Category Archives: Tools for Mental Wellness

About The Year Ahead

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This blog is called 365 days of bipolar for a reason, the reason is quite simple. To remind me (the writer) and you (the reader) that our illness takes no holidays. BP is with us every day of this upcoming year and we must learn to be vigilant against it every day.

When we first seek help we come as victims of our illness. If we were not victims of our illness there would be no reason to seek help.  There are many that still do not see themselves as victims of this illness. They just act like victims of everyone and everything, except this illness.  As we build our support team and come to know others with our illness, we see that there are those that are victors over BP. People who live their lives in a way that seems almost normal, yet they admit that they have that dreaded illness called BP. Those who are victors over BP are the ones we are drawn to emulate but, and it is a big “but”, we have no idea how in the beginning. This just gives us some hope that victory may be possible. That spark of hope is all we need to start.

Before we can be anything but a victim of this illness we need to stabilize on proper medication. The second thing is we need to build a support team. Both of these things do not come about over night. For me, it took over a year to find meds that worked and as long to find the right group of people, both professional and non professional to build my team. It takes some less time, and others more, but they kept working on this until they found what they needed.

To go from victim to victor, we need to start working on ourselves at the same time we start working on finding our proper meds and our team. The fact that we have no idea how to do this is of no consequence, we need to start. I did no say there would be no consequences from working on finding our proper medications, support group and stopping to try and fix the world and concentrate on fixing ourselves. There are serious consequences. Your life will change, you will be ejected from where you are comfortable in your beliefs and attitudes on a regular basis. You will be challenged to see yourself as you are right this minute and then shown what you can become if you work for it. All the time knowing that your Bi-Polar will never take a holiday.

All we have is 366 days in 2016 (it’s a leap year), in which we can learn to be victors over Bi-Polar or remain victims. We will have ups and downs; the aim is to have more good days than bad in 2016.

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

Stressed 2

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Continued from Dec 29/15

The underlying problem was what I was thinking (believing may happen “if”) and feeling. I needed to change how I thought and felt about situations. I also needed to come up with a way to find, or develop, a permanent system that would allow me to quickly conquer stress in new situations. This is what I came up with and then I found a better one.
Medication, tips and tricks are external solutions for the external symptom of stress to an internal problem. What made me think that stress was just a symptom? I could calm down with the meds and use the tips and tricks in time in any given situation. Then a new situation or demand would be forced on me and I would be stressed all over again even with the meds and the other things I could do. I needed to find a solution to the internal problem. I realized long ago that my only problem was “Me” and how I viewed the world. This realization allowed me to change a number of negative behaviors. Even with that realization, I was unable to cope with stress until I found a way to apply that knowledge.
To find a way to apply the knowledge I resorted to problem-solving 101. I got a pen and paper and wrote out the issue, then the issues (plural). I wrote about what was stressing me out. I wrote about how I felt and fear always seemed to top the list. I wrote what I was thinking and then wrote out different ways of thinking about the issue that caused my stress level to go down. This worked and it worked well, but someone always builds a better mousetrap. As I said earlier I am all about better ways to cope with BP and eliminating stress from our lives makes coping with BP so much easier.

Andrew Bernstein wrote a wonderful book called the “Myth of Stress”. Which explains conquering stress better than I ever could hope to and I love to sing his praises. He has a Google talk that can be found on YouTube that is also pretty good. What he has done for all of humanity is create a form that is free for the taking @

http://www.endofstress.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/08/ActivInsightWorksheet.pdf

This worksheet is still problem-solving 101,  writing with a pen on paper. The work is the same but you do not have to think about the questions to ask yourself, they are already there.

Please enjoy the attached article by Betterhelp.com on stress.

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/stress/

Happy New Year everyone. Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere. See you in 2016.

Resolutions 2016

 

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Seldom do I make New Year’s resolutions and had no intention of doing so this year until this idea was presented to a group of us on the weekend. It struck me a such a good idea I needed to pass it on. The problem with making these New Years resolutions, at least in my life, is that after about a week, at the most a month, they mostly fade away without out becoming a habit. We revert back to our old ways and life goes on. The other side of that coin is I seemed to be vey successful with affirmations. This idea that was presented to the group this weekend is more along the lines of an affirmation than a go to the gym type of resolution. Maybe that is why this idea struck me as so good.

The idea is to come up with a word that describes who you want to be in 2016. This word can be a feeling like happy or grateful. It can be an action word like productive or useful. It is highly recommended that the word be positive so as to impact your life in a positive way. Then you take that word and couple it with “I am.” What ever your word may be when coupled with “I am” creates an incredibly strong single to your brain reinforcing that you are what you say you are. In time that becomes who you are.

Saying I am happy, or I am productive over and over out loud or silently is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. Coming up with the word you are going to use that is a bit of a challenge and I do challenge you to do this. Find a word that describes who you want to be in 2016.

For myself, my word is disciplined. I am disciplined.

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one goes anywhere.

Memory

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Barbra Streisand sang a song called “Memory.” For those of us who suffer from BP, memory is something that can be hit or miss.

It happened this way; I asked my girlfriend who she was listening to on YouTube.

She replied. “Guess.”

She honestly thought I should know this stuff. I cannot guess because I have no idea. There is nothing in the memory banks to guess with.

I used to find this frustrating, then it moved to humorous, then it became the truth. It is the honest truth that there are large chunks of my life of which I have no memory.  I cannot remember a lot of stuff that happened, songs that were popular, supposedly famous people of the screen and other things that went on around me when I was in the deep throws of this illness.

In responding to my girlfriend I did not get angry, a real change for me, I just patiently explained to have a memory of a famous song or person you have to some form of contact with reality when the event occurred and I definitely did not have any grasp of reality at that time so there is nothing to remember.

I explained asking me to guess at something was a quick way to upset me as I had nothing to guess with. Just as asking her to fix most things was beyond her abilities guessing was way beyond mine. Actually, when it comes to fixing things I now have to rely on the manuals or YouTube as the memory banks have been wiped clean on a lot of things. There was a time in the not so distant past that I had trouble attaching a socket to my torque wrench because I could not remember how. I had to look it up on YouTube.

Today my girlfriend no longer asks me to guess, she understands that guessing is not something that I can do.  For some people, they cannot grasp what this illness has done to scramble our brains. We have to be patient with these people and with ourselves, ever reminding ourselves there are people with no understanding of the effects of our illness.

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

Have you ever wondered what the difference was between a therapist and a psychologist this article from Betterhelp.com may shed some light on this for you?

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/what-is-the-difference-between-a-therapist-and-a-psychologist/

 

Nothing can be built without a plan

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Nothing can be built without a plan. In construction they are called blueprints. They are the plans for the building that is to be constructed. Every detail in contained within them and without them no one knows what is going on.

We have blueprints for our lives. These blueprints are made up of our beliefs. Beliefs are made up of the information we have collected in our lives, what we have been told, what we have been shown and what we have experienced. Our core beliefs cause us to think as we think and act as we act. Those beliefs are what rule our lives and make it as it is. The joy of being human is we can examine those beliefs and if need be change them.

I always thought I had the blueprint for a multi- room mansion within me but kept constructing a one room hovel out of my life. BP caused what I was told to be garbled, what I was shown to be misunderstood or exaggerated, what I experienced to be mostly negative. The beliefs that I held were mostly erroneous or fantastical, a blueprint for disaster.

As with a building I took over years ago, someone had miss-read the blueprint.  In that building it was to have a 3 point 5 gallon per hour pump installed to recirculate the hot water, instead they installed a 35 gallon an hour pump. That building had problems, water leaks developed all over the place. In not too long a time the building became uninhabited.

My life ran along similar lines as that building, my life had become uninhabitable and no one wanted to be around me, I did not even want to be around myself.

The first thing I did when I took over that building was to find the blueprints and read them. I then checked to see if what the blue prints said checked with the reality of the building. They didn’t, that pump was pumping water through the pipes at 10 times the speed recommended by the blueprints. Once the pump was replaced and a few other repairs made, the building stopped having problems and was soon re-inhabited. Everyone loved the place.

In my own life, once I quit misreading the blueprint and replaced my erroneous and fantastical beliefs with realistic thinking based in reality. Once that was done my life became inhabitable by myself and others. I am now on my way to constructing the life I was meant to have.

Look to your blueprint if your life is not all you would like. You could be miss-reading it or may have to redraw it.

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

Three Facts

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There are three facts that we must grasp and fully understand for mental wellness to work in our lives. The first fact is that our shared illness is inside us. It is within our bodies and minds. That looking for some great external, outside our bodies and minds, thing to happen that will fix everything is a fantasy. Our society and our illness tells us if I had, or was, something different (money, a different life, a different job, a job, a better deodorant or perfume, whatever) life would be great.  We falsely believe that if these external things would change so would our lives. Whatever we envision as the external thing that will save our lives we have to come to realize it is a fantasy, stop thinking that way. It is delusional insanity.  If your computer crashes you do not go reformat your neighbour’s computer. That would be insane right? Well it is just as insane to think what you are experiencing in this illness is anywhere but inside of yourself and the mental wellness you seek can only be found there as well. Yes, we need outside help, medications and a good support system, but it is only a help towards fixing ourselves. The outside assistance is only that, assistance. It is not the fix.

The second fact we must embrace is that our minds and ourselves are separate. That the mind is not you, you are separate from all the things in your mind. Your mind and its thoughts are the substance of what you have been told, what has been modeled to you and what you have experienced. In our illness the last one, our experiences, are our greatest enemy as so many of the things we think we have experienced may, or may not, have been as we thought in the light of reality.  I am not discounting anyone’s abuse, trauma, loss or any other bad experiences, I am just saying that in some cases even I, in my illness, kind of blew some events out of proportion compared to the reality of those events. Some events I downplayed in my mind to avoid the pain they cause and had to deal with that pain later. I am saying that our mind either enlarges or shrinks events of its own accord in our illness to protect us. If there is an “us” to protect then that “us” has to be separate from the mind. Grasping the fact that you and your mind are separate is essential.Without this understanding you cannot understand and use the last fact.

The last fact is, you can train your mind to think, feel and respond differently. Those things are changeable because they are not you. I will also be the first to tell you that your mind will rebel like an angry child at the first hint that you are trying to grow into a better person. It will throw everything at you to make you stop, every bad thing, every traumatic thing that has happened will haunt you. It will come out of the blue, not only when you sleep in the form of nightmares, but in broad daylight as you are hugging your children. But do not give up because like training any fierce beast. Once you show the mind that you are boss the mind will begin to respond in a more mannerly fashion. It takes time and effort to retrain your mind and it is at the effort part that many fail. It is damn hard work.

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

 

 

Healing is damn hard work

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Have you ever had a cut or scrape, you put a band aid on it and over time it the cut or scrape heals, our cells heal themselves without any effort on our part or so it seems. Some cuts are so deep they require stitches, over time they heal as well, but usually leave a scar. This is the seeming effortless healing of our body. The question is, is it really effortless? At the microscopic and smaller level there is an army fighting to close that hole in our body.  But because this healing is seemingly effortless we think that all healing should be as effortless and we are actually shocked to find that healing our minds and our lives is a lot of really hard work.

Since the battle cry of today’s society seems to be “That is too much work.”  I have no trouble understanding why so few BP sufferers actually get on, and stay on, the path to mental wellness. To get well you have to heal your mind and your life and it is damn hard work. But the illusion of effortless healing remains and if you buy into that illusion chances of getting well are pretty slim.

Effortlessness is always an illusion. My favorite example of this is when my girlfriend saw a Journeyman sheet metal worker install soffit and facia on a house. It looked so easy. So she decided that if it was that easy she and I could install soffit and facia in her house. It turned out to not be that easy, actually it turned into one the few fights we ever had not just in getting the soffit and facia installed but between ourselves.

If it looks easy, look at the person who is doing it. Tiger Woods can sink a hundred foot put with fair consistency, if I sink one it is a fluke of nature. The guy who made installing soffit and facia look easy was a Journeyman, which means he had served a five year apprenticeship and by his age he had been doing the job for at least 20 years. Of course it looked easy.

Healing and walking on the path of mental wellness is damn hard work. If you buy into the illusion that healing is easy you will be so disappointed and disheartened by the amount of hard work you have to do and will give up. I am telling you do not think healing is easy, get that thought out of your head. Healing a cut or a scrape on our body involves thousands of cells and organisms too small for the eye to see working their asses off.  Sometimes we even have to help and get stitches and we are scarred in the healing. The healing of our minds and lives will leave scars as well.

There is only one of you to do the healing and the only thing you can heal is yourself, so get to work. You will not regret it, but give up any illusions that is healing is easy.

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

How?

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Nothing is more important in dealing with our shared illness of BP, after finding medication that works, than knowing ourselves. Knowing our triggers that set off the things that manifest as addictions such as hyper sexuality. Or the things that cause our emotional turmoil and mental anguish. What places, situations, things, events and even people that cause our illness to rear its ugly head in our lives. How can these be avoided or removed from our lives if we have no idea what they are.

It is our lack of understanding of ourselves and our reactions that is the cause of most of these issues and gaining knowledge of our selves is the key to finding and keeping to the path of mental wellness. We initially have no understanding of the reasons for our thinking and our behavior. If we want to be well we have to learn what sets off our illness in our lives. Even then until we deal with the issues we have created our illness will attack us. There is a period of time in which our past will haunt us in a real sense but I want to be the first to tell you this will pass if we deal with the issues we created. It takes time but it is worth it.

James Allen’s statement, “Look within, look searchingly and show no mercy upon yourself.” Has been a catch phrase for me for some years now. The problem is, although true, this statement does not give a clear idea as to how we are to look within and what we are searching for. It’s the unexplained “How” that causes most of us to flounder about and accomplish little in this area of getting to know ourselves and what sets us off.

We are told keep a journal, that’s nice but what do I write? Do I write a blow by blow description of my day and then try and figure out what my triggers were or what I was doing or who I was with when my BP took off. You can do it that way and I did for a long time. Do not get me wrong I am far from discounting journaling actually pen and paper are the only tools that seem to work. You cannot do this successfully in your head you need to write it down but you need to know how to write it down.

Finding out the “How” is an exact science, with actual doable steps gave me great relief. I am hoping that once you know them, you will find the same relief and apply these steps to find the things that are holding you back or causing this illness to control your life.  The steps are the same and once known can be applied to every area of our lives in which we are not happy.

The first step is awareness. Unless you are aware that there is a problem no problem exists.

The second step is coming to understand why you do as you do. Without that understanding you cannot change what you do.

The third step is called a few different things by different people. Currently I like T. Harv. Ecker’s wording of “disassociation”. Previously I used forgiveness. Disassociating with a behaviour, reaction, or habit means you no longer own it. Whereas with forgiveness the element of ownership is retained and can cause further grief.

The fourth and final step is “Change”. You now are aware of the issue, you understand why you do what you do. You have disassociated the issue from yourself. Now you need to find something new to replace it. Trial and error is a large part of everything new. Do not expect you will walk through the first three steps and instantly be a newer, better you. You will have to learn what works to replace what doesn’t. In time you will be that newer, better you but in the beginning of change you will make some errors.

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

 

Finding the Ditch

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Another tool that aids in mental wellness that is talked about a lot is working with others. Our shared illness causes us to become completely wrapped up in ourselves and focusing on someone else is said to bring us out of ourselves. However, no one bothers to add that this is also a learning experience and initially we will make a lot of mistakes that make it seem like helping others is just hurting ourselves. This causes us to think that this another highly touted idea that is just so much crap.

Bluntly, if we can barely function ourselves what makes us think we somehow magically have the skills to effectively help another person? Jesus said, “When the blind lead the blind they soon fall in the ditch.” I am the first to admit that I have hit the ditch a lot leading another person. But I have also learned only by hitting the ditch on both sides of the path can we find the road to mental wellness. In life there are no white lines to mark the edge of the road and in our closed eyed state what more can we expect than to find the ditch. The skills to effectively help others are learned skills not something we miraculously know.

What is this ditch that I speak of? It is emotional turmoil, not something we really want but that is what trying to help someone else usually creates in the beginning. There is an old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” I wonder how many hours’ cowboys spent trying to get horses to drink when the horse didn’t want to for the cowboys to figure that out. The same with people, you can show them the path to mental wellness but you can’t make them get on it. Nobody could make you get well either, you had to do it yourself. This is where the emotional turmoil comes in because we need to learn through experience that we cannot push, pull or drag someone on to the path to mental wellness. A hundred, even a thousand, people can tell you that, but for some reason most of us remain deaf to this until we experience it ourselves. Which proves this statement “Truth can only be experienced, it cannot be explained.” A Course in Miracles. It is in coming to understand that working with others is really about growing yourself. But my intent is to draw your attention to this fact – you will face distress and frustration working with others, but maybe we are to do this to learn exactly that, how to overcome distress and frustration. What we must realize is the conundrum of working with others, it may not do a thing for the other person but it will definitely do something for you.

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

Understanding Happiness

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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.