Brave New Mind

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.

bravenewmind

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.

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The Costly Mistake

“A mistake was made.  Dr. G. needs a half an hour with you, so you have to come in at 4:15PM.”

The third attempt in three days on my doctor’s part to reschedule me.

I panicked.  The plan was for Xan to come home and cart me off to my 5:30PM appointment.  That in itself was stressful enough.  Xan rarely gets off of work on time anyhow.  I would be playing this pacing game where I wear a rut into the corkwood floor of my eroding living room.

“But, I can’t.  I don’t have transportation.”

She was uncompromising.  “Dr. G. leaves the office at 5PM.  It’s 4:15PM or she will not see you today.”

I anxiously stammered, “I’ll see what I can do.  I’ll call you back.”

In her cheery, patronizing voice she said, “Okay, we’ll pencil you in for 4:15PM.  Hope to see you then!  Bye!”

And the phone went dead.  I was cast off that easily.  Complete disregard for my needs.  She’s one of those people who is just doing their job and nothing more.  Patient care doesn’t matter.  My threads started coming loose as I desperately grasped at the fabric that remained.  Hope was dimming.  Trapped in my head, trapped in this perpetual hell called my life, completely alone with this demon so inadequately named Bipolar Disorder.

For a moment, I let the wholeness of the situation set deeply into myself.  I read my prescription bottles closely and they said in big, haunting letters NO REFILLSWaves of panic nipped at me at the shoreline.   The tide suddenly grabbed me, and ripped into murky, black waters with the undertow.  There was no sense of what was up and what was down.  The air escaped me, as if being viciously sucked from my lungs, and they shriveled into nothing.

My fingers flew fast as I texted Xan.  The idealization took control as my head filled with these surrounding waters.  My mind swam around my skull, looking for solutions.  Grasping at the fabric, the tearing fabric holding my sanity, my hope, any kind of connection to reality and sanity.

“Hold for a moment on this.”

I am a business call.  Twenty minutes elapsed.  It was like standing in a queue for my husband’s attention at a clear crisis.  Those glimmers faded as I clung to anger.  Anger, my failing life preserver as it began to deflate into complete hopelessness and despair.  I trashed with distress, but to no matter.  Anything.  Anything . . .

“I’m calling the scheduler.”  I warned him that wasn’t wise.  The ultimatum was set forth.  4:15PM or not at all today.  4:15PM I could see this new doctor, and maybe in coming days, I could exit the tunnel of misery and dimness.  I could reclaim myself, my life, and everything that awaited me on the other side.

I wanted to beg him.  I wanted to get down on my knees and plead with him to leave work early.  He would have put his eight hours in that day, and it would have been alright.  Be my knight in shining armor.  Save me.  Save me from myself.

I started crying, huge, loud sobs belting through my house.  My son, my little four year old son with autism spectrum disorder approached me.  And he said, “Mommy, are we okay?”  I cried even harder, despite any efforts to control myself.  My son’s first four word sentence, his first appropriately placed words relevant to the situation, occurred because his mother was hysterical.

I said to him, wiping the tears from my face and pushing everything down, “Yes, Beast.  We’re okay.”  I wish I could have meant what I said to him.  His first question, and I had to lie to him.

The phone rang, playing a melody that I hope meant promise.  Promise that someone had conceded or made an exception for my desperate pleas.  I answered despondently, even with my head overflowing with idealistic notions of the outcome.

“Here’s the good news,” he started.  My heart seized up, anxiously hopeful.  “The nurse agreed to put a fill in for your prescriptions.”

“And my appointment?”

He continued, “It’s a bit of bad news.  Dr. G. is booked up until December 11th.  I scheduled you in for that day.”

I choked on my own voice, the bile rising from my stomach and the wires of my brain sparking as they frayed.  “December 11th?!  I can’t wait until then!”

“It was the soonest she had.  It was the best I could possibly do for you.  But, at least you have your medication until then.”

The tears finally came, screaming down my faced as I sunk against the sink.  “I need a doctor.  I need to get this fixed.  I live every single day in this perpetual hell.  This was my last hope, my only hope.  It has been stolen away from me.  Is there nothing we can do?”

He started to become cross, “What do you want me to do?  What more could I possibly do?”

“You can’t leave work?” I pleaded desperately.

“It wouldn’t matter anyway,” he informed me, “The scheduler already complained to me about your poor attendance record, and gave your appointment to someone else, anyway.”

My poor attendance record?! I screamed.  “I have no way to get to appointments!  And people keep blowing me off, like I don’t matter!  Like I’m not in a bad way! Like this can wait and as if I’m doing so well.  The only time I get to go to an appointment is to get this stupid medication that doesn’t even work filled.”

I paused, only for the brief moment it took for catch my already shallow breath, “I don’t know if anyone noticed, but I haven’t been well.  I have spent almost my entire year in one episode or another.  It’s beyond discouraging.  It’s thrown me into the jaws of despair and hopelessness that I will never get any better!

We sat in silence for a few minutes.  I sobbed violently, just waiting for some kind of word.  Some kind of solace.  Any rescue from the deep, dark recesses of my own caged mind.  Finally, I asked, “Are you still there?”

“Read your text messages,” was all he could respond.

I have people three feet from me.  I can’t talk about it.

My being shattered so deeply that I had felt fractures of each bone in my entire body.  I became enraged at his choice.  Work.  Work over his ailing wife.  No exceptions could be made.  And in his mind, I’m sure the thought had occurred, This too shall pass.

“Goodbye,” I choked out without another word.

The anger, the scraps that remained, boiled in the water.  The blackness around me turned scarlet and thick like the blood coursing through my veins.  I grasped my phone with a crushing forced and launching it against a wall.  It exploded into three pieces, the unit, the battery, and the backing.

Screams erupted out of shrieking sobs, “I can’t go through this hell anymore!!!  Why do I have to go through this?!  Why?!  Endlessly, I raved and ranted like a mad woman.  A mantra repeated, “I can’t do this!!!   I can’t!!!”

“That job!  I hate that f***ing job!  His work, his work!  Nobody cares!  Nobody!” I grabbed my “Teacher”coffee mug from the cabinet and smashed it against the linoleum floor.  I’m not a teacher anymore.  It is a lie every single time I drink from that mug.  I am a nothing now.  I am a nobody.

I stood there staring at the pile of the remaining shards of ceramic, heaving panting sobs.  I slid down against the stove, next to the pile and pulled me knees to my chest.  A ball.  Nobody can hurt me.  I can’t hurt me.  No one can come near me.

Alone.  I am slated to be alone.  Alone in my own mess.

I WANT TO DIE.

It’s all I could think.  There is no life ahead of me that I want to live.  It’s only a life full of pain and misery, where I am tragically locked in my head.  No one wants to hear of these complaints.  I have no perspective to gain.  No more words left to give the world.  No hope for myself or anyone else.  I have nothing.  I am nothing.  I will always be nothing.  To anyone, anywhere.

And if I were to say goodbye, I would be wished well.  I would be let go without another word, another prayer or any thoughts left for me.

There is no treatment that will make better.  I will always be like this, with this crushing weight upon me.  My eyes are constantly fixed on the rear view when I’m not navigating the endless series of trials within this tomb of a labyrinth.  Even in the fleeting happy, peaceful moments, I will always be cautiously watching over my shoulder for the monster who will eventually gain on me, and overtake me.  I will never find happiness.  I can never find a place of peace and solace within this madness.

A plan started hatching.  There will come a day where I will take my life.  I can’t truly know when, but the day is inevitable.  I must make preparations.  I took a handful of Xanax and considered washing it down with a swig of rum.  No, it would be bad enough that I am doped up around my child.  My child.  My beautiful baby has to witness this in his already confused life.  It fueled the fire to hate myself even more.

I will get my house in order.  I will not leave a mess to clean up, because there will be enough of a mess when I am gone.  I will get my son into a program and have him taken care of.  My belongings will end up in boxes, so that they may easily shipped off.  I will leave nothing but mournful whispers behind.

I wish I had something inspiring to say.  I wish I could tell you that I went on about my life, went to class last night, and came back in better shape.  I wish I could tell you that the rays of hope descended upon me, and I am determined to hold out until December 11th.  I wish I could tell you that I look forward to better days, where this awful, gnawing feeling dissolves into some kind of happiness.

But I can’t.  I can only give up and start to let go.  I can only start to say my goodbyes and write my heartfelt letters to those that I love.  Because in the end, whether I want it or not, this is my fate.  To eventually succumb to my illness.  To eventually self-destruct.

Just Snap Out of It

Society has developed some seriously bad attitudes toward mental illness.  It’s no surprise.  We see it attached to the stigma of it.  We’re treated like lepers, as if this were a terribly contagious thing.

Depression is no exception.  Today, a lot of people have been discussing the topic of the “Just Snap Out of It” phenomenon that occurs out there.  Honestly, there is a saying out there about how if a person hasn’t experienced it, then they can never truly know.  A person who hasn’t experienced clinical depression, either in the form of MDD or BP depression can never truly know it’s depth and breadth.  It is an all encompassing monster that claims every last bit of life and any possible joy that can come from it.

Having Bipolar Disorder, I am a person who naturally experiences some sometimes pretty obvious mood swings.  And the attitudes toward it are so completely off.  I have never had a person treat me poorly while I was in a manic episode.  Not one.  Not even when the plainly awful behaviors were showing.  Each person seemed to find it charming, amusing, or interesting.  Even when there were moments where I was so out of control that I was scared out of my wits, not a single person around me seemed to notice that there was something absolutely wrong with it.

No, my energy and spirits were high.  I would act impulsively, and people would take it as spontaneity.  I’d be overly, annoyingly chatty, and rudely interrupting others, but they took it as being outgoing.  Everyone seemed to think that was a sign that I wasn’t depressed anymore.  They seemed to think that it was some kind of miraculous recovery from “being like that”.

People only seem to take notice when I am depressed or mixed, like it’s some kind of disease that I choose to be afflicted with.  And the comments are absolutely endless, because everyone seems to have their own opinion about it.  It’s as if they consider themselves to be the authority on depression, anxiety and sadness in general. I will constantly hear phrases like, “Get over it” and “Get a grip” as if just snapping out of it were an option for me.

Meanwhile, people without mental health diagnoses start flinging clinical terms around, like they had some true application to their fleeting, shallow emotion.  For instance, “Oh, I’m so *bipolar* today”, instead of just saying that they are moody, or women arbitrarily making a comparison between PMS and Bipolar Disorder.   Or “I’ve just been so depressed lately”, to reference a little bit of discontent or sadness.

It’s not cute. It’s not funny. No one with those diagnoses thinks that it’s witty that someone is taking a serious clinical term with so much guilt and stigma that it could bring down a religion, and applying it to their BS, frivolous emotions!

It does everything it can to minimize those conditions.  It puts it in a light that we have some kind of real control over it.  As if it were something that a person can just “snap out of”.  It implies that a person chooses to be disordered.  It also puts a shameful connotation of attention seeking behavior.

Yeah, it’s the life, let me tell you. If I were doing anything for attention, it wouldn’t be this. It would probably be something more hilarious, like plastering myself with an obscenely worded banner and rollerblading through Downtown. Depression isn’t newsworthy, but that sure is.  Or maybe I’d be doing something a little more productive or noteworthy, like finding a cure for cancer.  But no, my depression is just that interesting that I would choose to gain that much needed attention from people I don’t even know or care about.

I have to wonder if the general public has to be so naive that they would actually be jealous over it.  So much emphasis is put on the “just get over it” ideals, as if that were possible. If I could will myself out of this state, don’t you think I would do it already? It would be more logical to think that I want to reclaim my life and be a productive person.  But no, according to others who are ignorant enough of mental illness, I am perfectly content to have disordered behaviors.   Sure, who doesn’t love ignoring their kid because the voices just got too loud? Personally, I love gripping my ears and screaming, “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!!!!”

And as a result of this blatant ignorance, I am really starting to believe that some are just plain jealous.  Because, they seem to think that those with disorder aren’t being responsible for their emotions and behaviors that result.  I certainly have quarrels with wanting to thrust a sense of selfishness and entitlement out there, because it’s what I have to do to take care of myself and my own in this world.  It’s those same people that shove themselves and their ideals down other people’s throats, only to make them feel bad. Misery loves company, and we’re perfect targets, right?

The point is this.  If a person is out there reading this and getting offended, it’s time to take a step back and think hard.  Is it so fair to be so judgmental?  Isn’t it about time to take a look from another perspective?  Does a person with a congenital disorder choose to be symptomatic?  It would be an entirely different story if I were refusing treatment, but like anyone else, I am keeping my appointments and taking my medication according to doctors orders.  We don’t blame someone for their symptoms when they have a seizure.  Why should this be any different?

Let me assure everyone.  If could have snapped out of this disorder and been a “normal” person, I may have done it, instead of living this ongoing nightmare.

All About Me : 30 Days of Truth

Day 01 : Something you hate about yourself.

As a chronic self-loather, I can find at least a hundred different things to hate about myself in the next minute.  Okay, go!

I’m short.
I’m overweight.
I’m awkward.
I’m a self-loather.
I’m sometimes passive-aggressive.
I’m a dirty liar to myself.
I’m sitting here making this list to prove myself.
I’m not sure I can come up with enough ways to loathe myself.

Seriously?  That was it?!  Add another to the list.  I can’t think on my feet.

Notice something above?  All of the items started with I’m IMe.  That’s the biggest problem of them all.

It’s all about ME.

It really is.

See?  I even included a real life picture of myself, (skillfully edited for privacy), to prove my point.  That’s the first thing I did when coming up with a graphic for this post.  I whipped out my camera and took about 10 photos until one came out the way I wanted.

Perhaps, I’m being overly sensitive to the notion that I am self-involved.  It is the furthest thing from what I want to be.  However, I cannot seem to think of a subject without being, well, subjective.  All of my knowledge.  All of my emotionsMy opinions being based on a combination of those in my experience.

Those are all of the ideas and thoughts that are translated from consciousness to some form of communication.  It is a very egocentric way of being, and it is absolutely distasteful.  There is a certain disdain toward the concept, and a loathing for embodying the trait.  No person wants to consider themselves as being self-absorbed.  Most of us aim to be altruistic.  However, there is an uncertainty that concept exists in the purest form.  Is it possible for a human being to be completely altruistic?

See what I did in that last paragraph?  I removed any self-centric words.  I used to make a practice of it.  In college, unless it was specifically an opinion piece, we were encouraged to removed any subjective words.  It made my writing sound ten times better, and removed bias while displacing blame.

I originally made a practice of it here, unless I was giving a first person narrative.  That’s what Pendulum started with: a narrative.

But, I’ve been writing so much on the subject of me, my experience with bipolar disorder, and my life over the last six months that I’m not sure where to draw the line anymore.

Back to the subject egocentricity versus altruism.  Perfect altruism is a work in progress.  The process of attaining perfect altruism is more important than the infeasible objective of embodying it.  That is my own self-discipline.  Others first, unless I am really running on empty.  Because, I cannot expect others to return my kindness and help me see to my own needs.  Tending to myself is what I think of self-sufficiency, rather than complete selfishness.

That’s where the lines go down in the sand.  They shift with the tides.  I have to carefully determine what is a need and what is a want.  The things I need may eventually become wants, and vice versa.  I may need leisure time at one point, because I am overburdened.  At another, it may be a recreational want, because I am interested in those things more than I am in activities that revolve around my responsibilities.

More than that is the question of self-esteem, assertion, overbearing, narcissist. Where does the line go down?  Back to self-loathing, I know I have plenty of that.  Only recently have I come into some self-esteem through firm demonstration of my positive characteristics and talents.  When and where does one love themselves too much?

Self-esteem gone wrong.

I have always had strong feelings about this subject.  A person crosses the line between confidence into arrogance when they become delusional about their own shortcomings.

So, why, again, do I feel as if it’s all about me?

My thoughts have been unusually introverted and my expression reflects that.  I talk about me.  I write about me.  I think about me.

There is a careful balance between egocentricity and altruism.  I am in the midst of that juggling act as my personality takes on certain shifts.  Throughout my treatment for bipolar disorder, I have noticed the plates shifting, changing the landscape of my own self.  Sometimes, it is difficult for me to differentiate between what is illness and what is personality.  For both the good, and the bad.