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Before we begin this installment, let's review some of the highlights of the last one:
An activity that can help us keep our diagnosis under control is to keep a written journal of how we're feeling. It doesn't matter how you write it or what words you use; just let your mind and emotions go as you write!
And, when we're first faced with those occurrences that go into our journals, it helps tremendously to breathe slowly and deeply. Before reacting, take three deep breaths, and release them slowly. Also, straightening our posture and keeping our heads physically level can help. Then, as we speak, we do so more slowly than usual, and loudly/clearly enough for our listener(s) to understand.
It's always a good idea to get outdoors for a brief break. With the beauty and fresh, crisp air, vitamin D from the sunshine, and endorphins these jaunts provide, we begin to feel better about ourselves. Yes, being outside definitely has healing qualities!
We can also help ourselves when we drink plenty of water, and eat small, nutritious snacks.
At the end of our day, no matter how stressful is was, we can reward ourselves, even if it's just a good, relaxing bath, reading a good book, or watching a favorite TV show (by the way, if you have a cat, put your head on its side while it's relaxing, and just listen to it purr. I know for a fact that this really does work!).
We should never wear our disorder on our sleeve, or tell just anybody we have it. There are many people are more apt to make "snap judgments" about us, thanks to what they've heard on TV crime shows or on the news. The best way to handle these critics is simply to smile and walk away (or, if at work, continue our duties) politely. Now, there may be a few who, with good but misguided intentions, try to help us by relaying stories about people they know (perhaps in their own families) who are bipolar.
But there seem to be more who just want to aggravate us about our disorder. These are the ones who use words like "crazy," "worthless," and others to describe us, and they're like cocking the hammer of a pistol, just ready to pull the trigger on us.
So how do we put those "triggers" on safety?
First of all, we can make a list of our qualities that prove we're worth more than these bullies (hey... let's call them what they are, okay?) can imagine!
Get a piece of paper (I'd recommend a large index card that can be carried for quick reference. I do that even now). Then, we can list the things we know we're good at. Some of us may play musical instruments, others may write articles or poems, have outside work experience or some other talent(s). No matter what we're able to do well (and, despite what we've been told, every one of us have something we excel at), we write those down.
Now, when we go back and review that list, we'll see proof, in black-and-white, that we are not "worthless" at all!
Need more proof? Let me get personal: Do you have children? Are they cared for, fed and clothed, and know they can rely on you for moral support? Then congratulations—you've just shown the ultimate in worthiness and sanity! (Be sure to write that down, too.)
On the other side of that paper or index card, we can list a "support network" of friends, family or even those on our favorite social site. We can also make a list of the phone numbers we shared on an earlier post. Those can encourage us and boost our feelings as well as help lift us out of a specific episode!
If we need more proof that we're worthy and smart, think about all the things we've gone through up to this point in our lives. Nobody and nothing has taken us out of this game of life yet! That means we're stronger than the situation, and God has made us more durable and worth more than we ever could imagine!
One of our biggest setbacks in when we remember past incidents and begin mentally "whipping" ourselves with them. Look... no one can change the past. It's gone. And constantly beating ourselves over incidents that may/may not have happened back then, especially for bipolars, can be devastating.
Let me share this personal story to illustrate the importance of leaving the past behind:
My very first car was an old 1966 Ford Fairlane that my dad got for me on my eighteenth birthday. One Sunday afternoon shortly after getting the car, I was driving along one of our state roads when I hit a pothole so hard that I thought it tore my tire up! As most of us would do, I continued driving (though a little slower to make sure there wasn't any damage)—but kept checking the rear-view mirror, thinking of that tremendous hole in the road and how stupid I was for hitting it. "If I'd just seen it and swerved a little. If I'd just taken another road, it wouldn't have happened..."
While I was lost in thought, my car started drifting into the other lane of traffic, narrowly missing a head-on with a station wagon! I quickly pulled back into my lane and headed back home. When I arrived, I told my parents about the giant pothole and the ensuing near-accident.
Daddy looked stunned as he shook his head in disbelief. "Son, do you know why that happened? You see, like in life, you can't look back when you're driving. You've got to keep both hands on the wheel and your sights set straight ahead! In fact, you've got to look a little farther ahead so you can avoid those potholes! Now, that episode's already passed you and your car is still in good shape, so leave it alone and concentrate on what's in front of you!"
"You mean in the car, right?"
"I mean in the car and in life both! Son, you ought to know by now that nobody can get where they're going if they're always lookin' at where they've been. You came through that bump like you have the bumps in life—you're still in one piece—so let it go and keep moving in the right direction."
Admittedly, for awhile I kept thinking about how stupid I was in letting that happen. That's like the grief we feel over broken relationships, loss of job, and other traumatic things. But I also realized that the episode was behind me and presented a challenge for me to do better in my driving. Look... everything that has hurt us in the past is gone, and we're still here "in one piece." These situations have presented us with a challenge to do better, make wiser choices, and set ourselves up to travel more smoothly and safely along life's road.
So let the past go, concentrate on what's ahead... and don't look back!
If we need help focusing on the "now" rather than "then," we can find someone we can confide in—your counselor, a reliable friend, or even someone at one of the helplines we shared earlier (and, again, don't discount Facebook! I listed one of their support group links in an earlier article). Incidentally, if we do make contact with someone of Facebook— and if it will make us feel more secure—then we can ask to move the chat to Messenger (which is a private message service offered by Facebook).
The next hour of our lives—the next day and the rest of this week—is what we have and what we need to aim for in order to stay "on track." They are like clean, blank canvasses, waiting for us to paint the pictures we want on them! We can choose to paint attitudinal masterpieces we can cherish for years to come—or with streaks of dreary thoughts and worry! But they're there, just waiting for our touch!
They're all ahead of us! And they hold the potential for a happy and successful life—one that can be reached as long as we focus on what's ahead—and not the road in our rear-view mirror!