Wising up

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“When we are calm and steady, we see things more clearly. When we are calm and steady, we see things just as they are” My saying.

We have all been in a fight at some point in our lives. We may have cursed, shouted or lashed out physically. Afterwards, we may have noticed that it took some time for our thoughts and feelings to settle down. Our judgement may have been clouded. Or we have pushed too hard at work. We may have stayed on too long in the office, gone way beyond our quota or done too much editing on a paper. But when balanced, we are able to communicate our needs while listening to the needs of the other. We see the importance of rest, hobbies, and friendships in order to be productive. “When we are calm and steady, we see things more clearly.” Continue reading

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Zenfulness

Marvellous existence

‘True emptiness is marvellous existence’ – Zen saying.

In order for us to understand to some degree the above saying, it is good to look at the practice of Zen meditation. Zazen, as I’ve mentioned before, is “the act of straight-backed sitting and rhythmic breathing which help unify and control the mind through sustained concentration” (Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit). It is simple in theory but hard to do, especially if we are to do it on a regular basis. I continue to practise zazen every morning – sitting strongly and breathing gently – and my thoughts, feelings and images slowly fade away. I experience peace and consolation… Continue reading

Meditative joy

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Acclaimed clinical psychologist Jordan B Peterson draws from biblical stories in his book 12 Rules for Life, claiming that they are sources of greatest wisdom in the West. I also draw from the Bible in this reflection to highlight the importance of what I call ‘meditative joy’.

The story goes that two Mary’s – Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James – see an angel at the tomb of Jesus. They are told that Jesus is risen and to go and tell the disciples where to go so that he will see them soon. On their way Jesus meets the women. They are humbled by his presence and bow down before him. In my imagination, he helps them up from the ground, comforts them, is affectionate with them, walks with them and then repeats what the angel has said. They go forth filled with the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Celebrating mental health

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Referring to a point I made previously in my blogpost, Mentally healthy, someone with bipolar and someone without bipolar can actually be at the same point on the mental health continuum. I noted a range of experiences from distress (bad stress) to eustress (good stress) that can occur all in one day. I update this thought in accordance with models of stress to say that there can be a wider range still.

On a continuum from left to right a person experiences boredom when there is a low level of stress and low level of performance, eustress when there is a moderate level of stress and high level of performance, and distress when there is a high level of stress and low level of performance. Again, someone with bipolar and someone without bipolar can be on the same point of this continuum. Continue reading

10 Upsides of Bipolar!

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Here is a summary of my 10 Upsides of Bipolar, which was published on celebrity Niall Breslin’s A Lust for Life website. I was also interviewed on Dublin City FM

As I walked the road of recovery, I began to realise how Bipolar Disorder actually graced my life. Here I share my blessings with you.

1) Empathy: Commonly referred to as ‘putting yourself into another’s shoes’, empathy is a classic bipolar gift. Since I have experienced the full range of human emotions, from the depressive lows to the manic highs – I can imagine being in the shoes of another who is low, high, or anything in between. Similarly, my thoughts have mirrored my expansive feelings, and so if a person’s thoughts are racing, for example, then I can usually relate to or imagine their reality.

2) Creativity: When bipolar started to surface, I took up the pen to write. I journaled my thoughts and feelings, and it became clear that my mind had plenty to say. I wrote down an experience of meditation: a perfect picture of kind eyes gazing upon me, like a womb of love encircling me. Moreover, I blogged, wrote short stories, and dabbled in novel writing. And I imagine connecting with brave people who live out this condition with great dignity. Continue reading

Wisdom

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Emotions

As I experienced the full range of human emotions with bipolar, I learned quite quickly when to stay with emotions and when to move on, to pick myself up if needed. For example, I felt sad after experiencing a rift with my house mates. In the company of my friend, I stayed with my sadness and I was quiet and low in energy. I was OK being in this state. And eventually my mood naturally lifted. Other times, I asked my friend questions and smiled. To change my environment can be wise too, such as going for an ocean swim.

Accept the reality of the situation

Walter J. Ciszek S.J. was a Jesuit priest who lived through 23 years of Russian prisons and labour camps. I read his book He Leadeth Me and the most profound part for me was that he learned to accept “the reality of the situation”. For him, this meant facing every moment as a prisoner with openness and opportunity. For me, this meant fully accepting my bipolar tendencies and circumstances. I got caught up with anger and frustration trying to fight off my extreme moods. Real change came about the more I said “Yes” to bipolar and “Yes” to my reality. I’m still tempted to reject situations but I am mindful of the wise thing to do. Continue reading

Hope

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Hope is not deceptive” – Romans 5:5

My state of unemployment is a perfect opportunity to harness that inbuilt capacity to be hopeful. I finished a 6 month contract last Friday as a civil servant and what a fruitful time it had been. It was the first major “normal” test for me since being diagnosed with bipolar.

I worked full days: kept to deadlines; adapted to the needs of colleagues; and fit the role of a normal employee. Reasonable accommodations were provided for me, for example, time off for medical appointments and additional short breaks to regulate my stress levels. After a while, my disability essentially disappeared as reflected by a comment from my manager: “To be honest, Gavin, your disability was not an issue”. Continue reading