Me vs. me

The most frustrating aspect of bipolar or mood disorders (including ADHD) is there are essentially at least two diametrically opposed personalities in your life. There’s the person who can handle it and the one who can’t. They’re both you, it’s not multiple personality disorder, but one you is on the ball and trying to improve and the other you is overwhelmed, anxious, and wondering how the hell to get half of what was done before done now.

This has been an ongoing battle in my life. When things are good, I’m on the ball, organized, house clean, and dotting all my lower case j’s. When things are not, I don’t even know where to start. I call it going down holes. It’s frustrating because as far as I can go up is as far as I can go down. Most of this year has been me trying to teach myself baseline. An area where I can manage and cope without too much pressure either way. Things that are easy on good weeks are difficult on not good weeks. I make commitments on good weeks that are impossible on bad. And then I have to dig myself out of the holes my moods can go to.

Buddhism taught me impermanence and to relieve myself of expectations. The largest part of my suffering was in comparing myself to myself and to others. I am not the person I was five minutes ago, let alone last week. This frees me to just do my best every day. It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do previously. It’s also okay to be overwhelmed, because I have a lot going on. Carving time to meditate creates space to just be and allow myself to be however I am without fixing me.

I am not my house or my to do list. Some days, I just need to cope with my Newtonian moods watching me go up and inevitably come down. Ram Dass said his stroke is a grace from God, because he finally learned to ask and receive help. He is paralyzed on his left side saying this is grace. I’ve been pondering his beautiful words for a month, and I agree.

Bipolar is my grace from God. If I had not gone into full blown psychosis, I would never have started asking for help. If I hadn’t started seeing my mood swings, irritability, and suffering, I would never have turned to Buddhism for help. I would have followed the path others laid for me, and never become me. I would have never accepted me. I would never have expressed me. I look at the weeks I go down in the hole as me just needing rest. Does it suck to have to dig out and try to get back to baseline? Sure. But I have a baseline now. I know when I’m off, and I know what to do when I’m off.

And I know how to ask for help now. I’m not ashamed for needing help. I am not ashamed that I can’t do it all. I’m not ashamed of myself. None of this would be possible without the grace of bipolar. My creativity, problem solving, personality, empathy, and compassion all come from being “batshit crazy” as I called myself before. There are kind of two or more me’s in here, and at least we’re all playing nicer in the sandbox. Even if I gotta pick up my slack sometimes.

I believe our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths. This becomes apparent when we stop fighting with ourselves and love the good, bad, ugly, and all in between.

Everyday Miracles

I’ve been reading A Course in Miracles for the last week or 2. I’m absolutely loving it. I’m also loving reading again. I think in the last month I read more books than the last year combined. After I finish this, I have an Alan Watts book to read.

I think what I love about A Course in Miracles is how it’s helping me frame a lot of what I’ve intuited or connected on my own between the studies of Eastern philosophy with my Catholic roots. There are many who warn westerners from attempting to adopt eastern cultures because it’s such a dramatic shift from our upbringing. The Dalai Lama even said to use Buddhism to enhance your traditional practice, not replace it.

ACIM is kind of like this. It’s written from the perspective of Jesus talking to us now and explaining all the things we misunderstand. I’m also listening to Bill Donahue on YouTube explaining the Bible in these terms, asserting Jesus had learned his path from studying Buddhism and Hinduism, and his references are to heaven being inside, ala nirvana and meditation being the key. That when He says “I Am the way, the truth, the light” he was not referring to himself, but the concept of God as in I Am that I Am, or as Krishna described in Bhagavad Gita: the eternal Brahman that rests in all of us. The interconnected spirit that unifies us all. Or the great Tao, which is translated as The Way.

ACIM talks about miracles being an everyday occurrence. Jung talks about synchronicity being a confluence of events that places you exactly where you were meant to be. Ever run late and bump into the right person at the right time? Think of someone and they contact you? Think of a song and hear it? Call it what you’d like, but these are always present if you’re observant. Constant reassurance that life is working for, not against you: if your perception is attuned. If you believe everything is terrible, you’ll also prove yourself right.

I could go on forever. Philosophy is my passion. It was about a year or so ago now I stumbled on my dead husband, Alan Watts and my life changed completely. A big part of my psychosis was this ever present fear that I was going to hell because I did not follow Catholicism appropriately. This actually was described by Carl Jung in his observations of his patients, and he postulated many mental illnesses are manifestations of spiritual crises. There’s actually a tick box when you’re admitted to the mental hospital for spiritual crisis! It was checked for me last January.

Oddly enough, or cool enough, I realized just last night that when I was in the hospital, there were a number of patients experiencing the same break as me. All of us were released rather quickly after being able to sleep for a few days and regain our bearings. When I was in the hospital, I had a homeless woman tell me (she didn’t know who I was or anything about me) that my sense of humor and way of expressing myself would help a lot of people. She said it was time to stop Doubting myself and get to work.

Miracles do happen. We often overlook or forget them in the absence of rational explanations. Me connecting with Watts started this journey into philosophy and the journey back to wholeness. It was a random YouTube auto play, and yeah, I definitely think it was a miracle.

Happy Anniversary?

I haven’t shared this pic in a few years. Evan and I have been (in all technicality) married 12 years today. 3 years ago, but really probably 5, our marriage disintegrated. Or exploded. All of my worst nightmares and fears came alive. I didn’t want to be a single mom, I didn’t want to have a failed marriage, Christ, back then, I couldn’t fail period. I had to be perfect. In the last five years: I have been to the mental hospital 5 times, I cheated on my husband with a man I met in the first mental hospital, and our marriage became an exercise in masochism and sadism. Evan and I turned what once was overwhelming love – reading our posts for all our anniversaries could make me cry if I wanted to – into overwhelming hate. Our lives were the manifestation of misery: internally and externally. In the course of those years, in addition to my hospitalizations which were usually 2 or more weeks at a time with 3-6 months out of work for recovery, Evan lost his job for 3 months, I had to be out of work with no disability or pay of any kind, oh right and we have 3 kids. I don’t know how we survived the amount of stress we endured.

When the fight happened, I was relieved. Things were so bad, I was thrilled our marriage was over, but embarrassed about how it all went down. I was embarrassed about the affair, I was embarrassed about all my dirty little secrets not being kept anymore.

Sitting here now, I don’t have a single shit to give. Everything in those paragraphs are the past, and it is the vehicle that brought me to the present. In the present, I am back living with Evan and our family is together. I could say that’s a failure too: I “couldn’t handle” being a single mom, I went batshit crazy, etc. But failure is a beautiful part of life that puts you in the present. The present is always where we need to be, and it is always perfect.

Evan was there for me in the darkest nights of my soul. I was screaming about demons on my radio and people on the internet coming to kill me. He was there. He told me to come live with him when I realized I didn’t trust my own mind anymore, and I couldn’t afford my place while being out of work on disability.

How many couples could go through the hell our marriage went through? How many could come back to being each other’s best friend and support system? When we separated, once the emotions calmed down (and the court orders lifted – it was that bad) we promised each other we would figure this out. I couldn’t spend the rest of my life raising the kids and hating their daddy. I couldn’t conceive of holding on to anger that long. We promised each other we’d be friends for our own sanity and the kids. We didn’t want them seeing anymore fighting or anger. Our family suffered enough. We never divorced, we did all the custody and everything between us, and we let ourselves heal.

I never stopped loving Evan. He never stopped loving me. A year ago, we were terrified. I was moving back in and we were both scared it would be terrible. Things had gone so badly, what if….? I have a storage unit full of my stuff from Brookside, because what if I had to move out? A month ago, we started moving some of that into the house and getting rid of old stuff like our 12 year old couch. Because everything is great. A year ago, I couldn’t see me typing this. I couldnt see me happy and glad I moved back in. I couldn’t see Evan and I talking about a future or even an us.

Then I see my face in this picture. I see how blue my eyes are. I know how nervous I was to be getting married, I was 5 months pregnant with Tyler. This is my favorite picture of me. This was the happiest day of my life, and I was marrying my best friend. One thing the last 12 years has taught me is an expectation is a built in disappointment and this can work both ways. I expected my marriage to fail, because I focused on the negative. I expected my life to go to hell, because I fought everything I am, because I hated myself.

The girl in this picture is beautiful, but she wasn’t actually happy. Her insides were tortured, her mind was tortured. She loved Evan a lot, but she also thought Evan was going to make her happy. The woman typing this exceedingly long memoir is beautiful inside and out, she still loves Evan, and she knows the only person who can make her happy is herself. So her smiles are bigger, her words are truthful, fearless, and without judgement. She doesn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks about her, because she used to think a lot worse, and she made her life a living hell hidden behind masks and lies.

12 years ago, I married my best friend. It was the best decision I ever made. Today, I am raising my kids with my best friend, and through the insanity of this journey, I have found my other best friend: me. There are no words to express my love and gratitude for this life. It’s beyond my expectations – thank God. A lot has changed in 12 years, but the one constant has been love – even if sometimes it was standing upside down as hate.

We Are All Warriors

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My brain did not want to go to yoga tonight. My brain was a mess. Thursday and Wednesday I had two “phase six” panic attacks. My really bad panic attacks culminate in me stuttering (“i … i…. I… I can’t …I can’t..I can’t…breathe) and twitching. I haven’t had this scale of panic attack since probably January of last year. Part of my anxiety lies in hormones, and part lies in my ability to manage life. I am easily overwhelmed by just about everything. If you talk to me, you will smile and laugh – because I smile a lot and I am funny. What you will not often see is me twitching and stuttering. I do. It haunts me, if I allow my brain to dwell. When I talk to people, I find myself scared sometimes that they will see the “real” me. The real me that sometimes can lose an entire day to sleeping through depression, or an entire day in a crying anxious fit.

Do you see the woman in the pink shirt down there? That woman was stuttering yesterday. Yet today, she went to yoga. Why? Because she did not listen to her brain. Because she knows that these problems are temporary. These problems aren’t her. The easiest way to see her is when she is breathing through her discomfort – in warrior II or a phase 6 panic attack. The real me is both calm and a chaotic mess. I love all of me, because the chaotic mess brought me to yoga today.

Shanteel brought me to yoga today. If I was practicing at home, I could have talked myself out of it. I have friends there now, and I wanted to see my friends. I didn’t need to tell them about my panic attacks – I was overjoyed to see them, hug them, and gush about Alan Watts to them. I got to be strong with them.

I cannot be anything that I am without the strengths and weaknesses that make me who I am. If I did not have those crippling panic attacks: attacks which have hospitalized me a literal handful of times, attacks that have pushed me to the verge of nearly killing myself…I would not have found yoga. I would not have found meditation. I would not have found that I am not my panic attack. I am not my anxiety. I am not my depression.

I am a human being. I have highs and lows like everyone else. No one sees the mess but me, and no one can love the mess better than me. Chaos creates balance. I would not come to my mat if I did not know I needed to find myself on my mat.

It is not often you find a psychiatrist who is supportive and encouraging of holistic health. My doctor was thrilled when I joined the studio, saying “This is everything you need to help you find your footing and your way forward.” I have had no end of issues with medications between side effects, reactions, and feeling as though my soul itself was turned off and I was a fleshy robot. My doctor is trying to find a medicine to support me without changing me. He is also encouraging me to try supplements and be mindful of my diet: Tumeric for anxiety/depression, Fish Oil, Magnesium (Epsom salt baths or a topical oil), and I’m going to add B12. (Note: do your own research, talk to your own doctor, I am a woman wearing Pilsbury Dough Boy pajama pants relaying my personal supplement path. I am not a medical professional – I am a pajama professional)image

He says, “everything you do affects your mind. Many doctors think only medication can work, but let’s say diet and exercise offers 5% better results, why wouldn’t we get you that 5% too? I do not want you on medication your whole life. My job is to help you find stability.”It can take anywhere from 1 to over 2 years to recover from psychosis, and no doctor has technically stabilized me yet.

However, I am stable. See me in that pose? My diagnoses are one facet of my life, and it’s a big facet: this affects relationships, day to day life, etc. I have felt isolated and scared most of last year until I found support. “It takes a village” does not apply to only children. We all need community.

The community I have found is helping me stay out of the hospital and on my mat. How does one express gratitude for that? By coming to your mat. My mat and this community are helping me see the light and strength in me.

Strength is not hiding the mess. Strength is awareness of the mess and loving her. Living her. No matter what her brain says. I’m not my brain, either.

I am a warrior because we are all warriors. We all fight battles we don’t see. We don’t share. We don’t sometimes even know. We will only know it if we stare at the chaos in stillness and breath. Every warrior has scars, and I’m so grateful to never, ever be ashamed of those scars. Look how far we’ve come.

Thank you to anyone who reads and shares my journey with me. Writing always makes me feel like myself. Calmly Chaotic 😊

Namaste.

Gratitude is not an attitude

This morning’s focus at yoga was gratitude. If the massive nor’easter hitting me in PA and surrounding states hasn’t been a huge call for gratitude for all of us; I don’t know what could. I’m so thankful for the teachers at my kids school, all schools that stayed with the kids and obviously put their own safety at risk with driving to make sure everyone was safe. I cannot imagine the fear and anxiety for the bus drivers with loads of (I’m sure noisy) kids driving in this mess and getting them all home safely. There were so many cars abandoned, so many without power, some were stuck in their cars for hours. I’m thankful for the people out in this to restore power. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses and anyone who had to work regardless of the weather that make our lives what they are. Most of all,I am thankful my family is warm, safe, snuggled up and snoozing while I am up late listening to the wind sing. I’m grateful for the eerie quiet with the roaring wind. It’s breathtaking.

In all of this, we can see a call for annoyance or one for gratitude. In gratitude, we can start to see reality as opposed to the illusions we live under in our ego mind. However, you must consistently apply gratitude in all situations, so It becomes second nature. But really, nature. We were all made to enjoy this world and live it and we often focus on the negative aspects of life. I know I have often struggled. Like every skill or practice, you need to retrain your brain. With consistency and discipline to always seek gratitude regardless of your externals.

My biggest saving grace from the mental hospital was starting to journal again and writing at least 3 gratitudes a day. It became 3 pages and I started feeling huge shifts. It’s an easy practice to forget though. This is why yoga helps us all find our true joy and happiness. It teaches us to slow down and breathe. Feel how much you can do when you breathe. Feel how much you can do in stillness. Accept your mind. Be present, so you can see all the gifts, blessings…. in our lives every day. If you practice this daily, this is an amazing first step in quieting your ego to see your true authentic self. It is a key factor in staying in the present. It reduces anxiety. This is an amazing, low energy/low key way to help starting climbing out of the next unexpected sinkhole or life. I went from wishing for my car to veer into a telephone pole to writing and journaling consistently. This is all a journey of learning.

As the storm was ramping up, I was lying in savasana allowing all I am thankful for to surface. Me. My kids. Evan. Shanteel. All of my new friends and family. The list was so big immediately I started crying. A year ago, and really most of my life, I felt like a dead girl walking. Now, I’m smiling at the wind, grateful I have so many blankets. Grateful I can write this for anyone who likes my writing. Grateful I can write

In the storms of our lives, external and internal, we are always the eye of the storm. We are always the calm in the storm. The best way to see that is to stay thank you for reminding me I am stronger than I think I am and more importantly, thank you for for reminding me how to love.

Gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a way of life.

If you want to stop focusing on your ego, start saying thank you and see how much we all truly need one another to survive. We aren’t islands.

Namaste everyone. Hope you are all warm and safe. So thankful for you all.

These two songs nail it 😊

https://youtu.be/u05S9cq2bLY

21 Days – Tippy Goodness

21 Days Makes a Habit

What can you do in 21 days? Here’s how I helped myself:

  • Black and White thinking is toxic to progress. It doesn’t allow you to see incremental growth in every step of the way.
  • Don’t focus on what you did not do, focus on what you did. It doesn’t matter big or small, your focus dictates where you go. If you focus on what you did not do, you will continue to not do.
  • Don’t think about 21 days, don’t even think about tomorrow. Focus on today and today alone. Today will set you up for tomorrow without you thinking on it.
  • Structure your day around your commitment. This eradicates life getting in the way. If you want to do something at 7PM, plan your day around 7PM.
  • If you can’t make it one day, or something happens, focus on how you can bring smaller versions into your day. If you need an hour and you can’t do it, do 6 – 10-minute versions, and be happy if you only did 1 – 10-minute version.
  • Everything you do is more than you ever did before.
  • Thank yourself and your God, or whoever for everything you accomplish and you will always accomplish more.
  • EXPECT NOTHING. Don’t let your ego run this show. Don’t assign any outcome (i.e. lose 10 lbs) to this practice – whatever it is. You will always disappoint yourself. Your imagination tends to be more creative than your reality.
  • APPRECIATE EVERYTHING. Your ego likes to think you are in charge and you are responsible for everything. Appreciate every step you take in this process – forwards or back because a movement is still movement.
  • Just do the thing – don’t wait for circumstances, don’t carrot your happiness. You have a new beginning every day, every minute if you want. Do it.

 

Shanteel has helped me place the first nut in the right spot. My psychiatrist said the grounding I will find from yoga will make me as unmovable as a 200 lb bull dog. In that case, I guess I don’t need to be worried about nuts at all..

 

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21 Days Makes a Habit

A metaphor for my life is an adorable little squirrel gathering nuts into a precise pile just to have something scatter all those nuts. Inevitably, the squirrel restarts gathering nuts and attempting to figure out what to do with the nuts, and I’ve said nuts a lot now…

In January 2017, psychosis allowed me to see what it is like to actually go nuts. For the last year, I’ve been so fucked up, I forgot I was a squirrel. Or maybe, I am a human who should stop thinking of herself as a squirrel. (note to self)

Not a day goes by that I am not haunted by questions or memories. How exactly does one go back to their day job when they see something and question if anyone else actually sees it too? That’s me, or maybe that was me. I don’t know. Weirdly enough, “I don’t know” is the gift of psychosis. I don’t know what happened to me, I don’t know if it will happen again, I don’t know why I heard demons on the radio, and I don’t know what is wrong with me.  As a type A control freak, those are a lot of identified variables to keep me up at night. For most of the last year, that’s what I focused on. It was eating me alive – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was paralyzed by fear, sadness, shame, and pain.

quote-no-one-is-more-dangerously-insane-than-one-who-is-sane-all-the-time-he-is-like-a-steel-alan-watts-47-80-69Deep down, I know I have the answers. I fought through this by not fighting. For once in my life, I accepted everything. After my mind and everything that seemed real shattered in a month-long grip of psychosis, I accepted it all. When my car got totalled by yet another shitty dude in a long list of shitty dudes, I accepted it. When I decided I needed to move back in with my ex-husband because I was incapable of caring for myself, let alone my three kids, I accepted it. Most recently, when I was let go from the job I had for over 10 years due to not being able to come back to work, I accepted it. When I couldn’t write, practice yoga, or meditate, I accepted it. I was terrified I was going to become some sort of lazy slob, but deep down I felt that I was supposed to be still, be quiet, and be patient. Every day, I fought a really weird war of laziness. To do something or not to do something, that is the argument. I was going from Type A Control Freak to learning what it means to go with the flow.

It was not until I started focusing on what I did – actually did every day, as opposed to what I did NOT do every day. I realized if I wanted to start rebuilding, I had to start at the beginning. I thought creating this blog would help, but every time I tried to write it was like starting a car with a dead battery. I had no inspiration because I don’t even know who I am anymore, let alone what I want, and so forth.

“I” wasn’t there. Or, I guess the truth is, “I” was there, the real me wasn’t. I – my ego – is completely concerned with success, results, accolades, etc. The real me is concerned with smiling, breathing, and being grateful. The real me sees beauty in every moment, “I” want results.

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Yoga taught me to see my ego results in little ways – instead of seeking instant gratification or pushing myself beyond my limits. Yoga shows incremental growth and impermanence. Every day, something is new and every day, it changes. One day, I might balance really well. The next day, I might fall, but I did a plank really well. It doesn’t matter because really, I’m overjoyed to simply be on my mat. A few months ago, I would wander around my house aimlessly and depressed, and I’m on my mat. So, literally, everything I do on the mat is growth. If I were to practice yoga from my ego, I’d quit right away, because I “suck”, I can’t do this and I can’t do that, and I am fat. Yoga doesn’t let me do that, though. Now my ego can shut up – cause look who’s writing now too?

All of this was not possible until I joined Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary. I joined on January 26th. 1 year prior, I was standing in a mental hospital trying to kill myself convinced I had ruined everything in my life. I went to my first class on the 29th. I was shaking and having a mild panic attack on the way. Worst case scenarios, farting, mooning a studio full of yoga experts, and so forth charged through my head in a 10-minute drive. When I checked out the studio, I had chills and all I could hear in my brain was “home”. I reminded myself of that as I drove, and I jumped in and did my class. I didn’t fart or moon anyone, and at the end, I was a sweaty happy mess. Since that class, I’ve gone pretty much daily. Some days, I do multiple classes.

After the first class, I lost the fear of being in a class. I was surrounded by amazing people in a community. Every class is focused in spirituality. I’ve been chanting to Ganesha (remover of obstacles!) with beautiful people on Sundays in Meditation. I can get into hour long convos after class about Moon signs and astrology. It’s not to say the past year had me doing nothing because I was studying a lot. My obsession with Jung deepened as did my love of Buddha as did a newfound fascination with all things astrology. My circle of people I could talk about this to, though, was non-existent. I think the hardest part of the last year was how lonely I felt. Finding Shanteel eradicated that for me. My biggest fear became that I would do what I usually do: really get into something and give up on it, or have something happen and lose it. I know I’m always my own worst enemy. I found myself afraid I would once again rob myself of the things that bring me joy.

Thanks to the Buddha, I re-trained my brain. Today is all I need to be in. Did I practice yoga today? What am I carrying off the mat with me today? If I didn’t physically unroll my mat today, what lesson am I practicing? Am I breathing? Am I present? Am I moving my body?

All of this is possible by finding a home and a community.  I said today, I did not find a yoga studio. I found a home and a family. I had thought to practice at home was the answer, but I see now that the community and the teachers are what keep you coming to the mat.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that I have been practicing yoga consistently for 21 days. 21 days creates a habit. 21 days creates a routine. For the first time since my psychosis, I created a habit and routine. I created my foundation. I started crying last night at the realization, especially when my brain echoed, “Imagine what you can do in the next 21 days…”

21 days in the face of 365 days of pain. 21 days and I’m just getting started. I can’t wait to write this journey with you all.

What can you do in 21 days? My next post will have tips 🙂 Comments, likes, shares are always appreciated and thank you for reading!!!