Bottom line? I was a grieving, masking, pretending, smiling, joking MESS. To say I was sensitive would be laughable in it’s understatement.
UGH. Just ugh. My therapist assures me that feeling these feelings is what I need, but dear lord it is painful and difficult. I feel like I’m crawling through mud. But let’s maybe do a quick and dirty run down.
After my suicide attempt (which I’ve come to learn was less about death and more about not having enough emotional coping mechanisms this is food for thought for everyone) I rallied like a proper bipolar, celebrating with some great unsupported, unexplained bouts of hypomania wherein I declared I was cured and took off to “Thunder on The Tundra”. A motorcycle rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin to “clear my head” and “get back to normal”. Now remember I was on a BRAND new prescription of Seroquel. But hey hypomania/mania is not know for its logic. That rally was where I got my lip pierced. Rode a three-wheeler for the first time. And continued the tradition of spreading Rob’s ashes at a new body of water on the 9th of every month. There was actually a beautiful moment where many of the other bikers rode in formation to a waterfall and were with me when I left a little Rob there. It was symbolically, for me, experiencing things with him that we would never get to do on this plane of existence. At one point I had the poem, picture, and place for each month of that first year burned into my memory, but even that has faded and now just a few of the more memorable ones remain. (hey would you just look at this, I started writing and it got easier.) The rally had it’s ups and downs, I was struggling to be “normal” and those times were filled with booze, the worst self medication tool I had. (I sometimes wonder how different my life would have been w/o alcohol or w/the same kind of access to cannabis as an alternative) Bottom line? I was a grieving, masking, pretending, smiling, joking MESS. To say I was sensitive would be laughable in it’s understatement. So at the end of the rally feeling keenly the loss of the distraction and having a group of people leave without me because I over slept sent me into a bit of tailspin. I dumped the rest of seroquel down the toilet and took off solo to “explore” (IE drive aimlessly and seek some questionable distractions until the money ran out) I came home and quit my job and decided to move and leave my kids. At this point I had decided that maybe me dying wasn’t great but certainly being in my children’s lives was not helping them so I arranged for the twins to go live with their dad and his new wife, and for Lyra to move with her dad as well. It seems when I need to get my life on track my first instinct is to slough off anyone or anything that relied on me. The truth is I felt unreliable. I often felt that people would be better off without me. I am sure it seemed selfish and narcissitic yet it came from more than any one single straighforward reason. In hindsight I see it for the Flight and Freeze response that it was. I have been overwhelmed so much of my life. I’m learning now about sensory issues, autism, HSP, c-ptsd and so many other ways of understanding how life can truly effect each of us so differently. But back then? I just panicked, I just reacted purely out of a survival mode coping mechanism. At this point in the story I think a lot of people felt the kids would be better off without me, again. So it seemed reasonable to move close to mom and “start over fresh” (what a ridiculously naive sentiment LOL) and so it was that I packed up my belongings for one of the many times I ran away in life, and took off on my motorcycle to move to Arizona. On the way I stopped to visit my younger brother, who was living in the Grand Canyon at the time, aka the island of the misfit toys, and there a whole new f*ed up chapter of my life could begin. The infamous brief “stopover” that would turn my life into a new brand of self destructive behavior. I think we’ll start there next time, because this is leaving me a bit depressed. To really and truly examine the drama created by self defeating behavior is not an easy pill to swallow.
I think it might be important to note that at this time I had gone on to get my teaching certification in several forms of yoga and had even briefly run my own studio, before I had my suicide attempt this will later matter to the whole picture of recovery. So when you hear me get super agro about the cult of positivity and the harm of repressed emotions you’ll understand the depth of my experience.
Not necessarily a Disney princess singing to birds type….
Sometimes when I’m doing my Inner Voice Exploration Practice AKA #morningpages Poetry spills out. I’ve spent my whole life being “not a morning person” to the point of almost pride – because owning it was the only way to not let it further damage my self-worth. But the truth is, I’ve always wanted to be one, a morning person. Not necessarily a Disney princess singing to birds type, but at least able to get out of bed not feeling like a zombie and have the drive to do things, any of the things, that I want to do to improve the way I show up in the world. Anywho as I was writing about this struggle the following came out…(I don’t feel it’s my best work, it’s a bit forced but my process means I am committed to acknowledging and sharing my work no matter how I feel about it…it is definitely a PROCESS) I am still working on knowing what experiences are ME and what are byproducts of bipolar mood swings but I’m really hoping that my new found love of my mornings is due to my work and not just some hypomania drive. We will find out over time I guess 😀
Morning breaks creeping slowly across the sky you toss and turn your back there is no joy in the sunrise experience tells us there is pain and so we being each day the same broken, beaten, heavy carrying the weight of yesterdays and all the yesterdays yet to come the ghosts of hurt, loss, injustice cling to your mind and spirit moving slowly we try to brush them off some we are afraid to release the sadness proof of our journey our scars have begun to define us this is no way to learn to fly but we have begun to change little by painstakingly little each new dawn another chance to become something new, ourselves breathing deep, reaching further down shake, cry, stretch, release making mornings sacred healing we shrug and unburden ourselves the dark shadows start to fand we are beginning to look forward not to yesterdays, but to tomorrows to now the power of possibility begins to rise with the sun and we are transformed It’s finally today and today and today we arise new, open, ready, hopeful Welcome Morning what shall we discover today?
This is a “one-shot” poem from Feb. 2021 – I occasionally will go through the process of writing by way of stream of consciousness. No editing except formatting. It’s always interesting to run across them. Sometimes I need to hear what I was feeling. It’s always a bit stunning that you can forget something so deeply. Like, I wouldn’t have even known that I wrote this if I had stumbled across it unlabeled. It’s a pretty deep truth that struggles to stay surfaced. Working on not silencing myself everyday <3
Slowly but surely I could feel things inside me starting to shift. Long lost (suppressed) dreams and feelings came bubbling up.
OK here’s the background lest those that know me see a prayer in here and wonder if I’ve been body-snatched: All of this (my therapy, writing, sharing, pursuing my dreams) is finally happening thanks to “The Artist’s Way” by the good witch Julia Cameron. A small group of friends and I, in January 2021, took a leap and started it together. I built a small group on Facebook and Telegram so that we could share our journey. And every week we would get together and discuss our experiences and progress on Zoom. It was a game-changer.
Slowly but surely I could feel things inside me starting to shift. Long lost (suppressed) dreams and feelings came bubbling up. It wasn’t always easy but something about it worked for me. And the personal progress I have made in the last 18months because of it has been nothing short of amazing. And it worked for others in the group too. It’s their story to tell but it was so gratifying seeing others’ dreams blossom as well.
But the whole time I was personally working against a tiny issue. (spoiler alert it’s not tiny at all for me) “GOD”. You see Julia is a believer and I am most decidedly not. I’ve tried to go the route of “it wasn’t god that hurt me it was just humans in the church” but it didn’t take and I just can’t quite get behind the god idea. Make no mistake though the church messed me up good and that was the beginning of my questioning of the sky father but it was not the end of it.
So part of my process to work through TAW (the artist’s way) Was de-deifying the god talk to something palatable for me. Over time I’ve come to even feel that I don’t really work from a place of “source” either. It’s just another word for god, but I did appreciate my effort and figured I’d save it here for posterity’s sake. Maybe I’ll take it one step further and demystify it completely.
You see, I’m seeking a small mantra of affirmation similar to this that is about my state of mind, not something outside of myself. That’s what brought me back to this project. It’s not quite what I want but it’s a nice starting point. I guess this all makes me an atheist but I prefer the term agnostic because I’m not comfortable with the idea of saying “I KNOW” anything for sure. I feel it’s hubris of the highest order to say we know diddly squat for certain. But that’s a whole other Maury.
This is generally where I get all apologetic to believers…but ya know what? If you believe you are totally allowed to, it’s 100% your business and choice but I’m done apologizing for my beliefs. If you are allowed to believe, I’m allowed not to. I choose to live my life as a decent human regardless of possible rewards and punishments and I choose how to treat others based on compassion that is inherent to my being, that is all. What I realized through this work is I wasn’t extending my compassion to myself and I wasn’t allowing myself to BE ME unapologetically, and that was the missing ingredient. (man I can’t stop my tangents) So this is me shedding my shame about being agnostic. No more dancing around it, it’s not a condemnation of believers it’s just who I am.
ANYWHO I give you the non-denominational prayer to source version of the lord’s prayer (pssst I grew up catholic I’ve read the bible, I’m baptized, 8 years of catholic school and a metric tonne of church time so don’t at me with religion I promise not to try to change your mind if you can extend the same courtesy to me)
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Promise to the Universal Source
We honour source, that which surrounds us and connects us
Source is the sound of Aum that resonates in our hearts
May that sound lead us to loving harmony that we may experience and spread peace and understanding in every moment
As above so below As within so without
We are grateful for the bounty of the earthy and joyously accept its nourishment
We promise to forgive our own weaknesses and imperfections as we forgive them in others
We promise to seek loving-kindness and reject deceitfulness and harm
I’ve felt it my whole life. This slightly asynchronous feeling coupled with that feeling that I really was just more trouble than I was worth. I used to agree.
When last I left off telling my partial “origin” story I had just left the psyche ward in Aurora, Colorado. It left a lot of people scarred and further divided me from people. I get this feeling that I’m just too much to handle for most people. That can wear on a person. I’ve felt it my whole life. This slightly asynchronous feeling coupled with that feeling that I really was just more trouble than I was worth. I used to agree. It made me so very needy. With absolutely zero boundaries and a chip on my shoulder that helped me with my self-fulfilling prophecy of being a burden that someone would eventually dump, like that fixer-upper project that took more time than you realized. BUT I see some things now that I never saw while I was kneck deep in all my trauma. I kept people at arm’s length while simultaneously lying to them. Not lying on purpose, but lying through masking.
When I’m in an up mood I can seem AHHHHMAZING. Fabulous. The life of the party. But sadly this wears off and one is left with a husk, a dried out, sad, and very difficult person to get moving again. I start out seeming to be this optimistic bright shiny star, that is independent and strong, and caring, and OH so giving. (PS I am all those things it’s not a total lie it’s just NOT SUSTAINABLE) and I spent my whole life trying to hide a complete side of myself. It didn’t help that when that side comes out most people cut and run further embedding the “truth” that I had to hide in the first place. I think I read too many books or saw too many movies because deep down I wanted to be rescued. I’ve waited my whole life to be rescued. But instead, I rescued others my whole life. (MAN I’m getting emotional writing this. Guess it’s a good place to be working but when I get like this I feel like I want to come out of my skin and it is SO hard to keep going)
Grrrrr—- See I felt unworthy so I drew to myself people who I thought were like me. Struggling. Figuring they would understand but time and time again what I got was someone who wanted to be rescued and had NO interest in mutual rescuing. In hindsight, it was a little unfair. I didn’t mean to present people with false hope. It’s just literally getting 2 people (at minimum) for the price of one. as I type though I realize I was also generally masking almost all of my true feelings and emotions. There’s the manic me, the depressed me, the REAL me and then the amalgamation I would present to people in an attempt to seem normal. Big air quotes on that “normal”, I still overwhelm and irritate a vast majority of the populous. I’m awesome when I’m teaching my enthusiasm and kookiness are great in that arena. I’m super duper in short doses…but over the long haul, you gotta really love the roller coaster ride. The difference now is I know I’m worth it. So I stopped looking to be rescued (but I’d still take a monthly stipend LOL or a lotto win :P) and that was the first step to true life change. Sure I still sometimes look at people and think HEY someone takes care of them. Someone stayed by their side and was kind when the going got tough, but I know now that so much of that is an illusion. I had the kind of love that someone accepted me fully so I know it’s possible, to honour that love I’m trying to remember what that felt like and be the one to give all that forgiveness, acceptance, support, and love, to myself. OH, but we aren’t there yet. We have yet to live through the total regression. We made it through the first year post-Rob – when Sh*t Got Weird – That year was topped off by the “Cuckoo’s Nest” story but I was just getting started. I guess next up is motorcycle rallies and Grand Canyon stopovers. What a ride indeed.
Wherein I ramble about feeling no feelings! (I do love a good dichotomy)
Yet I feel so often like a marionette. I generally have taken to calling my body my meat puppet. Because it feels I’m so driven by the emotions and the temperments that rattle around in my skull. I really hit one of my “empty” states this last week. I honestly believe it’s triggered by “too-muchness.” Too much therapy, too much new medication, too much focus, just too much. When this happens my spirit just shuts down. My defence mechanisms conspire to keep me safe and in so doing keep me from accessing the thoughts, feelings, and emotions I’m trying to heal. Because we all know you need to “feel it to heal it” and the “only way out is through” but that can be problematic when you are fighting decades of suppression habits. I’m working on patience and forgiveness mostly. Patience with the process and forgiving myself first.
I’ve come to believe that how we treat ourselves and see ourselves is a reflection, or is reflected in how we see and treat others. The more patience, understanding, and forgiveness I find for myself the more I extend them to others. And through that process, I start to feel less needy, less concerned with how others perceive me because I understand that they have their own personal battles to contend with and so much of what we think of others is merely that, a reflection of our own inner world. That can mean someone doesn’t like me because they don’t like loud people – my job then isn’t to be quieter for them it’s to accept that not everyone will like me- and it’s ok. If I focus on liking myself and being with those that lift me up and I like in return I have more energy to be a better human. But realizing this and then undoing how I have lived for decades is not an overnight task. Pain and anger and hurt are deeply embedded in the psyche and that shit gets in your body, your gut reactions, it has guided my perceptions and beliefs for a long time and it takes concerted effort to root out those things and be free of them. It’s extra difficult when hurt is being re-opened by experiences. You don’t want to just strip yourself of all your protective layers all at once, slow and steady and in its time is the process. That means sometimes I’m going to hit these walls. And that can be hard for the bipolar brain to reconcile.
Without care, therapy, and/or medication the bipolar brain thrives on periods of intensity. We become radical when manic, capable of moving mountains…but we dry up and turn to dust when the wave passes. Like fireworks, we burn so bright and then leave an echo with nothing but traces of smoke. Internally this feels like nothing. Discussing it with my recently diagnosed son we both describe it as emptiness, deeper and more disturbing than even nihilism because that has emotion and feeling behind it. This is like you reach in and you are just not there. It is why we love our mania so much – it feels glorious to want, need, do, experience but when that becomes too much we completely shut down.
So this is the work, to calm the mania to burn steady and not fry up, to elevate the times of nothingness to remember who I am. To see consistency, not as plodding and repetition, but to feel the steady and easy pace of routine and practice. To learn to build to the peak so that I can stay a little longer. To allow rest to be truly restful and restorative rather than filled with guilt, shame, or dread. And there it is. THIS is the practice. To write even when uninspired. To practice not being pulled in every direction by the strings of habit, the whims of neurotransmitters. To cut the strings and act out of purpose, and self-determination. To live from truth. It’s not easy cutting the strings. But one by one I’m releasing the old habits and moving forward. Ever forward.
Just some rambling thoughts as I navigate the ups and downs of treating my bipolar moods.
I have found myself feeling dried up again. Once again engaged in the never-ending battle of swell and recede. I’m like the tide. Endlessly waxing and waning – I guess that makes sense the tide and the moon being inexorably connected and they mirror my moods. Mercurial. Capricious. Inconstant. Why does nature get to ebb and flow and be called beautiful, powerful, mysterious…and I am fickle, a flibbertigibbet, a flake. Chasing my tail wanting nothing more than to find some consistency, some peace…yet my mind swings so intensely from one state of being to the next. It’s exhausting sleeping alone and still not knowing who you are going to wake up with. I have dredged up so many things and the emotions weigh me down. I feel stuck again. Chocked on the memories. I can feel the walls in my spirit slamming into place. And the same old fears start to rise up – there is no hope. You can’t be stable. You aren’t bipolar you just need to focus more, you just need to be more motivated…The voices of childhood haunt me, chasing me down not letting me feel hope, not letting me believe… I ride the waves that are my moods and never know where I will land. I’m trying to find the truth, the real me w/in the shifting tides. In the liminal spaces, I know the true me waits, hoping to be freed at last. I keep pressing forward. This note a testament to how my brain shifts and changes, how my whole way of being transforms. It’s like living with a stranger. Distracted. Dissociative. Divided.
And I was so enjoying the ability to write for a bit – it feels lost. But Julia Cameron tells me to “fill in the form” So I’m writing, not so it will be good, but so I can practice. I’m writing to create, not to impress, or to gain anything other than the practice. I’m writing because I need to write. My thoughts spilling out onto the page for no other purpose than to exist.
I fight the fears, the shame, the pesky perfectionist voice that says I’m embarrassing myself. Because shame is a prison. Fear a coping mechanism. I fight the urge to give up because I know the tide will come in again. The mood will change. I will wish I hadn’t given up when the brain shifte. Never give up, never surrender.
I’ll live to write more of the story another day. My bipolar warriors we can ride the waves, we can survive the full moons, we can keep going during the darkness. Life is an ebb and flow our work then is to learn to surf it better. We learn by practicing. Today I beat back the demons. No day but today.