Here in America, my home of late, we’re preparing for Thanksgiving. I have loads to be thankful for. My FOC, my cats, my good health. All of that. For a girl who grew up in a cult and nearly died escaping it, having a good life at all is miraculous. Yet here I sit, typing away, confident in the knowledge that I am loved and wanted by a wonderful group of people (and wonderful cats). Yes, I am thankful.
I am not, however, thankful for bipolar disorder. It will be the unwelcome guest this holiday week. I’ll miss my nightly chat with my best friend Tuesday and Thursday due to his family obligations. My work schedule is different. My adopted grandmother of sorts and I will spend a day cooking together (great, but still out of the ordinary). And all the while, I’ll have to monitor my mood for shifts caused by the lack of routine.
If you have bipolar disorder, you know this dance. Your mood is stable. Friends and family arrive. Your anxiety rises. Partway through the new terrain that is this holiday week, your anxiety peaks just in time for everyone else to settle in. Your thoughts start racing from the anxiety, and pretty soon you start to feel the deliciously dangerous tug of mania. This is what a significant change in routine can do to me.
Self care is so important during these times. If I feel my thoughts start to race, I just go to my room and write or breathe or meditate. Whatever it takes. I check in with my best friend via text just to say goodnight. Even if we can’t actually chat, that brief connection makes a major difference. I force myself to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. That part of my routine remains intact. I used to think of this sort of care as selfish. Now, I see it as necessary. Without taking care of myself, I have nothing to give to others.
So this is my takeaway for all of you out there dealing with mental health issues this week: take care of yourself. Your family, whether biological or just in the heart, wants to spend time with you. Don’t let your disorder take your place.
As a practising Wiccan, I’ve always turned to nature to help hold me together. I hadn’t the space to work through the Full Moon rites of November and December, nor was I able to hold my usual ritual to mark the Winter Solstice. These are things I’ve done for quite some time now. They hold me to the Earth, to all of time and space, and to what I recognise as Spirit. Gutted by grief as I am right now, I decided to do a simple mandala representing the four elements– earth, air, fire, water– and the Spirit that binds them all together. I’m sharing that mandala here in hopes that some of you who are also feeling adrift these days can use it to focus your minds or simply to meditate on the image. This is something my therapist taught me. The process is to put on music that does not have an emotional attachment and just let your mind wander where it will as you gaze at the image. It’s actually neurobiological at its base, but it does wonders (in my experience) for the soul.
Wishing everyone peace for now and in to the New Year.
One of my earliest memories is very traumatic, but it ended with probably the most beautiful experience I’ll ever have. I remember being in a room next to one where my brother was being beaten. I had been thrown out of the room and told that my brother would be killed if I came back in. So I hid there. Listening to it was worse than going through it would have been.
At some point, though, the screaming stopped and it was perfectly silent. I felt warmth like I’d never felt before and saw someone’s arms around me. I did that floating out of my body bit and saw myself cradled in the arms of this Being that was solid gold. He made me laugh, and I knew that as long as He was around, I would be OK.
Fast forward twenty or so years and I’m still in close contact with this Being and another, for that matter. They’re my Spirit Guides. They’re not alters or any part of me at all. They belong to the Universe as a whole and are Beings of light, to use a cliche. I can usually contact Them in deep meditations, and I know They’re always close when bad things are going on in my life. They’ve even given advice to people in my FOC and have helped me many, many times to provide guidance for others. I’m human, obviously, and to that end They can’t make my life perfect, nor can They give me perfect vision. What They *can* do, though, is help.
For a while now, I’ve been unable to do deep meditation. I felt like I’d lost that connection and had nothing to hold on to. Today, though, one of the Guides reached out to me and I felt that connection again. I’ve been contemplating a seemingly small decision, prodded by one of my others who knows more about metaphysics than I ever will this go round. The Guide who communicated with me today showed me how to handle that situation in great detail. Turns out this ‘unimportant’ decision has been quite some time in the making. It’s an even bigger, tangible link to that Universal connection I thought I’d lost.
…scare me. Following my psychiatrist’s recommendation, I took the lowest dose of Zyprexa for the first time on Saturday morning. It took almost twelve hours before I felt semi-normal again. The rapid-cycling bit does not make me happy. It disrupts my life and makes me feel out of control. As I’ve written before, though, this class of meds does not set well with me. Abilify gave me a seizure, Geodon sent me to hospital, Seroquel (and the others, actually) dropped my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Fortunately, Zyprexa hasn’t lowered my blood pressure. It apparently has resurrection properties as well, because this morning, I feel like a zombie. I’m definitely not rapid-cycling. I recognise this nothingness, and it scares me.
My mother took the old anti-psychotics –Haldol and Risperdal– and they turned her into a lack of person. She quite literally drooled. Yes, my sometimes violent mother was definitely not violent on those meds, but she was really nothing at all. She barely spoke. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to be an out-of-control manic, a suicidal depressive, *or* a zombie. I want to find a middle ground, and Western medicine might not be able to provide that. I’ll try the Zyprexa for two weeks as promised, but my goal for this week is to work out the meditation techniques I’ve largely stopped using. Meditation is extremely powerful, and I need to start using that again as another tool towards helping myself physically and mentally.
This week I’ve watched the sun rise every day. It’s a very peaceful thing. My house-mates tend not to be awake early, so it’s a bit of time I can spend without being bothered. It’s my time for meditation, journalling, or whatever I feel like doing just then. It’s a way to begin the day from a more grounded position. I’ve found that, if you’re working from a base of peace, everything seems better.
And that brings me to my next point– it’s interesting to distinguish victim from survivor. I think I’ve moved from one role to another without even noticing the change. To me, victim indicates someone who feels powerless and can therefore be abused more and more. It’s so hard to break away from an abusive situation if you feel powerless. I remember that pattern and still fall into it on rare occasions. Overall, though, I do *not* feel like a victim. The statement that people can only hurt you if you let them used to make me feel like I was being told that what happened was entirely my fault. Now I understand that it’s about empowering yourself. I’ve only recently grounded myself in the knowledge that my life is mine and, although I can’t always prevent my own perps from affecting my life badly, I *can* evaluate my response to things. It’s a fine balance.
The Week So Far was the first regular feature I came up with for my blog. Poor neglected category. I think, in the blur of activity lately, I’ve skipped writing this for the past couple of weeks.
The weeks have indeed been blurry. It’s that depression and anger bit again. Always fun. The really hard part about making myself feel better from that is making myself *do* things. Making myself go to campus, making myself spend time outdoors, et c. It’s very slowly getting better, and I’ll take that for now.
The never-ending job search continues, but I might actually be getting somewhere with that as well. I’ve been in contact with a campus placement agent and have been accepted as part of a placement agency that works specifically in my field. I’m not getting particularly hopeful, though. History isn’t the greatest in this aspect.
Recreation wise, spending time outside has been excellent for me. I live several miles from nowhere, so I can go walking in the woods behind our house. It’s lovely out there. Even when it’s really hot, there’s a spot that gets very little sun where I can go and just sit. I love being outside. There’s something about returning to the elements, so to speak, that really helps clear up some of the confusion in my life. One of these days, with any luck, I’ll be living near an ocean again. There’s nothing quite like being at the ocean. It’s healing on so many levels.
And speaking of healing, I’ve been working quite alot more on the metaphysical aspects of my life. That’s another thing I’ve sort of lost track with and, as my present situation is a bit sticky, metaphysics/alternative spirituality is something I’m depending on more and more these days. I guess there’s opportunity in anything.
Hopefully this category is happier now. 🙂