A Manic Introduction to a Realistic View

What will I be without my illness?

This question terrified me. And it terrified me to admit that I was terrified because that meant something was wrong with me. And there is. There is a pretty massive thing wrong with me: I have a broken brain.

Along with that broken brain came a personality developed from the results of mental illness. There is a lot I have not been that I want to be. I have rough spots and ugly edges. Now I know that I can make those edges any way I’d like them to be. I have the power to do all of the things I want to do. They are all completely possible. I can step out of the cage and grow into whatever I want to be.

I had a seizure, and it changed me. I woke up in a slightly different world. It’s beautiful. I have the power to make all of the things I want into reality. That is an incredible gift. My life is going to be meaningful.

Now that I have all this power, I have to start looking at what it is I want. If I could pick anything… and I can pick anything… then I need to think hard about what I want my life to be.

Of course, any joy this high comes under scrutiny. Mania is always possible, and it can give one delusions of grandeur. That is what this looks like from the outside, and I know my family will be worried. But having a seizure made me wake up different, and now I’ve got everything figured out. Or, rather, I know how to figure anything out. I will have to work hard, but I know that I can. I just have to keep putting small thing on top of small thing until I make something big.

The paragraphs above were written during mania. I rarely have “happy” mania, but I definitely did when I wrote this. I remembered today that I started writing an article a few nights ago and I wanted to sit down and finish it. I remembered that the article had a positive perspective, and I was excited to see what I had written. Then I read it and immediately went “Oh. Delusions of grandeur.” It made me smile.

It made me smile because I can appreciate the more ridiculous things about my disorder. For years, when I had to come face to face with a shortcoming, weakness, or disability, I would cry and feel deep hopelessness. It felt like I was worthless and broken. Now, I have gotten better at accepting that I am disabled, and I don’t need to be ashamed Continue reading

Mindfulness Brings Peace

There are wonderful mindfulness practices that, when practiced and used over time, can help train you to live in a healthier state of being, with more peace and less struggle with tough emotions. There is a wonderful website, Mindfulness Muse that is written by therapists and trained mental health professionals and covers many of the skills that I am learning in therapy.

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of everything you are experiencing in the present moment, exactly as it is. This includes all of the information you are taking in from your five senses, as well as the information from your internal environment, which is made up of the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs you are experiencing right now. The idea is to bring you gently into the present, with no part of you regretting the past or fretting over what could go wrong in the future. You’re being present and aware of the current moment, the present, and you are observing it exactly as it is, without passing judgment, good or bad. Mindfulness is just what is. From this vantage point, you can start to find some peace within yourself. Even practicing mindfulness for ten minutes a day is scientifically proven to be beneficial for the physical health of your brain, improving mental health.

Practicing mindfulness does take, well, practice. This is not an overnight solution, but it is a solid one if Continue reading

Mindfulness: Bridging the gap

This article is by a guest writer, Katrina Greenawalt, who has been trained informally in mindful traditions. For those of you who want to delve deeper into mindfulness, this article is a wonderful place to start your journey. I cannot stress this enough: this kind of thinking has saved and continues to save my life.

By Katrina Greenawalt

Ok. So, mindfulness: I’m supposed to focus on “the now.” I’m supposed to focus on “the now” so that I can get more out of my life, be stress-free and see the beauty all around me- and all that is happening in “the now.” Ok, let’s give it a try: so, right now I’m getting ready for work. I’m about to heat up some water so I can make some tea, then I’m going to grab some cereal and pop a couple of waffles into the toaster and- wait. Does this count? I mean, am I being mindful? I haven’t technically grabbed the cereal or waffles yet. I’ve just barely poured the water for my tea and I’m headed to the microwave now. That’s really close to the present moment though. I mean, I can’t literally stay focused on the very second I’m in. How would I know where I was going in the next second and the second after that? How would I plan my day? Pay my bills? That doesn’t sound less stressful. That sounds like it just doesn’t make any sense. Wait. Dangit. I’m supposed to be focusing on “the now” and I’ve already grabbed the cereal and I don’t even remember pouring the milk!

“You only lose that which you cling to”

I’m not ordained. I’m not even formally trained but when I was 8 years old I Continue reading

5 Quick Fixes for Panic Symptoms

I’ve learned a few small, quick actions that help me during extreme anxiety, panic attacks, and episodes. They don’t cure, but they help.

  1. Splash your face. Cold water on your face jolts your system and tries to reset your body to a calmer mode. It also gives you a chance to be by yourself for a minute if you’re in a public situation and need to calm down.
  2. Take a mindful shower. Trying to tap into the reality of the present moment is the most powerful tool (outside of medicine and professional help) that I’ve found so far. Finding the present moment is an ancient Buddhist practice that western civilization has appropriated and renamed “mindfulness”. To take a mindful shower, do everything in slow motion and take time to notice everything you see, smell, and feel. Do not rush. Try to be as aware as you can that you are in a moment that leads into the next moment, and the next after that. In those present moments in your shower, the water is a certain temperature and it’s falling onto your skin. Your skin is soft and soapy. The soap has a pleasant smell. You are in the forward flow of time. The moment really can be enough to inspire wonder and ease anxiety.
  3. Read. If your mind is racing, reading will slow you down to one word at a time. This doesn’t always work for me, but if I’m manic I at least try reading before writing it off. When I’m manic I’m soaking up information at half the speed of light, and I’m actually pretty easily engrossed in whatever I read, even though most of the time I can’t concentrate well enough to read for long.
  4. Fidget toys. Play dough, dice, rubber bands, and anything small and tactile is good for fidgeting. Having something to do with your hands helps ease anxiety. My favorite fidget toy is called a Tangle, and you can find one here.
  5. Coloring. I had a friend recommend coloring to me, and I immediately wrote it off as childish and boring. I may have been right about childish, but coloring is very calming, and I’m not above doing something childish to make myself feel better. I recommend buying an adult coloring book and some nice colored pencils, just to have this tool in your arsenal.

Anything that can help me lessen the pain caused by bipolar I will try. I wholeheartedly encourage you to try lots of tactics to help ease your anxiety or pain, and when you find something that helps, keep that thing in mind the next time you feel bad. You are going to be the most help to you.

By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter

 

My disclaimer:

I am not a doctor or any sort of mental health professional. I am a psychiatric patient with multiple mental illnesses that I have survived for 12 years now. My secondhand knowledge comes from doctors, psychologists, therapists, books, college courses in psychology, and the internet. My firsthand knowledge comes from the feelings, experiences, thoughts, symptoms, problems, and solutions that I have lived through. I know myself well, but again, I am not a professional. The information on this site is not a replacement for getting an actual diagnosis or professional help. Coping skills are fantastic, and I hope you learn some here and that they help you, but please seek and continue real medical treatment if you are struggling with mental illness. I wish you the best. You can do hard things.