Tell Me How You Really Feel

{This was originally written before the holidays and is brutally honest. Honesty goes a long way and often makes others feel less alone.}

I took a shower. Washed my hair. Shaved my legs. All of this to feel squeaky clean and smooth when I put my sweatpants back on.

Beneath is a new pair of underwear, which really does make all the difference in the world when the rest of you is a ratty old piece of shit.

I’m wearing a 13 year old sports bra complete with holes, old stains from dying my hair and is too stretched to even make a difference. But it does a phenomenal job soaking up boob sweat.

I was going to take a bath today. Put on some music loud enough to hear in my bathroom. Read a book while soaking in the tangerine scented bubbles. But that would mean I’d have to clean the tub first and who the fuck wants to go to that extreme?

There’s a sheet of ice outside and snow is falling. So delicate and serene. It’s a good thing I’ll be staying home today. Alone. With the threatening voice in my head whispering sweet nothings into my ear. So much so that I can’t concentrate on the Netflix marathon of movies I added for this day.

I try to read but I’m not grasping what’s happening on the pages, which sucks because I really want to read this book. It’s peculiar and smart and dirty and one day I’ll get through it and understand what it’s about.

Maybe I should vacuum the house. Maybe I should pour a glass of wine, or better yet, a whiskey on the rocks. Maybe some Klonopin would make me not feel what I’m already not feeling. Maybe I should work on writing the half dozen stories I started and haven’t touched in weeks. Maybe I should try to forget that the voices are reminding me of the fresh, unopened bottles of pills that are still in my purse because I’m too afraid to place them in the cabinet. Within reach.

Depression is a motherfucker. It lies. It steals. It makes you do things you don’t want to do. It makes you say things you’ve been holding in for far too long. It makes you silent. It grabs hold of your throat and gasp for breath. It makes you think far too strong. It makes you stare into the beyond. It makes you scratch at your skin, just to feel something-even pain-leaving fingertips warm and covered in blood.

“They” say people get depressed around the holidays. Funny thing to say to someone who is clinically depressed all the days of the year.

BIPOLAR ESCAPISM: PUSHING PEOPLE AWAY & DISAPPEARING

When a person in a relationship—whether platonic or romantic—has bipolar disorder, the symptoms can often affect both people. These interferences will arise in a variety of situations—whether manic or depressed—and they will manifest differently based on the personalities of the persons involved and the situation at hand.

One thing I have noticed across the board, though, in both my personal life and the lives of the bipolar individuals around me, is what I’d like to call an escapist tendency. This tendency can manifest in any mood or altered state, but I see it creep up most often in romantic relationships—particularly when the relationship seems to be going a bit ‘too well.’

I know—that doesn’t really seem to make sense. If things are going well, isn’t that good? Yeah, of course it is. But for people with bipolar disorder, for those of us who are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, being in a romantic relationship that makes us so incredibly happy also often reminds us that there is a big downswing waiting just on the other side. Because we live cyclically. And that’s destructive thinking, yes, but, sometimes, we can’t pry ourselves away from it because it’s all we’ve ever known. Up, then down. Up, then down. Over and over again. And the more encompassing the high, the mightier the fall.

So, when things are really good? We have a tendency to run. Because it’s better to remove ourselves from the situation than it is to watch such a beautiful thing come crashing to the ground, right? Especially if we feel that wonderful thing is crumbling because of us and the way that we exist.

What I’ve noticed, then, is that, instead, we disappear. We push people away, and then we exit their lives slowly—casually. Or, we forgo the pushing them away stage and just straight-up ghost them, leaving them to wonder whether or not we were ever even real. And while that is nowhere near fair to the people that this keeps happening to, I cannot say that it makes us any less prone to be “runners.”

I don’t think any of us ever look at leaving as an attempt to harm the other person. We’re just trying our best to survive, and, sometimes—with our minds the minefields that they are—escaping feels like the only way how.

What I learned on my journey to stop hating myself.

I’ve always been really hard on myself. When I was a kid I would punch myself in the head or if I was in trouble and had to stand against the wall to get swats, I would bang my head while I was there. Although I learned to stop doing that, I was still taking what everybody told me to heart.

The great number of people who say I’m “slow.” The doctors who said I lacked empathy. The kids who laughed because I couldn’t kick the ball right. The teachers who told me I would never amount to anything. All the people who told me I was a bad person.

Even today I still hear some of those types of things. It turned out just a few were true and most all weren’t. I shouldn’t have believed a lot of them. All the bad things that people said about me. They didn’t even know me. I still believed them. I trusted what they said about me more than what I knew about myself.

I really hated myself and who I was because of autism and bipolar. I tried to deny and ignore it for 23 years. I finally had to admit that I had problems; I had to stop hating myself at the same time. So there I was admitting I had problems — but had to learn to stop beating myself up for it.

I was working a big time job. I was being bullied and teased about being autistic. I was being told what a bad person I was because I am bipolar.

I hated those people with all my heart. All that hate finally burned me up. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to stop hating. Before I could stop hating them, I had to stop hating me. Before I could believe that the things they were saying weren’t true; I had to believe in me.

I was at a point where I felt I didn’t deserve all this, but I had to do something. I don’t deserve a lot of things. I didn’t know what to do. So I just said the heck with it all. I’m going to go have a start having a good time.

So why should I believe that I’m not a bad person when I’ve done all these bad things? I chose to believe it because there’s no way I was going to become a better person if I didn’t. It was part of becoming — and maybe the only way — I could become the person I wanted to be.

The first thing I had to do was to stop beating myself up. There’s no easy way to do it. When I see that I’m beating myself up, I stop. I distract myself. Whether that is watching TV, listening to music, arts and crafts, or reading something new. Whatever I have to do.

It will get easier every time that you do it. You don’t have to be perfect. No pressure. Just try it once.

It’s not something you get right all the time, right away. I learned to do it time by time. I did once and then I did it again. I just kept doing it till I got it right. As you go along, it gets easier. You get better at it.

Every time I did stop beating myself up, I patted myself on the back. Good job. I deserved to be congratulated. I didn’t beat myself up. That’s an accomplishment.

The hardest thing I had to learn was not to beat myself up because I beat myself up. I did screw up but just couldn’t hold it against myself. I was never going to get through this if I didn’t give myself a break. So I just threw my hands in the air and gave up. I’ll get it right next time.

I started giving myself real breaks as well. My doctor calls them mental health breaks. They are five or 10 minutes for me to relax or catch my breath. They are also a good time to do my relaxation techniques. These are the relaxation techniques I used to help control my anger.

A banner promoting The Mighty’s new Bipolar 1 Support group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Join the Bipolar 1 Support group to connect with others who understand what it’s really like to live with hypomania, rapid-cycling, depression and more. Click to join.

First, find a relaxation technique out on the net that you like to do. Do it at least a few times a week. Once a day is best. I like to do it when I come home from work every day.

Once you have found a good relaxation technique, choose a word to use as your keyword. Of course it’s easy to choose “Relax.” Although I chose the word “Calm.” That way when I heard the word relax or talked about relaxing I wasn’t using my keyword.

When I did my relaxation technique, I repeated that word over and over again. That way I trained my body. I could now say the word “calm’ when I wanted to relax. I used this for anger, anxiety and in general if I worked up for any reason.

I got serious about the self-affirmations that I learned in group therapy. I wrote out 10 statements that were good about me or that I wanted to be good about me. Again, that I
“wanted” to be good about me.

I am a good friend.

I have a good heart.

I am a good person.

I am worthy.

I am good enough….

I said them in the morning, every morning. I stood up and said them like a personal pledge of allegiance with my hand on my heart. You don’t have to do them in the morning. It can be before bed or anytime but the morning worked best for me.

As I said these statements, they became habits. Habits of thinking I was a better person. I unconsciously was holding myself to them. In a few weeks I made progress. In a few months I became them. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Eventually I realized I already was them. I just needed to believe it.

If a statement was making me feel good, I kept it. If a statement had become comfortable then I replaced it with a new one. Don’t be afraid to change them as you go along.

Anytime I did any of these things right, I patted myself on the back. Well, not just these, but anytime I did something good for myself I patted myself on the back. I congratulated myself for every little thing that I did. I still do. I made it a habit to tell myself that I am doing a good job. I deserve it.

I started treating myself. Whether that was out for lunch, a haircut, a new clothing item, incense, bath bombs or just a $5 item. I found it’s not so much the price as it is the act of buying it for myself. Yes, I do deserve these things.

One thing that I still like to do is to go out to eat or buy myself a good lunch every payday. It’s a reward to myself for making it through the month.

All this didn’t happen overnight. I did the self-affirmations for almost a year. It took me a couple years to learn not to beat myself up. I still need to work on that at times. Again, I still pat myself on the back for everything that I do. Altogether this took me a little more than two years.

I had a 12-step program hold my hand. You can have a counselor or a therapist hold your hand. It’s so much easier than going it alone.

I hope you learned to love yourself. You do deserve it. You are worthy. You are enough. I wish you the best.

Know Your Medication

I’ve had some bad psychiatrists over the years, but I’ve had a couple of good ones too. Some play the role of a higher power (or wish they could do so on TV) and others sit back and write prescriptions to get through their shift. Many will (and should) work with you and not against you.

The first time I stepped foot in a psychiatrist’s office, I didn’t know what to expect. When I left his office, even in the state of mind I was in, I knew I was going to have to be involved in my mental health care. I was going to have to hit the interwebs (reputable sources) and study my illness as well as the medications that treat the illness.

Some individuals walk into any doctor’s office and take their word because they went to medical school. In my opinion, this isn’t the way to care for your well-being.

When it comes to psychotropics, you have to be informed. There are different trial and errors for every medication but I’m going to focus on psychotropics today.

Many psychotropic medications require blood work before you can even begin taking them. Doctors are testing for things such as glucose levels, platelet counts and the thyroid hormone. Some of these medications can cause diabetes, hypothyroidism, a white blood cell count differential, impairment of kidney function, liver disease, and the list goes on…

The tests are completed before taking new medication to have a starting point of your blood levels to be monitored during the course of treatment.

If you’re in the clear to take the new medication, labs are tested again down the road (depending on what you’re taking-the timing will vary) to recheck your levels. Doses may need to be adjusted accordingly. The tests don’t stop there. Regular testing, especially during dose changes, will be a part of your life. Hopefully less often as it takes effect and you’re on level ground again.

Not all medications require such lengths before you can take them. Recently I was faced with making a decision of my own with my psychiatrist (because I don’t let my doctors decide for me, they’re there to hand me the info and we conclude together). Do I:

 A. Not change medications right away, get my labs drawn, wait up to two weeks then figure out what to do…

— or

B. Change to something that doesn’t require blood work so I can get to feeling less like death immediately and then move back to plan A should I need additional help…

I went with plan B. Why? I couldn’t say for a fact that I’d still be around when the lab results arrived. My symptoms are that bad.

My point? Work with your doctor. Don’t just do what he tells you to do. If you’re being treated by a doctor that will only keep seeing you if you do everything he says, he’s not a good doctor. Make decisions together. Do your research. Know what you have to do prior to swallowing something new. Know the common side-effects and the rare side-effects. You may be one in the small percentage who experiences these side-effects, but it’s important to have the information on hand. Researching after the fact can be devastating. In my personal recent experience, my doctor insisted that a good portion of the effects I’m feeling wasn’t from the medications. He only said that it was possible, in quite a weary tone.

Be armed. Be informed. Be ready to fight for what you know. Be ready to fight for what you want.

Your doctor is experienced and shouldn’t brush you off because your time limit is up. He should stick by your side until you’re comfortable enough moving forward with your health plan, and be at the ready if you have questions in the interim.

My Routine for Taking Care of Myself During Depression.

©2020 Matthew Weatherford

I have had a depression every year my life. They last from October to February. Not many years were horrible until about 18 years ago. My depressions became treatment resistant. They have been as deep as can be every year since. Meds help lighten them some. ECT helped some too. Although they’re still deeper than ever. Nothing has ever shortened them. Now I just have to sweat them out.

The most important thing to me is being able to stay in my home. So I must be ‘capable’ of taking care of myself. Whether that’s doing things myself or directing others to do things for me. Doing as many things as I can so that I will continue to be able to do so for as long as possible. Only getting help when I need it.

The main premise behind my method is to make my life as easy as possible. That way I don’t get overwhelmed constantly. I have ways to get my chores caught up quickly when I do get overwhelmed. Distractions for the hard times. Activities to get myself thinking and moving. With the ultimate goal of being able to spend the energy I have doing the things I want to do.

My doctor says I should do at least one thing everyday. So I pick a task everyday. If I am feeling well enough I will do a second one and so on.. I pat myself on the back after every task I do during depression. I will note my tasks below as I mention them.

So let’s get on with it. Here are some of the things that I do to take care of myself during depression.

I buy food that is easy to cook or ready to eat, and not a mess. Yet, still good for me. I buy prepackaged salads. I buy meat such as dinner sausages that I can just pop in the oven. I like the steamer vegetables that I can just pop in the microwave. Other frozen vegetables I can bake right on top of the meat. I buy sauces and toppings for all of that. I buy better quality canned and frozen foods when I can afford them.

Since I’m mostly just baking, I may bake enough at once to not have to cook for a few days. If I do, that is a task for my day.

I keep my dishes to a minimum. Although I have a large collection of pans, utensils, and electric cookers. I only own a couple sets of silverware, a couple plates and a bowl. That way I never get too far behind. There is never a big pile in the sink because I just don’t have that many dishes. I also use aluminum foil when cooking. So I don’t have to clean pans or at least they are really easy. Of course, I use paper and plastic for most meals. Doing a sink of dishes meets my task for the day.

I order my groceries for delivery. Not only does that save me from the hell of the store but researching recipes and shopping at home is a fun activity.

The next hard thing for me is showering and self-care. Besides depression, I have sensory problems as well. Water running on my face is like people screaming in my face. Showers are just too much for me.

One thing I like to do is wash my body in the shower one day. Then wash my head on a different day. That way it’s not too much at once. A shower is considered a task for my day.

I use tar and lard based soaps. They get me really clean, really quickly. They are so good for my skin as they moisturize and remove dead skin. They are even better for my hair and beard. My favorite is pine tar. Coal tar is the most effective. Lard soaps are almost just as good as tar and come in a variety of scents.

I use wipes, dry shampoo, and the no-rinse shampoo caps. That way I can do a quick touch-up or get my hair clean if I need to real fast. Between showers during a depression, they are a lifesaver when something unexpected comes up.

Every week or 10 days, I take a salt bath. I use a lot of salt and liquid soap. That makes the water heavy and soft like a weighted blanket. If it has been a while, I might throw in a tablespoon or two of degreasing dish soap.

While I’m soaking, I may eat dinner, enjoy a drink, read a book, listen to music, take a nap, burn some incense, and/or candles. Creating a comfortable environment makes everything easier.

When I’m done, I stand up and quickly shower off. I am now deep down clean. All caught up with showers after a relaxing experience. It meets my task for the day.

Another way I make taking showers and baths easier is keeping some whites, sweatpants and shirts in baskets in the bathroom. Any comfort clothes. That way I don’t have to get any clothes out. They’re always right there for me when I step out of the shower.

When I need to wash those clothes, they’re right there by the washer and dryer. No folding, hanging, or putting away. I toss them back in the baskets. It’s not as if anybody important is going to see me in them anyways. A load of laundry meets my task for the day.

To reduce laundry further, I pick a set of clothes to hang up by the door. It’s a pair of pants and shirt with my belt, wallet, and keys in them. Ready to go at a moment’s notice. I only use them for when somebody comes over or I go out somewhere. As soon as I’m done, I hang them back up. When I’ve worn them 12 hours total, I wash them and get a new set out. Although it could be a week, or two, or three before I have worn them that long. That helps keep laundry down to an absolute minimum. I still have all my good clothes hung up for important outings.

Of course, the most work is cleaning the house and taking out the trash. Taking out a bag of trash a day is great for my daily task.

I do my best to not make messes. Most of the items I use daily, I keep by my recliner. If I have not used something in a few days or a week, it gets put up. When I do something, I get the stuff and do it at my recliner or the table. That way the only real mess is around my recliner. I may have tools or arts and crafts on the table. The rest of my house stays clean much longer. Cleaning around my recliner or the table counts as a task for the day.

Despite my efforts, I am very clumsy and make a lot of messes. No matter how hard I try. So I will get behind. That is when I have my cleaning lady come help me. I usually just pay her to get the trash out of the house, do the dishes, floors, clean the bathroom, and a monthly or seasonal task like cleaning the fridge, the stove, the walls, or the windows. That way I’m only paying for an hour or two. All the immediate things get done. My house stays fairly well kept rotating between monthly things. I am only paying between $20 and $40. Instantly, I’m all caught up!

I can pay my cleaning lady a couple times a month and stay well on top of things. Some months just once. I also have her available if I know I’m going to be having people over.

Please see the #52smallthings tag for our weekly self-care challenge and more tips and trickss.

I save up movies, TV shows, and books for distractions when I’m having a hard time. New movies and shows are usually available for cheap or free by the time I watch them.

Please see the #distractme tag or join the Distract Me group suggestions of movies, tv, and books as well as other posts and pics here on The Mighty.

I find arts and craft ideas and journaling that are very easy to do. Nothing that I have to put thought into to get started. Simple coloring, puzzle, journaling, and mental health workbooks to get my mind working. Small project kits or supplies to get my hands moving. A lot like groups at the hospital, without the hospital. I especially like ornaments kits so I can put them on a shelf or a wall when I’m done. Helps me feel accomplished. It is not too much longer after my mind and hands are moving that my feet are moving too.

Please join The Pencil Case group for writing poems, sharing your story, journaling, and mindfulness techniques to help get your mind going.

Please join The Mighty Craft Room group for ideas, sharing your crafts, and seeing other user’s projects.

All of this helps me not get overwhelmed from chores and self-care. When I get behind, I can easily get caught up. I have distractions for when I’m not thinking well. I have activities to help get me functioning. The only thing I have to do is be good to me.

I never think badly of myself for not finishing something, falling behind, not taking showers, or any tasks. They’re still there waiting to be done and I can have somebody else get me caught up if I need to.

I hope you find some of my ideas useful and that you get through your depression more easily next time.

Three Basic Needs to Be mentally Healthy and Happy.

How I learned to be happy.

© 2020 Matthew Weatherford

You always hear people say, “you just have to decide to be happy.” That might last a day or two or a week or even a month. Although at some point something’s going to happen. That’s that. It’s over at least for a while.

Happiness isn’t a just choice. It takes work and commitment.

Deciding to be happy certainly is a big part of it. Although it takes more than just wanting to. It takes dedication to yourself and a continued ongoing effort.

The hardest thing was the first thing. The choice. Not just that I’m going to be happy today with my friends. Deciding that I’m going to work at this till I get it right. I’ve since learned I’ve had to keep working at it a14442 no lpplllllyp1right too.

This was going to be my main focus in life. Not just some hobby. Not just doing what I’m supposed to. Those weren’t good enough. It had to become my only goal. I had to have the will to get well.

The next step was giving up childish emotions and resistant attitudes. But I’m different. I do need help but you’re not the one to do it. But what if I’m right? I had to get serious about my mental health and start trusting my doctors and counselors. I made sure that I made all my appointments. I started coming to the 12-step group every week.

I started not just doing all the things that I was supposed to but proactively working at them. Not beating myself up. Doing my self-affirmations. Controlling my anger. Taking care of my body. In general becoming a more mature person.

Once I had gotten all that underway then I could finally start working on making myself happy. Until then, until I got that emptiness out of my life; I could not make myself content.

I learned, In order to be mentally healthy and happy, there are three basic needs that we all have to have. To be at home. To be somebody. To be going somewhere.

The first one was to redo my home to feel more at home.

I did these things slowly one thing at a time. It’s important to do it that way. It’s not just getting material things that made me happy. It’s the journey. The pursuit of happiness that is actually true happiness.

If I had bought a bunch of stuff and brought it all home. That might have lasted the week. The effort and time that I put into doing all this was all good times that I enjoyed. Figuring out what I did like. What I didn’t like. Making stuff myself as compared to buying it.

I started changing my environment. Getting rid of ornaments, lighting, sounds, and in general making my environment less hostile. Then I started adding pleasure to it. Blankets and clothes that I enjoyed. Like weighted blankets. Incense. Glasses, cups, plates. Ornaments that I did like. In my case things that I made. I made bookshelves out of books. Did different arts and crafts. Making my environment comfortable. So my apartment wasn’t just another one in public housing. It was ‘My” apartment.

I started treating myself and rewarding myself. Going out to lunch. New clothing items. Self-care such as bath bombs. An occasional massage. I didn’t do these all the time. Just one a week or one a month. Especially as rewards. Like I always went out for a good lunch on payday. That was my reward for getting through the month. I also have rewards if I made all my appointments. If I did all my homework. If I worked on my anger. If I didn’t beat myself up. Every time I accomplished something I felt good about myself. I became happier with myself.

The next need to be mentally healthy is to be somebody. I didn’t have a lot of choices at the time so I decided to lean on my 12-step group. I was going to be a good member of my 12-step group. I started going around with the field worker (Paid employee) for my area. I went around with her to the hospitals, mental health agencies, and group homes to help recruit new members. I went and listened to people’s stories. I told my story of how the 12-step program was helping me. That’s who I was becoming. A good member of my 12-step group.

Again spreading it out, made me happier for longer than achieving it all at once. If I had talked to all these people all on the same day, I would have been happy for that day or maybe a week later.

The final need for good mental health is to be going somewhere. I found this was already met for the time being by everything I was already doing. My purpose was to become well. To become a better more mature person.

It took me time, almost 3 years. I didn’t do it in order. Working on my apartment and finding things to make myself more comfortable at home one day. Going recruiting with the field worker another day. Out for lunch another day. I had created things to look forward to.

Then I started adding in things that I wanted to do. Learning the piano. Getting back to brewing beer. Programming again.

As time went along I became happier and more content with my life than I ever had before. That is not to say it was all good times. I certainly had bad days. Depressions. Drama. Family problems. All like I’d have before. Although now I knew there was going to be good times too. I had stuff to look forward to despite all that. I may not have been quote happy that day but it was better than similar days before.

I became content with my apartment, myself, and my life.

I still have to work at these things all the time. There was different times that state funding got cut and the 12-step program shut down. I had to find other purposes for myself. My depressions started becoming treatment resistant. Most of my family passed. I still have to continue to work at making myself happy. At times I’ve struggled.

Although I’ve learned how to do it now. I just have to keep working at it.

Again for most of the time that I was learning I had a 12-step program hold my hand. You can have a counselor or a therapist of any kind help you with this. It’s so much easier than going alone.

I hope you achieve happiness in your life. I wish you the best.

The Will to Get Well

The will to get well.

I learned in a 12 top program that although I will never be cured from autism or bipolar that doesn’t mean I can’t live a mentally healthy life. I don’t have to be mentally ill. I can be mentally well.

Of course the hardest part of any mental health journey is admitting we had problems. That was also the first step of the 12 steps. Along with admitting I had problems, I had to be willing to do the things necessary to get well. Wanting to is not enough. Doing the things that I was supposed to do was not enough. I had to have the will to get well.

I was listening to Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He said:

“It’s not what you’re capable of. It’s what you’re willing to do. It’s not what you’re capable of. It’s what you’re willing to do. I know so many people who are capable. I know fewer that are willing.’

He continued on about how they have a few hundred athletes every year for open tryouts. He said every one of them is capable of playing football. He said every one of them wants to play football. The difference is who is willing to do the things necessary to be a professional football player.

No matter our mental disorder(s), no matter our situation, we can make things better for ourselves with work and cooperation with help. Our situation can be improved. We are all capable of becoming well.

if I wanted to become well, was I willing to do the things necessary that I needed to do?

Was I willing to admit I had problems?

Was I willing to change my thinking? My ways? My relationships?

Was I willing to cooperate with help? Was I willing to work with my counselors? Was I willing to go to my 12-step program every week? Was I willing to go to all my doctor’s appointments?

Was I willing to take meds too control my moods? Was I willing to try different meds and take them for a while to see how well they worked? Was I willing to suffer through the adjustments of starting a new med? Was I willing to listen to my doctor?

Was I willing to control my anger? Was I willing to let some things go without having a fit? Was I willing to do my relaxation techniques everyday?

Was I willing to stop hating myself? Was I willing to not beat myself up? Was I willing to distract myself? Was I willing to do my affirmations every morning? Was I willing to give myself passes for messing up?

Was I willing to do all these things for as long as I needed to do them to achieve my goals?

It is hard work and it takes a lot of effort but I chose yes. I said I’m going to do this. For my efforts, I have been rewarded.

Just as life is, staying well is an ongoing struggle. I haven’t been perfect. There’s times that I’ve worked and times that I haven’t. I continue to struggle to find the will at times. But still, I continue to enjoy the benefits of the work that I did and the progress I made.

So I ask you. What are you willing to do to become well?

How I Control my Bipolar Rage

©2020 Matthew Weatherford

This is about anger management, fits of rage and emotional meltdowns. This does not include sensory meltdowns.

If I feel it coming, I step away. If I already said something, I stop right when I realize it. You will get better at it every time you do it. No pressure. Just try it once.

Relaxation Techniques
Find some techniques off the internet. Try a few. Once you find one you like, do it at least a few times a week. It’s most effective if you do it once daily. I did it when I came home from work before I settled in for the evening. Before bed is also a good choice. My favorite is to start with my head and neck, and work my way down. Some people like to start with their hands. While I am doing it, I say the word “relax,” slowly over and over. I have trained my body. When I think or say “relax,” my body starts the technique automatically. Then, when I have a fit of rage, all I have to do is think, “relax,” and I just start doing the technique. In time, it becomes more powerful than the anger, frustration or stress.

A meditation I use is trying to feel the anger in my body and work it out of me. For me, anger is in my shoulders and wrists. I wiggle the spots I feel the anger. Besides doing the meditation just after I experienced a fit of rage, I like to do this in the late evening to work out other emotions and feelings I had that day.

Attitude
It took two years for this to soak into my brain: it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the stress. It’s not worth the possible consequences of it. Why worry about asisine people, mouthy crap or petty problems?

People often say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Nobody tells you how to do it. A 12-step program taught me this saying:

“Settle for disorder in lesser things for the sake of order in greater things; therefore be content to be discontent in many things.”

You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to let one small problem be as it is, one time. Then, work from there. Just accept that one little problem is going to happen. Then, after that, you can accept another little problem. The more you do, the easier it gets.

I’m not going to experience a fit of rage because nobody did their dishes. I’m not going to argue and get in a fight with everybody over it because it just causes drama and it still won’t get done. I’m not going to be stressed out all day because my co-worker said something bad about me. I’m not going to get mad because the paperboy didn’t toss the paper on the porch. I’m not going to get mad because the dog took a crap in the living room.

Every time you let a problem be, there is less stress in your life. Right then. Not next week or sometime in the future. Right then.

Eventually, you can do it without practice. It becomes habit. It took me two years. I still get mad all the time, I just don’t waste my time on it. I feel sorry for people instead of being mad at them.

A 12-step program held my hand. You can also have a counselor or therapist hold your hand. It’s a lot easier than going it all on your own.

Good luck and I wish you the best in handling fits of rage and meltdowns

When I Learned to Think By Reason Rather Than Feelings and Imagination.

When I learned to think by reason rather than my feelings and imagination.

After I had to give up a big job because I was being bullied. I had a major breakdown. I was in the hospital a number of times. Hardest thing I had to do was admit I had problems.

After that, I started working hard. I cooperated with help. I cleaned out my life. I stuck with my recovery. I started taking care of my body. I was doing well.Then came the second hardest thing I had to face since admitting I had problems. I had to admit that my thinking wasn’t right.

I had to stop making everything about me. I had to give up all these ideas that I had of what I thought was right according to my feelings. I had to start paying attention to reasons why things happen. I had to start taking advice from my doctors, counselors, and ordinary people in my life. I had to stop twisting their words to suit my feelings. I had to start thinking by reason rather than my feelings and imagination.

The first thing I had to learn to do was depersonalize. I had to stop making everything about me. I had to stop giving too much importance to my feelings. Me. Me. Me. Those thoughts always take me further down the rabbit hole.

I had to stop overreacting because something was happening to me. I had to start doing the same thing that I would tell other people to do in that same situation. Things are not worse or more important because they’re happening to me. I had to start thinking of not just myself but other people along with myself as equals. Start thinking in terms of us or we instead of me and them. Being aware of the common good or interest. Doing what is best for everybody. Seeing the larger picture

.The next thing was to start using common or ordinary definitions of words. Not using alternative definitions. Using the first definition in the dictionary, not the second or third. Not twisting other people’s words or suiting them to my feelings.I had to start believing ordinary people, competent experts and authorities instead of my own feelings. I had to start avoiding complex, complicated, malicious motivations or other purposes for people’s actions, unless otherwise having a reason or proven fact. Because I felt something was off doesn’t mean there actually was. Allowing myself to be consumed by these competitive or combative motives was allowing myself to become prey to obsessions and hallucinations.

I had to start keeping a clear and steady view of what is important and what is not important. Was something really important if it didn’t cost me money or affect my life? Was something really important if it didn’t change my daily routine or my mental well-being?

My feelings are not facts. They can be caused by facts. They can also be caused by other things. They can be caused by movies or music. They can be caused by resentful or resistant attitudes. Like I need help but you’re not the one to do it. But I’m different. What if I’m right? I had to give up my ideals of how I think things should be according to my feelings. Start paying attention to what is actually reality.

Between facts and feelings there is always some thought. I was more disturbed when I started out. My feelings were further from reality. Therefore my goal had to become to keep my thinking based on reasons and facts. I had to keep my behavior based on sound advice from ordinary people and competent experts in my life.

Feelings are like the weather. They’re almost our internal weather. They change like the weather. They act like children. I had to learn to be the adult in the room and decide which feelings should be allowed to be expressed as words and actions. By allowing a feeling to rule my life or make my decisions for me, no matter how great, lovely, or beautiful that feeling is; That feeling has the capability to unhinge my mind and unravel my life.

Next was to start working on getting these intrusive thoughts out of my head. My 12 step group taught me a number of ways to get rid of these thoughts. I could write them out by writing them out in a journal. Talking them out with doctors, counselors, therapists, or in my 12 step group. I could ignore them like the sounds of the highway outside my house. I could crowd them out by putting other thoughts in such as TV, movies, music, arts and crafts, and other activities.

As I had more good thoughts in my head there was less room for bad thoughts. My thoughts spiraled up. I continued having more good thoughts.

Finally my feelings got better as my ways of thinking and acting got better.

All this didn’t happen overnight.

It took me around 3 years to learn to do it. It is an ongoing thing. At any time if I don’t pay attention to my thinking or give too much importance to my feelings, I can fall right back into any of these unhealthy ways of thinking

.I had a 12-step group hold my hand. I now have a counselor holding my hand. You can also have a counselor hold your hand. It’s so much easier to have someone help you see how you’re thinking than do it all by yourself. I wish you the best of life and peace of mind.

The Pursuit of Happiness

A couple of weeks ago, my therapist asked me, “What makes you happy?” and I was not only baffled, but upset, when my first and only response—at least, for some time—was “I don’t know. Nothing, really.”

And while, if you’re fighting and living with a disorder that has depression as a characteristic, you might find that statement not to be all that shocking—I was still surprised because one thing I’ve always prided myself on is being a happy and optimistic individual. But…how can I be happy and optimistic if I’m not…happy?

So, like most realizations therapy causes, I sat in it for a bit, and during the next session, I told my therapist that “Love makes me happy. I love love.” And I confessed this not only because I was in a relationship that made me feel like love, personified—but because I know that my best friends would do anything for me, and because Valentine’s Day is my favorite (and honestly, only celebrated) holiday—no matter whether I’m in a romantic relationship or not. Still, I needed to sit in this some more.

By my next session, I had had an epiphany, and the epiphany was that the problem I was having was perspective. Because I had felt happiness before, so why wasn’t I feeling it as intensely now?

It’s because I was stable.

You see, mania really does a lot, both to the body and the mind. And while it is absolutely not always positive or joyful, I have experienced manic episodes in which I was in total euphoria. And in those episodes? I love everything. Everything—literally any non-negative thing—brings me so much unbridled bliss when I’m in the midst of euphoric mania, and that is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

However, it’s not all cupcakes and rainbows (or whatever it is that you find particularly inviting and lovely.) In fact, not only do we have non-euphoric manic episodes, but we also have paranoia, psychosis, and major depression. Alongside this? When we’re stable (which is what people without bipolar disorder people may consider to be ‘normal’)—we’re often bored.

So, what has happened to me over time is that, when I’m not experiencing euphoric mania, it feels to my brain as though I’m not “truly” happy, even when that’s not necessarily the case. This, then, of course, triggers my depression because “If I’m not happy, then something must be horrifically wrong.” It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s one that’s incredibly hard to fall out of.

Now that I’m aware of it, however, I’ve been trying quite hard to fight against that trigger because mood stability, for us bipolar folks, is so goddamned overlooked and important. I’ve been making a point to do things for myself, rather than to always only do things for others, and I’ve even been learning to celebrate my own small victories. (Something I’ve never really allowed myself to do before.) Both of these are helping tremendously, but, unfortunately, that sinking feeling still looms over me.

And if it’s looming over you, too—just know, you’re not alone.