Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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The Power of Realistic Thinking

One of the issues I often face as a bipolar person is the question of whether I am living in reality or in my own world.

Nothing wrong with having a world of your own. Any innovator or inventor has a strong internal world that they want to bring to light. Nicola Tesla, Buckminster Fuller, Steven Jobs – to name a few – all had a particular vision of the world that wasn’t real until they created it. But they also were rooted in scientific thinking.

Sometimes my internal world, well, it can get very different from reality. It’s easy to see it when I am depressed or manic, but harder to discern when I am hypomanic or dysthymic. That is, if I am suicidal it relatively easy to detect that my thinking is dysregulated. I tend to use absolutes like “I’m going to feel this way forever, it will never change.” Or if I believe that the weatherman on TV is sending me coded messages about my daughter’s welfare. I might be fully convinced of the truth of these things, but they aren’t true. They aren’t real. They are lies my bipolar tells me.

There is a tendency to see the opposite of depressed thinking as positive thinking, but that can also be a lie for me. “You can spend this money, there is plenty of money available,” is positive thinking but it will get me into trouble at the end of the month when bills are due. I want to believe in abundance but I am not a temporarily embarrassed millionaire, as John Steinbeck says most Americans think of themselves. I am a middle aged working class white woman. I have some privileges but unlimited money is not one of them and it does me no good to act as if it is.

If the power of positive thinking isn’t the answer, what is?

A friend of mine calls it non-negative thinking. I call it realistic thinking. It’s the power of having your internal world align with consensual reality. If I fact check myself with 2 other people, there is probably a high degree of agreement. It’ll never be 100% but it can be pretty darn close.

What is consensual reality? It is the world that we all agree exists. This is the planet Earth. Water is wet. Two solid objects can’t occupy the same place at the same time. Humans don’t fly by flapping their arms. We give our consent that these things are true and real. You know that if someone is moving his arms up and down intensely and taking little leaps into the air, he has probably left the realm of consensual reality. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, think of a small child playing at being a bird. But if an adult is doing it who really believes he’s just having a day when aerodynamics are working against him, he’s probably a little out of touch.

If I am depressed and telling myself that the misery will never end, most people can see I’m out of touch with reality and they’ll either understand or try to fix me. But if I am dysthymic, I might say, “I won’t go to hell when I die, I’m already there” which other people would find cynical, but not necessarily out of consensus. What I need is a way to break out of the negative cycle of thinking.

One piece of this is universal acceptance. There are 3 main kinds of acceptance: universal self acceptance, universal other acceptance, and universal life acceptance. The goal of any of them is to accept things as they are. For example, universal self acceptance would mean comparing yourself to an ideal self, to your own self in the past, or to other people. You accept yourself as you are. I accept my depressed self as she is, which can be hard.

Another piece is the fact checking I mentioned. I can go to a friend or a trusted advisor and verify that I am in fact not in hell even though I might feel like it. I can see that there are no little devils with pitchforks and I don’t smell brimstone. Or if you are less literal, my friend could remind me that I am not experiencing eternal misery. Oh sure I’m miserable right now, but at other times I have been happy.

That’s a truth for me about being bipolar, that feelings and situations come and go. I am never fully balanced, I am always in the act of balancing. My friend can remind me that I have been through this before, I will make it through this time, and it will probably circle around again. Nowadays I look for those cycles, so that I know what to expect. Maybe two days of not sleeping is followed by sleeping for a week. Maybe feeling like I can do anything leads to using so much energy that I can’t get out of bed. Maybe euphoria precedes anger. If I know the anger is coming, I can make plans. Avoid people for a few days, stay out of stressful situations, warn people that I’m a little touchy at the moment.

A third tool that works for me is journaling. I try (and don’t really succeed) to write every day. Some days I remember to journal, other days I write letters or blog. Letters obviously get mailed off, but journaling and blogging leave me a record of my mood or my thinking. I get to observe the patterns. And I get to read my own wisdom. Like most people, I know a lot about coping that I forget when I’m in the moment. I am so busy feeling stressed that I forget sitting down for a minute to play with the cat will soothe me until I read it in my journal. And that’s the beauty of the WRAP program, that I can go to the section about being stressed and see that I have chosen tools like “pet the cat”, “take a hot shower” or “remember to eat something” which I might not be able to bring to mind at the moment.

Speaking of WRAP, I am raising some money to offer the teaching to low income people. Here is the link to my fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/donate/936838623356099/10157826357211004/ If you can’t donate, could you at least share the link?

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my current even keel. I am neither manic nor depressive at the moment and it’s a great relief to feel average. Functioning within designated parameters, so to speak. Except that I’m awake at 2 am and not tired. I’d better go look at my WRAP and see what I can do to put myself to sleep.

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Finally Settling Down

I slept last night.  I got up about 10:30 this morning and went into the living room and slept sitting up on the sofa until 1:30.  I think I can no longer consider myself manic.  It will, however, mess with my sleeping to get up so late.  I won’t be tired at bedtime.  I might stay up all night just to get my sleep back on track.  I don’t know.  It will depend how I feel in 12 hours.

Hamlet the kitty passed last night.  He was a good kitty.  He was also elderly and sickly, so he is at peace now.  It makes me cry.  I tried so hard not to get attached to him, after all I have 2 of my own.  Three days ago I held him in my lap and petted him.  He barely purred but whenever I stopped he reached out for more.  For the last 2 days, he has laid on the kitchen floor, not eating or drinking.  Every time I went past him, I’d stop and pet him for a second.  This is not a surprise but I feel it as a loss.

I have been reading about the immigrant families that have been separated, and watching The Zookeeper’s Wife.  They feel like the same thing to me.  One story told in two different ways.  There is some difference between them, but the underlying feeling is the same.  I have my representatives’ phone numbers and I vote.  I don’t know what else to do.

My heart is actually with the homeless.  I have read about the Stewpot downtown Dallas and they are doing a lot of things I think are valuable.  Things that are within my vision of what I would want to do.  I should volunteer down there but I am not able to commit a lot of time with my unpredictable work schedule.  I hear from a friend that “it’s not a place for a lady” but I don’t think I’m that much of a lady.  A woman for sure but more like a tough old broad.  Not a ballbuster though.  Still, all those children separated from their families breaks my heart.  But how can I worry about them when we can’t even take care of our own?

The Stewpot

 


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On Being Slightly Manic

It happens from time to time.  I think I’m okay and then, well, I’m not.

It 2:10 am and I just ate my third meal of the day.  I have eaten toast, a McDouble, and now 2 servings of pasta salad with no protein component.  I think if it had meat in it, I might have had only 1 serving.  The problem with eating so late is that it means I have been up long enough to get hungry again.  Now I will have some increase in energy and feel even less like sleeping.

Sleep has been off for me the last few days.  I’ve been up late at night, though I still sleep only 8 or so hours.  I just would rather sleep until say 7:30 not 12:30 in the afternoon.  I am a slow waker so I don’t want to get up late since it will take an hour or so to start my day.  And if it’s too late in the day, I might get nothing done at all.

But I am up now.  Up and typing and wondering if there’s anybody else awake who’d like to interact.  Probably not.  Or at least, if they are, they are looking for someone to talk dirty and I’m not down for that.

Up and a little ADD right now.  I am typing, watching TV, monitoring both email and facebook, eating, trying to pet the cat (the cat is not cooperating) and planning some art projects.  It’s really too much and I should be overwhelmed or distracted but I’m not.

I’m talking a little too much today I think.  I feel like I took over group today, even though I really didn’t.  I feel pushy and a little controlling.  I think I don’t act that way, but I feel it.

If I had money, I would do some shopping.  At this time of night it would be online shopping, which is fun twice.  Once when I do the shopping itself and again when the stuff arrives.  I don’t need anything so shopping is frivolous.

My computer is going to die shortly, the battery has almost run out.  I will put the computer to charge then get out my knitting, watch TV and knit.  Or maybe I’ll plug in the computer out here and watch some anime and knit.

I should sleep, sleeping would be the smart thing, but I’m not tired yet.  Maybe I’ll stay up tonight and try to sleep at a normal time tomorrow.