This Bipolar Life: Bring Your Presence to the Present

Today I want share my experience of moving from passive existence to engaged living.

What is it like when just passive existence is a default perspective? It’s a dull, droll life. Time passes without notice, goals and dreams – what are those, right? Sometimes this can become an embedded pattern and years can pass unnoticed until we happen to turn around and catch a glance at ourselves in a reflection.

Suddenly we realize that we are, in fact, adults and we are older than we’d though. More time has passed than we may have realized. It is flying by at an increasingly faster rate and we feel more than a moment (or three) of panic. The recognition that there is no going back. This is what we have.

The now.

What is it like to be engaged in your life? It is being authentic, taking up your space and standing strong in your truth. Being exactly *who* you want to be, without apology. It means day-in and day-out making the effort to practice being grateful (even just one thing a day) and recognizing the small moments for what they are, yet more examples of your life.

So, where are you practicing engaged living in your life? Bring your *presence* to the present. Be here for your life. Stand tall in it. Whatever it is now, it *will* change. Be ready to welcome the next phase as there will be both beauty and pain. There always is. Unfortunately we cannot have one without the other. But again, it will change with time.

We must be willing to bend and flow with the rivulets of time repeatedly bending our will to that of reality. Life must be lived and outrageously enjoyed. Live in the present. As often as we can.

Look around and ask, “Is the way I am living right now, in this specific moment in time, serving me and the way I want my life to be?” Bring your presence to your present and you will be surprised at both how challenging this is *and* how transforming it can be.

Trust me, life is better this way. Not easier, but definitely more pleasant.

Our Collective Grief & Covid-19

Go outside, stay indoors, go nowhere, go out and stimulate the economy, pay your bills – but wait, don’t work. So many contradictions. What should we (and can we) do to help? To survive? Transform? Adjust? Adapt? Get through in one piece? Inform others? Protect our sanity? Anything? Nothing?

Perhaps the biggest question of all: What is coming next? The answer? No one knows. No one. Nowhere. Really.

So now what?

Covid-19 is here and by all indicators, likely to stay. Possibly seasonal and, without a doubt, a staggering new reality. Accepting that requires a substantial amount of radical understanding that we will never go back. Ever.

We have a “new normal” to live with and what it will look like is an unknown. As a result of this uncertainty, a national grieving process at work and as a communal experience, albeit unique to each person of course. We look around us and see many acting selflessly, making personal sacrifices for the benefit of those around them, only to see those efforts seemingly wasted away into irrelevance by those resolute against taking even the most minor step to protect our public health.

The awareness of so many willing to act selfishly is a reality that has been breathtaking to watch. There is a terrible sadness in seeing this truth about our nation recognizing it can blot out the reality that there is also incredible hope, community, kindness and love. However, I have found that in order to get to the point where we can see more good than bad, we must first acknowledge our devastation, personally and as a nation.

Although there is a 7-phase grieving model I find the 5-stage Kubler-Ross model to more accurate for me and what I’m seeing:

  • denial (this can’t really be happening, can it?)
  • anger (How could this happen?)
  • bargaining (it’s not *really* that bad…)
  • depression (omg – it really *is* that bad…)
  • acceptance (wear the damn mask, wash hands, don’t touch face)

This is what I observe playing out on social media and in my personal relationships daily.

There is no going back and we must push forward into our future with few absolutes along with a whole lot of struggle for many. Coming to terms with this is so incredibly challenging though, and that’s understandable. How often does something come along to shake our world, collectively and individually?

If you are having a difficult time right now, it’s okay. It really is. Just breathe (a lot) and count your heartbeat, 1…2…3…, etc. Put your hand on your chest, feel it coursing life through your body, know you are still here and that’s exactly as it should be.

Oh, and put on your mask. Please.

If you or someone you know are in crisis and need to talk with someone please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

This Bipolar Life: The Lens

Clinical diagnoses are the lens through which we, as patients, are perceived.

We changed insurance companies. They didn’t cover my psychiatrist. So…new one. Guess what? Forty minutes into the new “relationship” I came away with two new diagnoses for major mental illnesses. ON TOP OF BIPOLAR. Because yeah, my previous two psychiatrists and my various therapists over the past 15 years somehow missed those two?

Anyway, I of course went directly into a tailspin until I was able to get to my therapist’s office the next day. He very carefully and repeatedly assured me that the psychiatrist was basically ill-informed and clearly had spent zero time with me. Definitely not enough to hand off these new diagnoses. He agreed I had PTSD, but we’d already talked about that before, so as an official diagnosis it shouldn’t have been hard to slap a label on me.

So, here’s the rub. I’ve gotten approval for a second opinion (because apparently the diagnoses from my last psychiatrists aren’t enough) but the diagnoses the doc placed on me – will never, ever, ever – be removed from my medical record. They are permanent. Accurate or not.

To understand the implications imagine I’ve gone into an ER for suicidal ideations and even, possibly, an attempt. Guess what? Now, rather than thinking it’s a chemical imbalance, they are ALSO going to consider these new diagnoses. This is not a good thing.

See, these diagnoses change treatment plans, they guide the next doctor who sees you. That impacts your success in treatment and that, my friends, influences the choices one has available to them when required to make one.

Wish me luck on the second opinion and thank the gods for my therapist.

This Bipolar Life: Dreams, Apologies and Forgiveness

Ever wonder what eight-year-old you would feel about the life you are leading now? I do. Maybe it’s because of all my therapy but more than once I’ve been told I need get in touch with my inner child. For a long time I didn’t get it. Now I do.

“Getting in touch with your inner child” sounds really big and kind of “woo woo” right? Well, it’s like peeling back an onion. Very slowly. Layer by layer the tears come faster and faster until you reach the center and find enveloped in all these years of mere existence the tiny little spirit of life. Your life. My life. The Inner Child. Only then can the conversation truly begin. Here are the three key areas I ran into:

Dreams: Did you reach for them? Did you achieve them? Why? What’s the hold up? These are the questions we must answer to our IC. There’s no other way. We must account for our choices and offer grace and forgiveness as we go. I mean, if you really wanted to run away and join the circus, what stopped you? Is it still able to do that? Can you find another way? Is it even still a dream? I mean, if you stripped away all barriers, would you still do it? Yes? Then make a way.

Apologies: Another important one. Once I apologized to my inner-8yo for not being strong enough to protect her (or love her enough to bear the lack of love from elsewhere) I felt lighter and more relaxed. As if I had finally acknowledged all the pain and disappointment I went through. I have worked hard ever since to make sure the choices I make include that young child. That little girl. The one who had ginormous dreams and silly energy.

Forgiveness: This one is huge. Look back. Did you do your best with what you knew at the time? Yes? Then set your heart free of the burden of not being “good enough” or making the “right” choices, etc. Know that you made the *best* choices with the tools you had at the time. Self-forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves. It’s up to us to believe we are worth it.

I am the dreamer. It was and is up to me to make sure I honor my inner 8yo with my choices. To feel joy, embrace life, dance in the rain, explore, discover…so much more! That little one is in there waiting for a chance to come out and play and it’s my turn to lend a hand.

So yes, “Hello there, I’m here, and I love you. Please forgive me.”

Perfect way to start the dialog.

This Bipolar Life: The Coin Toss

Making decisions is not my strength, yet. I’m working on it but the whole finality of the choices gets me. Like, what if I’m wrong? What if it goes sideways? What if? What if? What if? Increasingly I am also making sure to wonder if I’m right too and that’s helping!

Fortunately I have tools to use. I use techniques like remembering to go through pros/cons and asking those around me to help play out the scenario over coffee/zoom. Their feedback is invaluable as I don’t quite trust my gut just yet (another thing I’m working on) because although my mind is on point my brain chemicals can get whacky occasionally and cloud my ability to clearly see options.

Seriously though, I’m a grown-ass woman who often get’s stuck and can’t figure out what to watch on tv, which craft to pick up, which project to start, business to launch, relationships to end/start, meals to make, jobs to choose, careers, empty nest decoration…just all of it. Talk about ridiculous, right? Well I have a tool that works really well, here goes:

My solution – AND IT WORKS 100% FOR ME – has been to rely on a coin-toss. After becoming fully aware of my choices, benefits and consequences I figure out my top two options and throw a coin up. While it’s in the air I instinctively know which one I want. Heads or tails, each representing a commitment to seeing something through, and I know. Instantly. Before it hits the ground, which choice I want.

ALWAYS. Then, no matter how the coin lands, I’ve finally made my decision and I can move on.

Just one tool that works for me. Maybe you’ll find it helpful too!

%d bloggers like this: