Until very recently I was scientifically illiterate despite 17 years of pretty decent education. I graduated high school with high honors taking awards in art and creativity- read basically voted most likely to go insane. I was bounced from “gifted” program to “advanced” program and then University hopped with marks all over the grade spectrum until the babies turned my brain to mush. Lucky me I am now barren and everybody is weaned and oh gosh, I have part of my brain back. The real problem was, I didn’t even realize how scientifically illiterate I was. And my journey to mental skillness has been longer because of it.
I loved science as a child but began to see the arts, poetry as the true places of the empathetic mind. That creativity and compassion were just not a part of science. Public school pretty much backed this up. My outside experiences with science were from my mother who just reinforced my notions that real scientists were basically just pyro-fetishists. I know not everybody was raised with explosions in the darkened hallway on Christmas Eve, but trust me, you wish you did.
Within the arts community I found people on the fringe, that I easily related to and that greatly appealed to me. I mostly knew how to act in public, thanks to the stable, loving, predictable life I grew up with. I was going mad with routine by high school though. My brain was on speed and there was no way to catch up. I burned through books and ideas like a wildfire. I adore my parents, even more as a parent myself for providing me with constant, unconditional love while I let my freak show fly. It’s as an adult; joking about my parents (mostly) fond reaction to outfits I wore from grades 7-12; everyday was halloween and the hair styles I chose- from bi-hawks to bright green chia pet spots to rainbow wigs- that I realize how awesome and supportive my parents are. I was just mind numbingly devastatingly bored. Mostly people who have known me while hypo manic would describe me as loud, fun, crazy. Even though I was stone cold sober, I seemed drunk, or high a lot of the time and this is pretty darn acceptable in the arts, a lot of the time. I felt at home.
However, I was not very self regulated and when the time came to learn new coping skills I naturally turned to the arts and alternative medicines. While I know creative expression lays at the heart of mental health for me there just were not the answers I needed on HOW to live. Lots of philosophy and grand advice about self forgiveness, and positive mental states. That just isn’t enough to get you well. I spent money I wish I hadn’t spent and time not engaged with reality that I can not get back wondering about mystical and magical things.
I was put in a Living with Bipolar 1 class that was 8 weeks long and I felt stigmatized and shaky walking through those doors. Opening new doors has opened a new life for me. I have been gorging myself on neuroscience reading and talks and dialectical behavioral therapy classes. I became interested in other forms of science as well, mostly thanks to a supremely pushy husband on the subject of scientific literacy. As I realized my tiny presence in our grand universe here on our pale blue dot I became increasingly grateful for my chance to make a positive impact on our tiny planet.
I’m now going to pursue becoming an Art Therapist, which seems like such a shockingly obvious fit. Who doesn’t want to do neuro science crafts that will pave down some positive new neuro highways?
It has been years of struggling to figure out how to live inside my own head in a settled and productive way. The struggle has been greatly eased by learning the skills of DBT. Emotional regulation, radical acceptance of reality, and mediation skills are tools we all need.
Thinking: Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Pretty much essential reading for anyone wishing to make use of their human brain.
Quick briefing on DBT. It is CBT with meditation/awareness practices. I found found it so helpful in the “how” part of emotional regulation.
For me, I had a light bulb moment in the garden with the children when I was manic 2 summers ago. I was basically neglecting my kids to obsessively dig for water. I was consumed by it. I was having spiritual revelations. My mind was blown by exposing new rocks to air for the very first time, to the point where it had magical purposes. Baby was safe on my back or in an exersaucer and the bigger kids played with sticks and dirt and puddles. Perfect, almost. Except for the fact that I lived in two realities and to be honest, the magical one was enchanting and felt like a state of mind always desired, and always slightly out of reach. After months of severe post partum depression it was clouds of heavenly angels exploding in my head. At first I marveled at how things were so beautiful they sparkled. Soon if I woke up and things were not sparkling with beauty I was smothered by an overwhelming ocean of pain and darkness. I was exuberant and had heaps of energy. Poorly directed obsessive energy, but hey, we could use me having a good round of productive hypomania couldn’t we? Hypomania feels like the ideal, creative, buzzing, likeable state. You feel like you can take on the world. And mania is even better.
But only for one person.
For everybody else it is hell because they are living with this reactive, excitable person who thinks they are in a state of sheer genius and are just at the edge of doing something radically essential or are armpit deep in doing something amazing.
So 2 years ago as I watched my beautiful children’s faces screwed up in tears because they didn’t want to stay in the garden anymore or have cheese strings and popcorn for dinner, again; I realized that I was not in their reality. And although I couldn’t tell which reality was the true reality, I could tell which reality the people I loved lived in, and that’s the one I wanted to live in too. It was a lucky moment. That was the day I admitted myself to the psych ward and started to actually get the help I needed.
I wish I had had the knowledge and strength to advocate for myself when I experienced post partum psychosis after my first miscarriage and then again after the birth of Coach Rapper. After the birth of the Evil Wizard I was hallucinating by day 2 PP. But I made jokes about it, and people thought it was funny. I had little moments of insight during those spells too, but didn’t act upon them because of fear and shame and thinking post partum psychosis was baking your baby in the oven. Or that people would think I wanted to if I talked about it.
For me the Bipolar label has been useful, even if I roll my eyes at it and feel like it is more of a symptom than a diagnoses. Largely because within the paradigm of bipolar I feel normal and have been able to find the support I needed by communicating with other people experiencing mood changes incongruent with external experiences.
Wow. I’m really just wide eyed and dumbfounded by the internet. I’ve been out of the loop for ages and ages and just haven’t had a chance to dig through the web. I keep finding fascinating stuff that is stopping me in my tracks.
I have a new girl crush and her name is Emily Deans. She writes a blog called Evolutionary Psychiatry. If you or someone you love have mental skillness, do check it out.
Today we made cookies with spelt, oats and dark chocolate. I ate ONE cookie. I very quickly felt violently ill and 2 hours later still have a belly ache. I had chills and cold sweats. Wow. I actually didn’t really believe the stories of “carb poisoning” before this. By far the most grains/sugar I’ve had in ages. So not worth it.
Now, I really don’t know enough about any of this to have anything of my own to say about it, but it seems important to pass on!