All Things Lead Into Their Opposites
Image Credit to: Papapatch
So far this blog has mostly reflected the depressive side of cyclothymia, at least of my cyclothymia. Lots of negative self-talk and beliefs about the world in general, lots of declarations of how things are without the doing of the things to change them into what they could be. This is the longest and hardest (haha, yeah I laughed at the phallic joke) depression I’ve been through in years.
But yeah it’s been long enough. The blues are breaking. A way out is visible.
Now is the productive period.
Check this out: I took this definition straight from Wikipedia, but during deep depressions or high hypomanic phases when I start to wonder if I will ever feel anything else because this is what I’ve been feeling for so long, this idea is very helpful.
“Enantiodromia (Ancient Greek: ἐνάντιος,, romanized: enantios – opposite and δρόμος, dromos – running course) is a principle introduced in the West by psychiatristCarl Jung. In Psychological Types, Jung defines enantiodromia as “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control.” It is similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. When things get to their extreme, they turn into their opposite. However, in Jungian terms, a thing psychically transmogrifies into its shadow opposite, in the repression of psychic forces that are thereby cathected into something powerful and threatening. This principle was explicitly understood and discussed in the principles of traditional Chinese religion – as in Taoism and yin-yang. A central premise of the I Ching is that yang lines become yin when they have reached their extreme, and vice versa.”
Jung posits, here, that a psychic force left unchecked or buried for too long, like depression, will manifest in a shadow form of it’s opposite. A good example, perhaps, is the prevalence of depression in comedians. This is a healthy expression of the shadow form. Other, less healthy expressions may be violence, spending sprees, binge drinking or constant partying. For someone with cyclothymia or bipolar, severe depression may conversely lead to severe elation.
I really like that this definitions says, “in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up which first inhibits […and then] breaks through conscious control,” because the last couple weeks have been the inhibited. The last few years even.
What this means is that if my last three or four months have been characterized by extreme depression (and they have) then that depression will pool like the water before a dam, getting calmer, gathering quietly, going nowhere. The natural response to the going nowhere is more water, the dam breaks, and instead of no water, you have a flood. The flood, in this case, can be hypomania, a high energy state defined by:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling restless
- Feeling extremely happy or euphoric
- Not needing as much sleep as normal
- Irritability or agitation
- Becoming more physically active, which may include fidgeting or pacing
- Thinking very highly of yourself
- Poor impulse control and/or judgment, which can lead to risky choices
- Being more talkative than normal
- Becoming distracted easily
From Very Well Mind
And here is something: Last night I am trying to explain to DJ, who is doing his best to understand, that mental illness is not something that can simply be fixed by saying just do A or B. Check out Responsibly Depressed: Eat the Orange. I wish it were. Then this struggle would be over, wouldn’t have happened in the first place, and I wouldn’t be having to change my whole lifestyle and he wouldn’t be having to watch the person he loves go from being Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde daily, sometimes multiple times a day.
I realized that explaining symptoms to someone is as useful as telling someone with said symptoms to just not have them.
These symptoms mean absolutely nothing out of context. When being diagnosed, I was given a list of symptoms like this for hypomania and depression, told not to drink or do recreational drugs, and sent on my way because I refused medications which had not worked in the past.
These symptoms later manifested in my life as screaming matches with exes, booze and exercise binges, days on end of video games and job after job being not right or too restrictive. It manifested as hypersexuality and exploration in open relationships (not a bad thing necessarily but usually in response to a paranoia of being cheated on, something that an ex when I was young did chronically and the shadows of which have literally followed me for a decade. Those are going away finally. Thank God).
I did not put two and two together in those moments. There were things I knew to look out for because I remember them from my teens: Spending sprees, sleepless nights, and a lack of interest in the things I love. Hypomania and depression. The transmogrified shadows. But the manifestation of symptoms is all over the board and someone who is not in their right mind entirely may have difficulty seeing them for what they are: effects of a brain that is not producing the right chemicals in the right quantities necessary for healthy functioning because it is not getting the right nutrients, minerals, and food.
There is a disconnect between the language we use to describe “Symptoms,” and the image of what those symptoms look like in someone’s life. In the modern, Western consciousness which is dominated by rationality, the understanding of mental illness is often equal to chemical imbalance, chemical to achieve balance, just do this, mentality. From Jerome S. Bernstein’s Living in the Borderland:The Evolution of Consciousness and the Challenge of Healing Trauma :
“The western ego construct is the organ of rationality. The exclusion of transrational reality from consideration leaves it unchecked by any power outside itself and prone to profound and dangerous inflation…The western ego construct buttresses its stance of omnipotence and omniscience with a claim to superior and absolute knowledge through its scientific construct (p. xvi).”
That is, because science and rationality are the dominating forces of understanding in the Western world, we address mental illness from a rational perspective at the exclusion of the transrational–things like premonitions, talking to animals, medical intuitives, etc.–which may be a rational part of the human experience that we simply do not understand yet. There is a lot that rationality and science can aid, but there is far more that is excluded from consideration in the vast realm of possibility that lies outside our current knowledge base. Transrational is a term that does not account for pathological experience, pathology meaning the chemical component of mental illness.
This excerpt comes from and article in Psychology Today by Darcia F. Narvaez PH.D. and author of Moral Landscapes, in which she explores and questions the validity of Hunter Gatherer ways of life as a cure to western consciousness, something I am also exploring and intend to write more about here the more I learn. There are theories, even, that western civilization is the cause of the disease. There is extensive research on this, actually. Here is a great Ted Talk for dipping of the toe into these existential waters.
The rational approach is important. Meds can be extremely helpful and I am not against them, especially when situations become a matter of life and death. Episodes are extreme, scary, and sometimes a dose of of meds can allow for the rational mind to break through.
Still, I believe a natural, holistic, sustainable approach to mental illness is as essential to the survival of our species as a natural, holistic, sustainable approach to caring for our land, animals, and food.
My own reactions to meds have been unfavorable except in the early years of discovering what the hell this brain does. They allowed me to watch the cycles, bought me time to do research, to create a lifestyle change. But in the long term, the rational approach and meds often do not address the underlying problems, perpetuate an unsustainable way of life, and are not advanced enough, yet, to only target the source of the psychiatric disorder, thereby affecting the entirety of the brain’s functioning rather than just the areas that are functioning improperly.
From David Anderson’s Ted Talk, “Your Brain Is More Than a Bag of Chemicals“:
“[…] we have an oversimplified and increasingly outmoded view of the biological basis of psychiatric disorders. We tend to view them — and the popular press aids and abets this view — as chemical imbalances in the brain, as if the brain were some kind of bag of chemical soup full of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. This view is conditioned by the fact that many of the drugs that are prescribed to treat these disorders, like Prozac, act by globally changing brain chemistry, as if the brain were indeed a bag of chemical soup. ”
” Now, it’s not that chemicals are not important in psychiatric disorders. It’s just that they don’t bathe the brain like soup. Rather, they’re released in very specific locations and they act on specific synapses to change the flow of information in the brain. So if we ever really want to understand the biological basis of psychiatric disorders, we need to pinpoint these locations in the brain where these chemicals act. Otherwise, we’re going to keep pouring oil all over our mental engines and suffering the consequences. ”
Again, psychiatric meds have saved many lives, my own included, but I believe they are a temporary fix to a problem with a much greater implication about the unhealthiness of our society.
I am starting my path towards healing with a book called Med Free Bipolar: Thrive Naturally with the Med Free Method, by Aspen L. Morrow and it is no surprise to me at all that Morrow starts off, in chapter one, by announcing that the greatest probability of the cause for such a drastic rise in mental illnesses in the last fifty years in our country is how we treat our food and how we treat our bodies with food.
“[…]the real answer, I believe, lies in our eating, farming, and toxic load[…]Just one missing vitamin or mineral in a plant or animal can cause disease, discoloration, or deformity. Humans are no different. We cannot get everything we need simply from a healthy diet anymore, because the minerals are no longer in our soils, crops, water, or processed foods.We have to add more ingredients to the mix” (pg 2).
The other ingredients are minerals and vitamins and community developed over hundreds of thousands of years of hunter/gatherer behavior and radically displaced by the last 200 years of industrialization. More on that in Steven Ilardi’s Ted Talk, “Depression is a Disease of Civilization.” We have displaced a vital–in fact, perhaps the vital–piece of ourselves which is the ability to live for the sake of being alive.
I believe this is the reason for modern present moment awareness movements, outdoor lifestyle movements, and various others that call us back to the instinctual joy of living for the sake of it.
Morrow goes on to explain that the brain, while only “weighing about 1/5 of the body total,” requires about 20% of the total nutritional requirements for a fully functioning human (pg 3).
So the first step is educating myself about nutrition, what my body needs at a baseline level, and giving it that. Many many more posts to follow on this.
In hindsight, I welcome the depression because it has taught me to see the impact of this neurotoxic brain on my relationships in the past, in the present, and upon myself. The things I’ve justified in order to deny that this was something I must change my life to fix are not exactly commendable, but watching the life I’ve been dreaming of slip through my fingers as depressed me acts, rational me watches in a corner KO’d, and hypomanic me stands outside the ring just waiting to jump in has armed me with solid will power and battle horns. This is not just about me and my relationships. This is about healing a disease about which there is very little literature, and about which I can do something to the benefit of more people than just myself.
I have spent all these years on this because I believe our society is sick. We willingly harm ourselves in order to remain attached to materialism, convenience, an illusion of power, irresponsibility, and boisterous ego. The American dream lifestyle is based on the accumulation of as much wealth as possible to the individuals willing to do the work to gain the wealth at the expense of our people and our planet so that what?
I’ve been asked, like many, what my first memory is. Do you remember? Mine, I usually say, is of catching a white butterfly in my Grandma’s front yard. The butterflies liked the daisies in particular, and back when I was that small, my feet fit between the stalks. As a woman I tried to catch butterflies in the same garden and discovered my thighs met the stalks before my feet had a chance to creep beneath them. The resting butterflies would dart off into the afternoon light deterred by my larger legs. I caught them as a girl though and brought one to my grandmother one day who promptly told me to let it go and explained that the oils from my fingers would weigh down the insect’s wings and it would not be able to fly. I was maybe four or five, and the way my grandma explained things convinced me that butterflies wings were coated in fairy dust that we stole every time we caught a butterfly. Flying was something I’d always wanted to do. What kid doesn’t? I’d seen Peter Pan. I wondered…was it alright to take butterfly dust to learn how to fly?
“When they can’t fly, they die,” my grandma explained while I was still lost in thought on the flagstone steps overlooking the garden. I opened my hand, found the butterfly could at least still walk as it crawled to the edge of my palm and then a great leap in my heart as the little thing flew away. I hadn’t killed it, but I’d had the power to fly in my fingertips. At four years old I knew to take the life of that butterfly, even if it let me fly, was a violation of some sort. Against what I couldn’t have told you then because to a child, life is life and there is no separation between nature and nurture and self and them. It is “we,” and “me” and the rest is a playscape. As an adult, I’m still not sure I could tell you. Someone broke into our car a couple days ago and I drove to the bank in downtown to get money for weed and hopefully a glimpse of the thieving motherfucker who I might not have hesitated to hit with the buick had I seen him or her. I think it is the idea of taking without giving back that I’m getting at. It’s not fairness. Life isn’t fair at all. What I’m talking about is if I had taken that butterfly’s wings for my own, that butterfly would be gone and I’d have been able to fly as much as a tiny butterfly’s fairy dust could have let me. I believed then that it was enough to at least carry me across the street. I would have had my thrills and the butterfly would be dead. Sure there were more butterflies, but how many flights across the street did I really need? I could catch them all and put them in a net a swim through them and then all of them would die just so I could fly to the thrifty and spend my allowance money on candy. And then all the butterflies would be gone and I’d never be able to fly again. It seemed wrong to take the experiences of all the flights of all the butterflies and use it in one go for one kid and waste all their lives for that.
The practice of global capitalism is the capture of all the butterflies for one good go for a few lucky people. Except all the butterflies is actually the whole planet in this instance.
I believe that the only thing I am capable of doing to help right now is to help myself, and to help myself I must heal.
That being said, yesterday was a rough one. I did not want to heal. I wanted to be done having to do any of it at all, so I just sat down and cried.
And cried some more I know it’s just on and on. ugh.
But pain is an indicator.
It tells us where to heal.
The most pain I feel is perhaps in knowing that I am complicit in the destruction of my planet as much as anyone, that my lifestyle is not aligned to meet the needs of my human self, nor is the modern lifestyle I’m expected to maintain as a functioning member of a dying society, and that my own instincts are that of a sick animal, pushing away the people I love and retreating to a corner so they are not affected. I believe many people think there is something wrong with them. I believe that this sense of wrongness is the dissonance between our hunter gatherer instincts developed over hundreds of thousands of years and our 200-year-old industrially-provided sedentary lifestyles .
I believe that my mental health story, it’s relationship to food, my lifelong craving for being in the outdoors, and my reluctance to turn to medication based on the above perspective and on the fact that medication didn’t work for me are part of a healing path, one that I hope can help me heal naturally and will help encourage others to find a path towards healing that works for them.
So I sit with the pain.
I call my mom actually. Sitting with the pain today isn’t working very well. My head is doing the spiral thing and I will usually call someone to get a little perspective, a little wedge in front of the snowball rolling down the hill before it becomes an avalanche.
And then, weirdly, it breaks.
Like the dam, the pain just breaks. It turns into will power. It becomes a drive to do something and this drive must be based in research, fact, healthful solutions or else it is transmogrified into the shadow inclinations to party, to drink, to fuck, to drop yet another bomb on my life.
The spiral is victim mentality and victim mentality is the easiest way to feel out of control, powerless, well, a victim. The spiral comes on like an attack, comes on as soon as I’m alone at home another day of doing the same thing, being complicit, being what? For what?
We broke down ourselves, our children, and our world to build this civilization, indeed the most massive and wealthiest civilization of all time, but I believe the cost has inflicted great trauma upon the human race. We have exchanged intimacy, community, environmental appreciation and interconnection, health, happiness, wellness, sustainability, and hope for a future for what some believe is the greatness of now.
This pain calls me to heal the wound of civilization on my humanity.
You have taken my instincts, the ground beneath my feet, the food from my belly, the hope from my heart and I still get up every day and go to work because, if I don’t, I will go to jail or be homeless or wind up in an institution. This was the story.
There has never been a better time in history for humans to take back our humanity from civilization or to create a civilization that values humanity. But first, we must address the fact that humanity is beset by an illness, that this illness is environmental, and that we must feed our body…the environment…and treat it as healthfully as we would see ourselves become.
Right now, my only healing work to humanity is to heal me. And that might be as simple as just giving my body what it needs to feel properly alive in this world.
Peace be. Happy yule yall. May this year bring healing.