Posted by: bipolarmystic | August 30, 2011

Bipolar/Intuitive Empathy as an Ally Towards Wholeness?

Right now I am reading a book called Healing Wise.  One of the premises of this book is that any illness we experience is actually an ally for wholeness.   Not necessarily healing, but wholeness, so by the definition of this book a chronic illness would be applicable as a possible wholeness ally if treated properly.  One may never be healed of bipolar or say, MS, but one may still move towards wholeness.  How?  Good question.  When I started reading the book I felt very skeptical.  I thought to myself, bipolar mood swings as a healing ally?  Rightttt.  But being mystical by nature, I do sense and try to accept that there are certain things (including illnesses) that sometimes seem to only cause destruction in our lives, but are really intended for a higher purpose.  This is not about guilt, this is not about oh if only I’d not eaten so much meat/exercised more/taken more supplements.  It is about the acceptance of our limited understanding and faith that what seems like an obstacle is an opportunity for moving towards growth and wholeness.  A wonderful concept to be sure, but how is this concept practical in our lives?

As I have ruminated upon the message of this book, I have also visited the psychiatrist for the first time in several years.  Over the past couple years, my stress levels have consistently ratched up as I took on new goals.  Perhaps four years ago I had a huge bottoming out, a terrible depressive episode that had me in bed for months.  I gained almost seventy five pounds, I abandoned my friends and ending up

Healing Wise by Susun Weed

losing most of them.  I cut myself off from anything that could elicit much emotion or especially excitement/anxiety because for me this leads to hypomania/uncomfortable overstimulation.  A time of stagnation and medication for bipolar.  But it seemed to me the medication never really helped me much.  Over the past few years I have carefully applied myself to new goals, getting a job, making new friends, putting myself out there.

All this has culminated in a period of unprecedented stimulation for me: work, friends, starting a master’s degree program, my daughter starting middle school, my marriage wonderful, but still a work in progress.  In fact this weekend was extremely stimulating and I am still vacillating between hypomania and low periods.  I took the Amtrak train from Kalamazoo to Detroit for my orientation at Wayne State University in my Master’s of Library and Information Science program.  The orientation itself was pretty fantastic, I have to say I love my library people (shout out)!  But staying in a hotel, riding the train for a total of TWELVE hours over two days, going to a wedding the next day and partying till midnight left me a weeping puddle, literally.

With that context in mind, I had visited the psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago really just hoping to have someone on my team in case I needed it.  Instead, I got a prescription for Depakote and real questions in my mind as to whether this was really the path towards wholeness for me.  For some people it might very well be part of the path.  But as always, with medications for bipolar one must very carefully consider the risks and rewards.  Because these medications can be very dangerous.  Depakote can cause sudden liver failure and death, pancreatic problems, weight gain, hair loss, possible permanent “ticks” of the body and more.  All this for moods that typically vacillate between moderate depression to slight mania (hypomania).  Am I really the crazy one here???  Ok, bad pun, but really!

So for two weeks or so I’ve been contemplating the message in Healing Wise and the possibility of taking a really nasty medication that may or may not help control my “mood swings.”  Basically, I’ve decided that for me, this medication’s risks outweigh its benefits.  I’m not going to take it.  And furthermore, it brings questions into my mind about what I’m really missing out on when I try to medicate away what my body is trying to tell me.  I’m sure the experiences of someone who typically has severe depression or mania might need to more seriously contemplate medication as part of the process.  But for me, I can tell when I’m overstimulated and hypomanic.  I can tell when my mood is somewhat down.  And at this point, Healing Wise posits, you ask what.  What can I do to help decrease my hypomania?  And fortunately, I do know some things that help that don’t possibly cause liver failure or anything else.

And this is where your “mood swings” or just plain overstimulation/depression as a sensitive/intuitive/empathic person become an ally.  When experiencing slight mania or overstimulation, or moderate depression ask yourself what you can do to work with this particular mood state.  If moderately depressed, is it because you are isolating yourself to avoid stimulation?  Can you call a friend?  Go

Relax!

for a walk?  If you are overstimulated/hypomanic, can you do a guided relaxation, can you try to avoid extra stimulation for a few days?  In a hypomanic/overstimulated state I become aware that I am easily distractable, somewhat irritable and drawn to more stimulation!  I want to get on Facebook more, I don’t want to sleep as much as I need to sleep, I want to just eat junk food (which is very stimulating to your nervous system, especially processed sugars).  Possibly this is the automatic defense to block out the uncomfortable sensation of overstimulation.  Perhaps individuals who do not recognize this state continue to escalate.

In this case as always, you ask what.  What do I need?  I need to relax.  How can I do this?  For me I could:

-journal
-limit my facebook time
-listen to a guided relaxation
-sing (really this is a great “mood stabilizer” for me, if you like to sing, please give it a try!)
-exercise (for me running or vigorous exercise is best, but I am limited at this time with an ankle sprain)
-talk with a close friend or loved ones about how I am feeling (avoid critical, negative, or excitable people right now)
-express myself and my thoughts (hence the blog entry)
-practice a calming affirmation throughout the day, especially when your brain starts looping anxiety or even excitable thoughts
-drink a calming herbal tea
-keep on trying to stay as vegan as possible in my diet
-Limit, limit, limit extra stimulation as much as possible at least for a few days

These are some of the things that I know for sure help me.  As you notice, they fall into two simple categories of subtraction and addition.  Your “mood swings” could be powerful allies towards a more calm, peaceful life, whole life.  Take care of yourself!  Be aware of those things that stimulate.  Sometimes even a book can be too stimulating for me.  It’s not always easy to tell what is overstimulating, really listen to yourself.  Avoid these things when you feel overstimulated.  Indulge in them with moderation when you are feeling baseline.  Be aware of the tendency of intuitives/empaths/bipolars to isolate and feel depression as a consequence.  Make small goals if you feel stagnate.  Go gently with yourself.

Love & Light,

Joanna

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Responses

  1. There, finally remembered to add your blog to my Google reader. 🙂
    That’s a really interesting idea about bipolar mood swings as a healing ally — interesting as in “I’m skeptical too.” I’m curious since you wrote this at the end of August if you’ve tried working with that idea since. If so, how has it worked out? Have you been able to work on your mood states on your own using that idea?

    – Lisa

  2. Hi – are you still blogging? I am fascinated by your subject matter.

    • Molly,

      I am starting back up.

      Blessings,
      Joanna

  3. Joanna, what a beautiful post! I’m glad to find your blog. I really appreciate the genuine expression in your writing and I love your ideas and processes! And yes, I believe healing is a return to wholeness, which may or may not mean cures. We’re on the same page! I’ll be back to read more!

  4. Hi,
    I’m a bi-polar interested in your blog and your insights. Where did you go? Why aren’t you writing?

    • Sorry Laura,

      Just had a major trauma and took awhile, a long time I guess to come back around to my center!

      Blessings,

      Joanna


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