Surviving the Daily Grind

daily-grind

“I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit;
I have become like a man without strength,

Psalm 88:4

In May 2011, this is what I wrote–

“I feel like I am going through a meat grinder. Pushed against my will (and desire) I’m finding myself in a place I’d rather not be. My therapist confirmed today that I’m in a “mixed state” where bipolar mania and depression come together.  I compare it to two massive ocean currents smashing into each other.  (please Google, “mixed state”).

I’ve been into this state for just two weeks and the urge to commit suicide is starting to become surprisingly strong. For my own safety, I’m almost thinking that it maybe time to go to the hospital again.  I must tell you that these are places that you really don’t want to go if you don’t have to.  (FYI, my particular choice is Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage. It’s actually a somewhat “nicer” degree of miserable, and they have cooler art.)

I also get paranoid that people are attacking me and are plotting to ruin me. I am quite  suspicious of Facebook and my depression chat. I believe that the people that I encounter there are trying to get at me behind my back. Social networking with these type of services can be a nightmare.

But, then there is also the grandiosity. I believe that I think clearer, better, and faster than other people. It’s like I have superpowers.  I will think of myself as extremely gifted, superior to others.  I paint and write poetry and do “noble” things.

But I also have tremendous anxiety, with racing thoughts, and even heart palpitations esp. when I am sitting trying to relax. I don’t sleep well at all, in spite of the sleeping pill, the Klonopin and the melatonin, and the Benadryl, (to make sure I do sleep).

I continue to take my psych meds like a good boy. But they don’t seem to work like they used to. I think they can’t handle this particular concoction of depression/mania.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m getting better, but I never seem to get well.

The endless cycle of feeling really good and then feeling really bad is a challenging thing.  It is difficult to have a stable walk of discipleship under these circumstances.  I think being starkly honest and broken over my own fallenness is the key for me. (Now if I can only remember this.)

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I know that I’m being very blunt here. Tact has never been an easy thing. As I read I remember the struggle, and how I couldn’t see a way out. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit who led me when no one else could. I wrote this post some time ag0. I’ve been reasonably stable, but I’m certain that putting it up now maybe timely for some. I’m in a better frame of mind the last several months.

 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”

Romans 5:6

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Tigger Goes to a Therapist

A Therapists Consultation: TIGGER

(Winnie the Pooh’s Irrepressible Friend.)

Diagnosis:

Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD): Tigger’s continual bouncing, hyperactivity and irresponsible attitude cause problems for him and those with whom he lives, as well as those he interacts with in the wider community.

Physical presentation:

Rarely sits still. He’s always running, climbing, or fidgeting.

Diet:

Having tried – and firmly rejected – honey, haycorns and thistles, Tigger settles on extract of malt as his food of choice. While this particular substance is unlikely to exacerbate his condition, a more balanced diet would almost certainly benefit him and perhaps contribute to an improvement in his behaviour.

Family background:

No information is available on Tigger’s life before his arrival at Pooh’s house. Nothing is known of his previous address or his family of origin, although it has been said that he is the only Tigger.

Patient notes:

Tigger’s arrival at Pooh’s house in the middle of the night is evidence of his inability to control his impulses. A less disordered individual would have known that it is more appropriate to visit people during the day, especially when dropping in on someone one scarcely knows or has never met.

Impulsive behaviour, interrupting and intruding are at the heart of Tigger’s problems. Soon after their first meeting, for example, Tigger suddenly interrupted Pooh, climbed on to the table, wrapped himself in his host’s tablecloth and brought everything crashing to the floor.

When questioned by Pooh about his behavior, rather than accepting responsibility for his actions, Tigger accused the tablecloth of trying to bite him. Tigger makes bold statements, such as declaring that he is only bouncy before breakfast. He proclaims impulsively that whatever food he is offered is what Tiggers like best, then gulps down large mouthfuls of the food in question, only to find he dislikes it very much.

More evidence of Tigger’s recklessness and poor impulse control is displayed by his belief that he can do anything. He has no sense of fear or responsibility. This was apparent when he climbed up a high tree with Roo on his back before he had ascertained whether he was able to climb a tree in the first place. Inevitably, they then got stuck when he realised he had no idea of how to get down.

On one occasion, Tigger grabbed Roo’s medicine from Kanga, which he proceeded to swallow, almost devouring the spoon as well. Obviously the medicine might have proved dangerous to him. Tigger never learns from his mishaps, bouncing back almost immediately after a frightening and potentially hazardous incident. As a result, Tigger’s behaviour causes concern to those around him.

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Living with someone suffering from ADHD can be trying. Perhaps this is why Rabbit suggested the rather extreme measure of taking Tigger into the forest and losing him in the mist. Rabbit and his friends believed the shock of being lost might cause Tigger to calm down a little on his return, a strategy that backfired, however.

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The Grind

 Sometimes the only way out is through. 

Often there is so much of  ‘life’ that we must try to handle. There’s far too many things that confuse us. Faced with many issues beyond our control, we seldom seek the best answer. We are hoping just to survive reasonably unscathed through the latest intense conflict.

Mental illness has its unique trials. Those of us afflicted know the instability it brings us. We go from crisis-to-collapse everyday, (and sometimes even before lunch-time!) Some people have no concept of how much energy it takes just trying to appear ‘normal.’

Sometimes sadness is the best we can do. Trying to find a positive note seems empty and futile. I know a woman who must battle with pain every day. She has to manage every minute of every day with her handicap. She is a wonderful Christian, and she still exudes a gentle faith in her Savior.

We may seem cursed in this life. But Jesus died for this. His love for you is constant and sure.

Sometimes however the only way out is through. We simply must go through the many issues that face us. We must plow through such darkness, that has no precedent. We are the rescued ones, but only because he has made us so. The lost are now found. And we were really, really lost.

We go through, but not without grace. We may step through, but not without pain. So much of our confusion rides on a fascination with the ways of sin and darkness. The ways of the “dark one” may enchant us, but never fulfill us.

We can rest in that we are our Father’s foremost concern.

“He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3).

We can puncture the surrounding evil by a simple decision to be faithful to Jesus. Darkness may pursue us, but it will never defeat us. We advance through this pain to the glory of God. He alone can make us triumph.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”

Philippians 1:6

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

— Anne Lamott

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English Pigeons

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

Psalm 32:8

In April 2002, I was sitting in this cavernous waiting room at King’s Cross in London, England.  I was waiting for a bus to Cambridge, UK.  I sat all alone, and stared at the tiled floor at my feet.  The doctors had warned me not to travel alone, but I had disregarded their restrictions.  I was taking several psych meds and felt somewhat stronger than I had in months.

As I sat there staring at the floor, within my field of vision, came several pigeons.  They were fat little guys, apparently thriving on bread thrown out to them.  Several very large windows were open, and these pigeons seem to have no fear as they took advantage of a meal from bored travelers.  I remember their audacity and resourcefulness as they came up just a couple of feet  from my chair.

Depression had followed me like an old friend all the way from Alaska to England. I had pushed my limits and was completely drained and quite confused.  I was crying out to the Lord, very desperately.  All of a sudden, a pigeon came across the floor and “presented” himself, right square in front of me.  I was amazed that he was crippled, one of his feet was a twisted claw.  He had been profoundly injured in such a way, that he would never be the same.  He was damaged, and yet somehow he survived.

It was like receiving a lightning bolt.  I understood for the first time in a long time, the Father’s love and care over me.  I saw the pigeon, and I saw myself.  It was a moment of a reassuring grace.  In the ‘mega-hustle’ of 13,614,409 people in London, and in the midst of my profound mental crisis, I knew God’s caring touch.  A grace much greater than all my sin and confusion. He was just letting me know that He was close.

Later that day, I found myself walking the streets of a busy Cambridge with its great universities.  I was all by myself, and I had gotten hopelessly lost.  I was terribly manic, and my meds just couldn’t keep the lid on.  I felt people staring at me, I was talking out loud to myself, disheveled and thoroughly confused.  I just kept wandering and talking, for hours.  I desperately needed psychiatric shelter.  But I was all alone. I knew no one at all.

I kept walking past the many universities, and churches.  They were very beautiful, but I was lost.  I then remembered the damaged pigeon, completely oblivious to self pity. I started to call out to the Father out of my confusion.  Within a few minutes I found myself sitting on the top level of a double-decker bus, with the driver aware of my problems who specifically guided me to the place I was staying.  I was being cared for. I think he was an angel sent to my aid.

I have come to realize that this trip to England was not for me to see Big Ben, Parliament or wander the academic centers of Cambridge University.  Rather I was brought there to meet a certain pigeon, who was waiting to meet me, and pass on vital instructions.  He shared things that I need to know.  The history and landmarks were nice, but I’ve forgotten much.  But all I really needed was somehow given.

P.S.  Two things:

  1.  If you can avoid it, don’t travel alone.

  2. Never call pigeons, “rats, with wings.”

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Bedlam: Prisons and the Mentally Ill

Taking a Stand for Our Brothers and Sisters

 By Mark Earley, Christian Post Guest Columnist, Wed, Aug. 08, 2007
The least of these is my brother
The least of these is my brother

In the 16th century, London’s mentally ill were often kept at Bethlem Royal Hospital. The conditions inside the hospital were notoriously poor. Patients were often chained to the floor and the noise was so great that Bethlem was more likely to drive a man crazy than to cure him. The conditions were so infamous that the nickname locals gave the hospital—Bedlam—has come to mean any scene of great confusion.

Unfortunately five hundred years later, we’re still treating the mentally ill more like prisoners than patients. Fifty years ago, more than 550 thousand people were institutionalized in public mental hospitals. Today, only between 60 and 70 thousand are, despite a two-thirds increase in the country’s population.

Since there’s no evidence that the incidence of mental illness has dropped precipitously, the mentally ill who previously had been institutionalized had to have gone somewhere. While some are being treated successfully in their communities, at homes and groups homes, but for many that “somewhere” is behind bars. This last part shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Five years ago, the Washington Post told the story of “Leon,” a one-time honor student, who had 17 years in and out of jail on various drug-related charges. It was only after several suicide attempts, including drinking a “bleach-and-Ajax cocktail,” that Leon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Leon’s story was a microcosm of a larger problem: “Prisons and jails are increasingly substituting as mental hospitals.”

As one advocate for the mentally ill told the Post, “a lot of people with mental illness are charged with minor crimes as a way to get them off the streets.” In effect, they are behind bars for “being sick.” Fast forward five years and little, if anything, has changed. A few weeks ago, another piece in the Post discussed the same problem.

Psychiatrist Marcia Kraft Goin told readers something that should shock and outrage them: “The Los Angeles County Jail houses the largest psychiatric population in the country.” As with the earlier Post piece, the conclusion was inescapable: “People with [untreated] mental illnesses often end up with symptoms and behaviors that result in jail time.” You don’t have to be a “bleeding heart” to understand that this is an injustice—any kind of heart will do.

Not only are the mentally ill not getting the help they need, they are as lambs to the slaughter in our crowded and violent prisons. They are being victimized twice over. They’re not the only ones being victimized.

At a time when most state prisons are unlawfully overcrowded, there are better uses for prison beds than as makeshift mental hospitals. As Goin wrote, “treating” mental illness as a criminal justice problem costs “more than treating patients appropriately in their community.”

As part of its ministry to prisoners and their families, Prison Fellowship supports community-based alternatives to incarceration. Not only because it makes “financial sense” but because it’s what Christ would have done. In Matthew 25 he called the ill and the prisoner his “brothers” and he expects us to offer them something more than bedlam.

“There but for the Grace of God go I…” –Bryan

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From BreakPoint®, August 6, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved.  “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship.

Good Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlem_Royal_Hospital

http://www.bethlemheritage.org.uk/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/etc/faqs.html

http://www.afscme.org/publications/6042.cfm

Relapsing [Without Being a Moron About It]

 A Bumpy Road: Dealing with Relapse

There may not ever be a last episode, but there are ways to fend off and mitigate the next one.

By Jodi Helmer

Doctors never talked to Elly L. about RELAPSE.

Although she was hospitalized during a manic episode and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, doctors never mentioned that it could happen again. Instead, Elly was stabilized, handed a prescription for mood stabilizers and discharged. She had no idea that she’d be battling mania and depression for the rest of her life.

“I was told that as long as I took my medications, I’d be okay,” recalls Elly, a mental health coach in Toronto, Ontario.

Elly experienced at least eight relapses between her diagnosis in 1978 and 1991. Each time, she was hospitalized, often placed in restraints and taken to the psychiatric ward in a police car or ambulance. Upon discharge, Elly always promised herself it would be her last hospital admission-but she had no idea how to stave off future relapses.

In bipolar disorder, relapse is defined as the return of depression or a manic or hypomanic episode after a period of wellness. According to a 1999 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 73 percent of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder experienced at least one relapse over a five-year period; of those who relapsed, two-thirds had multiple relapses.

“You can never say that someone with bipolar disorder has had their last episode; relapse is part of the illness,” explains Alan C. Swann, MD, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and director of research for the University of Texas Harris County Psychiatric Center. “Relapse is self-perpetuating; once it happens, the more likely it is to happen again.”

Searching for Answers

It’s possible to do all of the right things- follow a proper medication regimen, eat well, exercise, minimize stress and get enough sleep-and still experience relapse. Unfortunately, there is no clear understanding of why this happens.
“There may be changes in the cellular level that cause cycling but their cause is unknown,” says Joseph R. Calabrese, MD, director of the Mood Disorders Program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

While the neurological causes of relapse are unknown, a few things are certain: Those who are diagnosed with bipolar II are more likely to relapse than those with bipolar I. Their episodes of depression, mania or hypomania are often shorter than the episodes experienced by those with bipolar I but tend to return more often, according to Calabrese. It’s also far more common to relapse into depression than into mania or hypomania. Calabrese estimates that in bipolar II, there is a 40-to-1 ratio of depression to mania; the ratio of depression to mania drops to 3-to-1 in bipolar I.

“The key to recovery is a low tolerance for relapse,” says Calabrese.

In fact, Dr. Roger S. McIntyre, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto and head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the University Health Network, believes that even the mildest symptoms of depression and mania should be treated as potentially hazardous.

“The takeaway message is that we need to seek complete elimination of symptoms as our treatment objective,” he says…

Click here to read the full article, “A Bumpy Road: Dealing with Relapse”

“bp Magazine” is a wonderful “shot in the arm.”  I would suggest that you get a subscription, and for a friend as well.

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Join NAMI today!

When you become a member of NAMI, you become part of America’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons living with serious mental illness. And now you can join online.

http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=About_NAMI

Is Mania A Spiritual Experience? [Bipolar]

by Chris Cole

I was eighteen years old when I first experienced acute manic psychosis. I had just arrived at the University of Georgia for my freshman fall semester when I suddenly had what seemed like a profound spiritual awakening. I felt as if I was waking up from a bad dream, as if my mind and body were merely figments of my imagination. I felt an incredible transcendence and oneness with the universe, an experience I could only fathom to be spiritual. Back then, I didn’t know anything about bipolar disorder.

My first thought upon being struck with this overwhelmingly blissful state was, “This is what God feels like; I must be Jesus!” It was from there that I began my deluded descent into madness. I ran upstairs in my dormitory, assuming that my friends would be my first disciples, and tried to perform miracles to prove my divinity. When they attempted to calm me down, I punched one of them in the face, calling him the devil, and ran back downstairs. Campus police promptly met me in the dorm lobby and arrested me on the spot.

On my way to jail, I was no longer feeling so ecstatic. In fact, it was the most excruciating fear I had ever experienced. I began believing that the police officers were the Pharisees taking me to my crucifixion. They placed me in my own jail cell, and I began stripping off my clothes, demanding for the officers to come look at my naked body. Throughout the whole experience, I felt almost completely dissociated, as if I was watching a movie of myself with little to no control of the actor.

After a few days of trying to convince my parents that I was returning humanity to the Garden of Eden, they realized my condition might not be from taking psychedelic drugs as they had thought. I was escorted to my local psychiatric hospital, and once medicated, came down from my messianic mission to create heaven on earth. The only problem was, I had never been more certain of God in my life, and the clinicians just kept telling me that it was normal for grandiose delusions to take on religious and spiritual themes. I was not convinced.

My thoughts immediately went to the biblical stories I grew up with: how God tested Abraham’s faith when he was told to sacrifice his son, and how God communicated to Moses through a burning bush. Were these not examples of delusions and hallucinations? Even Jesus was convinced to be the Son of God. Were the holy men of the Bible bipolar? I had a lot of questions, and my questions seemed to be forcing me to choose one side or the other—either spirituality or psychiatry.

It took me about a decade to finally integrate both truths and find some peace around my manic episodes. I studied spirituality and psychology, and I came to the conclusion that bipolar disorder and spiritual experiences didn’t need to exist in opposition. I’ve come to some basic definition of spirituality as the transcendence of ego. In this sense, mania was indeed a spiritual experience, albeit an unmanageable one. This didn’t mean my bipolar diagnosis was bogus, and I’m not saying all psychotic episodes are spiritual. But I can now rest easy knowing that my experiences were both spiritual and bipolar.

If I’m honest with myself, a major sign of my mania is increased spirituality, but at the same time, a major sign of my depression is a lack of spiritual significance. Finding balance in recovery means that I am able to seek both spiritual and clinical solutions to my bipolar symptoms without fear that I am falling out of grace with God. When I was first diagnosed, I had the idea that either bipolar existed or God existed. There was no space for both.

My spirituality has necessarily evolved over the years. Because of my history with manic psychosis, I have to guard myself against dogmatic or superstitious beliefs. I try my best to live a life of love, and I rest assured knowing that the more kindness I spread to the world, the more aligned I am with my spiritual path. Telling my story of recovery has become part of this spiritual process. My faith means a great deal to my health, and without it, my recovery wouldn’t be as strong as it is today. I hope that by sharing my story, others going through the same difficulties might not take so long to make sense of their own experiences.

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Chris Cole has authored a book recounting his experiences, and he’s now a life coach for folks in recovery.

Source: http://www.ibpf.org/blog/mania-spiritual-experience

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