel connected. As I said there are many more that I could include but just didn’t do so because I was trying to stay in this site and not include my other blog. I like all these blogs a lot and have found them to be sources of true inspiration and joy. Read them and see if you don’t agree with me. I’m sure you will. Thanks to all of you loyal bloggers who make WordPress the great place of interactivity it is.  You all make this a great place to be and I thank you deeply and with profound thanksgiving. Together we can change the world with our writing. We’re all connected in this sharing of insight and information.

Peace and Love to you all,

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

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

Highly Sensitive Men

Steve on bridge5lex2

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

Fighting the Stigma of Invisible Illness

Liberty

Stigma: “A mark or token of infamy, disgrace, or reproach” – the Free Dictionary. Synonyms: blot, brand, onus, slur, smirch, smudge, stain, taint. Sometimes I feel like a walking exemplar of stigma. I feel stigmatized for so much of who I am. My Mental Illness /Manic Depression, (“You’re just making it up”), my Chronic Intractable Pain (“You don’t Really hurt that much”), being Gay (“You’re sick and going to hell”), being on public assistance (“You’re just a leach on the economy”), my Migraines (“You must want to have them”), my Fibromyalgia (“You’re just faking it”), even my very Core Being filled with Invisible Illnesses (“You’re just a hypochondriac”).

All of these are hurtful to hear, but some of them are downright dangerous and cause me a lot of suffering and despair. They cause me to fear for my life at times in fact, like now when there’s such an outcry over mental illness in the media and calls for registering us and locking us up and putting us in hospitals or prisons or somehow denying us our civil rights. It’s a scary time to have these illnesses or conditions. But it’s been worse throughout history.

Mental illness has always frightened and even terrified people and understandably so. It Is scary. It’s scary to live with it. People have almost always reacted to those of us with mental illness with distrust at the very best and loathing, disgust and violence at the worst. They locked us up and put us in prisons and mad houses and experimented on us in hideous ways (look at Adolf and his minions and what they did to us). It’s been like that all thru history, but we supposedly live in more understanding times now, don’t we?

It’s a terrible and frightening way to live your life and if you don’t live it it’s hard to understand it. And understanding is the basis for combating stigma and we’re not getting it. We’re getting knee jerk reactions instead of calm logical discussions and solutions. We don’t need more lockdowns, we need more health care to find those who are on the edge and help them before they cause harm to themselves or others, tho most of us harm ourselves far more than we do others. What we’re really facing is Stigma. So where does stigma come from?

Fear is the basis of stigma, and ignorance is the basis of fear. When people don’t understand something they often become fearful in general. If people respond with a fearful attitude towards life that leads to all sorts of potentially unwarranted assumptions and reactions, not reasoned responses. Fear and ignorance are the enemies, so how do we respond to them? We respond with education and logic and examples of why it’s OK to not be afraid.

We respond by letting people see us as who we are and letting them get to know us so they can see we don’t pose the threat they fear. We show them the truth and not the distortions of the sensationalized media presentations they see and hear all over. In short, we come out about who we are, however that may work for you in your life.

I’m a strong believer in coming out about who we are, whether it’s mental illness or being gay or whatever your issue is. I believe that if people get to See who I am, with all my Invisible Illnesses, then they can see that I’m a decent person and that my condition isn’t one that need cause them distress. I’ve found this to be true on countless occasions and I do it every opportunity I have when I can afford to make that commitment of time and energy. And it does take a commitment and energy to do it. It’s not a decision to take lightly.

I know there are situations where you just can’t do this and it would be literally life threatening to do so. I’m not generally talking about those times tho perhaps those are the most important ones. Look at the Civil Rights Movement. People put their lives on the line then to make the point that they deserved dignity and we may have to do the same on this occasion. We may have to become Visible.

It scares me frankly but I’ve done it and it’s been totally worthwhile and I’ve changed people’s attitudes with my actions. When passions run high it’s a hard time to appeal to the rational side of a person and they may not listen to you even tho you’re making good sense and they may know better in cooler times. But when you can do it I think you need to try to overcome your invisibility.

But there are true bigots and racists and people who are so prejudiced towards you and who you are that no amount of friendly talking is going to ever change their minds. These are the ones that it may be wisest to avoid at times when they hold power over you, but ultimately they’re the ones who need to be changed the most. But it’s not gonna happen and I’m at a loss as to how to deal with them sometimes.

Some people are just haters and that’s the way of life I’m afraid. They think they know better and they’ll tell you to your face why you’re evil and sick and deserve to be stigmatized without a qualm. It may or may not be appropriate to love your enemies but it’s definitely wise to at least recognize them.

I don’t mean to say that people can’t change. I’ve seen them do it. But some issues are so deeply entrenched in people’s psyches that it may be impossible to root out the cause of those prejudices and feelings. These are the people who need help in my opinion. But sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

So help for them may come in the form of stopping them from behaving in hateful ways, and that may mean blocking them with laws for hate crimes or taking away their rights until they learn to play well with others. I’m sorta hard line about this and think that these people are the true criminals and should be the ones who are locked up, not those of us who are sick and ill, or who are gay or different in other ways.

We need better education but we also need laws to protect us and our civil rights, not laws that block us from being who we are and take away those rights thru forced commitment when it’s not necessary, tho I believe there are times when it is necessary. Sometimes you have to lock someone up for their own protection or for society’s and I have no problems with it as long as their rights are protected with due process, which is very tricky. Which is why we need good laws and intelligent discussions of them made in reasoned situations and not in the heat of passion.

So what I’m saying is that stigma is a real force in the world and causes untold misery and harm to people like me and my fellow Invisible Illness sufferers and friends. I’m saying that in order to fight it we need better education and health care, and laws to protect us and society from people who hate and people who kill regardless of their motives or reasons. It’s all connected and there are no simple answers to any of this. I’m not pretending there are.

But I believe any intelligent society, which I believe this is, is capable of identifying workable solutions to these kinds of problems. In fact it’s a mark of a reasonable society that we Do find solutions to these kinds of problems. But I don’t believe we can leave it in the hands of the politicians alone and I think each of us has to take a stand and do what we can in our own lives and working together to create a decent society. It’s hard work and it can be dangerous but it’s required of good citizens. I hope I’m one of them and I hope you are too.

Fighting Stigma Together,

Steve

Risking Safety

Waterfall and Path

I just read a great post on the “2B Aware” site that posits an interesting Question. As the writer, Snarky Faith suggests: “There are two basic needs that we are hardwired for in life: security and significance.  We want to feel safe and, at the same time, know our life truly matters. The only problem is you can’t have it both ways.” Snarky went on to talk about this in detail and it made me take a look at my own life and how this concept has played itself out over time.

I’ve always been one who has chosen to take a path of risk, of taking chances, to try to make something significant of my life and do things that I thought of as important to help humanity and the world of Nature. Whether it was planting beautiful gardens or managing a food co-op, producing mind changing music and events or providing a safe place in a non profit educational center for people to come together to express their ideas and change the world. I’ve taken chances and it’s been a great life.

But when I was 45, some 17 years ago now, I was stricken with an episode of Bipolar Disorder and a physical breakdown that so drastically changed my life that it has never been the same since. I haven’t been able to work a job since then and have been on disability for this whole time. It’s changed my whole world and it has changed how I view the concepts of risk and safety.

I used to feel safe even when I took risks because I believed that I was invincible. It’s a part of that hypomania that so often goes along with those of us who are Bipolar II and I was no exception. I felt I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to do and I usually succeeded in it. I was changing the world and that’s what mattered to me and I was mostly content with that choice. I took extreme risks with myself and my well being and with my security most of all.

When I had the breakdown and things changed I had to make my safety and security the top priority. I had to take care of myself for a change. Put myself first instead of everyone else. I had to look at what I’d done to my health and my psyche by being so out there on the front lines of the struggle to make a better world and I saw that it cost me a lot. I realized I could no longer afford the cost. I was broke and living on a shoe string, tho I’d always done that, but this was extreme and I had to make decisions differently than I ever had to before.

I’d always been able to create a job for myself doing something worthwhile, or else joining with others who were, such as with the food co-op or the collective cafe where we provided good food for pe0ple. Same with the cultural collective where we presented gay mens music that had political content to it in the early 80’s, a time when most of gay culture was vapid and into who looked the best and who was sleeping with whom. I tried to offer different options for people to grow and change to become more fully themselves.

But when I couldn’t count on myself to be able to create work for myself anymore, and I certainly couldn’t work for anybody else because I was so messed up in my head and my body so trashed as well, I found that I longed for safety and security like I never knew I needed. I needed a change and it took a long time to create it in my life again. The change I needed was Love and I finally found it after much searching and longing.

I’ve changed a lot in the years since then and am now in a secure relationship. This has made a huge difference to me in terms of both my financial security and my emotional stability. I am loved and it’s not that I wasn’t before. I was. But this is different. This is a lifetime partnership that gives me a stability I’ve always lacked. I’ve come close to it in the past but it never was quite right for me or my then partner. Now I have something where I can feel safe for the first time in my life since I left home  as a youth.

I’m not taking risks like I used to. I’ve discovered that living with so many illnesses is a constant form of risk taking every minute of my existence. Like the Bipolar disorder or the chronic pain as well as all the other things I have to deal with it’s all overwhelming to me and it’s all I can do to stay a somewhat stable course most of the time even now. To take a risk with that stability just seems plain dumb. I absolutely Have to love myself or I’ll die.

But I feel like I’ve abandoned my calling in some ways. I still talk to people and I try to say things that are helpful in these blogs and in my life. I write letters for organizations I believe in and do a little activist work in that way. But it’s nothing compared to who I used to be. I just can’t do that anymore and I have to say I miss it.

I haven’t abandoned the struggle but I have to approach it in a different manner and put myself first, something I see that people who are involved in social change often don’t know how to do, as I’ve seen firsthand in many years in the trenches. The rate of burn out in social activists is high, and I’m just one casualty of it.

So what’s the answer to the questions that I began with in this post?  Do we have to choose security or significance or does the indecision make us melancholy and depressed as the writer of the article suggested.? I think you can have both. I think there’s a way to love yourself and your life and still to love the world and be engaged in it and take what risks are appropriate. The thing is to learn what battles are the ones to fight and which are the ones to let be. At least that’s how I see it.

What do you think about this quandary? How do you live your life? Have you made a choice towards one or the other or do you try to embrace both as I do, and are you happy at it whatever your choice? As you can tell this has been and is still a struggle for me and I suspect it is for many of you too. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter if you’d be willing to share them.

May you find Peace, whatever your choice,

Steve

PS. Thanks again to the “2BAware” site for posting this article that got me off on this post. Read it. It’s a great site. The article is called “The Most Important Decision  You Can Make”. http://www.2baware.net/self-awareness/the-most-important-decision/#more-2914