Thursday, August 16, 2012

Getting Through a Bipolar Hurricane

Tuesday night
I just hung up the three shirts I took to Zen tonight, not knowing what I'd need over my tee - the doctor's office today must have been at 65 degrees, and I wanted my fleece jacket.  So I took a short-sleeved denim shirt, a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and a fleece shirt-jacket.  This is why we old ladies get classified as fussy, because we really don't want to catch a chill.  And we've learned.  The hard way.

I seem to learn everything the hard way.  The reason I say that freely is that I'm pretty sure that's not a personal fault unique to me, but just the only way we monkeys learn.  I imagine there are people smarter than that; I hope they know how lucky they are.

But my point was about being messy.  I came home tonight wanting to get a card ready to send to Jacques, who's in the hospital with a painful and serious condition............
Fast forward to Thursday.
I did get Jacques' card done and out, though our general disorganization made it a challenge.  But it turned out to be a rotten day for me, and I didn't get much else done.  That's been my life for several weeks - up, down, up down.  And sometimes UP
then d
                          ..... . ;(

 If you're not bipolar, the way this differs from your life is that the ups and downs are occurring on their own internal clock, which has nothing much to do with your actual emotional life.  There is a mysterious switch that turns on dopamine and serotonin, feel-good chemicals like that, gets them flowing well, then uh-oh, they are flooding.

Everyone likes hypomania.  Everything is beautiful, you are confident, you love everyone and want to make art out of everything.  You begin great new projects.  It was in that frame of mind that I took the above picture, just loving the subtle colors I saw from my car in the Safe Auto parking deck at OSU. And by the way, that frame of mind can make it hard to sleep, even when you're very tired.

But the day before that I described in my log as "indescribably wretched."  I remember crying as we did my weekly pills.  Days like this I don't make any progress at all on great projects; I am doing well to take a shower and get Tom to take me to the health club, and force myself to exercise on the Nustep.  If I can find something, anything to distract me on Netflix or a book, that's good.  Those days are just something you get through.  Maybe like huddling down during a hurricane. 

The day I took that picure I was at OSU to talk to my psychiatrist about all that, and he prescribed an uptick in one of my medications.  A week later it seems to have leveled the moods somewhat.  Somewhat.  There is no cure for bipolar, like most of what ails you.

If I have a point to make it is that my life (and Tom's) is definitely made easier by the years of daily practice.  Sitting Zen is especially good for me when I'm being wow, really !creative! and have a thousand things to do, and want to do them all, and start new projects, too.  Nothing is better for mania than pulling the blinds and sitting still in a dim room, preferably cool.  And not moving, not scratching an itch, not answering the phone or writing down the new ideas for great projects that are dancing through your mind.  Letting your muscles relax and your breathing and heart rate settle.

And oddly, sitting is pretty good for neurochemical depression, too, though not in the large quantities of a retreat, in my case.  (Learned that the hard way, of course.)  It can be healthier for me to seek distraction.  But sitting there once or twice a day practicing looking at your sadness and lack of volition, standing back a little mentally to witness them, then letting them move on, not sticking to stories that easily balloon into your whole difficult life.

I'm just here to testify.  That's all.  I haven't found much to read on Zen for bipolars, and other mental afflictions.  Yet we are people who need the help Buddhism can provide just to get by.  I'm beginning to think I might have to write that book.  That should tell you I'm having a good day.


  1. You have done a great service by leading by example discussing the positives effects of meditation when one suffers. So many people think that is only them.

  2. I wonder how it would have been if my mom would have tried "sitting". I wonder if it would have relieved some of her suffering too.