Can You Learn to Limit the Impact of Your Next Break?

This post was inspired by a recent post at SpeakingBipolar.com.

About 30 years ago I met a psyche doctor who told me the more often you have a break, the greater the likelihood of having a break again. This was directed at the highs and lows, and this doctor requested me to go off alcohol which I have for 30 years and caffeine (which I did for 12 years and then stopped). Knowing this propensity was a great motivator in seeking and obtaining good self care including meds and other forms of care over the years. I tend to call this managing risk. If I manage or minimize the risk of one break, in theory I am (or am I?) managing or minimizing the risk of that or a similar break occurring again in the future.

This seeking good self care and med management and risk management did not start immediately for me but did begin once I was on Clozapine in 2008. This was my bottom out low is as far as it goes time.

Using this logic if it is accurate means that in some respects if I can “learn” from a prior episode, I am more likely to be successful in staving off or managing severe bipolar symptoms the next time. One success begets more success.

So how do you get to the place where you are learning not to break from current or on-going trauma? How can managing a current break help to minimize the risk of a future break? These are steps that I take. They don’t always work 100% of the time but they do help me learn to go around an episode and/or lessen its impacts and/or avoid another one head-on that is so severe that hospitalization is required. This has been the case since 2008 — fourteen years.

  1. I keep a journal of thoughts and self care and regular activities and feelings on a daily basis. A quick sentence or two for each day is all that is needed. I share the journal with my therapist.
  2. I get psyche meds prescribed from a psyche doctor and stay with the regimen. (In the past I have not done this.)
  3. If the regimen is not working I negotiate a change with the doctor.
  4. I keep in regular contact with my therapist. I seek to be as transparent as possible. Secrets tend to create a life of their own.
  5. I read my journal back to myself and see if I am acknowledging and managing triggers or not. This requires knowing what my triggers are like poor sleep, taking too much on in the day, talking down to myself, limiting that internal critic and so forth.
  6. Also I give myself credit for making baby steps in my journal. Perhaps I did not walk 2 miles every day for a week but did walk 2 miles for 4 days last week. Tell myself how much progress this is. Give myself credit for baby steps instead of listening to the critic talk that I am not doing enough.
  7. I get as much exercise as my mental health will allow. I start with small steps like a half mile walk and gradually build up to 2 miles plus. Or practice yoga with a class or on my own.
  8. Tire out my body in order to tire out that mind.
  9. I reach out to my support circle and let them know how I am feeling. Sometimes just acknowledging how I feel tends to diffuse the tension. It helps me to know others are aware I am having an off day.
  10. Eat well if and when I can. Avoiding empty calories. This includes accepting body image impacts of taking meds – ie. weight gain.
  11. Reach out to a friend I haven’t talked to in a while. Arrange a time to meet and walk or just enjoy talking with that person over the phone.
  12. Remind myself that there are always those who are struggling as much if not more than I am. This does require being part of a community. A church community, a mental health community, an on-line mental health community, a neighborhood community? A community hit by hurricane Ida? I seek to reach out and make some sort of contribution to the communit(ies)I am a part of. It helps me to know I can be of help to others even when I am not at the top of my game.
  13. Finally, be kind to myself. It is not my fault I have bipolar disorder. It is not my fault that certain consequences and behaviors trend to follow that diagnosis. I have to learn to forgive myself for sometimes “crazy” or ill-conceived acts. Ill-conceived acts here refers literally to acts I have taken while ill. I seek to forgive myself as readily for those acts as I seek to forgive others.

What do you think? Do you think we have any control over the propensity to have a full-fledged breakdown over time? If we cannot entirely steer clear of it can we at least learn to experience less dramatic highs or lows? Does this argument erroneously assume that the patient has the power to learn a better outcome or is the outcome already set in stone?

A Slippery Slope

I have written about this in comments to a friend’s post but thought I would post it here. I believe the overturn of Roe v. Wade is a slippery slope for Americans.

What’s next? Banning birth control? Gay marriage? A woman’s right to vote? A woman’s right to inherit property?

Clearly we are on our way down the rabbit hole without any way back out so it seems.

To me, a man, any man, even a Supreme Court Justice is not emotionally or morally qualified to decide what happens to a woman’s body. He has not lived through a monthly period since the age of 12 reminding him of the god given right of childbirth. He has not worried about a potential pregnancy when his period is late several days. He has not suffered the extensive trauma of a terminated pregnancy either planned or unplanned. A man seeking to tell a woman what to do with a pregnancy is not an empathetic being and is only set on controlling the outcome. What happened to “liberty” and the protection of certain rights? Lose one and perhaps lose them all….

God did not ordain the Supreme Court Justices. Man did. The Supreme Court members are thereby not entitled to act as God in this respect which is what they are doing.

After several days of CBD oil

Again, this is not a post proposing use of CBD for anxiety or any other mental health condition. It is just my personal experience with using a small amount of CBD oil daily for the last several days. Please don’t consider this a product endorsement or a cure for any sort for mental illness. Please don’t make a change in your medical regimen without consulting a doctor first. Also please be sure if you do take CBD oil you are aware of dosing information. Consult packaging or a health professional for dosing.

I have to say there is some progress with my anxiety after taking CBD oil for a little less than a week. The anxiety does not disappear but it is more easily placed from the front burner to the back burner. This is significant for me as anxiety generally presents itself at the foremost of my thoughts and does not typically minimize itself through self-talk. The anxiety usually may become more manageable with a daily walk or yoga but it generally is difficult to move to the back burner even still. With a walk, the anxiety generally becomes somewhat more responsive to self-talk.

Being able to push the anxiety pot (no pun intended) to the back burner is relatively new to me. This means I am more able to entertain thoughts that are on the front burner. Typically those front-burner thoughts are more observations associated with positive thinking. In front-burnered thoughts, I am more likely to see my blessings and count my blessings. I am more able to see all the things I am grateful for but that I may overlook from time to time. Front-burnered thoughts are more intentional thoughts or thoughts over which I may have some control. Back-burnered thoughts are more automatic and I am less likely to have control over these – such as the anxiety.

Just a thought, it might be nice to talk to some folks who do not suffer from anxiety and ask them about whether front-burnered and back-burnered thoughts work this way for them. I have often thought that having a mental illness such as bipolar means my conscious thoughts are closer to my subconscious thoughts – that’s what makes these thoughts so difficult to manage. For most people it seems that intense fears or intense anxieties exist more at the subconscious level than on the conscious one and are therefore more easy to “silence” or to “manage” if they are not present at the forefront of consciousness.

To repeat in my experience with the CBD oil, the anxiety does not go away but it can be put in greater perspective once the worries move from a front burner spot to a back burner spot.

I will update this blog in another week or so to see if the back-burnering of anxiety-ridden thoughts is able to hold. Thanks for listening. Please share any stories of managing anxiety on CBD oil you may have.

Anxiety is a bully

I have been journaling since March 2021 about strides I am making in practicing yoga or walking on a regular basis. A week or two ago, I decided to include journaling about my anxiety in the same log. Once I started writing about my anxiety, it was as if I could not stop.

I called my anxiety a bully in that it instills pain wherever it goes. I called my anxiety cancerous in that the anxiety causes good health to go bad. I wrote and wrote and wrote about anxiety not being a friend but being a bully and how there was no room in my home for a bully. I do not allow bullying to occur in the neighborhood or at school, so why would I accept bullying at home?

I know I don’t always have control over my emotions and that is why I have a diagnosis of bipolar, but it is soooo helpful to be able to call out anxiety as a bully and think of it as something that is pervading my home rather than a feature of the bipolar I just have to accept. It is true I cannot control the anxiety when it occurs, I can only control how I respond to it when it does occur. But calling it a bully somehow helps me to think of the anxiety as “other than” and not me. I am not my anxiety. I am not my diagnosis. I am not my bipolar. My anxiety exists as a bully as part of my illness. I can call it out for what it is and I can tell it off and I can tell it it is not welcome in my person, in my home, or in my relationships with family and friends.

Does anybody else have coping mechanisms for anxiety that seem to help by differentiating the anxiety from the person experiencing it? Is it helpful to you too to think of anxiety as a bully to be kept at bay?

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Ego versus Spirit

My therapist tells me there are two ways of being – through the Ego or through Spirit or God.  The Ego is all about me and what I have accomplished with little glory to God.  The Spirit is all about what can I do to be useful with all the glory for accomplishments to God.  Like most people, I struggle with this dichotomy.  I would like to use that big Ivy League brain graduated magna cum laude for some great invention or some great medical break-through like the cure for HIV/AIDs or the cure for cancer.  At the same time I am increasingly aware that my Spirit self seeks to be in situations or in jobs where I can serve the Will of God no matter how great or how small the accomplishment.    It is my Spirit self who finds solace in cleaning up the kitchen after Wednesday Night Supper or feeding the homeless.  It is my Spirit self who finds comfort and a sense of self in providing a healthy meal to my family.  It is my Spirit self who can stop and acknowledge the efforts of my husband toward the goings and comings of our everyday household.  In short, my Spirit self is thankful and mindful of others including God.

 I am at a cross-roads right now in this journey to find God or Spirit as evident in my work life.  I have not found that place yet, what it looks like or what it will become.  I do know that I have an Ego that tends to get in the way much like that person who was arguing with Einstein in the dream I wrote about in the letter to David Bohm.  I also wonder out loud if writing about my illness might be the best way to serve others.  If I can share my experience of bipolar illness in a way that is helpful to others, maybe I am finding God in my work (or He is finding me).   

Since the time of writing that letter to David Bohm in or about 1995 or 1996 (see prior post), my Ego has gone through what I call a shredding machine.  I feel 150% less sure of myself in terms of the kinds of jobs I can hold and keep.  At the same time I feel that my Spiritual self is more and more in control as I seek God in daily or even mundane interactions.  The satisfaction I gain through clean-up activities at my Church on Wednesdays or after feeding the homeless is real.  Right now I am feeling my way through the process of having very little Ego to fall back on which means more “pressure” or maybe better stated more “room” for God to step in and be in control.  Perhaps this letting go for God is also responsible for my drafting this text and for deciding to share its contents with others struggling for stability. 

Just as an update, my church-related activities largely have been suspended due to covid-19 and due to a situation at my place of worship.  I continue to pray on a regular basis, but could definitely improve in the area of giving thanks to God.    

My Sojourn through Bipolar Illness – Finding the Inner Child

For years I thought that my inner child within [1] was about ten years old.  This is about the time my parents separated for a divorce.  Like most children, I took this news personally and thought that I was personally responsible for their break-up.  I recall the Valentine’s Day after my parents separated I gave them both together a huge Valentine’s heart box filled with Russell Stover candies.  I could tell something was wrong by the look of sheer anxiety on my father’s face.   

In addition to this divorce, my inner child has been somewhat over-shadowed by being the replacement child for my older brother who died as an infant the year before I was born.  At least with my father, I always felt like the replacement child who did not quite measure up.  With my mom, this was not always so much the case.  

Today I feel that my inner child is more like 6 years old (than 10 years old) though I do not know of a specific incident that would have triggered this child within to “stop” at this age.  Perhaps my parents stopped communicating with each other when I turned 6, perhaps I experienced some childhood tragedy that I can no longer recall or name, perhaps this was the beginning of financial differences between my Mom and my Dad and all that that entails.

In any case, this six-year-old child within tends to believe in all sorts of magic just as would a child at six years of age.  She is a matchmaker at heart and seeks continually to imagine people together who might be good with each other – imaginarily or not.  She tends to see things in circular time or dream time often before they occur in linear time.  This early perception is not jarring to her mental health so long as there is not a safety component to it.  If there is a safety component to the perception, my child within seems to turn ten years old and not only feels ”unsafe” but also feels the responsibility for the “unsafe event.” 

I have spent years if not decades trying to understand this child within and her fears for safety.   I have particularly been focused on this child and her safety concerns since becoming a mother 16 years ago.   If I listen closely, it may be that this six-year-old child holds no fears only perceptions of a beautiful place and beautiful planet.  It may be that my true child within is largely guarded from feelings of unsafety, and it is more the child of ten years or the child of divorce or replacement that holds onto those feelings of responsibility and angst and anxiety.

If only I could get the ten-year-old child to listen to the six-year-old child, perhaps I could start to see and hear and experience a world in which everything is whole and in which God is truly in control.  If I am able to honor that six-year-old child fully, I may be able to let go of the ten- year-old child who forever feels responsible for any and almost every calamity that exists.  The ten-year-old feels responsibility for safety of self, safety of community, safety of nation and safety of the world, while the six-year-old appears unencumbered by these rampant safety concerns.  The six-year-old is largely concerned with whether or not people are happy and who might meet whom and what is needed in order to stay happy. 


[1]  I am aware that there are several texts that have been published that address finding the child within and healing the inner child.  I have never read any of these texts but I have worked directly with a therapist over several years in listening to and acknowledging that child.   I would assume that my therapist has read these books and has imparted their knowledge to me.  These books are not included in my Bibliography as I have never read them.