This is the second part of strong mind, strong body. Where’s the spirit? Or how to become a whole person even with bipolar. We are still talking about developing mental toughness. On this topic, I can only share what I have done and experienced, in the order I have done it. It is meant to as a guide, not an order. We always need to remember that bipolar is as individual as the people who suffer from it. Therefore, what works for me and my recovery, may be detrimental to you and your recovery. But there are generalities that work for everyone without them we couldn’t be diagnosed. What I have highlighted are the generalities. These are areas that everyone should look at.
The first principal of mental toughness I practiced was Asking for Help. The hardest part of this was getting over my pride. In asking for help I realized it was not a sign of weakness but a sign I wanted to change. I was confident I could not do any of this myself. I also needed a mirror through which to see improvement. The kind of help I am talking about here is not someone who charges a hundred and twenty dollars an hour, but someone who will listen to you without judgement and be supportive.
What asking for help taught me is I don’t have to go it on my own and I can build a nonprofessional support group. I did build this support group and all have become friends. I also learned that the isolationist attitude I held was part of my illness, not a function of reality. The reality is we all need help and support. We need to learn to ask for help when we need it. It is through asking for help that I learned to properly ask for what I needed in other areas without fear.
The second principal of mental toughness I practiced was Gratitude. We all have things we take for granted that we should really be grateful for. That is where I started, I worked at becoming grateful I was alive, because if my mind had its way that is not what I would be.
I wrote down that I was grateful to be alive every day for a month. That one sentence. Then I started to look for other things to be grateful for and kept building my list. I started this process in about 2013 and have never stopped looking for new things to be grateful for.
To start learning gratitude, write down just one thing you are grateful for each day before bed and meditate on that one thing as you fall asleep. Then expand your list and begin to constantly look for things to be grateful for. Soon you will develop an attitude of gratitude. What this attitude of gratitude gives you is the ability to appreciate the little things life has to offer you far more that you ever have in the past.
The third principal of mental toughness I started to practice was Boundaries. Learning to set boundaries was very difficult for me. I found this so difficult I finally found a class on setting boundaries and took it, twice. There is one universal truth that I want to share with you that is crucial in setting a boundary. “You Cannot Take the Other Persons Feelings into Account.” That is what we, as bipolar sufferers, always seem to do, allow the feelings of others to trump our own feelings, needs and wants. In that way, they always win. The real benefit of learning to set clear boundaries and reinforcing them is return our self-respect. The other benefit for me was I was finally able to say, “No” and not feel guilty.
The fourth principal of mental toughness that I started to practice was Accepting myself fully. It was during the second time through the boundaries class that I came across the quote that changed my life.
Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.” The Gospel of Thomas Verse 3 Lambdin translation.
It was that last line that struck me so forcefully, “if you do not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.”
I could not get that line out of my head, it rang around in there constantly. Until I admitted to myself that, “no I had no idea who I was” and I wanted to really change that and know who I was. I was tired of living in poverty and being an impoverished person, mentally, physically and most of all spiritually. I wanted to know my self and be known, but mostly understand me and how this illness affects me.
I had kind of begun the process, I was getting counseling. But this is where it all changed I went from following direction (doing as the counselor suggested) to actively seeking myself and my own direction and really applying it. I worked with Randy two more years after the change started. He kept me in line and out that of giddy mania we fall into when we have a eureka moment. He taught me to ask myself the right questions.
Out of all of this came this one fact, I did not like myself at that time, but I had hope. That was the ingredient that made accepting me as I was in this second possible. Hope I wouldn’t always feel like this. I have learned to accept myself fully as I am right now because I am constantly changing and growing, plus I have hope it will continue.
I have learned that self-acceptance is as important to self-growth as gratitude is to a good life. You must have acceptance before you can have growth. As one person said, “if you can’t accept being an acorn, you will never be an oak.”
What are the benefits of self-acceptance? I no longer blame others or compare myself to others. The big change is I don’t wish that I had what someone else has any longer. I can get my own, thanks. I no longer feel less than anyone else. Oh, there are better athletes and even a few better workers than I may be, but I strive each day to be the best me I can be. The only person that I am trying to be better than is the person I was yesterday.
Come back next week and we will continue to look at this issue of strong mind, strong body. Where’s the spirit?
Our battle is with our minds, not with other people, places, situations or other external things. Remember our battle will always be with our minds and our minds alone.
The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”
I say,” Work harder on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”
Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.
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