just wanted to share the incredible stories on this site, and the inspiring project itself. this man has been riding all over the world to talk about mental illness and end the stigma. he is arriving back home to Vancouver, BC, Canada this fall.

Check out Ride Don’t Hide:

blessings on your day everyone. big heart from hj

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peaceful and mostly calm and fighting for my life

It’s been a while since i’ve posted on this blog — one, i’ve been posting and processing on various forums for mental health, and journaling on; two, for the most part, what i have been experiencing has been less acutely dramatic. I’ve been inbetween everything. And, I still feel like i’m waiting for … well, what am i waiting for? and in order to do what? I’m not sure. What inspired me to post tonight was the revelation that I want so desperately from others the feedback that no one wants to give. I want to have the wounded part of me validated, confirmed, defined. I want to know how i really came across in my now-ended era. Did people see any of the struggle that has been going on inside of me, or “am i crazy”. ! What a crazy thing to say!  But it’s so true. I’ve written some key players in my life. One person responded with a quick one-liner, which was supportive, but so brief as to feel a little like being brushed off. After a few days of contemplation, I responded by asking this person if they ever thought I might be a little unstable, or mentally ill. This is what i so desperately want to know. But of course, I heard nothing back. No one wants to be the one to say yes, I think you’re mentally ill, and your diagnosis fits. Who wants to say that? That little dialogue is a good example of the hesitance i feel from so many people I have worked with — that they are hesitant to involve themselves with me at all. If i choose to believe that, and take it to be the (unspoken as it may be) answer that I have been looking for, yes, I can run with that, and feel a sense of clarity and direction for healing. The “but” is that it relies on an assumption on my part about how others are feeling. So what is real? This is what i keep coming back to.

The good part lately has been being away from all that, getting the space to digest and really try to figure out this life-long dilemma of confusion in me, for that is the “insanity” that tears me into strips. Not knowing what is real, what is the truth of me. The air here is so sweet and fresh, the grass is green; there are deer and bunnies and birds and so many meadows, and hot, hot sun. I’ve realized how much I’ve missed suntanning. For the most part, I feel calmer than I have in years. The racing thoughts and panic have finally subsided. There is still the question of accuracy with my diagnosis, and the process of meeting a new psychiatrist and doing another diagnosis process takes time; in the meantime, my assignment is to find a sense of normalacy and rhythm and routine in my life. Ha. The sporadicness in me has really gotten to full heights. No predictability, reliability; easily confused and confounded, lost in my car, forgetting things. Thing is, I have time to get lost and take three hours to go grocery shopping and get completely distracted at Winners or the dollar store or talking to the cosmetician at Shoppers along the way, so that 6 hours later, I actually come home with groceries and a whole lot more. All this on 6 hours of sleep. Hmmmm. Hypomanic? At this point, who’s to say. When i suddenly became the “life-of-the-party” clown character for the evening at a music festival over the weekend and reverted back to my quiet, hesitant and self-conscious self the next day to completely confuse and baffle someone I’d met the night before — what was that? Is that hypomanic? Well, and again, at this point, whose to say. And again, the thing is that I currently have the time and stability to ponder these things, and figure out how to handle myself accordingly in the world with these quarks of mine.

I am resting and reading and suntanning and going to 12-step meetings, and sometimes i am grieving–I realized that today reading Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. What am i grieving? Why do i have a sense of loss. Well, I guess i am grieving the personna I have clung to for so many years and that i have shed like a snake skin. I am truly naked in the world. I am grieving the places of discontinuity with certain people and places, and my long, awkward, agonizing, painful and drawn-out leaving. I feel ashamed of that; yet the thought of hearing that there were others witnessed that in me, lovingly or not, is a comforting thought. It means i really did have a grip on the reality of what was going on, on some deep level of me that really wants to be validated.

I am almost far enough away from the awfulness and the terror to wonder what the heck i got so upset about, and start minimizing the whole thing, and the whole notion of being somehow off balance or ill at all; and yet it has been drilled into me with pain that it is a matter of life and death that i do not do that. Lest i forget; lest i move on without a thorough sweep underneath the rug, extermination, integration of dust mites and closet monsters for without a single doubt, i know that another encounter like the ones I have had would not be survivable.

So i am peaceful and mostly calm and stress free, and yet fighting for my life at the same time, finding the ground somewhere in the great abyss.

Here’s a gift from Yeshe, who I saw live at the music festival i’d mentioned. I wrote about hearing him play:

“The crowd was transcended in the pulse of the universe; most sat rocking with eyes closed, some lied down and stared at the clear blue sky in the hot sun, and a small few of us danced. I could have danced forever, but my feet got burned.”


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Less than Crazy

As i am digesting and exploring this chronic reality called bipolar II, I am reading lots and learning lots. At first, there was still that lingering question in my mind about whether or not it is true. Maybe i am just seeing everything in a negative light and having low self esteem, or i am afraid of the pressure of success so i need an excuse not to be successful. If i just don’t give any of these things any energy or time of day and keep focusing on the positive, they will heal and go away, and i will wake up feeling better and there is always tomorrow. I thought that if i was really bipolar two, it would have to be way more obvious that i was “crazy,” like talking really fast and not making sense or not leaving my house for weeks at a time or spending thousands of dollars, or getting into car wrecks or having secret affairs everywhere with anyone. As i am hearing more and more bipolar II stories, finding new definitions and discussions and writings, I am landing in such a greater understanding of myself, what it is to be bipolar II, the level of confusion about the condition among professionals especially the general population.

It seems like possibly the most mysterious and misunderstood mental illness there is. One of the hardest things about it is that it is so subtle. It’s not obvious enough for most people to recognize, so that instead of being perceived as a person with a mental illness who may require some additional patience, compassion and effort, we are “off” only enough so that we ourselves suffer more than anyone else around us. At this point, I would describe it as a very internal experience of intense emotion, repeated anticlimax in life endeavors and repeated isolation. I don’t think anyone would say that they dislike me; I think people (and myself) have been overwhelmed by the intensity i bring to anything i have done; the stakes are a little too high. And, I think it has simply been hard to form lasting connections with people because i have been so inconsistent in mood — one day i am outgoing and vivacious and full of great conversation; the next, i am not answering my phone and isolating myself with work. I think that’s had a devastating effect on my ability to form relationships, which has had a similar effect on all other aspects of my well being, and ability to thrive. People haven’t been aware of my suffering because i have simply disappeared and stayed hidden until i feel better. I was never able to make sense of these two extremes in me, and always on the fence about which one i should run with. Am I strong and passionate with great ideas, talent and drive to make them happen or am i the person who feels like she is always just distracting herself from the dark and vast hollow pit of isolation that consumes me from time to time and makes me forget what the light of “day” looks like. I have felt like such a failure for not being able to overcome this aspect of me; each time I’d come out of it, I would have some revelation that would make me think i’d conquered it, only to wind up in the same place inevitably again. And again, and again, and … Every time, i felt like more and more of a failure, and more hopeless of ever escaping it.

I guess the fact is that i may not ever truly overcome it for good. Whether i choose to believe that it is solely a chemical imbalance in my brain or a deep psychological wound from my past and the cumulative effect of my life on me, the thing that i am realizing with a lot of relief is to give myself a break for not overcoming it. Even if it were the later, this has been a chronic pattern and reality in my life and it will take a great, great deal of therapy and growth over many, many years for me to over come, and that would probably be a miracle. I can’t simply wake up one day and lose all the baggage of my experiences. I could go on and on and probably get deep into the philosophical aspects of biological vs. environmental influence, and I would probably end up with the conclusion that both are true. My experiences have created a chronic chemical imbalance out of so many unfinished threads and open wounds that their effect has become almost permanent in my psyche.

Whatever the case may be, it is a relief not to beat myself up for being so emotionally damaged; to get a little more real and honest with myself and others, and live a life that is a little more realistic. Knowing that my ideas and visions can get so out of hand and my intensity can sabatauge it all and that i can come crashing down at the end of it is simply good information. It helps me to know where i need support, admit that i need it, and gives me a vocabulary and context in which to ask for and receive it.

I’m still in the aftermath of the episode that brought it all to the surface, and probably caused a little bit of further imbalance from stress and exhaustion and trauma. I don’t think i’ve ever had the time and space to simply observe myself in the context of symptoms. Without any projects, endeavors, money or ambition in my life, i am observing impulsive, compulsive activity and distraction, scatterbrain, short memory span, racing thoughts, anxiety. It’s still very difficult for me to imagine that drugs can do anything to improve this phenomenon. How can a drug change the core of my experience. I can admit that it is a new ground zero. And yes, though it has always felt new to begin again, I can appreciate that this might just be the nature of my existence and enjoy the exploration and freedom of discovery along the way. For now.

Though there are some inaccuracies in her account, I’ll post a link to Karla Dougherty’s book Less than Crazy. It confirmed for me my growing perception that a person does not have to act overtly and obviously “crazy” to be bp II. That not all mental illnesses involve psychotic behavior. That there are a cazillion different versions/experiences of bp II at the moment. That no one but “the patient” might know, and that, along with the fact that most people don’t even know that there is a bp II that is not associated with full-out mania, is maybe the most difficult thing about it.

(click on the image of the book to read a sample of the book)

Love to y’all from HJ.

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I’ve managed to hold it all together when I don’t think I should have, over and over again.
The part of me that is good at pretending I’ve got all my shit together is sometimes automatic and always so good its grandiose, so it keeps getting me into trouble and making me alone.
So whatever happens from now on, I don’t have my shit together.

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diagnosis confusion

After a week in the psych ward last month, I am trying to let it all hang out, find a new way of being that is a little more honest, even if it is a little unorthodox and rough around the edges.

It seems I might not meet the criteria for bipolar 2 because I am so (painfully) aware and articulate of what is going on for me.

Would that not be even more of a concern than the usual bipolar 2? I mean who wouldn’t want to off themselves after 30 years of witnessing mental illness, knowing exactly what is happening, as it’s happening, seeing it isolate, continually telling yourself to just think positive, and yet not be able to change the pattern?