All posts by jpstefanuk

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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Relationships with a Bi-Polar person

I am not a relationship counsellor 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.

There are, in my opinion, a few ground rules required to make a relationship with a person with Bi-Polar work. Since in most cases I was the one with BP, they apply to me most of all.

  1. The person with BP has to do something about controlling their illness. Take their meds, take care of their mind, body, spirit and build and use a support group.
    If they are not willing to do this it is a huge waste of time because they are just a walking time bomb and will explode at some point even if they use all the right words and say that they won’t, they will.

I am Bipolar and for most of my life I have confused that with needing to self-medicate and explore every addiction under the sun. The road to sanity was long, hard and sometimes seemed never ending. I struggled through years of finding meds that worked, but once stable found I was an emotional wreck. Something I learned medications could not fix, medications do stabilize my moods and make life better. Medications do not deal with my mental anguish and emotional turmoil. That could only be accomplished by realizing that I am made up of body, mind and spirit. It was through growing and exercising my spirit that I was able to remove my mental anguish and control my emotions. These things were not accomplished overnight, nor in a weekend, but over a period of decades. There were ups and downs, as well as major setbacks.

I was all things to all people, I wanted to please everyone. Or, I do not want anyone near me and I pushed everyone away. I had no idea who or what I was or wanted. I mostly felt I wasn’t good enough or I should be better than this. Mainly I was a dreamer, who thought that out of nothing I would be miraculously put into a position of great importance. Believe it or not, I almost pulled that one off. There was no reality in my life, it was all just smoke and mirrors. Over time, and due to hard work, reality began to seep in and that glossy façade I had built to protect myself slipped away. I came to understand who I really was and that was just a very sick man. But this was the perfect place to build from as it was an honest appraisal of myself.

I quit lying to myself and began to open the key to life – Know who you really are and become at peace with yourself.

We will talk about my other two guidelines over the next few days.

  1. 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 a pretty good relationship. It eliminates the he said, or he did this or that. So what! Why are you reacting?

3 Deal with your individual issues through healthy support. Secondary issues like addictions and emotional issues are just that secondary issues. They are not weapons to be used on your partner.


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

We can be useful and productive members of society

I apologize to my followers, I came down with pneumonia in late January and it just will not go away. I have been down again and unable to write.  Hopefully things will be more stable from this point on.

My fourth truth is that we can be useful and productive members of society.

This statement does not in any way contain the words “Success” or “Successful”.  The reason for this is simple, I had a great misconception about what success was and really had no idea what being successful was either.  Because of that I spent years chasing an unreachable dream as a sufferer of BP.

The fact is we sufferers of BP cannot handle stress and we get stressed very easily. Things stress us out that do not stress others, but learning to over come the things that stress us is possible. What I found was that when I embarked on the path to success in the way society currently defines success “The fact of getting or achieving, wealth, respect, or fame.” Merriam- Webster Dictionary.

I found my self crashing so badly that I could no longer function. Then repeating the process over and over. The Twelve steps programs give a definition of insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”  I spent all my time trying to be successful – Trying to achieve wealth, respect and fame – without the ability or tools to actually be able to be successful, all I ever did was stress myself out.

One day I came across a statement about “Living usefully” and this sparked the idea of maybe trying to do things a little different. Living usefully and being productive is very different from seeking wealth, respect and fame. When I clean my house, make my bed and do my laundry, show up for work on time and do my job ( being productive) or do something useful for someone, wealth, respect or fame are the last thing on my mind.

I found that I am not stressed out if I keep my mind on being useful and productive. Stress only enters into my life when my expectations of myself or my perceived expectations of others take over.  That is definitely a topic for a future blog. Trying to climb the ladder of success as defined by our society is eliminated when you set your sights on usefulness and productivity.

What I have learned to do is bring that mindset of usefulness and productivity to my life and not worry about success as defined by societies definition. In doing so I found a type of success that I was previously unaware. Success that is not based on wealth, respect or fame, but on being useful to others. Those others being my employer, my friends and those around me.  The more I have focused on being useful and productive and made this my ambition, the more I found that peace and serenity that is promised us.

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

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Devloping a strong spiritual self is required to overcome our mental anguish and emotional turmoil

The subject of spirituality is a difficult one in the world today as spirituality is often confused with religion. Religion asks that you believe this or that doctrine or creed. Spirituality, at the least the spirituality I speak of, asks you to acknowledge that you are made up of body, mind and spirit. The spirituality I speak of is for you to align your ways with your personal spirit and to do things that build or strengthen that spirit within you. Just as exercise and proper diet help your body and working on affirmations help your mind, there are things that will help strengthen your spirit.

It it is your spirit and there is no teacher, religious leader or any one else that can heal and strengthen your spirit better than being true to you own nature. The problem is we have to be sane enough, mentally stable, to learn our true nature. We have to learn our real ideals, ideals that ring true in our spirit and therefore are our personal truth.

Jesus said that “God is spirit and those that worship the father must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Jesus never told us what the truth was because the truth is our own individual truth and no one but ourselves can tell us what that is. We have to listen hard and learn to know ourselves.

Jesus taught, “If your leaders teach that the kingdom of heaven is in the sky then the birds of the air will proceed you. If they say the kingdom of heaven is in the sea, then the fish will proceed you. Rather I say that the kingdom of heaven is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known and you will understand that you are children of the living father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty and you are the poverty.

I found this to be true, I did not know myself and lived in spiritual, mental and physical poverty. I even found myself in material poverty because I was doing nothing about my BP,

Today, for myself, I know it is my spiritual well being that controls my emotions and my mental anguish. By building and strengthening my spirit my emotional and mental issues diminish.

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


Medications are essential in controlling BP

This, of my truths of BP, is the most difficult for me write about. I never disclose what medication I take because of a bad experience. A friend, also diagnosed with BP, was struggling to find the right med and asked me what I took, so I told him. He had his Doctor prescribe it and after taking it for a few days killed himself.   I don’t know exactly it was the med but that makes me think twice about sharing information on medication.

That aside, meds are essential to controlling this illness. There are a few who learn to control it without meds and the more power to them. But for most of us taking a daily medication or cocktail of medication is the only way we can remain stable. Medications are a fact of life.

There are some facts and myths in regards to Medications. The first fact is because of the individuality of BP, what works for me is not likely to work for you. The second fact is that finding the right medication(s) can take a very long time. I have two school note books full of meds and their effects on me, most of them negative. The third fact is that once we find the right medications this does not remove or even deal with our emotional turmoil and mental anguish, it just means we can think straight.

Myths – when I am feeling good I do not need my meds. I am not even going to comment on the stupidity of this line of thinking.

  • I can, after a time, wean myself off these meds. Another stupid idea
  • Once I find my meds I am home free. No that is not true. Our bodies and minds change, Sometimes meds just quit working. Sometimes, as in my case, you can have sever episodes of either depression or mania that require additional medications.

These are the facts and myths as I know them, if you know of others let me know.

I learned a long time ago the benefit of a pen and paper during this exercise, the fact that I like to write and that I spent years in administrative/management positions did not hurt in getting me to do this. A record of the name of the medication and its effects on you can save you a lot of grief and helps your doctor to know what is going on.

My note book says: Paxil – slept 21 hours, missed work. Knocked me right out. Feel like I have been on a month long bender. Obviously not the drug for me.

Some made me really anxious, some like a Zombie, one made me puke. One made me a hyper insomniac, I took it for a week, never slept and got lots of shit done, plus I had a very clear mind, better than mania was my comment. I liked that one, but my Doctor didn’t.

It was actually fun to look back into those note books, there were some bad experiences written there but also some interesting comments. My doc was a very funny man, he had some great on liners.

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

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