Tag Archives: Bipolar

The Real Link Between Creativity and Mental Illness

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From the article (link below):

“It seems that the key to creative cognition is opening up the flood gates and letting in as much information as possible. Because you never know: sometimes the most bizarre associations can turn into the most productively creative ideas.”

Excellent article on creativity and the link (if there is one) with mental illness…(Keeping our minds open to all the different ways of understanding these traits or characteristics…)

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2013/10/03/the-real-link-between-creativity-and-mental-illness/ 

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“The Red Book”: A Primer For Healing Madness In A Mad World

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“Naturally I compensated my inner insecurity by an outward show of security, or — to put it better — the defect compensated itself without the intervention of my will. That is, I found myself being guilty and at the same time wishing to be innocent. Somewhere deep in the background I always knew that I was two persons. One was the son of my parents who went to school and was less intelligent, attentive, hard-working, decent, and clean than many other boys. The other was grown up — old, in fact — skeptical, mistrustful, remote from the world of men, but close to nature, the earth, the sun, the moon, the weather, all living creatures, and above all close to the night, to dreams, and to whatever “God” worked directly in him.” (p. 44, The Red Book by Carl Jung)

“On the contrary, it is played out in every individual. In my life No. 2 has been of prime importance, and I have always tried to make room for anything that wanted to come from within. He is a typical figure, but he is perceived only by the very few. Most people’s conscious understanding is not sufficient to realize that he is also what they are.” (p. 45, The Red Book by Carl Jung)

Laura K. Kerr, Ph.D. wrote an incredible blog post about The Red Book by Carl Jung, read the rest of the article. . . on her blog, Trauma’s Labyrinth.

I am not bipolar, I have it.

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I am not Bipolar.  I have Bipolar.  It is not me, and I live with it, but I do not allow it to have me.

I know, this is all quibbling with language, but when we use language to think, to define ourselves and who we are, our words and their meanings become vital.  All to often, people are classified, or classify themselves as “Bipolar”, as if it were a nationality, culture, heritage or something that defines who we are.

I refuse.

Cancer patients don’t call themselves,”Cancerous”, although Cancer decides much of what they do and how they live.  They have Cancer.  Some lie down and allow their lives to go the way they go.  Some fight tooth and nail.  Some ignore it completely, living with it to the end.  There may be an exception somewhere to this, but I haven’t met anyone who said,”I am cancerous.”  They have it.

So, that’s my attitude.  It’s not for everyone, and if you are a “Bipolar” and embrace it, then good for you.  It’s not for me.

How do I fight?

First of all, I take the position that, despite the way my decision making abilities are tied to my emotion and energy and the way that they don’t always make any rational sense, I am the decision maker here.  If I choose to start behaving in a way that is a danger to myself or someone else, I made that choice.  I own it.  It may have been a poor choice, and may have been helped along by having Bipolar, but I made the decision to do X.  No one made me do it but me.

This position has it’s good and bad points.  It allows me to claim control over something, when internally it’s as if I’m mostly an observer.  Society appears to be all in favor of me lying down and claiming,”But, I’m bipolar, and I am out of control.”  I don’t want that.  I am 36 years old.  I’m a father, and if one of my kids says,”I was out of control”, as a parent, I still punish them for acting badly.  I have more control than a 4 or 8 or 12 year old, even if that control extends only to,”This is getting too hard, I need help.”  It allows me to live and be productive and helpful and a positive influence on my friends and family.  It makes me “happy”.

Secondly, I pay attention.  I pay a LOT of attention to what is going on with me internally.  For example:  Right now, I am a tad stressed, but not bad.  I’m on an “upswing” towards a potential hypo or hyper manic phase, but I won’t know how far it will go until I get there, but I know it bears careful attention to my sleeping patterns and closer scrutiny of decision making.  My chest has that odd “excitement/panic/fear/happiness” tingle to it.  My muscles are “sparkly” as I describe it, that sensation of when the adrenalin is about to drop into your system before a competitive race or something.  My thoughts are quick, but not racing, yet.  This all means that my patience is less, my temper is shorter, and I should probably not make any major decisions on my own and without reflection right now.

I know what I need to do, and the decision is mine as to whether to do the things that will allow me to continue to live and be a “good” influence on those around me or not.

Third, I try to focus my energy on things that are intangible , if I have an excess.  If I am manic and not sleeping, I will try to make myself consider philosophical thoughts, and if possible, engage someone in discussion.  Maybe I’ll pay attention to a social issue, and research it until I feel that I can come to a reasonable conclusion.  Maybe I’ll work on some creative writing.  I know that, me being me, I should try to avoid people that might take advantage of my heightened energy and such until it calms down.

I know what you may be thinking,”That’s not what so many other people say/think/write”.  Nope.  It’s not.  This is what works for me and how I think.

Should Bipolar be fought against or embraced?  I think that’s a decision each of us has to make on our own.  To me, embracing bipolar means “riding the roller coaster”, or more accurately, trying to form my life to where the roller coaster takes me.  If it were just me that I was responsible for, this might be a reasonable choice for me, but other people are effected by everything I say and do.  I choose to accept this responsibility to those people I love and care about and try to set aside my own feelings as I can.

Sometimes, it gets to be too much, and I have to tell everyone that I must take a break.  They can react how they like, but sometimes I have to tell the rest of the world that, for a little while, they can all go hang, or they will be without my influence.  This is a complication to the way I deal with life that the average “boss” will not accept or understand, and that’s ok.  I live within the means that I am able to create for myself or have access to.

I am an individual.  I am not Bipolar, I have it.  It does not define me, that is something I choose.  I do not fit into the “bipolar” category.  I don’t think that anyone really does.  Sometimes I am up so high that the world seems distant and beside the point.  Sometimes I’m so low that the world is monster threatening to destroy me.  It is not those times where I can do this stuff on my own.

So, I work on it.  I think through things, to the point that I research and plan things to the point of it being ridiculous at times.  My thought process is slow and complex, as I sort through information and determine the importance of it in order to come to a decision.  The way I do things internally doesn’t work out very well if I choose to follow an unplanned impulse.  I don’t do well in oral conversation, not having time to think about what I’m trying to say or having an easy way to rewind what has been said and make sure that my own impressions are accurate.  It allows me to live, though, and I’m used to it now.

There have been times I was in a hospital because, well, that’s where the rollercoaster had taken me.  I rode the rollercoaster into a dark, seemingly unending depression, or a manic phase dotted with delusions and hallucinations, or worse, into some bizarre mix of hyperactivity and depression, or a complete lack of energy and a nice dose of racing thoughts and grand ideas that, while grand, were impossible.

It has not been an easy road.  I did not get to this point at the flip of a switch or by taking a magic pill.  I have been fighting for 20 years since my first episode.  Therapy, meds of various kinds, and lots and lots of internal work and thought and reflection.

I know that it only takes a small slip to wind up back in a hospital, so I am careful.  If I see that I am on the way “up” or “down” or otherwise entering a realm where my decisions may not be the greatest, I try to act ahead of time, talking to people who will help me to make good decisions and good choices that allow me to continue.  If the help I get in “public” is not enough, then I may seek something more intensive, but I avoid that option if possible.

I am not bipolar.  I have it.  It does not define me.  I do that.  This is my mantra.  Every day that I wake up and lead a relatively normal appearing existence is a success.  Every day that I wake up and simply live, exist, function enough to get things done that make others’ lives easier is a success.  The only failure, for me, is to board the rollercoaster and raise my hands and let life happen to me.

Will it work for you?  That’s up to you.  Do I think anyone else should or should not choose to fight and live as I do?  No.  That’s up to you and your life and situation.  This is mine though.

It’s my life.  Because I am not bipolar.  I am me.  I am an individual.  I can not be defined as bipolar any more than I can define you as bipolar.  Who you are is your choice.  It may be the only choice you get to make, so make the choice that will make you happy and that will allow you to live as well as possible.

But, I define myself, and I am not bipolar.  I have it.

My work as a psychologist

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Therapy has for most people been associated with something mystical. Before I started with psychology myself, I also had my mental images of it, and knew about the standard Freudian couch where you simply said whatever you wanted. I`ve heard about Freud, and knew you probably had to talk about your childhood, but had no idea how a typical therapist or patient actually looked.

F4737867504973e546f5319541a4be1dbor people who haven`t been in therapy, it is often still a mystery. A lot of my friend have asked me, isn`t it hard to hear about so many horrible things, every day? But it’s basically what we all do, every day, anyway. We see films, listen to our friends, read books and watch news about what`s going on. Of course, we don´t have the “obligation” to do something about that, so people might feel that it`s different, but I promise you, a therapist is not more than a personal trainer cheering the clients on. We always stand by our patients sides when something needs to be done or untangled.

Even if I am a therapist, I still love to go to therapy or supervision myself. I don`t respond to the words, but simply to the fact that I talk with a human being about myself. It’s good to have someone there, who just say “it truly sounds like you had a rough time”.

What do you talk about in therapy?
This might still be a bit vague. You might think: Well, that`s fine: But what do you exactly DO in those 45 minutes? To make it more concrete, I will try to write a bit more of what can be done in therapy. Since we can`t talk about patients, I must underline that this is just a general picture, and referrers to no specific client of mine. Of course there will be variations in how we work and approach problems, but I always have some basics that I live by: Respect, curiosity and an attitude of “everything is possible”. I truly believe that, no matter how far someone has fallen, with motivation and hard work, nothing can´t be done. People come to therapy for all kinds of reasons

 

My day at work

A typical morning for me is getting to work, looking through my calendar and appointments or maybe attending a meeting if its monday or Wednesday. Normally I have about four sessions every day, with people who have a variety of diagnosis. If we have our first meeting, I have to go through some standard questions, but mostly I try to get a description of the problem as they see it. Sometime I also give them some surveys that have to be filled out before the next session, but personally I prefer to not fbcd7b34c340acf7f3a4f2773445698fuse too much time on those, since I think people have a variety of problems people might get a bit annoyed if this is the only focus. I also go through why they have to answer them: So that we can choose a treatment that fits people who generally score the same on those surveys. And of course, if they have a diagnosis that might require medications, I can`t ignore that.

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the best thing we can do is help each other

For very depressed, bipolar people, AD/HD or people in a psychosis, conversations might not be what we focus on the most in the beginning, it might be we also must talk with the doctor so that we can secure basics like sleep. For some people, collecting energy will be the first thing we do. It’s about saying no to people who drain energy, working with attitudes about how perfect everything must be, or simply working in a schedule where they put in healthy food, physical activities and “alone-time”. Some people worry a lot, and then the goal might be to set up experiments where those worries are put to the test. For example, people with panic attacks, might worry about fainting in public, and after a while they start to avoid situations that they feel are dangerous. An example that I actually saw on television, was a woman afraid of hurting kids if she had a knife in her hand.After a while, she stopped using knives, and even made sure to lock them securely in. She also developed a fear where she worried she might accidentally kill someone by not paying not attention while driving. After a while she simply stopped driving, because she didn`t want to take any risks. The therapy for her was rather concrete: She had to expose herself to what she feared, like being in the area where kids could be WHILE she carried a knife, and drive a car where people could potentially be, without turning back to check if she had run over people.

Using eye movements to reduce fear

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I use EMDR a lot for helping trauma-victims

I mostly work with traumatized people and people with personality disorders. I usually follow a model where I first focus on collecting energy, before we work with specific traumas that give them flashbacks, nightmares and disrupt them in their daily lives (can`t relax, must always be on “guard”). I use EMDR for this work, which is basically using eye movements while they think about trauma. I ask them to bring forward a memory which scare them, and to think about the part the worst part. Then they keep that picture in their mind’s eye, while following specific movements I do with my fingers. I monitor their discomfort on a scale from 1-10, where 10 is the worst discomfort they have ever felt, and 0 is completely calm, and keep doing the finger movement until they feel calm. I will write more about EMDR later, but it the main point is that afterwards, it`s easier to live with what happened. People have described it as “earlier I lived IN it, now it feels like it`s behind me”.

How to say goodbye
The last “face” is to talk about ending the therapy. We go through the work we have done, and talk about how it will be to say goodbye. This is important, because being “left” is something a lot struggle with. I must make sure that people don’t feel abandoned, that they can take with them some part of what they learnt, inside their goodbyehearts. I have also been in therapy, and when I feel especially low, I can hear her voice in my head saying: “Take care of yourself, dear”. I say this to my clients: If I can be with you in just one tiny part, I will gladly be there, and allow them to contact me later, if they need to. It’s just a way of saying that goodbye is just “now you can continue on your own. I wish I could walk every step of the journey with you, and in my heart, I do”.

A lot of my jobs is actually about respect and being there. Far too many think they aren`t good enough. It doesn`t matter how many times they have been told or have read that everyone has worth, and so do they, it still FEELS different. Sometimes its all about stating the obvious; I see how kind-hearted they are (most people are really wonderful), how hard they try, how much suffering they had to go through, and remind them off this, when they just see what they feel is “bad”. It’s about never leaving, and being stable and sure when they feel giving up is the only option.

I truly care about my job and my clients. When they manage to do something good for themselves, I cheer them on and feel real joy in my chest. Its magic, what I do, and it gives me hope, because no matter how many bad choices, relationships or events that have taken place in a life, it truly is never too late.

Related articles
EMDR therapy: faster relief for overcoming trauma (firefliesofhope.typepad.com)
Therapists: Peddlers of hope and how to choose one (voxxi.com)