I believe life is about soul searching, self awareness, and self care; sounds a bit selfish, huh? As we’ll see, not at all. In my previous article, “Finding the Sweet Spot, Part I: How Mental Illness Became a Blessing, Not a Curse.,” we embarked on my poetic mental health journey with bipolar mania and depression and how its hyper sensitive nature makes one especially vulnerable to life’s common ups and downs and requires hyper self awareness. Then I shared links to some of my original spoken word, as we’ll also do here. But, here in Part II we’re going even deeper on this journey into oneself which is where mental illness always landed me. No matter how long I remained in denial, I was alone, hopeless and dependent on others. Yet, despite feeling incapacitated, my desire to feel the power of love and actualization of my full potential was just as fierce.
Yes, my burning desire to not feel powerless was the secret sauce behind recovery. However, my condition, bipolar type I, is wired to knock you down; the “yoyo” IS the illness. We’re never going to stop life’s ups and downs, they’re intrinsic in our human experience. But throw in conditions like severe anxiety, bipolar and panic attacks and the yoyo is super sized; life becomes unbearable. Ordinary tasks are labyrinths leaving one mentally, physically and emotionally debilitated in seconds. Eventually, one may not bother getting up again and resign themselves to dangerous self medicating, hating the world or worse, suicide. Hence, I had to harmonize beast number one, myself, to control beast number two, mental illness. The question is which one comes first?
Here’s where the word, “surrender,” from my previous article reemerges. Many feel its a healthy form of letting go or handing a situation over to God through faith and prayer. Others practice mindfulness and meditation while some implore visualization and positive thinking. I believe these are effective methods. But many believe surrendering means giving up, being lazy, or handing your life over to someone else.
Despite where you live on the spectrum consider this, that there’s an unseen force behind our life experience similar to a motion picture film crew. It makes plants grow, skin heal, broken limbs mend and trees give off oxygen so we can breathe. It’s everything unseen that we must vouch for because its miraculous effects are crystal clear. Most of us don’t know the endless individuals listed on film credits nor how they began and completed the production; we just love (or dislike) the film.
As with mental health, I knew my miserable state was the result of this complex, unseen force going wrong. But, I asked myself, “If our natural world allows us to heal and grow like wounds and babies, why couldn’t my mind and body?” Then I said, “I don’t know or have any answers so I’m going to become a student, of myself.” I needed to understand this unseen force to insure its moving parts thrived and produced effects I wanted; and it required education and transformation.
First, I had to let go and stop getting mad at the world. I had to stop getting mad at my doctors and my family for bad meds and not “getting me” because it wasn’t “getting me” anywhere. Instead, I went to what I did know and that was that I knew nothing. I made peace right there and sat with it. No, it wasn’t empowering, but there was relief and I distanced myself from the hell by admitting it. Now, I know I was practicing surrender and allowing that unseen world that supports life to be the genius I wasn’t and left it the hell alone. But that revelation came later. My willingness to not just learn about the illness, but myself was the first step.
While struggling with medical treatments I incorporated positive reading and inspirational self help books about self sabotaging habits alongside talk therapy and writing my poetry. These weren’t habits like my deep passion for sweets or lack of exercise, important areas mentioned in Part III. I’m referring to how my brain negatively programmed itself to assume, make situations overly personal, create theories about others and hold harmful self beliefs. Initially, I was oblivious of the triggers that made my moods nose dive. Often, I inflicted self harm by either projecting my unresolved baggage onto others which only ricocheted; or the reverse, allowing emotional baggage from others to be projected onto me.
Understanding how these dynamics exacerbated mental illness was pivotal and required patience, observation, discernment and humility. I took a close look around me and realized dissolving toxic relationships and surroundings was predicated on dissolving the toxic part of myself; and once I acquiesced, I hit the jackpot. Yes, mental illness forced me into an intolerable corner and if I wanted out, I had to examine myself away from the illness and take action.
We already know knowledge is power, but radical self awareness puts us in the drivers seat and makes us invincible. I realized the most important person I could ever know was myself and I’m not just talking about likes and dislikes, but my behaviors. Understanding them was key to helping my condition. But knowing our patterns in micro fashion may appear enlightening, but it isn’t roses because it often stirs defensiveness, frustration, regret or self hatred. Thank God I came across the power of applying self compassion, an essential transformation process proven to have a softening effect, lessening extreme emotions and reactions. These ingredients and my version of surrender; prayer, poetry, meditation, and positive reading, worked like a charm and my corner became my sweet spot.
Our mental health sweet spot is like a healthy soul friend or mate connection, but it’s our relationship with our invincible self (it truly is invincible). The self aware and thus, empowered energy that quiets, circumvents and with practice, transcends serious mental health symptoms and life triggers. Even if one’s lost touch, the bond is in tact because we’re aware it exists and know we’re joined. But, when in sync, its at peak performance, insuring the invisible, behind the scene forces of one’s existence thrive and remain life giving.
It required some effort, but my pay-off was consistent; I felt vivacious, expanding, and was stronger with each baby step. This illuminating feeling behind transformation was the beauty and sweetest aspect because it harmonizes us with our outer world. I believed I could get better because in these moments life and those around me were better. The physical proof continued my awareness, strengthening this soul connection; and if it weakened or I got lazy with self care or other healthy habits, it wasn’t the end of the world. I didn’t need anyone to access my sweet spot and nobody or thing could take it away permanently. Just like muscle memory, it created a blueprint that it was rebuildable and once I believed that, it was a wrap. http://www.womenshealthmag.com/style/fit-for-life
This article illustrated how surrender, self awareness and my inner transformation at the expense of mental illness was a key part in treating it. However, countless times my bipolar symptoms (as with other mental health conditions) over road basic functioning and I had to harness the illness to progress transformation. In Part III, I’ll elaborate on treatment and self care — the glues behind the sweet spot.