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Re-Raising Yourself

Even as I look at my own childhood, I see how my parents wanted me to stay young and innocent as long as possible, but without too much fantasy. I was not allowed to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and any other “fantastical” character. I grew to have a fear of people dressed in character costumes such as Ronald McDonald, the Red Robin bird, clowns, the characters on Sesame Street, you name it I feared it. I don’t blame my parents; they were trying to do the best they could with what limited knowledge and resources they had. Yet, I confess that in order for me to have become a well-adjusted adult, I had to re-raise myself.

Re-raise yourself I ask? It is a concept I stumbled upon in many a psych book that I have read after being diagnosed with Bipolar I. It is a very complex concept, yet it basically means to identify habits, fears, customs, or other behaviors that are counter-productive to your well-being and adjusting your behavior through constant re-direction and behavior correction. The term means what it means: re-raising yourself to the point that you correct your behaviors such as a parent would do so to a child. You must remember to be patient and kind with yourself, however, so as to not instill more fear into your psyche and fill those voids with love and compassion.

I recommend this exercise to everyone and anyone who feels they have been shortchanged in life and want to make some real positive change in their future. It seems as a human race we tend to repeat our errors over and over again, without any progress. My favorite saying┬áis that the definition of insanity is doing something the same way repeatedly and expecting different results. If it doesn’t make sense, then think about it. Have you ever yelled at someone for not doing something correctly and after the umpteenth time of scolding them, they still don’t correct their behavior? Maybe, perhaps it’s time you correct your approach in order to produce different results.

I also recommend this to people who tend to run away from their problems, either literally or theoretically. It’s odd to see someone move to a new job, a new state, country, what have you in order to change their lives only to repeat the same behavior patterns. Like the saying goes, wherever you go, there you are. And I have been guilty of this, so please don’t take this as condemnation or judgement of any kind; I am not exempt. It has been through trials and tribulations that I have learned to change my behavior and attitudes towards all kinds of issues. From child rearing, to marriage, to employment, to saving money. And I am still working on all of those because just like a plant, life is constantly growing, changing, evolving, so I have to constantly grow, change, and evolve my behavior and attitude.

Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? But life is work, because you get out of it what you put into it. However, if you do it right, it becomes a labor of love and can move you in more ways than you imagined.

Saving up for depression

The title sounds weird, right? Incoherent and non-sensical. How can you “save up” for depression? What does that even mean? Well, I like to think I coined this term and it means that whenever I feel happy, experience a positive event, feel energized, I try to engrave these moments into my memory so that when I feel depressed, I can revisit them and somehow see the light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, I “save up” good memories to counteract the awful moments that I sometimes find myself in. It’s not easy, and it didn’t come to me through a psychiatrist or self-help book, although those help as well, but rather through a self-realization that thinking about happy thoughts helps me get through the tough times, usually.

The last time I had depressive feelings was over a month ago and through the entire period I concentrated on my daughter’s birthday that had just passed, and her elation at the event. It helped me get through the depression. I also thought about eating watermelon with my family on a certain hot summer evening and how Isa, the youngest, got watermelon all over her hair, ears, and of course, face. It was enough to bring a smile to my face and motivate me to shower and be ready for my kids.

I am sure that we all have good memories we can look back on, either recent or in the past, that can get us through those tough moments when we feel nothing but despair. It helps to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel after all.

On Refusing to Take Medication

I avoided medications of all varieties for much of my adult life. When I was 36, I had had too much of my depression and opted to start taking Prozac under the care of a psychiatrist at Redwood City Kaiser. I stayed on anti-depressants alone until I was 47 when I finally acknowledged my bipolar disorder after a suicide attempt and added mood stabilizers to the list of drugs that I was taking. Why did I go so long before I sought relief? Mostly because of a prejudice that had been drummed into my head by my mother, a registered nurse, who believed that medications should be avoided at all costs and that my depression and manic swings were character flaws. When I stopped listening to her, the quality of my life improved and I was able to be the person who I always knew that I was.

Many people feel that people who refuse to take medications should be forced to take them. They cite incidents such as a New York City man who went off his meds and started hitting people with a hammer or a schizophrenic woman who killed her baby in a fast food restaurant’s bathroom. The recitation of such litanies by certain advocates who favor forced medication is stigmatizing because the vast majority of people who go unmedicated don’t commit such crimes. Their struggles are worse than those of us who don’t take them, but it is important to understand their reasons for refusing.

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Writing Helps to Heal

I know it sounds cliche because we have all heard it before, “Why don’t you write about it? It’ll help” Yet, few of us really take that advice and implement it. Most of us take it as psychiatric mumbo jumbo, and continue with our pain alone for fear of burdening our close friends and relatives, those we have left anyway.

I was one of those non-believers in the power of writing and it took me a good nine years after being formally diagnosed to take finger to keyboard and just type. I started with a Twitter. Yes, I took to social media with my angst because if I was gonna share with the world, I was doing it loud and clear and on the internet. And lo and behold, I found a whole community of people like me, fellow sufferers and survivors of mental wellness. I could not have been more surprised at feeling a sense of camaraderie on the internet of all places. I was so overwhelmed that I started crying after one of my Tweets got retweeted, a personal Tweet I must say.

Maybe it sounds lame to you, but after that first reTweet, I was hooked on writing. I quickly found venues to express my thoughts and opinions, and somehow for some odd reason, people were listening to me. And not only listening, but commiserating, it was as if I had come home, finally.

Now, whenever I feel any slight anxiety, mania, depression, whatever, I take to writing. I love it. Everything about it. And I love and appreciate the people that have given me the chance to use my voice for good.