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

Re-Framing the Past

CLOUD085

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember to allow yourself to Let go….

Steve

Tranquility Through Music

Tibetan Music

I’ve always loved music. My folks turned me on to it when I was a little kid with their albums from Reader’s Digest of the Great Classical Pieces and other such delights. Kinda corny stuff in a way but it got me listening to classical music at a very young age, and then piano lessons for several years in the same vein taught me to appreciate the sounds I was listening to. In fact I was so into classical that when rock and roll came to me I found it too simplistic for my tastes at first. Obviously that changed.

Now my tastes are very eclectic and I love all sorts of music, except that stuff they play on elevators or when you’re waiting for a phone call to pick up. I don’t really consider that stuff music myself. but then a lot of what I listen to would be considered off the wall by many people I’m sure. I like what might be termed space music, “new age”, electronica, or world music a lot, as well as folk, jazz, blues, alternative, eclectic, classical and definitely rock and roll. But I tend to gravitate towards music that feels healing to me.

My partner and I have been involved in a fun project for the last few weeks. He’s been taking all our CD’s and cassettes and putting them on a computer storage unit we have so that I can access them all from iTunes on my MAC and I’m now able to play most of my favorite albums online with only the click of a mouse button. I’m listening to all sorts of things I haven’t heard in years. Wow.

It’s amazing what it’s doing for me. I listen to old stuff I used to hear in high school or college, and it takes me back there, as does the music that takes me to other times and places. It’s a nostalgic journey as well as being in current time. Because of the set up of iTunes I can go thru all my albums, of which I have over 400 now, and just find things arbitrarily or in some sense of order depending on what I want. I browse. This way I hear things I might not generally listen to.

Right now I’m listening to Kitaro, a Japanese New Age/World Music performer whose music sets a tone of quiet energy in my mind. It helps me feel like I’m in a different reality while still being in my own world. I can listen and travel with the music as I write this piece and it gives me pleasure and peace of mind. Both of them are things I need in my daily life and since I’ve been putting all these albums on iTunes I’ve been listening to more and more music every day.

I’m particularly fond of music that takes me to other worlds and countries so I have an extensive collection of what I call World Music only mine’s not just the fusion of cultures you hear from white folks all the time, which I’m not knocking – I love it in fact. But I have a lot of actual music from around the world that I listen to. I call it folk music at its core since it’s often the folk music of the culture I’m listening to. It gives me insight into the rhythms of that culture and how they move and dance.

I used to dance a lot with my music but I don’t tend to do that so much as I’ve gotten older. I need to get back to it I guess. It’s good exercise and makes me feel good to do it. And anything that makes me feel good is a good thing I figure. But I don’t have much room to dance where my computer is set up tho I have some space I can gyrate around in and enjoy it. We recently figured out how to jack the computer into the stereo system so I can have the music playing all thru the house. Now I can dance!

I tend to spend a lot of time in my mind and music really helps me to tone that down and let my demons rest some of the time when I’m engaged in listening to it. It keeps the bad thoughts away so well in fact that I find I’m listening to music most of the time these days whenever I’m around the computer, which is a lot of the time. Keeping the thoughts in line is an important part of my ongoing health routine. I need to stop ruminating so much and focus on what’s good in my life , which I do mostly, and music helps me do that.

I suffer from a myriad array of symptoms that keep my mind occupied with thoughts of doom and gloom too much of the time. Having so many illnesses, from chronic pain,to Bipolar Disorder, to arthritis and fibromyalgia and more, I’ve found that I need to take a multi-pronged approach to my healing. As such music plays a vital and indispensable part of that. I’d let go of it for too long and finding it again has made a huge difference to my life. It’s a great gift.

I hope you have a place where you can go to listen to the music that you find to be the most helpful to you in keeping yourself in a good state of mind. It’s a gift to have it available to us at all sorts of times when we need to calm down or relax and let go of our worries and difficulties. It’s such an easy thing to do for so much enjoyment and benefit. I’m an inveterate music fan and I hope you are too.

Musically yours,

Steve

Illness in a Relationship

Louie and Steve

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

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

 

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

I’m Losing It

Losing It

I usually try to stay positive in these posts. I may complain a bit about the hard things but over all I try to offer useful suggestions from my own life that maybe can help out some and talk about ways I’ve learned to deal with my illnesses and troubles. But I find I can’t do that today. I’m at the bottom of the Pit and all I can see are the slimy walls of my dungeon. And the thing is, I know I’ve put myself here and I can eventually get out, but I just Can’t do it right now.

To be fair I’ve had some setbacks lately. I’ve had some things happen in my life that I needn’t go into because they’re just things after all and it’s not the things so much as my response to them that matters. And my response isn’t what I usually  can muster up. Usually I can look at the things and see where my thinking has gone astray and turn my mind to better things and thoughts. I can change my reality and be OK with it even if I’m not happy exactly.

But I’m really suffering right now and it’s bleak and all I want to do is die. I want to take a knife and slice up my wrists like I did one time when I was psychotic. I want to take all my morphine at once and never wake up. I want to drive my car into a freeway embankment and crash and burn like my soul feels it’s doing. I want to simply cease to exist.

Of course I’ll do none of those things. I just need to vent sometimes and now is one of them. I tried to give thanks for the good things in my life, and the thing is, it doesn’t help worth crap. None of my multitudinous bag of tricks is working for me right now and I feel powerless and hopeless and defeated and I hate feeling like this. I hate it when life gets the best of me and I can’t respond and can only react to it. It’s not how I think of myself and it’s awful.

But it’s not so uncommon. I feel like this a lot I’d say and I’m in a minor mixed state of Bipolar right now I think. In other words I’m enraged about my state but am too depressed and apathetic to do anything about it. I won’t kill myself be assured. I have too much to live for and I know that. But who cares? I don’t right now. So what if I die? Who’ll miss me? Well, a lot of people would and I know that and it keeps me from doing something stupid. But I still feel this way.

I know this is going to make me sorry when I post it. But I’m going to anyway. I know that there are a lot of other people out there who feel exactly the same way I do and can’t give voice to it because they’re in even worse shape than I am. Or maybe they’re just too reticent to speak bad vibes on here. I dunno. Maybe they’re just smarter than I am.

I just know that it helps me to talk about it and so I am. And I believe in keeping it Real so I talk when I need to. Sure I have a counselor and I’ll see him next week. And I’ll talk to my partner and friends and explain what I’m going thru. And it eventually will change I know.

That’s the one continuous thing in the universe. Change. It Always will change and sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes it’s for the worse. But it never stays the same for too long. Or maybe it is too long. It feels that way to me right now. But it’s what I hold onto and it gives me the courage to stick with it and just let go into the flow of things and let life work its magic on me. It can do wonders.

I’m reading a good book now called “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. I highly recommend it. It posits that our emotional IQ is far more important in how we are able to live a good life than our academic IQ. I’ve known this for years and it’s very validating to read a scientific discourse on it.

I score pretty high on it actually. I’m terrifically empathetic and I can  put myself in someone’s shoes without a thought. I understand my thinking and I can change my thoughts at will much of the time. I’m resilient and I reinvent myself frequently and with good results. But too often, as now, I’m also a  Slave to my Passions and that’s my downfall. My emotions become my reality and I Know they’re Not, but I can’t get out from under the whip.

I know it’s because of the Bipolar disorder and I could just blame it on that, but it seems too facile and easy to do that. It feels like it’s my fault still and I have to do something to overcome it nevertheless. Even tho it’s a debilitating illness and I can’t stop it anymore than I can stop hurting so much by some miracle. I’m still responsible for how I feel at the basest level. We all are I believe.

I’d really like to end this on a positive note but I don’t know how to do that right now. I’ll just say that I know things will be better in time and I’ll get thru this. I’ll wait it out and if nothing else maybe I’ll watch a movie about war in ancient China 2000 years ago which is so far out of my realm of consciousness that it will definitely change my reality, at least for a couple of hours. Maybe that’s copping out but so what? It works.

And I’ll thank my partner for making me lunch and give thanks for the food I eat. I’ll do the work. And hope that in time it’ll net me results of feeling better. But right now… right now I think I’m losing it and I can’t stop myself from falling.

Peace to you,

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

Give it Time…

FRICE037

I’ve always been pushing the river. Even as a kid I had too much to do and wanted it done Now. I wouldn’t study for school and only my native smarts let me still get A’s and B’s and my counselors said I didn’t work up to my potential. But I had things to Do. I was always in a hurry. When I went to college I couldn’t wait to graduate so I quit and got a job in a nursery and worked instead. But I couldn’t do that for long and ended up starting my own businesses while still working for others to learn. I was simply impatient, which is a contradiction in a gardener and I did have patience when it came to the growing things. But in my life I was still pushing that river.

But in 1976 I had something happen that stopped me cold. I started getting Migraines and suddenly I couldn’t move, let alone work or do what I wanted. I Had to stop and rest. It was hard. But I kept working and often would work with a migraine and it’s hell let me tell you. But I wouldn’t stop. Then a year later I was hit by a semi-truck driving on the freeway and my life changed forever in an instant. My back was trashed. I almost died in that wreck but still I wouldn’t stop. Sure I was laid up for months but I went back to my landscaping job and as soon as I could I hired people to work for me but if they did it wrong, there I was in the dirt fixing a brick patio or replanting a tree. See, I’m a perfectionist too of course.

When I moved to the Mountains of the Okanogan Highlands in Washington to homestead I worked managing a Food Co-op’s Health Food store, where I pushed as hard as I could. I got a lot done and still am regarded kindly there 25 years later. It was easier on my back and I could do it. But then in 1988 I got out of a sweatlodge ceremony and my back spasmed and I was thrown to the ground screaming and that stopped me for good, tho I had to finish building my cabin even in my  pain and disability. I didn’t know it then but my homesteading days were over.

I went back to Seattle and to school where I did well. But at the end of a job I was also doing, (still pushing it) I decided that I either had to kill myself or create my own non-profit Center presenting classes as I’d been doing in my job. I hadn’t been diagnosed with the bipolar yet but I sure was acting it out wasn’t I? But even that was too physical and in 1995 I had the all time worst breakdown in my life. I was crippled for months – emotionally, mentally, psychically, physically and spiritually. I lost my Center and I was a mess and I finally  had to stop pushing and take stock of my life.

Somewhere into my consciousness came the phrase “Give it Time”. I don’t know if I read it or thought of it or what. But I wrote it down and put it on my bookshelf, where it still resides today, some 15 years later. It’s my motto now and it shows in how I  live my life.  No more pushing the river for me. I take it easy and take my time. If I have an appointment I leave early so I don’t have to stress in traffic. If I have an argument with someone I try not to fly off the handle but step back and think about things before I lose it (well not always, but I try…).

If things aren’t going well for me and I’m depressed especially I have to let myself adhere to my motto and give myself time to get over the depression. I have to wait it out like a bad drug trip or the nightmare which it resembles. I have to give it time and remember that it will change. They say time heals all wounds and tho I’m not so sure of That I do know it’s helped me deal with a lot of mine.

I’m a different person in so many ways now than I was back then before I had this realization. I was hyper and acting out my Bipolar Hypomanias all the time back in those days and I really am amazed I didn’t get caught at it and diagnosed. But all they saw was the depression and so that was what I was diagnosed with. A common fact among those of us with Bipolar of all sorts. But now I use my Chaos Theory as I’ve written about elsewhere here, and I try to put a framework on things that allows me to take them as they come and give them time to develop themselves so I can really see what’s going on.

I don’t always succeed of course. Old habits die hard and I do have episodes that take me over and I can’t cope. But I’ve overcome a lot and I think if I can do it so can you. Maybe you just need to step back a pace or two and stop what you’re doing and count to 10 and let things shift for you. That’s what I’ve done and I’m a better person and it makes life so much easier now. It’s not simple mind you but I’ll take what I can get eh? Now I just watch that River… After all I have Time on my side….

In a Timely Manner,

Steve