TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT IN LOVE, NATURE & ART

Posts tagged “recovery

The Illness That Defines You – Guest Post by Miss Bipolar.

After many years on different medications, and still looking for one that works better, and after finding a wonderfully understanding husband (who happens also to be a therapist), after finding meditation and, just recently, my guru, Mooji, and his Advaita Vedanta Buddhism, I can say this is no longer how I feel. But it is how I felt for a very long time, much of my life, in fact.  Thank you to Miss Bipolar for sharing her feelings so honestly because they ring true for most of us who live with Bipolar Disorder until we get a handle on our illness.  And that can take years.

Coming soon, a post on alternative therapies for Bipolar Disorder.

Mental Health Writers' Guild

As many of you know, I sometimes publish (and actively encourage) guest posts from folk.  I do so as I truly believe that it is important that we as a community get to share and in order the provide folk with an opportunity to actively contribute to the guild.   I do of course reserve the right to edit anything which is submitted and to decline to publish anything which I feel I shouldn’t publish.  And the criteria I use in deciding what to publish, what to edit, or even what not to publish, isn’t about me agreeing with the content of the guest post it is more about the quality of it, and the impact I feel it would have on our members.

The following guest post was submitted to us by Cassandra – Miss bipolar from over at The Twisted Mind Behind An Artist.  And isn’t edited in any way.

The Illness That…

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“Couldn’t Look Away” – Book review by Alistair McHarg of “Eye-locks and Other Fearsome Things”

I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone interested in psychological exploration – from clinicians to self-diagnosticians to concerned family members to lovers of extraordinary tales well told.

Do not imagine that this is a lesson-plan about Bipolar Disorder, or Asperger’s Syndrome, for that matter. On the contrary, we see Ms. Wolfe wrestling with a panoply of symptoms residing on different points of a spectrum – we never know exactly where we are, and neither does Ms. Wolfe. We get first person, real-time intimacy – the raw data, not the spin.

Asperger’s, autism, schizophrenia, paranoia, mania, depression, and challenging questions of gender identity blur back and forth until one is overpowered by the sense of a shape-shifting, ghostly enemy. We witness Ms. Wolfe inaccurately interpreting social cues the way an anthropologist might puzzle over artifacts from an alien civilization.

The writing is austere, elegant, forceful and almost chillingly honest. There is not an ounce of self-pity to be found, or self-aggrandizement. Serious students of these illnesses could hardly find a more useful document because – using meticulous diaries she kept through the years – Ms. Wolfe has made scrupulous accuracy her battle cry.

From very early on I found myself caring about what happened to Ms. Wolfe, wanting to know more. I sensed sweetness, innocence, and vulnerability – and that made me want to protect her. Consequently, the dread I felt as I watched her struggle with her own mind – and the outside world – created the tension of real drama. One would have to be a cold fish indeed to not suffer along with her as she trudges ahead with heroic determination.

Ms. Wolfe has achieved something quite remarkable. She has applied the direct simplicity of science to a human ordeal and, in the process, accomplished what art does, when it is at its very best. She has fearlessly and generously taken us into her world and – in doing so – enriched us all.

Alistair McHarg

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 Click on book to purchase.


“Never, Never”

“It won’t happen again.  Never. Never. Never.  It’ll never happen again.  No. No. No.”

 The words to a song by Yusuf, better known as Cat Stevens, about a love affair gone awry.  The words reverberate in my head repeatedly in true Bipolar style, as in true Aspie style, I listen to the song over and over and over and over again.  My perseveration on the song fashions the words into a mantra, sending me full throttle into another state of consciousness, like the whirling dervishes of Istanbul who spin until they enter a mystical state.  Since I no longer alter my consciousness with alcohol, cigarettes or recreational drugs (was too crazy to go that route), and since I am on anti-psychotic medications which keep me in reality, I have to use music, meditate and  take refuge in nature to venture into my much-missed mystical states of being.  The states today are washed out versions of the vibrant intensity I was accustomed to earlier in my life.  But then, at age 28, my mind, never too strong to begin with, broke down and reality shattered into so many smithereens of glass.  “It’s always a trade-off,” the experts say.  But (and a “but” with a capital “B”) the psych meds hold me together and, most importantly of all, they allow me to love.

“It will never happen again.  No. No. No.”

I can’t say that.  My first major manic episode was ignited by a flaming crush at work that catapulted me into the fractionated world of psychosis for a very long time.  Some thirty years later I am unsure just how far away that world is.  It is not unusual for love to trigger the first manic episode in Bipolars, and I had another when I met the man who was to become my husband.  This time the psychosis lost the war– because the love was reciprocated and nurturing– the most stable thing I had ever experienced.  And (big “and”) because I was medicated. Though it felt like another break with reality was encroaching on my psyche, it never materialized and has not since.

But there have been close calls now and then.  Writing my memoir of madness while working part-time, I would go to my job with all the raw feelings I was writing about whirling around inside me and, seemingly, outside me as well, as though stamped on my forehead.  The memories and flashbacks bubbled up from deep inside like a lava flow of feelings. But no breakdown.

Mania is not the only state that flirts with psychosis.  So, too, does the underbelly of the beast, depression.  Loss of loved ones and caring for my dying mother brought me perilously close to the precipice again but extra medication kept me on the sane side of psychosis.

Even now any highly emotional experience (and being bipolar there are many) can shake the foundations of the self.   Beholding great beauty in ecstatic encounters with nature, profound connections between thoughts and ideas, connecting deeply to another person—all these can send me reeling into space wondering if I can make it back to earth.  These are all dangers I engage in somewhat recklessly for they make up the majestic magic and mystery of life. Friends and family I have helped keep my feet on the ground, but my husband is my real anchor to reality.  Should something happen to Tom, well…

No.  Unlike a dead love affair, I can’t say the descent into madness “will never happen again.”  As I drift in and out of tantalizing trips into mania and try to flee the inevitable free fall into depression, I hang on for dear life and will not let go.

Enjoy the song sung soulfully by Cat Stevens, “MaybeYou’re Right…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUnxkW4zeM4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)


“One Day at a Time”

At one point in my life I was just trying to get through one hour at a time.  Actually I have vivid memories of it sometimes being 15 minutes at time in which I would be praying to God in utter desperation.  Such times could come again but I would hope to be stronger if, or more likely, when they return.

Fleet-footed moments of heart-stopping anxiety visit far too often even now, maybe just to keep me in practice.  Uncontrolled thoughts of a scary future fraught with frets and worries frequent my mind, “pissing on the present,” as they say.  These visitations may be the by-product of Bipolar Disorder and/or my Asperger’s Syndrome.  In any case, my current goal is to learn “mindfulness” through meditation to correct this distortion of time and consciousness.

Long the slogan of A.A. and other methods of recovery, “one day at a time” can also be a celebration of, and desire for, peace– world peace, as well as inner peace.  Yusuf/Cat Stevens expresses this poetically, as always, in his song, “One Day at a Time,”  in this video link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-Xpa7pNKRc&feature=channel&list=UL

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)


5 Star Book Review of “Washed Up” by Alistair McHarg

There was no question I was going to buy and read “Washed Up,” by Alistair McHarg, after having read and loved “Invisible Driving” by the same author. Swept away by his memoir of Bipolar Disorder, I was equally disarmed by “Washed Up.” His memoir reads likes fiction, and “Washed Up” is his second work of fiction but it reads with the reality of nonfiction. In recovery himself, McHarg follows the adage to the “T” of “Write what you know!”

The Master of metaphor (and simile) in both books, in “Washed Up” McHarg shows us his talents at characterization. The characters are so real, I felt like they were a circle of friends, feeling for them, and feeling with them, through their individual lives.

Cat, my favorite, a gutsy, young woman who manages to sell sex (and somewhat kinky sex at that) to men, does so without losing respect for herself. Kinky sex pays very well and often is surprisingly asexual. This is the case here and we almost cheer Cat on, sympathizing with her that she has to earn her money this way, though she comes out of it relatively unscathed physically and emotionally. My real fascination with Cat was that she is the first exotic/erotic dancer/stripper I have met in literature or elsewhere and it is a totally intriguing peep into this line of work. I loved reading about what it was like dancing in the club where she performed.

We first meet Cat after the opening chapters in which we are introduced to some of the main characters, Ned, Brent, Andrew and Mickey, at an AA meeting. Cat appears out of nowhere and we wonder what in tarnation she has to do with these guys in AA and their wives whom we meet early on. But we find out soon enough.

The plots are interwoven like the threads of a spider’s web, captivating us with a simple complexity that engrosses. The wives and girlfriends of the AA guys and Cat suggest a theme on the strength of women in the world of “Washed Up.” The men are too preoccupied with recovery to fight the women’s feminine wiles and beguiling ways. An interesting theme by a male author.

Mickey was my other favorite character, epitomizing the virtues of caring within the organization of AA meetings that have helped so many. AA members may be powerless over alcohol but they are powerfully “there” for each other. Although not always. In “Washed Up, we see they are not all saints, when jealousy rears its ugly head within the intricacies of the intertwining relationships and plot shifts.

The ending is powerfully understated and brought a tear to my eyes. We go through thick and thin with these guys and their somehow powerful women and we come to care for their welfare.

Like “Invisible Driving,” “Washed Up” would make a good movie thanks to McHarg’s excellent storytelling abilities and the visual writing that make the scenes appear before our eyes. He uses emotional rhythms and syncopated plot twists to create a seamless sequence of memorable jazz.

(Click http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/ellen-stockdale-wolfe.html  for information on, and to purchase my Bipolar/Asperger’s memoir.)