On being too much

Ever been so excited about something that you just can’t get it out of your head? Mix that with a manic state, and all sorts of behaviors and effects seem to spiral out of control. The problem with this, in my experience, is that I don’t always recognize my behavior. It takes someone else close to the situation to ‘sit me down,’ and help me become aware of my actions.

As a person with bipolar I recognize that I may not always have the best self-insight, and not even realize that I don’t. I am blessed to be one of those people who, when manic or hypo-manic, the ideas flow and I am a prolific writer. I just don’t seem to be able to recognize when it is time to put down the pen, or time to go to bed.  I don’t recognize when I have overwhelmed people with my ideas and thoughts.

I keep inundating friends with requests to share essays and what I perceive to be ‘profound observations.’ I am terribly embarrassed when a friend holds a mirror to my face to help me see that perhaps I am “being too much.”  However, after all is said and done, I am so grateful that that person was brave and truly loved me.

I would like to thank persistent, compassionate, and observant supporters who love me anyway, regardless of what comes out of my mouth or pen. It doesn’t seem to stop me when the cycle repeats itself, but at least I have had time in between to recognize that I should trust what my supporter has to say.

So…thank you.



Eviction Notice

“I once had a garden
Filled with flowers
That grew only on dark

But they need constant

And one day I decided I had better things
To do.”
–  Brian Andreas


Winston Churchill once said that, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.” When we stay in our dark thoughts about past and present evils or ways you have been maligned, you end up in Hell. 

This can be the Hell of stalled progression.   You are damned – nothing going in or out.  The first steps to get through Hell, is to make sure you are not building your house on a sandy flood-plain.  Get your feet under you with support from those that can see where you are coming from and where your goals are. 

“Life is a process of becoming,
A combination of
States we have to go through.

Where people fail
Is that they wish to elect a
State and remain in it.”
   Anais Nin

 Evicting someone who has been living rent-free in your head is a fundamental principle to gaining your emotional stability.  Your thoughts of revenge, bitterness, impotence, and all those zingers you would have shot back to comments had you only thought of them during the encounter.   

To evict the squatters than have been living rent-free is to come to the understanding that the perpetrator is not your problem.  The worse thing that could ever wish on them is that they have to live with themselves.  It does not a bit of good to holler and shout about all the ways life has been unjust.  If you keep the thought of revenge or making someone ‘pay,’ you are re-living the experience over and over again in your mind.  And there isn’t anywhere you can run when it is in your own head. 


Freaky Friday

Feeling alone and isolated, a 16 year old girl came up with an idea that would change the dynamics between those with mental illnesses and their supporters.  At the time she disclosed her story to me, she did not have a great deal of self-insight or education.  She believed  many myths rather than facts regarding her mental illness.  A side effect was  that  she didn’t really know what was okay to believe, how to be true to herself, and that others felt the same way she did. She had never told anyone about this idea because she was ashamed of it, thinking it was disloyal or wrong to feel the way she did.  This is her heart-felt cry to be understood.

Her elegant solution to feelings of isolation, misunderstanding, and stigma would be to exchange brains and experiences with your supporter for just one day.   The upside of this exercise would be to open up whole new vistas on each other’s perception of the world.  Conversely, it may very well be the hardest emotional work you would ever do .  Would you do it?

Imagine the insight this would foster.  Supporters would understand what it means to have life impacted so devastatingly or consistently, or why things are the way they are.  In the meantime, you would finally be able to understand what it means to be ‘normal’, symptom free, and without the feeling of always being on the outside. You would gain insight into your supporters needs as well.  This mutual experience would enable you and your supporter to ‘get each other’.

Realistically, the best tool we have is communication.  We should not hope against hope one or both of you is a mind-reader.  We don’t have to exchange brains to work to understand each other.  Speaking about expectations, setting boundaries, and preparing action plans in calm  times that can be implemented in times if trial ultimately contribute to stability.

The goal in life should not be to just passively endure it, but to grow as well.  The time will pass anyway, make something of it.

I’m A Big Kid Now

It is impossible to escape life unscathed.  I know we all live and relate to painful memories in our own way.  However, I don’t have much patience with feeding frenzies about the past. We all had one. It would seem that many of us are still waiting for it to be over…Unfortunately, horrible personal experiences are being gratuitously splashed all over the media in the name of “openness.” I am waiting to see the other shoe drop.

 It took me many years to break out from a life bordered on all sides by the bad experiences of my youth.  I felt helpless to overcome it until I began to understand the distorted thinking about myself, my actions, and life in general.


I was amazed when I finally opened my eyes.  Good Morning Sunshine, life really is good.  It is happening.  I realized I’ve just been living, not paying attention to life really. Last I checked (in 1995,) I was tucking away my Bachelors of Science in Psychology degree, shelving my graduate school plans, and convincing myself that I could find fulfillment making a home and getting the kids to school age before I would go for a Ph.D.


Epiphany:  I am the grown up now. No-one is going to give me my turn. There aren’t any hall monitors. We are the grown-ups.  I had to develop (over time) an attitude of fierce optimism.  I realized that I was really cool.  I have experienced what it means to go through Hell and I came out the other end a survivor.   I celebrated that I had chosen a path way back when that allowed for a full life.  I have been warped by some crazy – awesome experiences, and participated in wonderful crusader opportunities that have made actual real differences in the world.


What I find most compelling is my desire to reach out in spite of, or because of, all my experiences. I feel qualified to say that the men and women that I know are much more than their stories and histories. That the media perpetuates the myth that it is ok to stay caught up your history or demons is one of the great social ills of our time.


A&E’s Biography says, “Every Life Has a Story.”  Yes it does.  And for some people it is the end-all be-all of his or her existence. Understand that your experience and story is valid.  It is unique just because there is no one like you.  No one can crawl inside your subjective experiences of tragedy and beauty. We are the main character in our histories, and we have the need to be known.   We begin foaming at the mouth when we stay too long at the party and get sucked in as a recreational victim.


I know true love, pain, ultimate loss, sacrifice, anger, security, bliss, and devotion.  Being present everyday with my family and me is the toughest thing I do. It is also the best and most refining job I’ve ever have.


Life is short and we are the grown-ups now.  We have so much information on how to heal.  We have the power to actually change our own environment.  We can map out our own healing strategies prior to times of crisis.  Be irreverent (one of my favorite words,) but know when to be reverent. Love your lover and let him/her love you back.


We are the big kids now.  No one is going to hand us the power – or take it away –  unless we let them. We won’t be sent to our beds without dinner (we do that for ourselves.) We get to give ourselves permission as individuals and as society to live emotionally and release the breath that we have been holding.


Oops. This sounded way like a self-help book. I hate self-help books.

Walking in the Light of Support

Last night I couldn’t sleep. I spent 3 hours trying to get my mind to slow down. Frustrated, I finally got up at 2:30a.m. The long shower I was able to take was glorious. There was no fear of running out of hot water before the next person was to shower. When I do this at ungodly hours of the morning I am not allowed to blow-dry my hair – it would seem that I wake people up – go figure. So with wet hair on a cold morning, I went downstairs to write.

As I descended the stairs in pitch dark I felt safe because I was holding onto the walls for spatial reference. I become more comfortable and confidence each time I have to walk in the dark.  Last night when I had to let go and travel across the room, I was amazed that Iinstinctively knew where the obstacles were and was able get from point A to point B without banging up my shins.

This was a great victory because it is so rare for me. I have broken one toe or another at least 15 times over the years, primarily by kicking stationary things that suddenly jump out in front of me. (Most recently I tried to move our sleigh bed with my toe.)

I am settling into life in a new house and community. Navigating my personal spaces is a top priority.   I am becoming less anxious and feel safer here with each positive experience.   I have fewer bumps and bruises each time I trust and believe instead of my habit of second guessing myself.   I am improving my sight.

I thought about all the times I have walked in emotional darkness. On more occasions than I care to remember I have stubbed my emotional toe and banged mental shins against the unyielding obstacles of life. There have also been times when I had figured out the lay of the land and have been able to navigate the darkness on my own.

Life is infinitely easier when I don’t have to cross the rooms of doubt and fear by myself. My support system acts as the walls that I can hang onto as I traverse a space that scares me. I am not alone as I grow more and more confident of my route. Though inevitably I have to let go of the walls, my supporters know where the light switches are.

Fierce Optimism as a Way of Life


My “official” experiences with bipolar disorder have spanned 27 years, since I was diagnosed at age 14.   The disorder has waxed and waned and woven itself into the very fabric of my life.  After struggling with it for many years, feeling like it had control over my life, I find that the only tenable position that I can take is one of fierce optimism.

I have been disabled since 2006, when my ability to cope with the vagaries of work was overshadowed by the suicidal repercussions of any job that I held.  I am a hard worker, giving my all too each project or assignment, and that would invariably lead to trouble.  Like the two poles of bipolar, my work was either stunningly good, or scrape-the-barrel less effective.

To be productive and involved in the world around me, I stay current with the latest scientific findings regarding bipolar disorder and its attendant manifestations.  I am always involved in at least one major activity in my community.

Winter of 2011 I coordinated my children’s middle school memory book.  April-September of 2011 I was the volunteer coordinator for NAMIWalks UT.  The work for the walk in 2012 is ongoing.

My family and my religious beliefs are the bedrock of my stability.  The first and only time I was hospitalized my husband made me sign a contract that I would not complete the act of suicide because of the ramifications on the kids.

I see how my moods and actions impact others.  I am not always able to control my words or actions, but I realize that I am accountable for them, nonetheless.

Bipolar is not an excuse for bad behavior.  Every day I have to decide how I will face that mood or feeling and meet it head-on.  Some days are more effective than others.  Life is too short to be a victim of something that could ruin and run me if I let it.

This all sounds good on paper, but it is truly my life.  I am Bipolar I, Rapid Cycling, Mixed Mood.  I go to a CBT trained LCSW therapist weekly who is trained in EMDR.  She helps me recognize distorted thinking and is trying to help me see that it is OK to just take a step back and just be “me,” without having to accomplish so much .


On Recovery

Severe mental illness is not sexy. It is not clearly understood. It is not something that can be packaged or managed with a magic pill or injection. It is not predictable. It comes with a heavy cost to society. But isn’t this true with many other major diseases? So why is it so hard to wrap our minds around the concept of recovery in mental health? Other disorders can identify when someone is in recovery or remission. Are we so certain we are broken and beyond repair?

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has been conversing with consumers and providers to come up with a new definition of recovery that would be relevant to the mental health community. “The new working definition of Recovery from Mental Disorders and Substance Use Disorders is as follows:

A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

Notice that this is a “process of change.”

Looking at the definition is empowering, but also can be daunting if you don’t know where to start.  The goal is to improve both “health and wellness” as they go together. You cannot separate your body from your mind.

We are to strive to be as involved in our own care and life plan as possible and live life to the fullest.  Realistic changes are often made by baby-steps.  Understanding how to integrate recovery in your life is a vital first step.

Through the Recovery Support Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA has identified four major dimensions that support a life in recovery:

  • Health: overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically       and emotionally healthy way;
  • Home: a stable and safe place to live;
  • Purpose: meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family care-taking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society; and
  • Community: relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

The authors continue by expounding on the “Guiding Principles of Recovery.”  These are ten aspects to guide our way.  By understanding them, we are in a position to work with supporters and care givers to create our own baby-steps and wrap our minds around hope for the present and action plans for the future.

It is well worth a look at the site to see more about how you can apply this concept of recovery in your life.  You can find further information at