There’s something completely mind-altering about looking into a mirror and seeing someone still familiar, and yet entirely different. It’s a lot different from an impulsive cut and color. Those kinds of changes are so sudden and purely aesthetic. Underneath all of the paint, it’s still the same structure.
With changes in diet and exercise, the structure begins to gradually shift. The roundness came away, revealing angles and shapes I had never known. But, it wasn’t just about the weight that had come off. I had tone in my muscles that made me look strong and sturdy. For the first time in my life, I felt strong, inside and out, like I could take on the world.
I started to realize that sometimes, change comes from outside in.
With a new found confidence from feeling comfortable in a new skin, I reexamined my own internal world with a sense of confidence that was once sorely lacking. It wasn’t the same as the critical introspection that I was so used to engaging in. For once, it was a realistic, objective perspective.
The Voice, as I’ve referred to intense intrusive thoughts and vaguely psychotic entities in the past, had suddenly taken my side. I’d find myself launching into once typical degrading monologues, only to be stopped short.
Why are you so eager to hurt yourself?
There are people in your life who believe in you. Why don’t you believe in you?
Why are good things not allowed to happen to you?
These challenging questions came slowly at first. I was so inclined to revisit places I had already been to before. My abusive past. The mechanisms of growing up with early onset bipolar disorder. I rubbed my hands up and down my self-injured scars, searching for answers. Who did this to me? What did this to me?
It occurred to me. It was probably the most difficult realization I’ve ever come to in my entire life.
It all begins and ends with me.
I am the alpha and the omega in my life. The beginning and the end of all things.
And for awhile, I sank into a depression. By that logic, I was responsible for all of my misery and a failure at taking control of my own life. My greatest fear had been realized. Everything was my fault, just as everyone had been telling me for my entire life.
There was a point where I realized that the self-loathing was just counterproductive. It didn’t inspire me to try harder or make any improvements. It was defeating, and bred a sense of hopelessness that rendered me helpless. In fact, I didn’t hate myself at all. I actually liked myself and was proud of my accomplishments throughout my life. That wasn’t me talking. It was something else altogether.
When breaking these intrusive and abusive monologues down, I came to a startling conclusion. The value system, of which I completely governed my life and behavior, were not mine at all. These self-defeating values were inherited from extraordinarily flawed and rigid familial and societal governments. They had become so deeply ingrained that responses were automatic. The truth is, I hadn’t even been living my own life by my own rules.
Some examples include:
“Many times in life, you’ll have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do. You just have to get it over with.”
I subjected myself to a immeasurable amount of misery that was completely unnecessary. At certain points, I found myself only surviving my life. I endured so many awful situations that I could have avoided if it weren’t for the idea that misery was just a part of life. It built a certain amount of resentment for those around me who I was sacrificing myself for.
“Get a grip.”
I attempted to live my in stoicism, because I was under the impression that emotional displays were distasteful and unacceptable. It was absolutely conflicting to my nature, being a person with bipolar disorder. Sometimes, there is no handle on things. And yet, I attempted to rein in my emotions and behavior, causing an explosive temper and repeated meltdowns. It translated to me expressing every negative emotion as anger, because anger was the only acceptable thing.
“Crying means that you are weak. You can’t show people that you are weak.”
I stopped crying (at least in front of people), because I would be mercilessly mocked. This was more reinforcement for angry outbursts. I hid my vulnerabilities and became viciously defensive. I instinctively pushed people away, because I was convinced that the closer I allowed someone to be, I more likely they would be to damage me.
“There are no excuses.”
Any explanation that I could provide for my shortcomings was considered to be an excuse or a rationalization. There was no answer that I could provide that would be good enough. All of my limitations and inexperience were of no consideration.
“What other people think is the only thing that matters.”
I got the idea that the only way to measure my self-worth was through achievement. External approval was the singular source for validation of my actions. Combined with all of the above, this value became the source of my own self-loathing whenever I would fail to meet an expectation. And when all of the expectations were generally unrealistic due to overambition, it was an automatic setup for failure.
In reality, it wasn’t that I was actually responsible for my misery. I was responsible for making changes to a rigid and dysfunctional value system that served to oppress me throughout an entire lifetime. The great epiphany wasn’t placing blame. It was to empower me, and help me realize that I am the main character in my own life. I am the source. And in the end, I had the final say in my happiness and lifestyle. I govern myself.
Immediately, I started to view the world as a blank page. I was liberated from all of the bonds that caged me in such a bleak and oppressive world. I had the authority to rewrite all of the rules by taking on values that I believed in, and living a functional, productive life.
Everything in moderation.
As long as I’m still trying, I’m succeeding.
Eliminate limitations. There is no such thing can’t.
This one requires some explanation. In this line of thinking, there are no limitations in the sense that there are always adaptive strategies through creative problem solving that can make something a possibility.
True respect begins with respecting myself.
I have a whole article I want to write about this.
Regular and constant practice are the keys to mastering anything.
Energy is neither positive nor negative. It’s the expression and application that determines the nature.
Meditation is necessary for a calm mind and a calm spirit.
As long as I’m acting purposefully, I cannot be acting recklessly.
Control is an illusion. Guidance through leadership is a fact.
Humanity is not a condition. It is a natural state of existence.
Truthfully, many aspects of my new value system have roots in the tenets, codes, and practices of martial arts. However, martial arts is only a template. It’s a starting point from which we are encouraged to develop ourselves mentally and spiritually in our own individual ways. And through my knowledge of psychology, I began to mold a whole new mindset for myself to start a brand new life.
- Understanding Bipolar Disorders (mentalhealthworks.wordpress.com)
- My Bipolar World: A Collection of Works by Sylvia Meier (thecontentangel.com)
- Bipolar Disorder: The Imbalance Within (bipolar.answers.com)
- The Eight Most Common Bipolar Symptoms (bipolar.answers.com)
- Bipolar Disorder: Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression (bipolar.answers.com)