Category Archives: Tools for Mental Wellness

The Greatest Therapy

 

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I am a sufferer of BP I and therefore I can only share my experience and my research into the various facets of bipolar. BP is an illness that is not going to go away, but we can learn to manage this illness with the help of others.

Last week we talked of the essential value of professional therapy and a professional therapist. Those of us who want to learn to manage this illness can only do so with the help of others. You can not learn to manage this illness with out that team of professional and non professional support holding us up, pushing us forward and sometimes even holding our feet to the fire to get things done that are to our betterment.

I want to talk about a therapy that is neither professional nor non professional. This therapy benefits from the input of both. That is the therapy of self-education and learning to monitor ourselves in a way that we would have never dreamt of before. I state often that my greatest field of study is myself and in the closing of each blog I suggest working harder on yourself than anything else. This self education and monitoring can be considered the greatest therapy. We need this on going therapy of self education and monitoring to become a life habit.  Professional people, non professional people and support groups will come and go in our lives leaving the habit of self-education and self monitoring the only constant in our lives

Many of us have never listened to our bodies and yet when it comes to self monitoring, our bodies prove to be the first indicator of trouble. Triggers and mood changes are usually first indicated by feelings in the body. Here again the individuality of BP comes in to play because what I feel in my body may not be what you feel. We, individually, need to learn what our bodies are telling us.

We need to learn the management skills required to manage and forecast our moods like a weatherman.

We need to educate ourselves about the illness of bipolar as well as learn, or relearn, the social and life skills this illness has taken away from us. This illness destroys our character, our integrity, our dignity, our self-worth and every relationship we were ever in. We have to repair all that damage as well.

In learning about this illness and its affect on us. As well as the skills required to repair the damage this illness caused in our lives and the skills to manage and forecast our moods we, in time, become the people we have always wanted to be and sometimes way more than that.

Our battle is with our minds, not with other people, places, situations or other external things.  Please remember our battle will always be with our minds and our minds alone.

Please subscribe to this blog, or check back every Monday, as we look at the truths of living with and managing our Bi-Polar disorder.

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.

My Therapist is not working for me

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I am a sufferer of BP I,  therefore I can only share my experience and my research into the various facets of bipolar. BP is an illness that is not going to go away, but we can learn to manage this illness with the help of others. One of the most important tools we can add to our tool box is a good therapist, psychologist or counselor.

Therapy is essential for treating bipolar. When I talk of therapy I separate this into two categories so there is no confusion, professional and non professional. This week we are talking about professional therapy.  We should think about seeking out a qualified professional therapist right after our diagnosis and in conjunction with our search to find the right meds to stabilize our minds. If we ask our Psychiatrist, in most cases they will recommend someone.  For the most part Psychiatrists can help in our therapy, but seldom have the time to do real therapy sessions. We need the guidance and the time of a professional trained to unearth, and help us deal with, the deep seated false beliefs and trauma that we have collected during our illness.

I compare the need for a professional therapist to help us deal with our bipolar issues, with the need for a professional guide on an African Safari. Sure you can do go to Africa on your own or in a group and you may even see some things but the experience will be so much better under the guidance of a professional who has an idea of where to look.

I want to talk about some issues that are often raised in conversations about professional therapy.

“My Therapist is not working for me” is a common complaint that is heard all the time. “They do nothing for me” and “I cannot connect” are other forms of the same complaint.

The professional you are seeing is not supposed to do any work, they have gone to school and continue to educate themselves, they are your guide and sounding board. If they did the work it would not help you.

“You can’t hire someone else to do your push-ups for you and expect to benefit.” Jim Rohn.

The job of a professional therapist is to ask the  hard questions, listen carefully and have a really good BS meter.

You are to provide the honest answers and do the homework assigned. If you are not doing homework on yourself between sessions, you are doing yourself a disservice. Simply put, you have to do the work to change – no one else can.

One of the areas that bipolar affects is our ability to connect with people, we do not make friends easily. Then we, as bipolar sufferers, lament that we are having a hard time connecting with our therapist. The development of a real working relationship is hard for us and we need to realize that. We need to reach out to our therapist in a genuine way. In most cases they are actually reaching out to us, we just don’t see it.

Sometimes in the end we just cannot make it work with a particular professional therapist and we need to find a different therapist. This happens sometimes, but the reason to change your therapist should never be that you could not connect, until you tried, or they are making you work too hard or you are not working at all.

Our battle is with our minds, not with other people, places, situations or other external things.  Please remember our battle will always be with our minds and our minds alone.

Please subscribe to this blog, or check back every Monday, as we look at the truths of living with and managing our Bi-Polar disorder.

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.

To be continued next week…………….

My Life’s Mission

 

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“Bi-Polar is a recognized mental illness that can be diagnosed and treated with medication.”

I read that earlier this week in a brochure about BP they had out at a doctor’s office. This statement perpetuates a myth that I have made it my life mission to dispel. The statement has some truth; BP is an illness that can be diagnosed. Where the statement perpetuates the myth that needs busting, is that it fails to say that  only the “symptoms” of BP can be treated with medication. Without the word “symptoms” this statement perpetually makes people believe that medication alone can make them mentally well. Medication alone does not, and can not, make you mentally well. All medication does is deal with the “symptoms” of BP that make it impossible for you to become mentally well. Medication alone gives you a fighting chance to change and grow, nothing more. A proper diagnosis and proper medication offers just a chance for you to become the person you want to be. A chance at a new path.

This expectation that medication will make me something different than who I am is the myth that needs dispelling. Since all the literature and many of the medical profession do nothing to dispel this myth, I have made it my life mission to help BP sufferers realize that a proper diagnosis and medication, although critical in dealing with the symptoms of BP, do nothing to deal with our mental anguish and emotional turmoil.

As a BP sufferer you can either be a victim of this illness or you can use your illness as a shield to protect yourself from others, most of us flip from the victim role to using our illness as a shield as the situation dictates. A proper diagnosis and proper medication make a third option possible, the option of becoming mentally well where there is no need to be a victim of this illness, we can become a victor. Where there is no need to use our illness to protect ourselves from the world and we can live free of our mental anguish and emotional turmoil.

Many of us feel our mental anguish and emotional turmoil is imposed on us by others. We are this way because other people made us this way, is another part of the same myth that is perpetuated by thinking that a diagnosis and medication will repair us. It is easy to see why this is so, a diagnosis and medication are external things that should cure an external problem. I want to convince those that share this illness our problems are internal. All a proper diagnosis and proper medication does is give us a stable mind that allows us to shine a steady light on those internal problems. Our illness made us the way we are, an internal thing. Our mental anguish and emotional turmoil is our way of dealing with this illness within ourselves. Our illness made us sick and as sick people we dealt with our illness in sick ways, there can be no other result.

It is in realizing that a proper diagnosis and proper medication is only a chance to find that new path to mental wellness, as always I urge you:

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

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.