Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inside My Bipolar Week

At the beginning of this month I vowed to change my life, starting with working harder on my mind. Is it working? Maybe. I am keeping on with it. That's what I can say. Waking up is so hard to do, from one standpoint. Easy from another: All you have to do is follow own breath  For even the few seconds of one complete breath you are turning away from your itches and wallows and, as the Buddha said, "when you forget yourself, you are free." Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as one breath; if it were, everyone would be enlightened.

In the mess of my last five years of sick and sicker, I thought the first thing to get in place was my practice. I have been reliably doing my morning practice for some time now, and added an evening sit with Tom. He and I are each in a conflagration of problems with difficult people in our lives, and meditating together helps us get to the evening practice. Part of what you are practice when you sit zazen is putting your gnawing problems aside. The problems are still in motion, reality is gnawing at everyone involved and changing them, and you get off the carousel for awhile.

My biggest problem this past year has been my mood swings.  They have been dramatic, and the psychiatrist washed his hands of me, afraid to try any other chemicals.  So I've been trying to get a handle on them myself.  Recently I was looking at TCM and hypothesized that I might be expending a lot of energy/dopamine on a good day, talkinglaughingcookingmakingartgeneratingideas, so that the next day I am naturally exhausted (from the Latin, emptied out, drained).  So I set out to curb my enthusiasms, to move more quietly through  high-energy days. Impulse control. This was hard the first day, but is getting easier with practice.  Sitting still and poised, no matter how you feel, is central to zazen, and maybe to equanimity.

Yesterday seemed to be somewhat better, as bad days go. I didn't cry or carry on angrily at anyone. I got a couple of important practical things done by following my day's to-do list strictly in priority.  I still went semi-comatose around 4:00 pm, despite an infusion of energy from a visit from Chris, and a few minutes enjoying the garden with her. I was sad that I can't work in the gardens myself anymore, but happy to have her help getting the peonies under control.

I talked too much visiting with Chris. I keep doing that. Right speech-and-listening is a lifetime project. In fact, it's singled out on the Eightfold Path.
Chris is a kind person, and tolerated me well. We couldn't hug because she was covered in allergens. That's another thing I accomplished yesterday; I made an appointment with a local acupuncturist my grandson found for me, who has special training in allergy.

There's much more to a week, of course, but I'll close with touching down on my sleep and lack of it. Last night I felt clammy and discouraged, and couldn't fall asleep until after midnight.  Then I awoke at the traditional time for insomniacs, 3:00 am.  However, I remembered the intention I set before I went to bed, to light some incense and meditate if that happened, and I did.

Meditating by candlelight in a dark house in the middle of the night is pleasant, quiet and easy. It is not yet full Pink Moon, but getting closer. The moon is always full, of course. "Full moon" means only that we can see it all from where we stand.
Pink Moon phlox


  1. I like your ideas on self help to control these symptoms. Sometimes my meds allow me some hypo mania and no one wants to fiddle with them because its not really affecting my life. But it does. Sleep especially. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Pata - Another thing I'm discovering is that my sleep varies with my mood, as well as the phase of the moon and the season. I'm trying to flex with that now.

  2. Thank you. I am planning to write more about sleep. It's been quite a problem for me........Hypomania can feel good, but in me it's led to flying off in all directions. I'm happy to wake up this morning feeling quiet.