Respect. Peace. Freedom.

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These words are easy to throw around – I’ve done it.

But I still know their weight when it counts.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man who stood up and spoke against the status quo. He challenged the ‘ways things were’ and dared to dream of something much better. A great man indeed.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ve written on the power and desperate need of forgiveness for myself. MLK got this in such a deeper way. To paraphrase the doctor, to forgive ourselves is one thing, but peace comes when we forgive our enemies also. How powerful.

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As a father, I am always looking for ways to improve my kids upbringing, to wit I am always striving to be a better father. I am reminded today of a quote from MLK about my views on schooling and character

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I hope that my children learn some value of character at school, but I really don’t expect the school to teach it. What I hope is that the children will strengthen their values at school. I’m an active member in their whole learning, not just facts, but heart as well.

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Rest In Peace Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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I have a tendency to fall victim to the most prevalent diseases in the Western world: I am ill of want. I’ve got a case of the “Gimme Gimme’s”. The moguls of media have me dead in their sights and have hit me with a barrage of advertisements that me sick of the things I have, and leave me with ache for a tonne of things that I couldn’t possibly use. I know that these things will just make me want even more of the stuff that I could never use; buy, regret, repeat.

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“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha (attributed)

The problem is that I am wanting without. I am wanting things. I am wanting so much, that I am losing sight of the greatness around and within me – the love I already have. With this realization I’ve diagnosed my disease and I am able to refocus my desires inward. I turn off the TV, throw out the magazines, put on some soulful music, and hold a deep, deep conversation with one of my younger children about where the wind comes from (They have the best ideas, I promise you I’ve never been so informed, and laughed so hard – they are natural performers/teachers).

Breathing deep and slowly now, and promising that for as long as I can (seconds, minutes, hours?!) I am going to focus inwardly and look within myself for what I want. This is a quick list of wants, not necessarily needs, and this is just for today (tomorrow’s wants are TBA 🙂 )

  • I want to laugh . . . and laugh and laugh (Till my cheeks and tummy hurts. You get the picture)
  • I want to share a special glance with my Love. Our eyes locking and our souls connecting, not long, just a glance will do the trick.
  • I want to hold some truth. I want to hear something that will help me understand myself, the world, and how I am supposed to reconcile my relationship with the world, and my soul with eternity.
  • I want to feel heroic!
  • I want to be energized and excited, and in control.
  • I want to celebrate life and love.
  • I want to help others. I want to know that I’ve helped create some peace.
  • I want to breath peace.
  • I want to keep this focus.
  • I want to be able to forgive myself when I fail.

It seems obvious why I’m doing this doesn’t it? These wants from within are much more rewarding to fulfill than those wants from without. When I fulfill and inward want, I am left with the most important currency of life: peace and good memories. When I fulfill a want from without, I am left with regret, remorse, and eventually feel more naked than I was before.

I love that there is a sign in the back that says "Do Not Touch" - Let's be honest: some pretty funny pictures were probably taken before that sign went up

I love that there is a sign in the back that says “Do Not Touch” – Let’s be honest: some pretty funny pictures were probably taken before that sign went up

I’m not saying that you can’t go out and buy good things. What I am saying is that it is easy (for me at least) to get caught up in the advertisements that lure me into thinking that what I already have, isn’t good enough.  Or worse, the advertisements that try to teach us what ‘normal’ is with Mom, Pop, Skip and Sis, dog/cat, all smiles and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip – No real person/family can stack up against that, and that’s not fair.

Who else just read this in Stewie's voice?

Who else just read this in Stewie’s voice?

Today I am smiling, though I am on my guard. The media is ubiquitous and so we need to be on our toes. Maybe we should get some nice shoes for those toes? Nike is telling me, not asking, telling me to “Just do it”. Maybe not today Nike. Mind your manners.

Call me old fashioned but I do appreciate good manners, thank you very much :)

Call me old fashioned but I do appreciate good manners, thank you very much 🙂

(Story Time!) As an example of this illness of want, I can share a story from a friend (I asked him, and he doesn’t mind). So, I have a friend with a very, very, expensive surf board. He is fascinated by what he calls ‘surf culture’ and he ‘had to get a wicked surfboard’. So he read up on the topic of boards, looked at the plus/minus of the different brands and eventually saved up the money to buy a top of the line board. I remember asking him why he chose brand X board (not the real name) and he said that it was because it was the most expensive and so he felt that it must be the best. I asked him if it was the best board, and he said that it was way out of his league as a beginner, but he wanted it anyway. We, the people who love him, laughed a little and gently teased him some, but don’t think we are mean until you have heard the best part of the story: My friend lives in the middle of North America. On the prairies where the chance of a wave larger than 6 inches is pretty unlikely – and those waves are waves of wheat!

Woah! Hang Ten!

Woah! Hang Ten!


Celebrate This!

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“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” Nelson Mandela

Such brilliance! I’m in awe of the wisdom and bravery! What a great way to live.

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I’ve been looking to celebrate lately. In want of a reason, I’ve felt little cheer, but today that ends.

A lot of people will say that you don’t need a reason to celebrate, and I think that individually that is often true (for me anyway), but it’s a whole lot easier when a group can get together for a specific thing. ‘Oh hey, it’s New Years, let’s lift our song, spirit, and hopes for a New Year!’ cheered the World.

As far as I know, there has never been a parade for: ‘Oh hey, the dryer didn’t eat any of my socks!’ (maybe this is because dryers always eat socks?)

Protect the socks from the Dryer Monster!

Protect the socks from the Dryer Monster!

So, in light of all of this, I’ve decided to celebrate the many good things in my life. Setting aside the negative, I am actively choosing to celebrate. My heart may not be entirely in this celebration, but I’m sure (hopefully) that it will join in after I force my body to jump a bit.

May my heart follow my feet

May my heart follow my feet

For all of you, Salut! To your health and merriment.

I love this song! Give it a listen!

 


What makes a good patient?

I feel like I’ve been a bad patient lately. Why? Because I have doubt. I am doubting that the medications I am on are healthy or doing the great good my doctor is predicting.

After being on drugs for so long, and being faced by a resurgence of my illness, I cannot help but wonder when do side effects become symptoms? I feel like I need to dry out. I am swimming in a pharmaceutical ocean without sight of land on the horizon.

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So does this make me a bad patient? I try and put myself in the doctor’s shoes. I’m worried that she must see me coming and think ‘Here we go again’. I know that it’s her job and she is being paid quite well for her troubles, but can you imagine if you chose a profession to help people/cure people, and they keep coming back appointment after appointment showing little benefit from your treatment?

If I am frustrated, she must be at least mildly annoyed.

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Does she think I am faking? I’m too confused.

I’m letting her down. I don’t feel too guilty about that, but I am I’m tired of the treatment. I’m tired of talking about it so much. I know that I have to talk about things, lest bad things follow. I’m just appalled and angry that I haven’t felt 100% myself for a long time (years?!).

I’m not making an argument against drugs – they have saved my life, absolutely. But I’m having a hard time trying to remember why I started taking certain meds. Did I start taking them to fight a side effect from another pill? Which pills are the most important? Which ones can I weed out? What are MY symptoms now? I have no idea.

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I worry about disappointing my doctor.

Every time I tell her that I want to lower dosages, or removing certain pills, she gets very serious and starts booking our appointments closer together. So I feel like I can either:

  1.  Please my doctor and take my drugs (and suffer the side effects)
  2.  Stand my ground and refuse drugs . . . I don’t know what follows that path, but it seems scary
  3. Please my doctor by telling her I am on the drugs, but secretly lower the dosages of certain drugs slowly (anyone who has been around the mental health pharmaceutical rainbow should get a degree for pharmacology since we know these drugs so well)

I don’t think I can do option 1) anymore. Time is ticking by and I feel so useless. Option 2) is terrifying – should I be afraid here? Any help on that?

Option 3) seems like the easiest thing to do (I’m beginning tonight)

“Keep a watch also on the faults of the patients, which often make them lie about the taking of things prescribed.” – Hippocrates (Shhh! Don’t rat me out Hippocrates!)

I’m pushing for a ‘less is more’ paradigm shift for me and my meds. Does anyone have something to share on this – I know most of us have a story about this. Have you ever been in this spot? Please share your story (email or post a comment)

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“The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.” – Voltaire

I’m not amused . . . isn’t that the problem, or am I morose as a side effect of medications?

I’m a bad patient, but I desperately want to get better. Wish me luck.


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Today, I want to build something, and I hope I can take you with me.

I’m not manic or even hypomanic, but rather, I feel like I just took my first breath of free air since this long depression has been holding me down.

I want to build something now. A mood. A thought. And I want to share.

Bear with me and read the following truth by Pema Chodron:

“We rob ourselves of being in the present by always thinking that the payoff will happen in the future. The only place ever to work is right now. We work with the present situation rather than a hypothetical possibility of what could be. I like any teaching that encourages us to be with ourselves and our situation as it is without looking for alternatives. The source of all wakefulness, the source of all kindness and compassion, the source of all wisdom, is in each second of time. Anything that has us looking ahead is missing the point.”

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So what is the point?!

The point is that this moment is the only one that we can be sure of. This is the only moment we can live in. Tomorrow never exists! There is only, for you and for me, right now.

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So there’s some great foundation. Building again . . .

This is our moment. The only moment. Since it is the only moment, we need to revere it. It is precious. In this moment we find ourselves. And if we work hard and strive to be honest, it is in this moment that we are truly ourselves – whatever that is.

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Let’s add some more to this structure. . . don’t want to get cold . . .

So, we have found ourselves, in this moment. We are the only person we will ever be, in this only moment we will ever have. And that is good enough. That is good enough.

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Let’s throw some pillows around – you can never have enough of them . . .

True kindness and compassion comes from allowing yourself to be that person in the moment, no matter who that is, since it is all that there is. Forgive yourself for not reaching some milestone. Forgive yourself for being tired, for not answering the phone, for not being the best parent, for not being perfect. You are not perfect. You are good enough.

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Light the fire now . . .

We can sit in this moment and forgive ourselves. We can sit in this moment and identify all of our feelings and insecurities. We can take each of these problems, patiently, one by one, and learn from them. Why do I feel this way? Is this reasonable? Is this something I need to change? Or is this something that I can let go of? Why am I still holding on to that?

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Leave the door open, it’s warm by the fire and we’d love some unconditional love to come visit . . .

Once we’ve let go of all the things we can release, we re-examine what is left behind. Can I change this? What do I need to do? Can I promise to be patient with myself while I work on this? Can I let compassion be my guide? Instead of judging myself, can I nurture my needs?

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Snuggle in deeper now . . .

This moment is the moment you are giving yourself to just be your own precious self.

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One day a young man heading home came to a wide and wild river. He stared and stared and stared, wondering how he was going to get across. It was impossible.

Just as he was about to give up and turn back he saw someone on the other side of the river.

The young man called over to the person on the other side of the river.

– Can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?

The other person thought for a moment, looking up and down the river and then called back.

– You are on the other side.

(I copied this from a blog run by a mentor of mine – I know he won’t mind if I use it. I’d state the source, but I’m not going public yet)

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How is it that I can sit in despair with all the good things in my life, while people on the outside scratch their heads thinking I should be happy?

The discussion here is about Parallax. A basic definition is that parallax is the difference of perception with respect to position (keep in mind that the word is used to describe other things as well). Parallax describes how I can look at something from one position and see one thing, but someone could look at the same thing, and by virtue of being in a different position, see a different thing.

So, everyone perceives things based on their position; just like in the example above of being on one side of a river, or in the case of the ‘impossible triangle’ in Perth Australia, seeing a triangle or just bent metal.

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People also perceive things based on their bias – and we all have a bias. We all have a way of filtering the constant flow of information hitting our brains, and so we make judgments based on this. For example, if you have been attacked by a dog, you’ll probably be a little wary around other dogs. Experience changes perception. If you have ever bought a car, for the next week (or forever) you’ll notice that type of car being everywhere when you never noticed them before.

There are other things that go into how we ‘see’ the world around us, but these are the biggies: Parallax, and Bias.

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So, what am I driving at? Well, I was asked recently by a well meaning family member about my moods, and how I just need to find a way to ‘Cheer up’. Let’s be honest here: if someone asks you, why you are being grumpy, even if you weren’t grumpy up to that point, you probably just got there. (Oh, I can show you grumpy 🙂 )

So this relative was looking at my mood disorder through their position in life and their experience. I’d like to think that he was just trying to put himself in my shoes and offered up the best advice he could think of. He doesn’t know about my diagnosis. I give him credit for trying, even if it did rub me the wrong way.

So . . . my relative was on the other side of the river. (I’ll forgive him for that 🙂 )

So many times, we people with mood disorders need to have even more patient with these well meaning friends and relatives that think that our problem is just a matter of a lack of cheeriness, or being too excited. Of course this isn’t the case at all. Our parallax is dysfunctional.

Most people can find ways to fix their parallax, maybe go out with some friends or go for a run, and change their mood. People with mood disorders cannot do this as well or at all. More importantly, people with mood disorders often can’t see the mood change coming, so when their mood crashes or soars, they don’t have the time to rationally think of solutions – this is the disease.

Also, for people with a mood disorder, our bias can make things worse. Quite often, for us, our bias is skewed to a negative extent. I can’t speak for everyone with a mood disorder, but I can say that all the people with BP that I’ve talked to, all have a tendency to fall to a negative state and struggle daily to keep positive. For me, every day in the last few years I have woken up and had to force myself to avoid the negativity (I fail miserably sometimes) that keeps me buried.

I really really really want this shirt

I really really really want this shirt

So, when people are on the ‘happy’ or ‘stable’ side of the moody river, and they look at people with mood disorders and wonder why they are on the opposite bank, it’s because people with mood disorders often cannot find a way to cross the river. Sometimes they can’t even tell where the river is.

Often we cannot even imagine the other side of the river. Often we are paralyzed and believe that even if the other side existed, we’d never get there. Sometimes we feel like we don’t deserve to be on the other side. Sometimes we are afraid to even see the people from the other side of the river because a horrible shame falls on us for being so awful.

These are some of the major symptoms of our disease: Our parallax is defective. Our bias is skewed. This isn’t choice, it’s pathology.

I’m not sure if I cleared anything up, but it felt good to say it. I hope it made sense and it helps people understand us/ourselves better.

Lots of love for you all 🙂


“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” – Shakespeare, Henry V Act 3, scene 1

Once, and many more times. For people with mood disorders: What battle do we wage? What foe do we face? What are we armed with? Will we win?

Canadian troops climbing out of their trenches and “going over the top” during World War I

Canadian troops climbing out of their trenches and “going over the top” during World War I

What Battle do we wage? What foe do we face?

The poet in me says that we fight against our inner winters and tsunamis, husk and fruitful, shell and seed. The mood/emotions/thoughts/desires that push and pull us are often hard to predict. I’ve been struggling with this sway a lot lately.

The battle we fight is with ourselves, with our moods, thoughts, etc. Are we our own worst bullies, since we are going to be our greatest negative critic? Can we say that sometimes (a lot of times) we are our worst friend who never forgets our wrongs, and beats us over and over for not meeting ridiculous standards? Your enemy is you – what a paradox.

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The battle we fight is with stigma. How will/do people treat us differently? Do we carry a scarlet letter under our shirts that if we let people see it they would always treat us different? Shouldn’t they treat us differently? We take measures to save children from peanut allergies, and a lot of parents I know see these poor kids as allergic time bombs, and so should not similar consideration be given without a second thought for people with mood disorders? These are easy questions to answer – I’m sure you can see where I’m driving. Shame kills us.

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The battle we fight is against the media. Can we start a list here of all the movies that paint us like monsters? Can we also start a list of the media that paints us honestly/appropriately? If I get a bunch, I’ll post them. (Either post answers, or you can e-mail me at bipolar2dad@gmail.com)

How do you find peace?

My best answer is that, in the battle with yourself, you can have a cold war of anxiety and tension, whereby you hold yourself hostage, and your only option is weariness and sleep. Or you can put down the guns and just stop arguing. No words, just you letting yourself to be you, with all your warts and wounds. The trick is learning how to keep your enemy, yourself, from picking up the gun again.

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The battle against stigma is a difficult one. There are plenty examples in the media that still portray people with mental health issues as being uncontrolled monsters, or ticking time bomb zombies. So do we stand up in the world and allow ourselves to face the harshest scrutiny? My advice is to start small? But what am I saying? Only two people other than my doctor know that I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar. I’m working on this.

“Stigma is a Greek word signifying the marks that were pricked onto slaves to demonstrate ownership and to reflect their inferior social status”(Stuart H., 2005, Fighting Stigma and Discrimination is Fighting for Mental Health)

The first step is to step out of slavery. We are not owned by our illness, and so we should not be shackled by it. No shame.

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What are we armed with?

Words weft with a cleverness and flare unseen elsewhere else – bipolar people are some of the most creative people (a blessing amidst the curse)

Courage to stand up, and to stand out. (I know I know. I’m still working on this. Take this blog as step one . . . step two will come)

Amazing health care professionals – they exist and I’m happy to know them

Medications and therapy – without a doubt, many people need medication for all sorts of disorders, not just psychiatric. I believe that medication saves lives. It saved mine. I know that some people are against some medications, and I applaud their choice – I’d never tell someone to take pharmaceuticals if they didn’t want/need them. Therapy is fantastic since when we work with others, we recruit help against that daunting enemy (ourselves), and we gain an upper hand on our demons. *The absolute key to this is making sure that everyone that needs these treatments has access to them.

Media assistance – stop making movies that make people with psychiatric disorders monsters – there are plenty of ‘sane’ monsters out there to pick on.

Call me crazy (lol) but we need people who make tampon commercials to make medication commercials. The story always ends with happy people playing volleyball or something else youthful and happy. The commercials for the meds we take always end with some guy nearly hyperventilating to get all the horrible side effects stated – now if I tell someone that I take, let’s say Paxil, now people think I have all those side effects, exaggerating stigma. I’d rather my friends think that I might, out of nowhere, pop up with a goofy smile volleyball. Yes . . . I think that would do.

Writers of Tampax commercials need to write the commercials for mental health :)

Writers of Tampax commercials need to write the commercials for mental health 🙂

“In criticism I will be bold, and as sternly, absolutely just with friend and foe. From this purpose nothing shall turn me.” – Edgar Allan Poe

the winner is

Will we win?

Do we have a choice? You tell me.

“But what if I fail of my purpose here? It is but to keep the nerves at strain, to dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall, and baffled, get up and begin again.” – Robert Browning

cover photo thanks

I could say so much more here. I’m writing this post mostly as a way to get myself out of a low mood state. Maybe I can fake it till I make?

I set up the e-mail since I’d love to hear more from people, and posting comments isn’t very private. Let me hear you.

I’m pretty thankful for the people who got through to me after my last post with words of encouragement. I couldn’t reply at the time, but it made me feel so much better just knowing that someone else was hearing me, and that other people understood. Thank you so much. Lots of love out here.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E. E. Cummings