Understanding Happiness

al-inspiring-quote-on-taking-personal-responsibility

We think it is happiness that we seek.

If you blame BP for your predicaments and circumstances this message I hope upsets you and makes you think.
The problem is not the illness, the problem is you and your lack of action.
I want to be the first to tell you that if you are doing nothing to overcome this illness and are blaming the illness for your problems then you need to reread the above sentence.
If you are sincerely trying to overcome this illness and are trying to look for happiness in a life that has held very little of this quality, take heart, the problem may simply be not understanding what you are looking for.
Understand that true happiness is only a by-product of something else. When happiness comes into our lives, there is always a way of feeling that proceeds that happiness. That happiness only remains as long as that other feeling is present. No matter how fleeting the happiness may be the other feeling must proceed it and as soon as that other feeling evaporates happiness disappears as well. We all easily recognize happiness so we think it is happiness that we seek. There are thousands of places to look to find the formula for happiness, but few that lead you to find the feeling on which happiness depends. We think, and are told, it is happiness we seek. Seldom, if ever, are we told to seek and cultivate the other feeling, the bedrock on which real happiness is built. That other feeling is called a few names, Biblically it is called peace, in modern terms it is called contentment. If you search the happiest times you can remember, no matter how fleeting, you will find that you were content as well. For happiness cannot exist without contentment. This is a truth that most of society has not understood. The truly happy person is content before they are happy, it cannot happen any other way.

I lost my humor yesterday
Where it went I cannot say
With it went the light inside
That burns so bright to lite my eyes
Today I woke and fell to pray
In slipped my humor right away
With it came that inner lite
With a whoosh it did ignite
On Gods command I think, right?
j.p.stefanuk published in Island Wonders 2013

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.


Feeding yourself 2

I kept trying to do something, thinking that was how I became someone, rather than knowing myself and in that way becoming known.
One of the problems that BP caused in me was to feed me many false perceptions of who I was and what I wanted. This illness even lied to me about what I needed. It was in learning that these false perceptions can be recognized and changed that solidified my path towards mental wellness. Prior to that knowledge the path seemed too made of shifting sands and was never clearly defined, sort of like a road obscured with heat waves.
The biggest lie was thinking that what I did was who I was. Which led to the belief that to be anything or anybody I had to do certain things, be the boss, and hold a position of some type of esteem. With this came stress and with stress came the self-destruction that the mixture of BP and stress brings about in most of us.
Today I am a janitor at a medical clinic, which means I am as low on the status pole as you can go and therefore feel no stress. I work 4 to midnight and I work mostly alone. This is absolutely perfect for what I want to accomplish. For six hours of my eight hour shift, thanks to YouTube and Wi-Fi, I feed myself an incredible amount of positive information and affirmations. I actually planned this change in my life.
For 30 hours a week or more I feed myself knowledge and overwrite the false programing that BP has allowed into my subconscious by strangling that sentry that is supposed to be at the gate. I realize that few, if any, others have that kind of time to devote to reprograming themselves and I am not advocating that anyone does devote that kind of time. I chose to set up my life in this way for a few reasons, the biggest being I was very tired of the boom and bust cycle of my life and wanted something different. I am no longer young and any change takes time. I wanted to be around to enjoy some of the benefits.
What I can say is that reprogramming yourself towards the positive pole of life works. You can change the way you think, speak and act and in doing so change your destiny.
You can develop good habits and leave behind the life sucking residue of our shared illness. I am not advocating you do not need your meds or that you will no longer have BP. BP never goes away and it will always affect you but the degree that it affects you will lessen.
There are far better teachers than me on reprogramming and overcoming and if you are a willing student they will appear in your life. I will say that I started with the works of Louis L. Hay and Joyce Myers and their books, CD’s and YouTube channels helped in my reprogramming.
Today, I know myself and have become known to others through that knowledge. I have quit trying to be something because I was usually trying to be something I wasn’t.
Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Why I write this blog

Over the last number of years I have made one field of study a priority – me and this illness we all share. Over time I have come to some conclusions and developed these three absolutes for myself. They reflect my beliefs about how this illness affects my life and how to deal with the affects in a positive way.

1. I have BP 1 and left unchecked my life is a disaster
2. That medications and a good medical and non medical support team can only help to a point. Achieving mental wellness is mostly up to me.
3. That a strong spiritual foundation of faith and hope, based on an unshakeable belief, can give me the spiritual character and mental strength and emotional control to balance my life.

I truly believe that these three things have allowed me to have a useful and productive life for the last number of years. Yes, I still fall off the rails once in a while, but never to the points of the highs and lows that I have experienced in the past.

I began to talk to fellow sufferers of BP and this caused me to developed my four truths of Bi-Polar:
1. Bi-Polar as an illness is as individual as the people that suffer from it.
2. Medication is essential in stabilizing our minds.
3. Developing a strong spiritual self is essential in overcoming our mental anguish and emotional turmoil.
4. We, as Bi-Polar sufferers, can be useful and productive members of society.
These truths were developed to make some sense in my own mind of the things I was coming across when I spent time with fellow sufferers and through them seeing in myself.
What I kept seeing was:
We are all individuals and this is not a one size fits all illness. Once the proper medications were found, and taken (this is a very important step, we became mentally stable, but this only dealt with our rapid mood swings and removed the brain fog.
To overcome our mental anguish and emotional upheavals we need something more. Once we found and began to incorporate this spiritual aspect we could become useful and productive members of society.

That has become my goal to help others to find their way to being useful and productive members of society.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Feeding Ourselves

Most of us learned to feed ourselves by the time we were toddlers and although messy at times we got whatever was in front of us into our bodies. The same went our minds, we have been taking in and processing information since some point in our mother’s womb according to some studies and others say since conception. Mostly what we have fed our bodies and our minds in our illness has not been healthy. For the most part it has been strictly survival that has driven what we have eaten or thought. Wellness, both physical and mental, requires a shift from survival mode to purpose driven living.
This shift is more akin to the changing of gears in the manual shifter of an 18 wheeler than in an automatic car, it takes time to accomplish. We are fortunate today in that there is an incredible array of supports and tools that we can access to help with that shift of consciousness.
Our shared illness causes us to spend a lot of time in our minds. The problem is that we had no idea what we putting into the vault that is called the subconscious mind. Once information is locked in there it is very difficult to get it out and in our illness we have allowed a lot of erroneous information to take up residence there. Understanding that our subconscious is like the vault in your bank and thinks just like the modern vault with all its electronic bells and whistles. The vault cannot tell if the money in the vault is real or counterfeit it just protects them money with all its might. This is exactly what your subconscious does with the information you have allowed in there. Our reactions, beliefs, rights, expectations are all stored away and brought forth by triggers. Exactly like intruders trigger the alarms on a vault.
Our inappropriate beliefs, expectations and reactions, those things that destroy our relationship with others, can be changed once we become mentally stable on our medications. Once mental stability is reached we can reprogram our subconscious and work towards becoming a useful and productive member society. We can feed ourselves so much positive information that it will easily push all the negative thoughts right out. We will find ourselves actually thinking right thoughts, which when it happens for more than a fleeting second is absolutely amazing.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

An Examined Life

be_careful_of_your-129380Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Many of us with BP have said, “Life is not worth living, period”.
I do not want this to be triggering material but there is a correlation between these statements. The fact that we found life difficult is not surprising, we were mentally ill.
The foundation of a good life seems to be mental stability and emotional control. In my truths of BP these are the bed rock of those truths – medication to achieve mental stability and spirituality to achieve emotional control. These two things allow us to become useful and productive people.
To achieve more than a control of our mood swings so we are not so up and down, which is accomplished with medication, we need to get to know ourselves. In other words be willing to examine our lives and the part we have played in our interactions with others.
We need to look at how we think and realize that we probably need to change most of it.
One of the things that shocked me into changing was reading quote that was attributed to Margret Thatcher but further study shows the author is unknown.
“Be careful of your thoughts, they become your words.
Be careful of your words, they become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, they become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, they become your character.
Be careful of your character, it becomes your destiny.”

When I looked at this quote it struck me that I had the destiny of an insane person and if I did not change my thinking, changed what I said to myself and others, things would never get better and that destiny would come to pass. I did not want that destiny, that destiny that said over and over “life is not worth living.” I wanted something else and that simple quote showed me how to get it.
Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.
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Self-Deception

I have a saying that I use when talking to people about overcoming our shared illness – “I do not care if you lie to me, just don’t lie to yourself.”

Sometimes I need to use my own words on myself.

On my path to mental wellness I have found self-deception to be one of the greatest road blocks, it seems to lead us more towards mental illness. Self-deception has a way of multiplying my problems to the level of the lie that I am telling myself. The bigger the deception, self-justification or blaming, the more irrational my behaviours will be and the more negativity I will allow to creep in to my life.

A recent episode in my life proves this point well. I have been feeling my life is on hold because I am waiting for someone to complete a task. I am waiting for the completion of this task to allow me to deal with one issue in my life. The lie is “my life is on hold”.  My entire life is not on hold, just dealing with one issue is. But my way of thinking expanded “being unable to deal with one issue” to “my entire life is on hold. The result was a complete hold on productivity, I did nothing in any area of my life. I stopped being useful and productive for over 10 days.

One of my truths of BP is that we can be useful, productive members of society and I quit doing that. That is how I know I am having a problem. This was a pretty big lie and the results showed in my life. There was no forward progress and in number of areas there was a definite regression. Those ten days resulted in missed opportunities in many areas both personal and financial. Those are the negatives.

The positives are it was only ten days. I recognized the issue with a little help from others and corrected it. I am being useful and productive today.

A Feeling Of Rebellion

It only took a second to get my back up and the feeling of rebellion to grow inside me and I will bet money that you will have the same reaction to this as well.

“You Must!”

No matter what follows the, you must, like take your pills, wear this or do that, that feeling of rebellion instantly grows and the response of,

Not likely!” forms in my mind, sometimes migrating to my lips.

I do not get a lot of “you must” said to me these days but my reaction to those words has not changed and try as I might I cannot change it. Then I realized it is not likely to change as them are “fighting” words and the person using those words is the problem not me.

What brought this line of thinking about is that I recently have had to deal with a few people of the “You Must” kind. Since I will never change them and their behavior I need to change my reaction, especially since this is happening frequently. Is there something I am doing that is causing the Universal Force to put these “You Must” people in my life? Maybe I need to look at what is being said and if there is a valid point there, adapt it in my life.

That is the great thing about my life today I do not instantly reject things even if my initial reaction is of the rejecting kind. I am emotionally and mentally stable enough to see choices and accept good advice no matter the source or manner of presentation.

Yes, I rebel at the words “you must” but most people do and there is a reason we do. Nobody really knows what is best for us but ourselves and the words “you must” makes the other person sound like they do, even if they don’t have a clue. However, if the Universal Force of Goodness is putting a series of people in your life and they are saying something consistently we need to look at what is being said.

That is the thing that I love about my life today I have a bunch of choices, I never feel trapped like I used to. That and the fact I have learned that I can put up with a lot of crap for one day without losing it because I know it will pass one way or the other. I have choices and I have practiced enough now to usually make the right choice.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Relationship Guideline 3

The 3rd guideline I developed about relationships is for both parties:

Deal with your individual issues through healthy support. I call these secondary issues because these issues really affect only one partner and do not need to be brought into the relationship.  Secondary issues are things like BP, addictions and emotional issues. Do not beat each other with your individual issues. They are your individual issues and have no business in your relationship.

I have to admit this guideline is still a work in progress both in the wording of the point I am trying to get across and in the practice of this idea in my own life. What I do know for myself is that if I keep issues like my BP, codependent behaviour or addictions under control through outside support and constant vigilance I am a far better partner. When I allow my BP or other issues to come to the forefront I am a very poor partner. I have to admit what really happens when my secondary issues takeover is I become a selfish, self-centered, son of a bitch causing anyone in my life to run for cover.

We blame our secondary issues as the cause of this behaviour but I wonder if it is not just an excuse that we all use to cover the real issue, our selfish selves.  In that mode of selfishness my expectations and rights take precedence over everything else.  When I the interests of my partner and others first then I seem to be more involved in the relationship.

There is way more to relationships that these three guidelines but they provide some ground rules that work in my life, along with real communication and proper boundaries.

 

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Relationship Guideline 2 Part 2

Why are you reacting rather than responding? This is the second half my second relationship guideline. This guideline asks both parties to do a couple of things, the first is to look at themselves first not the other person. The second is look at what they are doing before they act or speak.

Reacting is actually a way of responding to situations, it is almost always negative in the way it is done and you seem to have no choice about how it comes about. You are in a situation and you react, there seems to be no other option.

What if I told you that is the biggest lie you ever told yourself. Choice is the greatest gift we humans have been given and we always have it. Reactions of the emotional variety are simply ways we have conditioned ourselves to respond to things in an automatic way. This does not differ with reactions of the physical variety like ducking when something is thrown at you. Even reaction time is the same, you can actually speed up or slow down your reaction time with practice.

Your response to situations of the emotional variety are our subject today. When we react it is automatic, any other way of responding requires thought.  There is another bonus to responding rather than reacting, we can choose not to respond to some things at all. That was a real eye opener to me, I never knew I had the option to keep my mouth shut and my hands at my sides. I thought we always had to react with either our tongue or our fists.

The automatic response, called reacting, is not always our best response to any situation. The lesson I learned was when confronted with a situation to take a deep breath. The action of taking a breath was all that was needed to stop my automatic reaction and I could engage my mind and think of a better response or to not respond at all.

It is interesting that today my automatic response to most situations is to take a breath and think.

I say this guideline takes study and practice and it does. We do not stop reacting to situations instantly. The process takes time. For me learning I did not have to react that I can respond gave me that glimmer of hope there may be a better way of handling things in a relationship, I hope it does for you too.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Please let me know your response to my blogs.

Relationship Guideline 2

Before I talk about my second relationship guideline I am going to restate that I am not a relationship counselor and my track record of widowed, divorced and multiple other relationships of various lengths does not put me in the expert category either. All I can do is share the few things that I have learned.

It is not about them, it is about you – why are you reacting instead of responding? This one takes a lot of study and practice. However, the benefits are being able to develop a pretty good relationship with someone else. Realizing that it is about you and your reaction eliminates the he said, or he did this or that. So what! Why are you reacting?

There are two parts to this guideline and this blog is about the first part which is in all relationships there is one constant – you. Unless you are a teenager and this is your first relationship, the only constant in every relationship we have ever had is ourselves. That was the only constant I could find when I took an honest look at my relationships, that constant was me.  I then developed the intent of learning what not to do in the future to have a good relationship with someone.

I am going to refer back to my first guideline for a second and say that if the person with BP is not doing anything about their illness this second guideline is meaningless. In our illness we cannot admit we were wrong, take personal responsibility for anything, especially our words and actions, or see that we had any part to play in the problems of our relationships. This became my own way of telling if I was falling back into my illness or one of the myriad of addictions I dragged into my journey towards mental wellness. It is a sure sign something is wrong with me if I am blind to my part in a problem or I am dodging responsibility.

This second guideline is best worked by both people in a relationship. If both people can learn to look inwards at their own false beliefs and personality traits that get in the way of accepting the other person just as they are and loving then anyway that is a good start. If both people start admitting when they were wrong, taking personal responsibility for their personal issues, especially their words and actions. If both people look hard to see their own part in the problems of their relationships, this I have found is a good foundation.

We will discuss reacting instead of responding in the next installment.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.