This Bipolar Life: Letting Go of “How”

So, my life has been turned a bit sideways as of late and yet I’ve managed to navigate some very big changes while staying mostly calm and balanced. Of course, I still did my standard “let me manage everything” bit and tried to control how it all happened along the way. I’m sure you can imagine how well that went. Eventually I realized what I was doing and stepped back. I decided to focus on the desired outcome (the what) and try to let go of process (the how) we got there.

I found I started to feel much more relaxed and very fluid, allowing things to move around me as I remembered (and reminded myself as needed) that I had no real control over anything. This is an ongoing life lesson for me as I have been a “control freak” for as long as I can recall. Or at least I used to be. After lots of therapy I have gotten to a space where I really am better at just letting things go, thankfully.

How have I accomplished this so far? I’m not entirely sure. I think a lot of it has to do with the realization of just how much work it is to try to manage all the details. It’s frankly just exhausting. I know it’s driven mostly by irrational anxieties and that I’m worrying and/or overthinking unnecessarily, but that doesn’t change the fact that my brain instantly wants to control the process. It’s a struggle at times but it’s totally worth it for the relief of not being and instead allowing myself the peace that comes with not being in charge all the time. I do like being the boss on occasion but doing it all the time?

I’ve worked hard at recognizing that everyone uses their own methods and that they can be unique and still be effective. Trust me, getting to that point has taken a lot of work and there are times when I still forget and go back to my old ways. Where I try to over analyze the entire situation and attempt to convince people to do it “my way”, because of course that’s the best way, right? That’s usually when someone in my care circle gently reminds me that my brain is on overdrive and I need to just breathe and trust the process, even if it doesn’t match mine.

In the end I’ve learned that what matters to me is getting results rather than getting stuck in the details of how we get there. Finding that balance has given me a relief I would never have thought possible. Most of the time anyway 😉

This Bipolar Life: Dinner and a movie

Do you ever take things more personally than others might? Has someone ever done something that is perfectly normal, acceptable, perhaps even reasonable and yet you still found it offensive to you in some way? Well bipolar brains experience that a lot. Here’s a very brief tale of how I went through that just last night. Enjoy!

So we were supposed to have movie and dinner last night as a family, minus my wife of course because she’s working two jobs and is gone in the evening, but the kids’ dad came over and we were going to settle in for a nice evening. We had all the kids at home and were going to make a nice meal.

You may be wondering where the bipolar part comes in, it always does, and in this case it’s about teens and their natural propensity to disappear to their rooms for hours on end. At some point in the evening, well past the dinner hour, I called the kids down to talk. They were thrilled at the prospect I’m sure but I felt it was necessary. To be fair, so did their dad. However, we took two very different approaches.

He had ready access to his rational mind and gave very reasonable explanations for why the children should be downstairs while we were having a family night and how they should turn off their screens. Then he spent the rest of the time helping to decipher what I was saying as mine was nearly all focused on the emotional aspect. See, I took it personally. Something my bipolar brain does A LOT. He helped them see that what I was feeling was valid and that it translated into thoughts, which he helped me put into words. He, and others, often help me see that a situation is not about me and help me step back and see it objectively. Once I’m able to do that I find that not only am I calmer but so are the people around me, especially my kids.

So, if a bipolar person in your world takes what you say and twists it try saying something along the lines of, “I think perhaps there’s a misunderstanding…” or, “Actually I perceive it as…”. Try using some ways of helping them reframe the issue without feeling attacked. It’s a hard balance to strike but one that is important when dealing with folks like me.

The Daily Gazette: March 14th, 2015

One thing I enjoy most is reading other articles and blog posts about mental illness and will be sharing my Top 3 with you in the hopes of increasing awareness:

Mental Health: A New Priority in Corporate America – by Nancy Wang

Joe Sifer was a moody, agitated and sometimes angry young employee at Booz Allen Hamilton in 1996. He suffered at work. He was told he had potential but he needed help.

Now a senior vice president at that same strategy and technology firm, Sifer said without the care the company provided him 20 years ago, he would not be where he is today.

 

Mental illness rampant in war-torn Syria – by AFP

Damascus – Exhausted by four years of war and economic hardship, Syrians are suffering from an epidemic of mental illness, from suicidal adults to children plagued by recurring nightmares.

The number of Syrians with mental disorders has increased by a quarter since 2011, the health ministry said last month, revealing the extent of the damage for the first time.

 

Offering help to families, independence to mentally ill – by AZ Central

George Cejudo sits at a table with his easel. Carefully, he mixes his paints and applies them to his canvas. Slowly, he begins to shade in the lower face of a portrait.

Cejudo, a Phoenix resident, was enrolled in the PSA Behavioral Health Agency’s respite-care program for families caring for adults with mental illness about two years ago.

Cejudo’s family found support. He found independence, enrolling in an art program.


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This Bipolar Life: Fake it ’til You Make It Baby!

Now, there is only so much my brain can do to think my mind into believing things are better than they feel (because, you know I get my own special brand of funky symptoms) but there are three things in my “Fake it ’til you make it” toolkit I thought I’d share for folks who are down in the dumps and maybe need some ideas for getting through it:

Number one, for me at least, is figuring out what I can control and start making changes, however small, toward getting out of the darkness. Controlling what I can, and in my case that starts with my environment. If the window shades are closed, I will get up and open them, even if it’s raining. Something to remind me that there is a world beyond my little four walls. If the house is silent I will put on music. If there is a pet around I’ll try to find it and snuggle. I’ll pick up a few books and keep reading until I find one that offers a positive message (note to self: do not read Nietzsche when trying to be positive). I will force myself to smile.

BTW, Did you know that smiling itself can help you feel happier? It’s true. So yes, if need be I will force a grin. I might look a little odd but hey, I’m 40, mom of four kiddos (imagine keeping your sanity through that) and bipolar, I’ve reached the point where I don’t care how odd I look if it works.

Anyway, number two for me is to make a pros and cons list. However, at the point where I need this list I’m already well aware of the cons and writing them down doesn’t usually help. Most of the time. Anyway, I’ll list out at least three good things that have happened lately. Even if it’s that I managed to make the coffee. Or that I remembered to mail that birthday card that is two weeks two late (a serious problem for me). Sometimes that’s all I’ve got to offer, and that’s okay. Every now and then I’ll write down the cons but only to put them in perspective. Like, is it really all that bad that I forgot to start the roast and now we’re eating breakfast for dinner again? Or that I’ve managed to leave the laundry sitting in the washer for three days out of complete and utter apathy and now I have to run it not once but twice, just to get that smell out? And if it’s really lucky it’ll make it to the dryer and then we’ll celebrate when it actually gets folded and put away – this is a true cause for excitement in my house! Anyway, my point is that perspective is key and although it’s sometimes really hard to find (like hiding in a hidden corner enveloped in fog kind of hard) it’s really worth the effort.

Finally, number three for me is forgiveness. It’s the hardest one. It’s the step where I struggle with self-worth and the reality of my actions (or inaction) and have to hold myself accountable. This is when I have to practice being gentle with myself. Work on being understanding. I try to talk to myself the way I would a good friend going through a similar situation. Reminding myself that even with bipolar disorder I am worthy of forgiveness and I have just as much value as anyone else, exactly I am.

Even if I do sometimes forget the occasional birthday card 😉