A Different Starting Point

 

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“Discover who you truly are and fully give every aspect of your uniqueness to the world. This is your path to an extraordinary life.” James McWhinney.

I talk often to people about how I had to find a different starting point for many things in my life, meditation, ambition and success to name a few. The quote I used today is another example that would cause me to think of a different starting point because I would have only identified with one part of what the author is saying, that is “give every aspect of your uniqueness to the world.”

I did show “every aspect of my uniqueness to world” on a lot of occasions and all it ever got me was rejected or locked up. So that approach has a real stigma attached to it and it definitely was not my path to an extraordinary life.

This is about how we, BP sufferers, have to look at things set out for the so called normal world. We must recognize that we see and interpret things differently and even on the path the mental wellness we still have to be careful with this issue. When I read things like the above quote I need to slow down and read the whole quote a few times. Then relate that quote to what I know.

Jesus said, “When you know yourselves, you will be known and you will understand that you are children of the living father. If you do not know yourselves you will live in poverty and you are the poverty.”  The Gospel of Thomas Verse 3

I am not about show my uniqueness to the world ever again, because my uniqueness to me means me in my illness.  I have worked diligently at discovering who I am so that I can present that person to the world, the sane reasonable person, I find I am not that unique when I am close to mental wellness. I can find sameness or shared ideals with others that does not make me feel unique and different.

If I want to carve a path to an extraordinary life my uniqueness is not the direction that I need to go in, I need to find a different starting point. On this issue I find looking for the sameness with others, especially those I respect, to be the starting point for me.

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

Mental Wellness

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“Without struggle there is no progress.” Frederick Douglas

If someone tells you that dealing with BP is not a struggle every day, they are lying. Over the last couple of days I have been thinking a lot about my personal progress, the ups and downs, and the one step forward three steps back approach that was the beginning. That has now progressed to a steady, or unsteady, trudge onward. I am now able to see a lot of beauty around me instead of the blackness that overshadowed everything.

One of the most telling parts of this look over my shoulder at the path behind me is the distinct change in perception and attitude that has come about on the journey towards mental wellness.  At one time concentrating on and learning all about the illness that I suffered from was paramount to me and my way of thinking. However, all though the knowledge has been helpful in getting to know myself and how my illness affects me, this approach seemed to leave me mired in the illness. Only by shifting my perception to mental wellness was I able to shake this stuck in the “Land of Oz” feeling.

By concentrating on the illness, the illness would control me even though I wanted to be better. When my focus became wellness, I was able to begin to overcome my mental anguish and emotional turmoil. It was only when I concentrated on mental wellness was I able to become useful and productive. Only by concentrating on wellness was I able to become a functioning person in society.

As long as I concentrated on the illness I could not overcome, but that shift of perception to mental wellness took time and I now understand it was part of the growth process. We all have to start with our illness and learning to cope with that illness and then we progress towards mental wellness. This then becomes our focus, to be mentally well a condition I would not trade for anything.

Consistency

consistency

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil

I was one compared to a sand dune. Consistency was not a word I knew or understood. I blamed many people, places and things for what was going on in my life. It was only when I looked closely at myself, my thoughts, beliefs, feelings (or lack thereof), actions and reactions could I begin to see that I was the major contributor to my problems.

A person I met recently said they were always told to “Get a Backbone.” I had heard that statement as well in my family. That is a very old saying that means develop Strength of Character but does not say that in a language I understand. Or may be like consistency, strength of character was also a statement without meaning to me.

The walk towards mental wellness has been a steep learning curve. A movement from total ignorance to knowledge usually is. I wanted to live, to be happy and yet all I thought about was killing myself. These thoughts, I have learned, are not conductive to living happily on any level.

Stephen R. Covey describes character as set of principles. Strength of character is relying on those principals when in trouble. This is what is outwardly viewed as strength just as lifting a car is viewed as physical strength. It is only when facing situations we find difficult for ourselves is there a need for these principals. As only in a storm is seamanship required as well. Anyone can sail on a calm ocean.

That is how I came to be compared with a sand dune, that utter lack of character that showed in difficult situations. No one knew how I would react. In time no one cared how I reacted because they all stayed far away from me.

The quote by Simon Weil at the beginning of this message is so true. When I developed and became rooted to the principals of Character I was able to become consistent in all my dealings with myself and others. Sadly, I have to admit this. I even lacked the character to deal with myself in a consistent fashion.

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

Today’s Site: Bipolar Advantage

Attitude

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The problem is I have BP 1 to which there is no cure. This does not mean there is not a solution. Captain Jack Sparrow gives us the solution, our attitude towards the illness that affects us. If we have the proper attitude we can overcome this problem.

Once we expend the effort, time and trials to find the proper medication to stabilize our mind. This can be one of the greatest hurdles in our lives, finding the proper medication. We then have a starting point to build a better way of living.  Without a stable mind our lives are as fickle as the wind. I can never stress this enough to myself and to you, a stable mind is the essential beginning but it is only the beginning.

“To live the life I want Action is required.

I can think and dream about the life I want,

But unless I actually do something things will

Stay the same.”

We have a mental illness, why is it such a stretch to realize we have to fix our minds not just stabilize them. That effort and action are required to reach that place I call mental wellness. The first step on that journey to mental wellness is a change in our attitude.

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” Marcus Aralias.

I felt such a sense of injury about my life and my diagnosis seemed to compound my hurt in the beginning. That feeling everyone and everything had hurt me. That I was the victim here was the predominant feeling of my life.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped validating your victim mentality? Let today be the day…You shake off your self-defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.”
― Steve MaraboliLife, the Truth, and Being Free

That was the question, “How would my life be different if I changed my attitude?”

If I change my attitude my life becomes entirely different instantly on the inside, but the reprograming takes time and by degrees my life becomes different on the outside as the new programing takes over. My life matched both my inside and outside while my illness controlled me. My life did not become that way in an instant but progressed as my illness progressed, it took time and a lot of terrible situations to build the reactions I established to get me through the day. It took some of those reactions not working for me any longer to see there may be something wrong with me.

My attitude can change from negative to positive at any time I choose. Like the poles on a battery, attitude can be reversed.

 

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

 

 

False Assumptions

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A man named Mortimer J. Adler wrote two books that helped me immensely on my road to mental wellness. The first book was called “How to Speak and How to Listen” and the second was “How to Read a Book.” The reason I mention this is we assume we are taught to read, write and to speak in school. We continue assuming a lot of things based on that first assumption. We assume we know how to communicate based on the assumption we can speak. We assume we can follow instructions because we can translate printed letters into words. We assume that we can write because we can transpose those same letters back on a page. All those assumptions are false, we have no training in communication, we have no idea how to really follow instructions or express ourselves verbally or in writing. We can’t without some specific education in those areas. Unless we are very lucky to have some special individual to teach us, or come across some individual’s writings that guide us, all we have are false assumptions as to our capabilities. These false assumptions invade the minds of the so called mentally healthy in ways that when realized are astounding, imagine the false assumptions that invaded our minds living in our shared illness. We strayed very far from reality in many cases.
I define mental wellness as being close to reality. Reality means the world or state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic, notional or virtual reality. The short definition of reality is the truth. Today I want to be as close to reality as I can get.
Finding reality and what those false beliefs and assumptions are is only possible by having a strong support group that will gently, bit firmly, show you what these falsehoods are. Through this learning process, with the support of many great people, I was able to find reality in the only place it exists – here and now.
Reality only exists in the present moment, it cannot exist in the past or in future.
To live in the present moment I had to eject as many false beliefs and false assumptions from my life as possible. I test my beliefs every day and I am mostly successful at not assuming. It was in coming to accept my past and not project that past into my future that was the most difficult, but that is another blog.
Today I do not lie to myself and today I love myself.
Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Employment and Careers – Ambition

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This is ambition in the eyes of many.

Where is his ladder? These are his ladder

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I have always been ambitious, in the way of wanting something. I wanted to be successful, to have money, adoration and possessions.  That is what I thought ambition was. Often described as climbing the ladder to success, based on that ambition I would self-destruct every time.  Using this analogy of the ladder, life became a game of snakes and ladders, I would always find the snake that led right to the bottom. What caused this? The answer was quite simple, in the analogy of the ladder we are not told that we need to construct our own ladder to climb. What is this ladder made of? The ladder is made out of the things that that make up human character. The stronger the human character, the stronger the ladder. There was nothing inside of me to support my climb and my ladder always collapsed. I had to change, I had to first build a better ladder.

Steven R Covey, in his book, “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”, says that in the first 150 years of the science of success the focus was on Character. Character, he defines as clear principals for living. In the early part of the last century the focus changed to techniques of success. Techniques are good, a better, quicker way of climbing the ladder is always good. However, you still need a strong ladder to start with.

Then I came across a quote by  Bill Wilson, co founder of A.A., “True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the profound desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God.”

This refocused my idea of ambition to being useful. This is what I needed while I learned to build a better ladder. While I worked on my character I could still do useful things and be useful to others, none of which required the stress of monetary strings. I could do things for others and in that way test out my new character traits.

Today, gainfully employed, my principals for living allow me to pass on to others the message of hope that was given to me.

I must point out that none of this change of focus and character building was possible without proper medication to stabilize the mind and the support team of counselors and groups I had made.

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

The Integrity of Our Mind

“Nothing is at last sacred as the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself and you will have the suffrage of the whole world.” Ralf Waldo Emerson from “Essay on Self Reliance”.

If we treat as sacred the integrity (a totality with nothing wanting) of our mind, I have found that many things become easier. Like not falling into the trap of not taking my meds, thinking that if I am feeling well I do not need them. Or, all the things I have to do to stay somewhat sane, like feeding myself my daily readings and things like that.

Sacred in the context it is used here means declared to be holy. If we declare the integrity of our minds to be Holy (sacred) we stand a much better chance of staying on that path to wellness and not falling into that place we love so much – utter insanity, either really depressed and glued to the couch or so manic we think we can fly.

Our wholeness as people depends entirely on that integrity, but placing that integrity as sacred gives us something we never had before. That something is willingness, a willingness to do whatever it takes to be well.

In the language of the mid 1800’s Emerson is asking us in the second sentence to become self-aware.

Jesus said, in the Gospel of Thomas: “Know yourself and you will know all.”

Self-Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment. Something that I am finding as I write these messages keeps coming up again and again. The fact that in not knowing ourselves we are in constant conflict with others

Self-awareness  is the key to the lock, the lock that will open the door to let us out of our wretchedness and into a new and better life.

 

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

 

 

Employment and Careers

“They are the unfortunate people who have mistaken their mission……..Their ambitions is forever outrunning their capabilities.”  Edmund Morris

Our shared illness causes us to fail in a lot of areas of our lives until we sincerely embark on the road to mental wellness. We fail most miserably in the area of employment. We spend years going to school where many of us implode at the level of higher education. If we graduate we find we are incapable of handling the work we are assigned in the profession we have chosen and dreamed about for years. All of which causes us to think we are failures. We are not failures, our untreated illness causes the failure.

One of the big issues with BP is that we, as sufferers, cannot handle stress. Our untreated mental state does not allow us to learn the skills needed to objectively look at stress and how to deal with stress. I never say manage stress because trying to manage stress is akin to herding cats, in my opinion. Learning the skills to deal with stress takes the demand of management out of the equation. It becomes a learnable skill like tying my shoes and if practiced enough can become as much of a habit as tying my shoes.

My thinking in the area of employment and career was all wrong, like my thinking in a lot of areas of my life. Having a career carried way to much weight in my life which caused stress and led to failure. I redefined career for myself with this simple statement, “A career is a job with a suit on.”  This worked for me and really took the pressure off, because a career is just a label on a job. The weight we put on the idea of career, a label, far outweighs its real importance. This weight we place on the idea of career is what causes us to “mistake our mission” as Edmund Morris says.

My idea of career and my actual mission in this life were as far apart as the poles on this earth. In finding my real mission, or calling, which is to help others through my experiences and what I have learned, rather than my career in health care with its erratic shift changes and extreme pressure.

This is the first part of my change in thinking on employment and career. Tomorrow I will discuss the other part of the employment puzzle which is stated in the quote of Edmund Morris, our definition, or idea, of ambition. “Our ambition exceeded our capabilities” which again caused feelings of failure.  Failure is not failure if there is a cause beyond our control and BP is way beyond our control.

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

Today’s Site: https://www.facebook.com/newlifeoutlook.bipolar?fref=nf

Criticism

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I was recently criticized for not talking enough about medications and the symptoms of BP on this blog. I can, in one sentence, answer this criticism. “I do not concentrate in thought, word or action on the illness of BP. I concentrate on mental wellness.”

I say that medications is essential to stabilize our minds, but I am not a doctor. Therefore anything I say on that subject is not going to be based on any education, just my opinion. The same with dealing with symptoms, I am not a PDoc, Psychologist or Counselor so anything I say will be my opinion. My opinion almost got me killed and it will for sure kill you, so I keep my opinion to myself. I have heard, and read, people say you should or shouldn’t take this or that med. How do they know? I recommended a med once and the guy killed himself after being on it for two days. Symptoms are the same, I have never experienced a number of symptoms that are attributed to BP due to BP’s individuality and its ability to affect each of differently. I have no idea how to deal with those symptoms. Of the symptoms I have experienced, I can speak on how I deal with them, but what I do may not work for you. There are many great sites if you wish to know about meds and symptoms and I will be posting links to them as an answer to this comment it will appear as Today’s Site at the end of each post.

Today’s Site is: www.bphope.com on which you will find a wealth of factual information on Bi-Polar disorder

I talk about sticking to the hard path of mental wellness and the tools that may help us to be useful, productive members of society, that is my direction.  I share my experience, strength and hope that this illness can be overcome. I talk about the mind, body, spirit connection and how you must not ignore any of these keys and if you do it will be at the expense of the other two. That all three respond like the muscles in our bodies and need to be exercised. Atrophy (decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.) of the spirt was my greatest failing and I maybe talk disproportionately on that subject. Body, mind and spirit and ways of overcoming our shared illness are the main focus of this blog.

I do appreciate criticism because it makes me look at what I am doing and in most cases causes me to improve. This criticism caused the creation of Today’s Site which will be helpful to many in the future.

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