An October Conversation with Bipolar Disorder…

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Bipolar Disorder: Trick Or Treat!

Iris: Halloween isn’t until the end of the month. You’re a few weeks early.

Bipolar Disorder: But I want candy!

Iris: It’s not time for handing out candy yet. And, you’re a mood disorder; not a costumed child.

Bipolar Disorder: GIVE me some candy!

Iris: I don’t think we’re really understanding each other very well.

Bipolar Disorder: You think I’m misunderstanding you?

Iris: It does appear that way. Since you keep asking for candy.

Bipolar Disorder: Yeah, well I’m bored!

Iris: And you want this to be my problem, why?

Bipolar Disorder: I’m bored with all the self-care you do. I’m bored with your stability. Mood stability is BORING!!

Iris: I rather like my mood being stable.

Bipolar Disorder: Yeah, and you’re boring. I want to liven things up a little this month!

Iris: Yes, I know you have been trying to do that, haven’t you?

Bipolar Disorder: Wasn’t it fun the other week? Getting only a little bit of sleep that one night, and then waking up with that new short story ready to write?

Iris: Well, yes. That was fairly pleasant.

Bipolar Disorder: And you did a great job catching the whole thing before it faded from your dream.

Iris: Er, thanks.

Bipolar Disorder: You don’t seem very convinced you should be thanking me.

Iris: I don’t believe you have my best interest at heart. No offense.

Bipolar Disorder: Sure I do! Expansive thoughts! Flights of ideas! I can give you all that! If you just give me some more candy!

Iris: More candy? I don’t eat candy.

Bipolar Disorder: That coconut drink you had yesterday was just the stuff. I want more of that!

Iris: I didn’t sleep well last night after drinking that sugary thing.

Bipolar Disorder: Yeah, isn’t it great?!

Iris: No. I would like to return to my usual good sleep hygiene, thank you very much.

Bipolar Disorder: You’re not very cooperative.

Iris: I don’t see that it would benefit me much to be very cooperative with you.

Bipolar Disorder: But what about that short story? Don’t I deserve some thanks for that?

Iris: You can’t take all the credit for my short story.

Bipolar Disorder: But, you don’t dream like that when you’re properly medicated. You said that yourself.

Iris: That’s right. I don’t.

Bipolar Disorder: Don’t you feel more creative and more productive when you’re a little bit Hypomanic? Or even a little bit depressed? I’m great at giving you ideas for gloomy poetry, aren’t I?

Iris: I do feel more creative and productive at those times, yes. But, what you’re offering isn’t all good. You know that.

Bipolar Disorder: Well, yeah. Of course it’s not. Why else would they  call it *trick* or treat? I gave you a treat. I gave you that short story. Now it’s time for my trick.

Iris: I’m not interested in your trick.

Bipolar Disorder: Ugh! Do you know how boring it is? Being in your brain when you take such good care of yourself that I hardly ever get to have any fun?

Iris: That sounds like your problem, not mine. I’m much happier when I’m not having to manage your symptoms very often.

Bipolar Disorder: I want candy! I want candy this month! This month is Halloween!

Iris: You’re behaving like a spoiled toddler. Your temper tantrum isn’t going to change my mind.

Bipolar Disorder: This is the month for candy! If I don’t get some candy, some fun, in your brain this month I’ll… Well, I’ll…. I’ll pout! That’s what I’ll do.

Iris: See? What did I say? Just like a spoiled toddler.

Bipolar Disorder: So, you’re going to deny me any more sugar? And you’re going to deny me more nights of broken sleep too?

Iris: Yes. You get to come along with me this month. I don’t have any choice in that. But you are not in charge of me. I am the one making decisions here. Not you. Understood?

Bipolar Disorder: Fine. Have it your way. Be boring!

Iris: Good. But, I’m not bored, by the way.

Bipolar Disorder: What do you mean?

Iris: I’ve been transcribing out conversation.  Every word. I’m saving it, and I’m sure it will become very useful for me as a reminder.

Bipolar Disorder: What reminder? For what?

Iris: For when you try this again next month. Though I’m sure you’ll be demanding Thanksgiving candy next time. Thanks for your input!

Bipolar Disorder: What?! No way! You tricked ME!

Iris: Happy Halloween!

 

Loving Kaleidoscope Reminder

This afternoon I colored this lovely kaleidoscope style heart mandala. I created this piece of art as a visual reminder to myself to always love myself. Especially on those days when I think I don’t deserve it.

For a while now, I’ve been keeping a running tally of the number of days I have consecutively given myself good treatment, love and respect. While I have that running tally of nearly two hundred consecutive days going, I know that at some point I’m likely to eventually slip up and be less kind to myself than I strive to be. I’ve learned over the years that times like that are when I need to love myself the most. So, this mandala is here to remind myself of this.

I hope everyone who reads this post will accept this mandala as a reminder to also give yourself good treatment, love and respect, as you give to everyone else in your life who you love. ❤️

Fighting Depression with Magnetic Poetry

I have known for some time that I could be soon heading into a state of depression. These past couple of weeks I have not been as vigilant as I usual am about doing my daily exercise workouts, and I have allowed myself to slack off in some other self-care areas as well. Most of this afternoon was fairly painful, both from two sets of unpleasant physical illness symptoms, along with telltale symptoms of depression.

I mindfully experienced those various types of discomfort for a few hours. This was helpful to me in that I validated my experience for myself. However, I know better than to think I have not choice but to endlessly wallow in discomfort when it happens to arise, for physical or emotional reasons. Since I have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, any particularly severe emotional distress stemming from that disorder is also really a physical health concern. I took a moment at one point today to remind myself of this since it is a medical fact that Bipolar Disorder is an illness which comes about from having chemistry not quite properly working in the brain. So, emotional distress caused by Bipolar Disorder is also a physical health issue.

While I was mindfully feeling these various symptoms, I received a friendly text message from a friend of mine who was thinking of me. I knew I had a choice to make when I received her message. I could ignore the message and continue wallowing. Or, I could read and respond. I took the chance, and I was completely honest in replying to my friend.

The resulting lovely and empathetic conversation we shared briefly via text messages ended up serving as another helpful reminder for me. This second reminder was that a state of melancholy mood has, on more than a few occasions previously, inspired me to compose poetry. So, I thanked my friend for reaching out to me, and I told her I was going to do my best to drag myself, if need be, to my magnetic poetry activity bin and fight these depression symptoms with poetry.

Here is the poem I created using words from two different magnetic poetry kits. My day could have been a day primarily composed of wallowing in pain and unpleasantness. I now feel quite proud of myself for choosing another ending for the story of this day.

Better with Art!

Like many others, I am prescribed medication by a psychopharmacologist to help keep my brain chemistry working at it’s best possible level. I have been told that some people discontinue taking their medication when they find that they are feeling better. I’ve never been one of those people. I have noticed, over the years that I have been under this sort of medical treatment, that my medication seems to be far more effective under certain circumstances.

I go through phases when I tell myself that all the creative activities I enjoy doing aren’t serving any real purpose. The visual art pieces I create tend to not be displayed in art galleries. More of the stage plays I have written have not been produced by theaters than the ones that have been experienced by theater audiences. Poetry and stories I write have generally not been read by large audiences. So, sometimes I wonder what the point is of my doing these creative activities at all.

Except when I get to thinking that way I am discounting a priceless and essential purpose that creating art in any form serves for those who create. Life is more pleasant with art. Using my creative skills makes my life infinitely more enjoyable, meaningful, and fulfilling than it would be if I were to stop doing those activities altogether.

I keep lots of records to manage my moods. I keep track, spreadsheet-style, of many daily activities I perform, along with meals eaten, and medication doses taken. When I make my entries on my spreadsheet I always find that my mood has been more stable, and my levels of contentment and happiness are higher, when I am regularly engaging in creative pursuits. According to the data I collect on myself my psychiatric medication is actually more effective when I am following a regular routine of creative expression in a variety of artistic mediums than it is when I refrain from such activities by telling myself that my lack of professional success in any of those areas makes them pointless to continue.

I was pleasantly surprised when I first noticed this to be the case. I didn’t expect that indulging in creative expression would actually help my mental health, but it really does. My life is more enjoyable and my mental health is far better with art. So, I encourage everyone reading this to go ahead and do something creative that you enjoy. In time, you may discover, as I have, that your world is a much better place than it was before you began regularly enjoying your creativity.

One of My Favorite Skills

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A few years ago, when I was enrolled in classes intensively studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy, I learned a skill that became one of my very favorites. I put together an iTunes playlist soon after I enrolled in those DBT classes and this one skill seemed to be the easiest skill to find represented in the songs I had in my iTunes library at the time. Later, I found the coloring page above and used colored pencils to add vibrant colors to the page so I could have a bright reminder for using this skill. The DBT skill essentially taught me to do what the picture above is recommending.

Stand tall when you feel small. Or another way of saying it is, fake it until you make it. The specific instructions in Dialectical Behavior Therapy involved doing something that elicits the opposite emotion to what emotion you’re currently feeling. So, if you feel like going back to bed and hiding under the covers all day, instead get up and do something productive! I use this skill regularly. I love that if I’m starting to feel irritated and I don’t feel like doing something that’s good for me, I can use this skill to drastically change my mood.

You don’t have to have studied Dialectical Behavior Therapy to benefit from doing this to help you get yourself out of a mood rut. I have found that it’s helpful when interacting with my small daughter to recommend to her when she’s feeling gloomy that she do something different that she enjoys and she’ll feel less gloomy. It works!

I feel so grateful to have skills to help me manage my moods. I don’t often have mood fluctuations these days, and it’s so nice to have skills like this in my self-care repertoire. Try it. Stand tall when you’re feeling small!

Gratitude For Everything That Happens…

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A couple of weeks ago I made my very first pitch presentation to a theater with the goal of enticing them into producing one of my full-length plays. I have slowly been working on editing that play, off and on, since I wrote the first draft a few years ago.  Prior to preparing to make the pitch presentation for my play I hadn’t been feeling all that excited about that particular play in some time. However, going into the pitch I felt that the play had potential, and I didn’t want to not make the pitch at all and have to wonder forever after what might have happened if I had gone ahead and made the pitch for the play.

In the days leading up to my pitch presentation, when I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic about my script, I chatted with a few close friends about the play, and about the issues my play was starting to raise that I could potentially further develop in later drafts. I hoped these later drafts would spring into being in a the process of exploring the play in a workshop setting with members of the theater company once they loved my pitch and selected to produce my play in their upcoming season.

By the time I made my pitch I had enjoyed such successful and satisfying brainstorming sessions with friends and family members that I was feeling really excited about the prospect of beginning to rewrite the play to further explore all those new ideas my friends and family members had helped me come up with in our recent conversations. The night before my pitch I was thinking that I would be rewriting the play to add new material, wether or not the theater company selected it for inclusion in their upcoming season of live theater.

So, I pitched it the play to the theater company! There was lots of nodding and other positive body language among the company both during my talk, and while they asked me questions about my play. After I concluded my sales pitch for my play, the members of the theater company thanked me for being so well prepared to make my pitch presentation. They said they like the concept of the play, and they were even more interested in what it would become once I added in the changes I proposed to make to the script in a workshop setting. They said they would let me know their decision one way or the other within a couple of days. I left feeing good about the experience, no matter what the decision of the theatre company would eventually be.

As promised, a couple of days later I received an email from the artistic director of the theater. She thanked me for making my pitch, and for allowing them to read my play. However, she indicated that they would not be joining me for a workshop of my play to develop it further, and they would not be including my play in their upcoming season. When I read that email I expected to feel disappointed. But an extraordinary thing happened instead.

The first thought that popped into my head upon reading the email from the artistic director wasn’t, “Oh no! They didn’t choose my play.” What first came to mind was this:

Whooppee! Now I’m free to rewrite my play, make it ten times better than the version that theater company read, and prepare the new and improved play for submission to other theaters!

I caught myself off guard with that response. I didn’t expect to feel happy about the theater company *not* choosing my play. However, I have been feeling so excited about beginning to rewrite my play that I suppose you could say that there was no available processing power in my mind with which to feel sad about them not wanting to be a part of my play rewrite in a workshop setting.

So, while they didn’t choose my play, I still did succeed in many respects. I prepared my pitch, and I made a great presentation. And I came up with lots of new material with which to improve my play. So, what that the theater company did not choose my play. What a fantastic outcome I got anyway! I have all those brilliant new ideas with which to begin a rewrite of my play. Considering how I’d been feeling about that play leading up to the preparation time for giving the pitch, I don’t think I would have thought to do a rewrite of the play at all if I hadn’t prepared to pitch it to that theater.

I’m feeling far better about that play, and about myself as a playwright, a writer, and as a person, than I could possibly have expected to feel after having been turned down for the pitch I made. I find that it always helps my mood, and the state of my mind, to express gratitude. It isn’t often that I wish to express gratitude for things *not* working out the way I hoped. But this time I think that not getting what I wanted has turned out to be exactly what I needed, and in the end I feel I am coming out ahead.

I take great joy in the process of rewriting my plays, and in finding out what sort of plays they evolve into as I work on them. I don’t write plays, or anything, with only the hopes that someone will want what I write. I write first and foremost for the sheer joy of doing it. So, today I feel grateful to that theater for asking me to pitch my play to them. They gave me such a gift. Now I get to rewrite my play and enjoy that process, which I would not have considered doing if I hadn’t prepared myself to make that pitch presentation.

I’m learning that sometimes, if I can view the situation just right, not getting what I want can be just as wonderful as getting what I want. So, I have to say that I really do feel gratitude for absolutely everything that happens in my life!

 

Bubbling Up…

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Iris Petra,

I guess you think it’s really cute to give me a name, and to give me a voice. Haven’t you learned anything from all the stories you’ve read in your life? Be careful what you wish for.

I know you. I know you get bright ideas, and you run with them for a while, but sooner or later, you lose steam. I can dig you giving me a public platform like this to tell my side of things. But don’t for a minute get comfy thinking I won’t tell things exactly like they are.

How long will you keep this up? Giving that goody two shoes, Agnes, and I voices is quite a gimmick. I like having a voice. We’ll see how long *you like* me having one.

No, the image above is *not* what I look like. Please. I put that there a reminder that not everything in your head is very pretty, and now that you’ve given me a platform, well some of that not very pretty stuff is on it’s way to the surface.

Rasi Tripe

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