Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The gift of pain

"Pain is a priceless essential gift - of that I have no doubt. And yet only by learning to master pain can we keep it from mastering us."  Dr. Paul Brand

There's a different world than the one we live in now, and sometimes I feel its breath rush against my skin. But sometimes, I bump against darkness. Ironically pain reminds me I'm alive and how much I love.

Few experiences in life are more universal than pain. Some pains, the pain of grief or emotional trauma, have no physical stimulus whatsoever. They are states of the mind, concocted by the alchemy of the brain. These feats of consciousness make it possible for suffering to loiter in the mind long after the body's need for it has passed.

We hold onto it until it becomes comfortable.

Some emotional pain will leave us with time. Some will leave if we decide to let it go. There are times, though, when we must live with emotional pain; either because we haven't had sufficient time to heal or because we are not able, willing, and/or ready to let go.

Yet they also give us the potential to attain an outlook that will change the very landscape of the pain experience. We can learn to cope, and even triumph. It's our choice.

"If I were to choose between pain and nothing, I would choose pain." -- William Faulkner

I know what it's like to feel nothing. Its depths are far deeper than any pain.

There is fresh emotional pain, and there is the variety that lingers in varying degrees, sometimes in the form of emotional scarring but sometimes simply in the form of persistent inability to feel truly unhappy.

I rarely feel grateful for the fact of pain, but I almost always feel grateful for the message that it brings. I can count on pain to represent my best interests in the most urgent way available. It is then up to me to act on those recommendations.

Broken places heal back stronger and rarely ever break in that place again. No one would choose to go through pain, but no one would deny that's when you have the opportunity to learn the most.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Consequences, Dominoes, & Chains

Everything in life has consequences. Some good. Some bad. Consequences are like dominoes. Chain reactions. One leads to another and one never stands alone.

I am no stranger to consequences. They are just part of the package that comes along with being bipolar.

As of yesterday I am now a felon. Sometimes the law is too black and white. At least that's my opinion. Opening a door and sitting down in the front the seat of a stranger's car while in a psychosis will obviously still get you deemed guilty of burglary. There's going to be consequences.

My recent job loss has left me seeking employment at the same time I was found guilty. Though not impossible, but finding a job will be much harder. Most companies run background checks today. Domino effect.

The longer it takes for me to find a job the longer a financial strain it puts on my family. Domino effect. All from the beginning consequence of a bipolar psychosis.

Consequences; we all know what it means. It's defined as, the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Accepting or tolerating a bipolar diagnosis

I wasn't diagnosed with bipolar until I was twenty-four. Generally, most people with bipolar don't even show symptoms until in their early twenties. But I had spent the previous few years misdiagnosed with depression and obviously mistreated. And that was after dealing with it in my childhood and teenage years. At the time of my correct diagnosis I knew nothing of bipolar so I had nothing to prejudge it by. That was in 1994.

Looking back I always get aggravated at the dr. who finally diagnosed me. She said it in a "matter of fact" tone and that was it. No explanation. Only minor basics. No descriptions. There was no "ah ha!" moment because I had no idea what she was talking about. A label means nothing without an explanation.

It wasn't until years later that I sought real treatment for "this diagnosis." That was in 2000 when I started going to our state mental health program.

I fought my treatment. I despised my pills. I hated the idea of having to take them. I either hated the side effects or the idea of knowing I'm going to have to take these handful of pills for the rest of my life.

At times I enjoyed the hypomania, the mania. I missed them when the meds worked.

Friday, April 20, 2012

You're a scary mental case

Every one of us has a story to tell. It's taken a lifetime to write, and has more characters, plot lines, and twists than any other book written. Our stories are complex, and when someone asks us to tell it, we often don't even know where to start.

So why is that, when we see someone with a certain style of clothes, or type of car, even address?? And why do some fear or shun those that aren't different on the outside, but on the inside? We think we can sum their story up into one tidy statement?

            They're poor. She's trashy. He's a scary psycho.

If there is one thing I know about it is stigma and judgment. Flat out discrimination. Not because I do it. But I've been burned by its cruelty far too many times. And I have seen it happen for years on almost a daily basis to others for petty things like just the way someone is dressed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The stuff that sticks

Have you ever pondered and thought and wondered why God was 'forcing you to go through such a hard time? Maybe a crisis. To suffer. Why He would insist on teaching you a lesson in a such hard way possible sometimes? If that was even His intentions at all.

I've wondered how as parents we let our children fail sometimes in order to let learn from their mistakes. How much would we let them lose? How far would we let them suffer? How long would we let them hurt? How intense would we allow their pain to grow?

What if we were to tell our children, "You're a mess! I'm going to change your life. It won't be easy, but abundance is on the other side. Follow my advice and you'll finally dig your way out, for good." Would they answer, "THANK YOU! Whatever you say!" because......

"I know I'm smart enough to know that someone else needs to handle this madness."

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Siren's Call

I recently awoke from almost a month's long sleep. At least that's what it feels like. But more precisely it was an almost month's long psychosis of mixed episodes of depressions and manias of my bipolar. It's why I went to the hospital last week.

As much as I try to remember the past few weeks I just cannot do it. With the few snippets of images in my mind that remain I try to retrace the few memories I have backwards from the pictures but they never show up. Using those same images I try moving forward. Still, no recall of any memory. There are no memories of conversations, of no talks or any other verbal exchanges.

Try remembering before your birth and describing it. You know you were alive but you can't remember it. Or try to remember your years before turning three or. It can't be done. That's what it feels like every time I blackout in psychosis. And each time it occurs they last longer and closer in between.

It's hard to describe the feeling of knowing you've said or done something that was hurtful; especially having done something and you have absolutely no memory of it all. Things said and done during psychosis are not so easily filtered by others.

The truth is, there will be people whom you've hurt or wronged or scared so badly they won't want to forgive you, or they won't be able to. It won't matter that you're psychotic.

I've learned all you can do is offer an apology if you feel one is needed. If they can't accept it, you have to accept that. But every action has consequences, and sometimes apologies or even restitutions don't make everything better.

Messes. Look at the messes that "I" never intended to make but have to pay the consequences and clean up, as do those that get caught in their wakes. Burning bridges. You have to put pieces together like a crime investigation before you can attempt to fix things.

It's the excesses that make bipolar so fascinating to many people. Face it, depression isn't much fun to watch. But mania...mania can be exhilarating. Exciting. Mania can be fun.

And that's from outsiders. Outsiders can laugh at your goofy behavior. Your funny conversations. From inside, it's either equally exciting or like being trapped in a living hell. At least while it's happening. But when the ride is over...when the music stops...when reality returns...when you wake up, you're the one left holding the bag. You're left trying to figure where you have been and what all you have done. You're the one who has to put the pieces back together, to try to make your life whole again. And you have to do it despite not always being sure what really happened in the first place.

I have been where I am today more than once in the past but this time it is the hardest to deal with. I'm seriously having a hard time accepting and dealing with the past month's occurrences and actions because of my bipolar episodes; particularly my episodes that of my psychosis.

I've been here before. Standing here. Sitting here. Looking and listening. Watching. Half waiting while half moving.

However, just because I'm having a hard time dealing with my recent episode doesn't mean I'm in a state of despair or feeling overwhelmed. I'm only in a moment of being upset. And quit the contrary. I see the need for changes and I have a drive do whatever it takes to find an aggressive treatment no matter what is thrown my way.

Waking up from an episode and/or psychosis can be empowering. Fixing problems is all about attitude.

If I look around at my life and see nothing but rubble, if I let my issues overwhelm me, I wallow in guilt, then all my issues are likely to perpetuate more issues and more guilt and then trigger another cycle of depression. And that is negative. And that is not me.

But if I look around at my life and see possibilities and challenges, then I've got a better than even chance of making something good come out of something bad. And isn't that the ultimate goal?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A bump in the road

I didn't stay in the hospital until my doctor released me. By far it was the worst hospital I have ever been in as far as organization. The physical conditions of the facility were fine. No problems or complaints. Since I checked myself in voluntarily I was able to check myself out against medical advisement, AMA. The staff did everything they could to keep me to stay.

To my surprise a few of the staff members were acquaintances. One, a class member from grad school. Another, a co-worker from the job I had just been fired from the week before. Needless to say I was uncomfortable.

I kept being mistaken for either one other patient or more than one. I'm not sure. One in particular was one with a protective order against him. I would be questioned about some kind of information only for it to not pertain to me or them to have it completely wrong. By the middle of the second day I began wanting to check out. After a bad experience with the therapist, with the support of my wife I checked out on the third night.

You could argue, "why not just stick it out until you get released?" Because the way inpatient works is this, you have a team that basically works off of notes from other team members in order to report to each other and the doctor. Much of the time they are discuss "you" without ever seeing "you." However, this "team" kept getting convinced I was another person and they were to report to my doctor who would make the final decisions. I would take my chances on my own.

But, as the saying goes, "that's how the cookie crumbles." Since I kept being mixed up with other patients everything I said kept saying was questioned and doubted. Unfortunately there may be a high price for me to pay for checking out. The attending dr. is the dr. I see on a regular outpatient basis. His policy is that if you checkout AMA without a very good reason he will drop you as a patient and he is my ticket to getting ECT. I have an appointment with him April 10th. I will have to wait until then and see if he decides to keep me.

In the event he does drop me there is one more psychiatrist here and then there is Mental Health of Oklahoma. I'm still committed to doing what it takes to aggressively get my bipolar treatment under control. I know stress plays a large role in my episodes. Not working right now will help and the job I was working was very stressful. Hopefully the financial strain doesn't replace that stress.

Much of March is a blur to me. I vaguely remember bits and pieces of it. But now, my is clear and my head is on straight. I know the things I am tired of; the things I want to change; the things I know that need to change. I know how tired I am. I'm finding myself once again having to take a step back and take a break. To get myself back together. In a sense I'm desperate.

It's a scary thing only remembering probably around 40% of a whole month with tiny snippets of visual mental photos in your mind. But I'm awake now and a bump in my road to finding an aggressive treatment is not going to discourage me. 


Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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