Goodbye for now!

There comes a point in a mentally ill person’s journey where being sick is just one component of a healthy whole. Thankfully I have gotten to the point where I am not my disease anymore. Even though I’m still battling with bipolar disorder I feel like I’m winning and slowly gaining a life as a reward. Now I have goals that aren’t just to survive the next three months without a severe mood swing. Hopefully sooner than later I can start working or work towards finishing school.

I’m very fortunate to have a family and friend that have been by me every step of the way and chose not to abandon me when I was at my worst. Also, throughout the years I have had phenomenal doctors and therapists that have helped me be me. Without the help of everybody I wouldn’t be here today writing this post. I am very thankful.

On that note, this will be my last post on this blog. I’m just sick of writing about being sick. It is time for me to move on. My therapist told me that this site could help others. If I find that there is truly an opportunity to do so I will continue, but until this point, I have wanted to keep this blog to family and friends. It has always been open to the public just in case someone that wanted to read could maybe benefit from it. I won’t delete this blog for some time in case someone that comes across it finds it beneficial in their recovery. If any of you guys out there want me to continue writing, please send me an email at avila9@protonmail.com.

Mom, King Boo, and all of you that have read my blog, thank you for reading.

Jon

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Slowly Leaving the Cave

This COVID situation has lasted way too long, and I suspect it will last even longer. At first, I used to go out of my house without much fear, but as time went on the fear began to consume me. I remember getting anxiety attacks when I watched the news. The political climate here in the United States was and still is turbulent. So, watching the news was never a good thing for me. Since most news stations have an exaggerated rendition of what is really going on it is almost like a semi-truth plus sensationalism used in order to gain ratings. I guess a rational thing would be to watch two or three different versions of a news report and take what is in common and disregard what isn’t. Unfortunately, because of that very same news reporting my anxiety level didn’t allow for such analysis. I told myself I was going to watch the news once a week for a while, and let my family tell me if anything important happened so I could catch that extra portion.

I’ve written here on this blog how I’m not afraid of death, but with COVID death isn’t peaceful, and worse you can pass it to those you love, which drove me up a wall. I don’t care about dying, but I care about taking someone with me. Now with the boosters, the masks, and the social distancing returning to the world has been appealing to me more and more.

My therapist told me to pick a hobby which would give me motivation to leave my house or at least leave my room. I picked up photography. I bought an old SLR camera from the early 80’s and some beat up old lenses. An SLR camera is a 35mm film camera that has interchangeable lenses. For those of you reading that aren’t from the analog generations, this camera is a film camera, no screens or memory cards. I actually have to go somewhere and develop that film and pray that most of the photos didn’t end up blurry!

Since buying film and developing it is relatively expensive for me. My dad suggested I take pictures with my cell phone in the interim of the developing process. He was right on! I’ve never been a fan of taking pictures of events because I feel that I rather live the event than capture it. I find peace in going out to capture something beautiful that is outside of any event territory. It is a thrill trying to capture that special moment that you are experiencing in the way that you are experiencing it. In the case of the film camera, it is even more of a thrill because of the risks you take when trying to get the best shot you can get with a limited number of shots and an expensive development bill. Eventually I will upgrade to a digital SLR but for now, I’m having a blast with my film SLR.

I’m in the process of finding new hobbies. Filling my time and getting out of the house are the two main ways I stay calm and coherent during this epidemic. I’m learning Photoshop as I did Illustrator years back. Right now, getting and staying on my feet is the priority.

Rest in Peace Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh was a Vietnamese Zen Master in exile. He traveled the world spreading his message of peace touching the lives of millions. I’ve been learning and practicing Buddhism for many years, but couldn’t get ahead in my mindfulness practice. I began to study Thich Nhat Hanh’s work and it has proven to be paramount to my work not just as a Buddhist but as a human being. I learned that peace, when cultivated properly, can radiate out and help all the people around you. I learned that there is no difference in what you do in meditation or post-meditation it is all one. All it takes is a smile, and when you lose the moment, it just takes a breath. These are the simple things I tend to forget in my life outside of meditation. Sometimes I try to make Buddhist practice so difficult or Buddhist study so complex when it doesn’t need to be. Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings show that life can be as simple as you make it.

I find it funny that true masters of any tradition not only don’t see themselves as masters but discourage their students from calling the masters as well. Thich Nhat Hanh was such a master. I never met him, but in his videos, he treated everyone with kindness and all their questions with respect. He would stop and think before speaking giving the audience responses, advice, and teachings. Let me not sit here are keep trying to write about his teachings. Instead let me leave you with two books and a video so you can see for yourself.

Peace Is Every Step

How to Live: Boxed Set of the Mindfulness Essentials Series

And here is a fifteen-minute video:

(I don’t get anything from those Amazon links.)

To My Family

To those that are concerned about me… I have good days and bad ones. Sometimes I feel scared, depressed, lonely, or nervous. Sometimes I also feel happy, content, grateful, and am at peace. All of that is normal. A pill or a doctor can’t take away a bad day. I know I have been very inconsistent with my mood in the past, but for now I’m ok. I know when I need a doctor’s intervention and I’m always open to anybody’s observations on any weird behavior. I’m tired of people seeing me have a bad couple of days and suggesting I need a med change when I don’t. Med changes are long and arduous trial and error processes that are very unpleasant and that I avoid unless it is the last possible solution. It’s not easy being mentally ill, but I think it is harder being mentally healthy and trying to deal with stresses that are completely unavoidable. I have more trouble being thirty five and trying to find my way in this world in a healthy way than any depression.

I spent most of my twenties in treatment so I’m a little behind. What young adults in their early twenties do and the problems and stresses they deal with, specially when dealing with others and their place in the world is what I’m facing now. I’m a little behind which is totally normal for those that put their lives on pause to get better. Real life, is something that I’m slowly being reintegrated with everyday slowly on forth to thirty five. I can’t lie, it is really hard for me. It brings fear and stress, both sadness of a childhood gone, and blinding fear of an empty canvas. I’m very happy to be alive though, so it all works out. I have to have patience and take life a day at a time.

I live and I learn. I love you family. Thank you for your love, patience, and everything else!

I’m Getting Organized

It has been about two years since I last wrote, and I have to say that I have been relatively stable. I have something I like to call the three-month challenge. I reach stability for up to three months and then I have some sort of depressive or manic episode before I can break my 90-day record. The episodes usually last from a couple of days to several months, but I usually return to my typical stable self for three months etc. One of my top goals for the last few years is to keep stable for longer than three months. It is really hard to have any long-term engagements when you are flipping out so often. I really want to go back to school and finish my bachelors in anything at this point because I don’t like the idea of not finishing something I started. So, with the help of a very frustrated psychiatrist, we came to a new strategy for tackling this problem. He told me bipolar disorder is cyclical so my life also should follow patterns to reenforce stability. He also told me to find a therapist that could help me with some better coping strategies, but that is another tale for another time.

So, here I am, Mr. Scatterbrain trying to tackle forming habits, attempting time management, fighting inertia, because who likes to do things they don’t want to do, or in my case doing things at times that I don’t want to. I first tried a planner. I tried using digital planners like google calendar, but quickly discovered that since I work with computers a lot, I don’t take digital anything seriously, so I was left with trying the paper version. I tried a couple of pre-printed planners like the panda planner and the clever fox planner, and they worked well but couldn’t satisfy all of my needs. So desperate to find some sort of life organization tool I came across bullet journaling on YouTube. Bullet journaling is a system that converts a blank gridded page notebook into a planner and journal to keep track of life. The cool thing about this concept is that the journal/planner can be adapted and changed over time to accommodate anything you want to record or keep track of. I use mine as a planner, habit tracker, mood tracker, notebook for therapy, log and notes for therapy homework, and just a general medium to track my thoughts and emotions through writing and doodling.

Here is a resource for the basics of bullet journaling. Though, a quick search on YouTube will quickly expand upon the basics and show you the potential of this great tool.

Now with my bullet journal I keep track of the basics (like exercising, food intake, and mood), hobbies (like learning Spanish, and reading), and I track my daily studying (like math, computers, and spirituality). Seeing what I’m missing in a day really helps get me motivated to keep at those activities. I haven’t become more efficient, because I’m still Mr. Scatterbrain, but at least I’m getting all the things done that I want to get done in a day. Getting organized helps me try my best to do my best. Being less lost in my life has helped me clear my head so that I have less worries and more opportunities to deal with the type of things that destabilize me. I’m three weeks in stability. Please wish me good luck!

I should write something about living with a mental illness through the COVID-19 pandemic, but I need more time to write that entry. I just wanted to write a short entry to get the writing cogs going again.

Impermanence

Nothing lasts forever. I wanted to show you the beauty of the sand mandala. A mandala in Tibetan Buddhism is a representation of a world inhabited by a Buddhist deity. Even though deity has to be the wrong word since these concepts aren’t worshiped. All of the symbolism in the mandala along with the “deity” associated with it all represent a certain teaching. The sand mandala is meticulously made and blessed. Then, the whole thing is brushed away. While the mandala is made the monks don’t worry about the completion of the mandala, they just concentrate on the moment and sensation of what they are presently doing. Just as the beautiful mandala came into being, so is it swept away. Yes, very poetic! lol

A Random Moment

I’m sick as a dog. I feel like crap. I don’t know if it is covid, but it is definitely a cold or something. I have a cough, fever, and a clogged ear. I’m having trouble resting, and I’m very tired. I normally isolate from the world due to my current spiritual training, so this covid lock down hasn’t been as hard for me as I have heard from others. I live with my family, and we have not exactly had a safe quarantine. Unmasked people, other than my family and safe friends have frequented the house. I have no control over that unfortunately, and now I’m potentially sick. As long as my mom doesn’t catch illness, I’m ok. I don’t fear death, regret or live in the past, so if anything happened to me, I would be in complete peace. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in life. I’m not denying myself a future, but I really don’t plan too far ahead other than what is needed to survive.

I was remembering today that I used to be a fortuneteller in my youth. At the apex of that path I worked as a tarot card reader at a store in a tourist trap by the shore. I was making my first transition from a superstitious minded person to a more rational skeptical kind of person. I respect those that believe what they want and respect and don’t push their beliefs on me. I love learning about others’ beliefs and thinking processes so that I can further understand and relate. I was taught a long time ago that we hate what we don’t understand.

Getting back to my story, I came up with this argument. This was one of my first ‘official’ rational arguments that I would have with myself that would change my life in any way. I was deconstructing and positively criticizing my own behavior, beliefs, and thoughts. There are infinite possibilities of what can happen to you at any given time. A tarot deck has 56 cards with two interpretations each (upside down and right side up). If you count all of possible interpretations of what one card means in relation to another, or a card’s meaning in a tarot spread etc, you would reach a very large number of meanings. The interesting thing is that no matter how large that number is it is always finite, meaning not infinite. How can something finite predict or describe something infinite? The possibility of an event is occurring is infinite, yet the cards can only predict a finite number of possibilities. Therefore, the cards can’t and don’t represent any possible present or future without excluding some possibilities rendering such methods of fortunetelling as invalid. This same argument can be used for i ching, astrology, palmistry, etc.

In short I realized I was fooling people unknowingly. I guess it was a moment of self discovery like when I figured out the Easter bunny didn’t exist! Morally I had to stop, and I did.

There is a little side note to this argument which depends on a person’s world view. If one believes in destiny, or the fact that future events are not completely random but guided by some invisible hand, then the possibilities that can happen at any moment are severely limited by that invisible hand. I have also, for myself, reasoned away the invisible hand, but I will save that for another time. If a superstitious element is introduced to a rational argument I would argue that the whole argument is null and void due to the element of superstition introduced.

The memory of that argument, or of my early teenage years, brought a smile to my face. I really don’t like remembering the past, but I can’t help catching a flash here or there. I believe that people spend too much time re-living and spoiling the moment by trying to preserve it instead of living it. I think I’ve willfully taken two pictures in the past five years. One as proof of damage from a car accident and one of my family from when my uncle was alive. I’m not a big believer of destiny, but I felt that was the last Christmas I would have my family together in that way, and I wanted a photo my family and I could share that had the old gang together.

Well I hope I recuperate fast! Sorry for the little rant, but I get bored of video games, and I’m a little too sick to retain my studies.

Aw Crap… Not This Again!

It was been a tough few months for me. I usually get a set of seasonal mood swings in the autumn time. I remember noticing when I was in treatment in Boston a few years back. Around the time when the leaves turned, so did my mood toward the manic end. I would be so manic that I would spend a majority of my day hallucinating on the porch of the center. I would spend my days staring up at the sky at the cavalcade of colorful images, like elephants melding into the colorful sky etc. I guess it is like what some people describe an acid trip to be like. These episodes would usually be followed by extreme paranoia like when you are being chased in a dream. Through good med management, throughout the years, I was able to eliminate this set of mood swings in autumn.

Then enters this autumn… In October the house I live in, my parent’s house, was tented for termites. My family and I had the pleasure of living in a very nice hotel for a week. Changing environments for me, even as luxurious as the hotel was, was very disastrous. Before this temporary migration I had gone through the typical three months of calm. I was studying math and computer science, as well as keeping my daily spiritual practices and studies. My daily functioning, sleep hygiene, med schedule, and the rest were perfect. I really thought I was going to beat my record of three month and one day of stability! I was wrong. I went careening into a deep depression that would be followed by sleepless nights. I thought these mood swings would just last until the season was over and I could enjoy the holidays with my family disorder-free.

It is January first and I’m still suffering from these pesky mood swings! My first reaction is to give up hope, and start blaming people like doctors, and things like medications, but I don’t. I know in times like this I have to hold on, try my best to keep the daily routine of sleep hygiene, med schedule, eating at the same times, etc. It is so hard to keep at this when you just want to sleep all day or extend the day when you have a glimpse of normalcy. Sometimes I force myself to wake up early then I take the “essentials.” These are my prescription meds without the supplements. This is stupid, but it saves time so I can sleep after a late night. These are the kinds of things one has to watch out for. As little as missing some medications can throw me off completely.

I’m a fighter. Not only have I been brought up that way, I have reinforced that behavior through the years to make it through these hard times. Even though my ability to be with people and my family is limited due to things like isolation and social phobia at this time, I try my best to be happy and appreciate those moments that I do get to be with my family. I know I will get through this. I have been through worse for longer. I write this to show people that mental illness never goes away. It does get better though, and with a positive outlook and hope, it is completely manageable. I laugh how I’m sitting here miserable as hell writing that last statement, but I have to admit, in my experiences, in my short life, I have found this to be true.

Happy Holidays,

Happy New Year!

Jon

 

Life After Crisis

I just went through three days in what I call my quarterly depression. Every four months or so I get an episode of rapid cycling bipolarity. Usually these episodes range for the whole day for about two weeks. Throughout the years the intensity and duration of these episodes have become better. Now in my quarterly depression I usually only get depressed mildly in the evenings for three or four days. The only thing that stays constant through these episodes is an all-day tiredness and horrible lack of sleep. Also, on some occasions, during these times, I get a crippling general anxiety that can last all day and night.

The reason I’m writing this is to show that progress is possible if one works at treatment with all of their might. I have worked my butt off for years trying to reach a point where I’m in control of my life, and not the disease. I think I’m almost there. There are random days where the bipolar disease shows up and I become very unstable. These days I count as disease days because the emotions are incongruent to life, meaning that the emotion have nothing to do with anything that is going on in my life. There are also some days when I don’t sleep, am moody, and anxious, but now I realize that these are just bad days, and everyone has them!

The shift between seeing a day, or myself, as sick and dysfunctional, and just having a bad day is huge! I think when one has been sick for a long time one tends to become hypervigilant. This means that every little bump on the road can be interpreted as a manifestation of disease. I have found, in my life, that this is not the case. I invite any person with a mental illness to reclaim their lives and empower themselves to make these differences in perception. I get sick from time to time, but that doesn’t make me dysfunctional. People get colds from time to time, and that doesn’t make them dysfunctional. Having any illness sucks, but most illnesses if treated can be managed.

I have seen, in my journey, people who refuse to get better, and I have learned that those who think they can’t get better, or refuse to get better, never get better. This seems obvious, but it is really easy to give up when you are in constant pain. I have thought of giving up a lot in my past, but I have always found a purpose that keeps me going. This purpose changes from time to time, but I make sure it is important enough to put a fire under my ass to keep going. I have, in the past, slowed my progress to a halt, and I have definitely gone backwards in my progress. Though, at the end, life is a game of averages. If you look at every failure as a definition of yourself, you will never get anywhere.

I have found that with the right doctors, therapists, and medications you are fighting the war at half capacity. The other half is in your head. If you aren’t willing to get better, honestly and genuinely, completely you will lose the battle. A therapist once told me that if two mules, a black one and a white one, are playing tug of war, which one will win? The one who will win is the one you feed. You have to feed your want, no, your need, to get better. No one can do that for you. You could have the best doctors, therapists, and medications in the world, but without that will to get better, you never will.

Ramblings of a Not-So-Young Man

The Pact

I’ve officially gone through enough of my life to be burdened by my own self-doubt. I can’t help my illness, which is pretty much under control, but I can help all of the other bullshit I put myself through. So, today I make a pact with myself. I’m going to stop caring what other’s think about me, because frankly, it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t mean I’m going to run around being an asshole, but at least I’ll give myself a chance to be me. I’m not going to let events from my childhood affect me anymore. I’m a grown ass man, and I can deal with and change the perception of all of the things that have happened to me good or bad.

I’m going to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’m going to believe what I want, and not take crap from others. I have a right to have a life, and I’m going to exercise that right. I have a right to be a weirdo recluse if I want, or play any other role of my choosing, which I am very well able to do. Because of my illness they’re certain things that I’m not able to do, but I refuse to reach a fatalistic view where I’m doomed not to change. I am making every effort to be the best me I can be and will continue to do so. If I am seen as sick, or whatever the hell else, it is the problem of that person not mine. I’m still finding my bearings, but that won’t be for long. I’m on a path, as I have always been, I just think that I’ve lost my way. Life is the greatest teacher, and I have always tried to be the best pupil that I have been able to be. I am going to continue to embrace change, for that is the only thing in life that is certain.

Lastly, I free myself from myself.

 

The Commentary

I know this sounds like a rant, but it is a license that I give myself to be free from me. I’m just sick of being sick. I realized that the majority of my problems don’t have to do with my illness, they have to do with my perception of life. I have learned those bad views and habits in life as a coping mechanism for surviving traumas and illness. These phantoms are clearly not needed anymore. I don’t need to seek attention, for people listen to me and love me. I don’t need to care what other’s think about me, because the ones that matter stay close no matter what you say, and the ones that don’t, really don’t matter. I don’t have to be so defensive and hate confrontation, because I’m not around unstable people at a hospital anymore. I love to debate, and hate to fight, but that’s just me. I have a right to keep my mental peace, no matter what. I treasure my solitude and my thoughts, because I treasure knowledge and learning. I hope someday I can share that with whatever poor soul wants to listen = ). Believe it or not, I’m actually quite sociable and enjoy people! I don’t avoid people because of fear, I avoid people because I’m content in solitude. When I feel like being around others, I go and seek others.

Those who know me, know me well. Those who think know me, should make an effort to know me better! How about this, I’ll meet you half way. I’ll make myself available, and I’ll care about you, but you have to return the favor.

I guess the appropriate way to end this is… I like long walks on the beach. I like dogs. My favorite color is red, etc. lmao!