When I first started this site, the goal was to understand the way we categorize mental illness in a society that has dominated its own nature with science and rationality. The first entries here were stream-of-consciousness journals from the perspective of a very mentally unwell me.
The responses I received in the midst of that unwellness were primarily of encouragement from strangers. Oddly, from people who thought they knew me, the judgments were harsh.
I think what had me shy away from the approach of destigmatizing mental illness was that people assumed I was rational while I was in the midst of a pretty bad episode. The responses of judgment from people assuming I was fully in my faculties was harmful enough that I had to withdrawal in order to bolster enough self-esteem to get out of that place of sickness. Now that I’m out of that place of sickness and seeing the symptoms reside, I’d like to do a little bit of a recap about what the symptoms of unwellness were and what practices I used to overcome those, if any, both for future reference for myself and for anyone who has been reading here to understand a little more about cyclothymia, sometimes known as “bipolar light.”
The first sign of illness I can identify clearly is the Victim Mentality.
Victim Mentality usually looks like blaming all of my problems on other people, my family, my culture, my society. “It’s not my fault that the system is corrupt and my traumas make me do these terrible things.” For me, this also looks like an unwillingness to cooperate or be generous with my time.
Root Causes: Low self-esteem, unhealthy diet, feelings of insecurity or worthlessness, depression, (it’s worth noting that, for some, pregnancy can induce depression or low self-esteem), poor self-talk, traumas, brain damage, anxiety, PMS, catastrophic thinking.
Medicine: Conscious self-talk, meditation, running (running is the best way I know to train the mind to put down negative thinking), a makeover, daily showers, three meals a day containing all the food groups and required daily intake of nutrients, cleaning the house, a schedule and routine that involves all of these, cutting out addictions, community, open communication.
Root Values: Clarity, Strength, Bravery, Kindness, Humility, Wellness, Vulnerability, Trust, Responsibility
In order to put down the negative thoughts, one must have the clarity to recognize the negative thoughts are merely thoughts. Just because you are thinking that people suck and the world is falling apart because people value money more than each other doesn’t mean that’s true. In order to achieve objectivity, one must have the strength to recognize that they are responsible for the condition of their own lives and must be strong enough to take responsibility to change what they can change. This requires some objectivity, which can be achieved by asking yourself, “What if I’m wrong?” and then envisioning scenarios in which your perspective is wrong. This is an exercise in remaining objective, creative, and adaptable to a more all-inclusive possible future.
Often, feelings of victimization and hopelessness come from a feeling of not being able to control or influence one’s environment, so undoing this feeling means taking direct responsibility. As soon as we set out to take responsibility for ourselves, we discover that there is much we do not control related to how other people operate. We must have the bravery to proceed into the unknown which makes us vulnerable. By being brave, strong, kind, and humble, and valuing the wellness of one’s self and others, we proceed into the unknown.
I have discovered that my rigidity and control issues are born from an inherent distrust of people engendered from some old forgotten traumas. When I drink or lash out or get angry, I give those traumas in the past power over my present life. When I choose not to let those past traumas have power in the present, it looks like patience, like simplicity, like being happy to have a job and a family and roof over my head and expressing appreciation for that every day through care, forgiveness, gratitude, cooperation, a shedding of ego, going with the flow.
I’m grateful for being far enough out of my madness to see the sad person clinging to her dying ego as a woman of the past. I’m grateful to be able to communicate the madness and the wellness to leave a record for anyone who might find it helpful and I’m grateful every day for all of the blessings this life has bestowed on me.
The less I drink, the more I see the obsessive compulsive thoughts that led to so many arguments as brain damage from alcohol. A clear connection my addiction didn’t want me to see. Happiness finds her way into my heart. Summer light bleeds in through the blinds in the morning, reminding me of my grandparents’ house, the place I felt safest as a girl, a home where love is known.
I started with the thoughts first at a very basic level.
Instead of I can’t say I can.
Instead of I won’t say I will.
Instead of should I say I do.
I can I am I will I choose I love I receive I enjoy.
Try it for a day. Write down your limiting thoughts and then write down the best possible alternative. How many leaps of imagination does it take for you to get from where you are now to the person who thinks about the best possible outcome?
Six months ago we were down to our last dollar. I was out of my mind, a smoker, an alcoholic, and so depressed I couldn’t hold down a job. Now we eat healthy food, I run daily, I’ve been at the same job for a few months and am starting to write professionally. We are moving into a bigger place to make room for a bigger life. The daily arguments are gone.
If you ask me, I’d say the first step to recovery is to believe that what you are doing isn’t working so there’s probably another way and it’s probably going to be uncomfortable, but taking action that isn’t habitual means having some faith in the unknown–specifically one’s own unknown latent capabilities in the face of the unknown. Belief is maybe one of the most powerful tools available to a human being. Science and rationality don’t have to limit one’s ability to believe. If anything, combined with belief, a rational mind can inform the creation of a healthy, stable person from a seriously unhealthy, unstable one.
I’ve decided that even though I’ve changed the purpose and intention of this site a few times, overcoming black-and-white thinking remains the core concept of many of these posts and has been a running theme in my life since I was very little. My parents are polar opposites. My sister and I are polar opposites. My moods are polar opposites.
Some string of consciousness runs through all of these states. I can’t help but think some stream of consciousness runs through every human being, connecting us all. I imagine we can feel one another in tune like birds can in flight. My favorite versions of this theory involve some kind of all-consciousness moving through organic individuals to experience itself. My favorite method to this madness is to turn it all inwards and love it into something beautiful.
This year I hit some lows I didn’t know I had in me until I just bottomed out. Ego death is like floating through space.
When I surfaced, I was a woman ready for a family and some hard work and leisure time. My goals are things like going to work peacefully, keeping my house clean, my family healthy and happy. Home cooked meals, plants, candles, hand soap, and warm towels are things I’m starting to relish again. Walks in the afternoon marked by patches of gnats in rays of yellow sun, flowers spurting their pungent scents, and young families out with their dogs and their kids in strollers or on bicycles with ice cream cones from the shop around the corner and flowers, flowers everywhere, call me to join the ranks.
I am learning to cooperate with others by chilling out. How I came to be the uptight, hot-headed mess I was, I’m not sure, but she was someone I needed to learn. She taught me to assert my boundaries and desires. I think this is how the archetypes work. We embody certain traits to work through each archetype and take with us from these personality/ego identities the useful traits while shedding the old, which may or may not become useful once again in the future. For now, what needs away falls away.
This falls in line with the “ring of fire” solar eclipse this Saturday, June 20th. Solar eclipses mark the shedding of the old in some pagan traditions. In my wiccan practices, they mean a parting with the shadow, a transmutation of those manifestations of our suppressed desires into healthy creative outlets. Whatever negative patterns you are clinging to, now is the time to let them go.
Be blessed. Be brave. All my love humans. We stand together.