Gary John Bishop’s “Wise As Fu*k” – Fear

My new companion “Wise As Fu*k” and my manuscript so far.

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise as Fu*k” delivers an impactful punch of insight in a straightforward no-bullshitting style that is admirable. Bishop breaks down his books into sections or rather “fundamentals of life:” Love, Loss, Fear and Success. I will admit I perused the “Love” section but the parts on loss, fear and success really spoke to me in a way that has motivated me to attempt to make a very real change in my life. I will address the three sections of loss, fear and success in three separate blog posts. This one will be dedicated to Fear.

“If you ask anyone why they feel as if they’re stuck or trapped, why they don’t reach for greatness or break out of a crumbling life and you question a little, they all initially cough up the same boring answer to that existence of predictability and beigeness – Fear” (Bishop 113).

Bishop really hits home with this statement for I too often chalk up why I fall short of my goals to fear, and more specifically the generic fear of failure. He points out in this book that most people have built a life around their fears rather than their potential. If I am being completely honest with myself and you, my readers, I have let fear dominate my life and hold me back from pursuing things I have wanted to but never did for fear of failing.

“You don’t start a business or write that book or apply to that college or even go the gym becaue…what’s the fucking point, right? I mean, you’ll only fail again, won’t you?” (Bishop 113). Bishop hits even closer to home with these examples for I myself have been delaying my writing process for a book I want to get published. Again, I chalk it up to fear. I fear I will spend months, even years writing a manuscript only to have it rejected by every publisher I submit it to. I fear even if it does get published that it will not be well received or no one will even like it or even read it. I fear at the heart of it all that I will expose myself raw and share my painful journey only to be criticized and or ostracized. These are the thoughts running through my mind every time I debate sitting down to write my manuscript.

Fear is described as a Band-Aid to cover up everything we don’t want to face in this book, “It is an explanation that allows us to put that task off indefinitely” (Bishop 115). And as I mentioned earlier, I am using my fear of failure as a Band-Aid to cover up facing writing my memoir because as Bishop notes, “Look your problem is not a fear of failure itself, but a fear of being seen to fail” (Bishop 116). I am at the very root of it afraid to be seen failing yet again. I tried to finish my degree at University and become a professor but was derailed by a mental breakdown brought on by the onset of bipolar disorder. It took me a long time to pick myself up  mentally and at times even physically. I think my fear comes from a place of not wanting people to see me reaching for another dream – writing and publishing a book – and it slip from my grasp again. I feel as though I would be ashamed and could not handle if yet another dream of mine were to die, since in my past I did not handle that very well to keep it light.

“You can learn to live with fear without using it as an excuse. It’s not about being fearless but rather realizing that you’re okay with it…It’s not about avoiding being judged but instead realizing that all people will judge, and it is far better to be judged for who you are rather than something you’re pretending to be…” (Bishop 118). This quote from “Wise As Fu*k” really put things into perspective for me. I realize it is better to be your authentic self and put all your cards on the table than shy away from the truth because of some stupid fear that you will be judged. While writing my book (what I’ve written so far) I’ve debated leaving parts of my painful journey out for fear it will not be well received or understood. I do however believe these more intense parts of my story will help my reader understand better where I have been and where I am coming from. I also believe there is someone out there going through these same scary, intense experiences that may benefit from me sharing my own account/version of them. Do I shy away from sharing the more dark parts of myself for fear of being judged or misunderstood or do I grow a pair and put it out there for the world to make of it what they will? After all this is MY story and it deserves to be told as truthfully and as authentically as possible so that the person experiencing the same darkness can feel less alone. This book has encouraged me to at the very least consider leaving these elements of my book in and to be honest I am thinking, “Fuck it! I’m just going to do it anyways – fear be damned.”

“To fear is to be alive. Its your job to understand that and to push past it…We all feel fear. But it’s not an excuse not to take action” (Bishop 119). This is the crux – to take action despite our fear. You can feel it but do not let it overwhelm you to the point of inaction. I realize I have been letting my fear cripple me and inhibit my ability to pursue my goal of being a published author. I need to have faith in my story and that it was meant to be told which I genuinely do believe. I believe my experiences are bigger than me and need to be shared in order that someone experiencing the same pain can have a guide post to reference as a piece of hope. I got through it and so can you. I need to acknowledge my fears but do not let them overcome me. I have been trying to do this by challenging my thinking. For example, “This book may be published and maybe no one will read it.” I challenge that with “Maybe it won’t be a bestseller or even popular but if it gets in the hands of just one person who benefits from reading it then it will all be worth it.” I have decided to start actively sitting down with my manuscript so far and work on it each day for at least an hour. This could mean I write, or maybe revise, or even research but the point is to sit with it until the fear washes away and I am spurred to action.

I will end this post with one more quote from Bishop that really resonated with me, “You can either be driven by that fear or declare yourself big enough to bring it along for the ride. Fear can be the companion or the driver; that choice will be yours” (Bishop 127). This is what I like about Bishop’s writing in that the ownership is put on the individual. It is up to me to accept my fear and yet continue to move on. I am no longer going to let fear be the driver but I will accept it as my companion for though I fear writing my book, I also fear not writing it more. I worry for that person in the throes of psychosis not understanding why or how this is happening to them without a compassionate voice (mine) for which to access and lean on for inspiration – that your experience does not define you but rather how you react and process it does. I want to be a voice for those who are too scared to speak up and admit to others and the world that losing your actual fucking mind is literally terrifying and makes you feel alone  and more than anything ashamed.

Don’t let fear have the last word but accept it for what it is a driving force that can be reigned into motivation. My fear motivates me to share my story and as authentically as possible because quite frankly it’s scarier not to.

Stay Tuned for the next blog post on Gary John Bishop’s thoughts on “Success” and my interpretation of it.

All My Love,

BiPolarMania,

XOXOXOXOXOXO

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise As Fu*K” – Loss

My new and already very worn edition of “Wise As Fu*k”

Gary John Bishop’s “Wise as Fu*k” delivers an impactful punch of insight in a straightforward no-bullshitting style that is admirable. Bishop breaks down his books into sections or rather “fundamentals of life:” Love, Loss, Fear and Success. I will admit I perused the “Love” section but the parts on loss, fear and success really spoke to me in a way that has motivated me to attempt to make a very real change in my life. I will address the three sections of loss, fear and success in three separate blog posts. This one will be dedicated to Loss.

Bishop offers several nuggets of wisdom throughout this book and writes in a way that connects with you on a universal level. You cannot help but be entranced and pushed to ponder further the ideas he expresses through his writing. Before he even begins to address the topics explored in this book he drops a bomb of wisdom in the opening pages, “you have the life you’re willing to put up with” (Bishop 7). He asks you to then let those words sink in and compare your own life to the statement and how you’re currently living.

It is because of statements like this that Bishop is one of my favourite writers in that he puts the responsibility back on you. He reminds us that it is up to us to create the life we want or think we deserve. No bullshit, no excuses, what you make of your life is up to you. This phrase made me a little uncomfortable because if I am being completely honest I have been accepting a level of mediocrity currently in my life. I know I could do better and that I could be taking real action to turn some of my goals into reality. That’s ok though because now that I am reminded of the ownership I have on my life, I can make a plan to change it to reflect more of the life I want for myself.

It is Bishop’s reflections on “Loss,” however, that really opened my eyes to some of the shit I have been carrying around and letting impact my life. He points out that loss can mean more than the death of a loved one but can also be the death of a dream. He writes, “the loss of a dream or situation, the death of an answer to your current predicament or situation – we actually grieve about things that were supposed to happen but didn’t” (Bishop 85). I grieved the loss of my dream to finish my degree and become a professor for years. I literally drove myself to suicidal ideation obsessing over this loss. I may not have lost anyone but I felt the same sorrow if not more. I lost the idea of what I believed my future held for me – I lost the version of myself I had placed all my faith in. When my dream died, it felt like a piece of me died and as a result I legitimately wanted to die.

 “Wise as Fu*k” reminds us that grief is a natural part of being human but it is up to us to interpret that experience and collectively move on from it. Bishop writes the following, “…you do have to be responsible (aware) about how this experience plays out in your life in the longer term. Most people have zero awareness of the lingering clouds of loss in their life and how they have changed themselves in its aftermath. The changes, sometimes subtle; the results, completely life-altering.”

Upon reflection of these words, I realize now that when I lost my dream there was definitely a lingering cloud of loss that tainted me moving forward. I convinced myself that I was uncapable of receiving a degree or working towards one and put off schooling for about five years. I did not grieve in a healthy manner and became obsessed with my loss to the point it affected my future. I eventually worked through my shit and am now working towards a graphic design degree at the local college but I wasted a large amount of time getting lost in my well, loss, that could have been used towards moving forward. There is a certain amount of time which is appropriate to grieve things but once it becomes detrimental to your future – its time to move the fuck on.

Bishop says that you can identify the expiration date of your loss by the number of times you’re now using to explain or excuse yourself. If it starts to become your go-to to justify things occurring in your life or why you do the things you do then the expiration date is definitely past due. He writes, “But when that time of “enough” comes, you have to be ready to do the work to center yourself, to relocate that grief to a place where it strengthens rather than weakens you” (Bishop 95). It is up to you to heal yourself from whatever you are grieving. I realized too late (but better than never) that I needed to grow and work on myself in order to move past my grief. I sought counselling, read every self-help book I could get my hands on, and forced myself into school despite my doubts that I could never learn again due to my past experience of falling short of my goals. I repositioned myself into a better head space in order to move forward. I worked on my limiting beliefs and insecure doubts until they were no longer relevant but the key thing here is  “I” did that, no one else. It was up to me to work through my shit and I finally did. I am stronger for my grief but “Wise As Fu*k” has shown me that I could have chosen a lot sooner to work through it and from now on I will never delay my healing process – I’ll own that shit!

A picture of me In My Element -Reading

Stay Tuned for the following two blog posts on Fear and Success according to Gary John Bishop.

All my Love,

BiPolarMania,

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life

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“The only difference between an opportunity and an obstacle is attitude” is a quote I enjoy from the book  “1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently” by Marc and Angel Chernoff. In this book they break down “12 Ways to Get a Second Chance in Life” and I am going to go through some of them and how it inspired me to try again. I feel as though I am on my thousandth chance because I keep trying then giving up on my life, obviously not literally but figuratively. I set goals and decide to work on them then slowly lose gusto and give up somewhere along the journey. This year, however, as I mentioned in earlier blog posts I want to live my life with more intent and focus.

  1. Let go of the past – This one is a lot easier said than done for often times we feel our past defines us. We reflect on what we deem “failures” in our past and it leads to us shying away from trying new things in fear of this failure occurring again. The Chernoffs make a good point for why we should let our past go in that every difficult moment in our lives is accompanied by an opportunity for personal growth and creativity. Even failure is an opportunity, an opportunity to try a new way or get up and try even harder. I have decided to let go of the past five years or so following my psychosis that I have remain idle with fear and not really working on what I want from life. I think I was afraid to admit what I wanted and truly work towards it in case it never came to fruition. This year I want to be more productive with my life and I am going to try and take steps each day to make this a reality – oh hey! look at me writing a blog post instead of watching tv or sulking in my bedroom.
  2. Identify the Lesson – Everything is a life lesson. Even and especially when you don’t get your way. For example, me not achieving my dream of finishing my degree and going psychotic off and on for a few years has taught me the importance of my mental health. It has also taught me to share my experiences with others such as on this blog because I know firsthand what it feels like to be lost and searching for answers or understanding. I think I needed to lose my dream to create a new one and that is to share my experiences with bipolar disorder through a published book. I am working on writing this book finally this year and am making it a serious life goal.
  3. Lose the negative attitude – This one is a great one because it led to me believing I could make my goal possible and kick started me into researching my past journals for my book I intend to write. The Chernoffs write the following and it really struck home with me: ”The mind must believe it can do something before it is capable of actually doing it.” Whatever goal you have cannot come into being unless you believe you can achieve it. You are not going to take a bunch of small steps to a bigger goal and continually take those steps if you feel discouraged and believe it will never actually happen. For example, if you want to lose weight but get discouraged every time the scale reads a larger number than you assumed, you’re more likely to give up on your goal of going to the gym often thinking it’s pointless. But with the right attitude those numbers can be interpreted another way such as gaining muscle that week led to the increase on the scale.
  4. Accept accountability for your current situation  – YOU and only YOU are in charge of your life and it is up to you to change it if you do not like it. Take responsibility for your actions and decide each day to work towards the changes you want to see in your life. For example, I noticed I never have any savings so I decided to track my money and see what I am wasting it on. I am now more aware of my situation and can make plans to change my spending habits that are superfluous. Will it be easy after most of my life blowing through money to now track it and manage it better? Hell No! But I am at least now making the effort to change it and I do not blame anyone else for this problem but myself because ultimately I know I got myself into this financial jam through poor life choices.
  5. Figure out what you really want – If you do not do this you will fall trap to never starting anything let alone finishing. I have done some self reflection recently on what I want to work on and have come up with some areas in my life I would like to start taking steps towards changing. One is obviously my book I want to write so I have decided to set an hour each day minimum aside to research, mind map, or even write out chapters. I also want to start volunteering again to feel as though I am contributing to my community in some sense and have a meeting Monday with the volunteer coordinator at the Food Bank. I also have decided to take my doctor’s recommendation of being physically active in the gym a minimum of three times a week which I now track on my calendar. Take some time and think about what you really want whether it be a new house, car, career, etc. And make a plan to work towards it.

I am writing this blog to let my readers know that Yes, You can start again. There’s no hard and fast rule of how to live your life or how many chances you get at one. Unhappy with how things are going? Hold yourself more accountable because ultimately it is you and only you that decides your happiness. If you are unhappy, take some time to reflect on why? and don’t blame others because it’s not their fault. If someone really is impacting your life negatively then it was your choice to invite them in and it can be your choice to let them back out. Once you have identified the problem areas in your life whether it be, career, finances, or your love life, ask yourself what is your ideal version of these? Then make a plan to take steps towards changing them. Seriously go old school, get a pen and paper out and start strategizing ways you can improve your life. Then work on it. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get exactly what you hoped for but hey, on your road there you may find an even better detour. The point is life is never over til it’s over. Right now if you choose, you can have a second chance.

Fantastic Mistakes

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In May 2012, bestselling author Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address to Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. Why does this matter to you or me? Well maybe it matters less to you and more to me because I found a hard copy of this speech also referred to as “The Make Good Art Speech” at the local library and it has inspired me to finally take on what I think I was meant to do in this world – write a book about my experiences with manic depression a.k.a. bipolar disorder.

The picture that I have included in the beginning of this blog post is a snapshot of a page out of the text as envisioned by Graphic designer Chip Kidd. It is a snapshot of the words that have sent me on this new quest and with a new vision for my life. They are as follows: “If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.” I have had a strong sense that I was blessed with the skill of writing and bipolar disorder so I may write about it and make people struggling with their mental health feel less alone. Since I was a child, I always envisioned writing a book and becoming a novelist so much so I wrote a letter of my intent to my favourite author at the time and she wrote back! encouraging me. Ideas for my novel have come and gone and have evolved into entirely different ideas over the years. However, ever since my psychosis I have held onto the idea of writing about my experiences with it. This is the one idea that has stayed in my mind the longest and is still prevalent.

Seeing these words, “then just go and do that.” It never occurred to me to just start writing and see where I and my idea end up. I feel as though it was by divine intervention that I came across this speech just as I have been faltering and procrastinating my idea. I struggle with the questions of how to write this book and in which way it will be organized but I believe these answers will come when the time is right and for now I just need to start working on content, no matter how disorganized it may come out. I have always wanted to help somebody with my writing and I do believe I was put on this earth with some intent. My life has some kind of bigger meaning than I think I realize and this may be it…not to get too carried away or spiritual here. But I do believe everyone has a purpose and I think it’s due time I began creating mine.

In the beginning of his speech writer Neil Gaiman says “I got out into the world, I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote, and I wrote some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along…” Even just reading those words at the very entry point to his speech, something dawned on me. I have been avoiding writing my story because I am afraid I will write it poorly or that it will be poorly received. However, I am missing the point of writing and its very nature which is that the only way to become a better writer is to write, write and then write some more. Nobody ever just wrote one draft of something and was content. You have to edit, edit, then edit some more. Revise, revise, revise. I need to simply put pen to paper and begin somewhere and stop dwelling on what it will end up being. The process is just as important as the end product. I just had to remind myself or rather be reminded by Gaiman that writing is my passion and that I DO enjoy the process, hell, I even enjoy revising.

As for what it will become? Nobody not even me can be sure. Maybe someone will publish it or maybe they won’t. Maybe I’ll self-publish or release it in a series of blog posts. Again, time will tell and I do not have to have all the answers right at this moment. But I do owe it to myself to try for fear of failure cannot have the last word…not anymore.

Gaiman also mentions in his speech that he tried never to do anything purely for the money but because he wanted to create something into existence and to be proud of his work and time spent: “The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality, have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them.” The reality is I love writing and I love writing what I know and I definitely know my intimate experience and struggle with bipolar disorder. I think I am scared to start writing my memoirs because I am afraid nothing will come of it but after reading these words I realized the experience of writing in itself is worth it to me. So as of today I will be setting some time apart to write about my life and more specifically my cycles of bipolar – from mania, to depression, to psychosis, to mania, and back again because I know deep down that I am worth it. And I owe it to myself to try.

Stay Tuned for more posts and updates from BiPolarMania.

The Link Between Disorder and Genius

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“The subject of genius and mental illness has been discussed and debated on a scientific level for decades. Our cultural awareness of the link between mental disorder and genius is as old as philosophy. Plato wrote of what he called “divine madness,” and Aristotle recognized that creative people tended toward melancholia. It is no coincidence that such a high percentage of American Nobel and Pulitzer Prize – winning writers are also alcoholics” (Saltz, 9).

It was these lines in M.D. Gail Saltz’ book The Power of Different that led me to read this psychiatrist and bestselling author’s take on mental illness as a driving force for creativity. Saltz relies on scientific research, stories from historical geniuses and from everyday individuals who have not only made the most of their conditions but have also flourished because of them.

Being a blogger on mental health, specifically bipolar disorder, the idea of disorder being linked to genius extremely interested me. Saltz found in multiple studies, bipolar disorder has been scientifically, clinically proven to correlate with creativity and the artistic temperament (Saltz 136). Being both an artist and a person suffering with bipolar disorder this peaked my interest even more.

Clinical psychologist and writer Kay Redfield Jamison writes in her book Touched with Fire that Saltz references,  “Many of the changes in mood, thinking and perception that characterize the mildly manic states – restlessness, ebullience, expansiveness, irritability, grandiosity, quickened and more finely tuned senses, intensity of emotional experiences, diversity of thought, and rapidity of associational processes – are highly characteristic of creative thought as well” (Saltz 145). Bipolar is a disorder that has links to creativity which can be traced back to writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Anne Saxton who unfortunately took their lives as a result of their cycling moods.

The most creative individuals however are not the “most well” or the “most ill” but rather are often “mildly ill.” Saltz references the research of Robert Bilder and Kendra Knudsen at the University of California, Los Angeles who observe this phenomena: “These are the individuals who can be diagnosed with all sorts of brain differences – like depression or bipolar disorder – who are simultaneously well treated and flexible enough to move back and forth between convergent and divergent thinking” (Saltz 206).

Examples of this kind of flexibility can be found in a forty-year longitudinal study conducted by Swedish researchers and published in the “Journal of Psychiatric Research:” “These researchers found that being an author “was specifically associated with increased likelihood of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, unipolar depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Clearly the authors who suffered from these brain differences were functioning at a level high enough to enable them to produce publishable work. Moreover, these same researchers found much higher representation in scientific and artistic fields among those whose first-degree relatives had diagnosed mental illness” (Saltz 206).

In the words of Bilder and Knudsen, the creative brain needs to balance at “the edge of chaos: “the kind of creativity that produces novels, musical scores,entrepreneurial ideas, and scientific theories requires the ability to flip back and forth between organized and messy thinking” (Saltz 206).

Often times people with bipolar disorder who enjoy the creative frenzy that accompanies mania or hypomania neglect to take their medication in order to ride the high out a little longer, so to speak. The flurry of ideas that come during these manic episodes can seem intoxicating and I can speak from experience of a rush of ideas that came over me that all seemed pressing and yet I was too disorganized in thought to be able to hold any one idea down.

Nassir Ghaemi, Who treats many bright students in their teens and twenties, says, ” is that people with bipolar disorder can benefit from taking a broad view of their own creativity. When patients resist medication, the real issue they’re having is that they think about creativity is just one thing, as this kind of flash of inspiration that happens when you’re manic. And that is part of creativity, but there’s another kind of  creativity.”(Saltz 150). 

Ghaemi cites the work of psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, who wrote about what he called “sculpted creativity”. “This is not a flash of inspiration, but it’s insights that overtime you put together, like a Sculptor. And it’s not something that happens all of a sudden. This durable sort of creativity depends on maintaining equilibrium over the long haul –  that is, not burning out like a light bulb or losing time to severe manic and depressive episodes” (Saltz 150).

Ghaemi tells his patients the following: “instead of having a lot of creativity really briefly and then being depressed and fallow for a long time, you’re better off having less creativity more regularly, more consistently. it actually adds up more that way.”  (Saltz 150).  

In multiple studies, bipolar disorder has been scientifically, clinically proven to correlate with creativity and the artistic temperament (Saltz 136). I can speak from experience as a visual artist and writer with bipolar disorder that the shift between moods elevates my work in ways if I was quote on quote normal would not be as interesting. When I am hypomanic (not manic because that is too much of an extreme) I have creative ideas and am more able to execute them such as writing this blog on the link between creativity and bipolar disorder. When I swing into more of a depression, I am more prone to edit my work and create visual art because I ruminate more and am able to take on longer projects such as a big painting or technically precise artwork that takes several bouts of time.

However, I have been medicated for years and now notice a more sculpted creativity Nassir Ghaemi speaks of in that I have more creativity that is productive instead of bursts of disorganized manic ideas that I would have a harder time following through on. I am also prone to experience mania as psychosis and so my ideas turn psychotic in nature and no longer productive at all, like thinking I can buy eight mustangs with money I do not have.

I do notice an artistic temperament to bipolar disorder, in that us bipolar people tend to be more melancholic in nature and so reflect on the world in a more drawn out manner and have the gifts of mania/hypomania to illuminate ideas/ ways in which we can translate these thoughts to the general public, typically through writing and art. However, there is a pendulum effect to being productive with creativity in that you must ,as discussed above, be slightly insane but sane enough, or rather medicated enough, to be able to translate that insanity into something coherent. Me raving mad in the psych ward about the millions of dollars I have and trying to order things I cannot afford are not well executed ideas or a productive use of my illness. However, writing about it later while medicated provides others with bipolar disorder a sense of hope, that they can create normalcy out of insanity and even discuss it openly without shame or stigma. I couldn’t string more than two sentences coherently together while manic let alone write a full blog post. It is through medication that creativity can truly foster and grow. It is through balance that the bipolar mind can be as creative as it was meant to be.

The link between disorder and genius is evident through research and influential creators who are linked to this disorder. Virginia Woolf may have committed suicide but she is still arguably one of the best English writers of her time and for that matter even all time. Bipolar disorder has its pitfalls like in the case of Woolf a higher risk for suicide but it also creates a powerhouse of potential, the potential to create something meaningful from the chaos of the mind.

 

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward

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I had the great pleasure of reading Mark Lukach’s memoir “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” recently. It was interesting to read from the perspective of a loved one and their experiences dealing with the mental health of their significant other. It’s easy in the struggle to maintain sanity to forget that it is not just you struggling but rather your family is right there with you. Lukach details the account of his wife Guilia’s several stints in the psych ward in a relatively short span of time. Mark speaks about his feelings of abandonment from the  professionals at the Emergency Room who sent his wife Guilia home with medication instead of admitting her when she was having delusions of the Devil.

Mark and his in-laws would ultimately have to bring her back to the ER when she had more ramblings about the Devil and how he is still here and that she protected them from him. They gave her Ativan to calm down and through the fog of it she said “Mark, I am the Devil.” The on-call psychiatrist stated that she would need to be admitted and treated. Mark remembers this moment, “I knew that this was coming, that this was the inevitable next step in the process, but it still felt surreal.”

I realized while reading this book, I never truly thought about my parents and what they had to go through when I was admitted to the psych ward. Did it feel surreal to them? Were they upset? Did they feel as though they had failed me? Dealing with the pain of being forced to be hospitalized left me with no room to consider these questions until now. I feel so incredibly selfish that it took until now to reflect upon them. I hope they know they did everything they could to take care of me but that psychosis is inevitable when untreated for bipolar disorder. I wonder if it was a shock to them that I was being diagnosed with bipolar and sometimes I wonder if they think less of me for it. I know my mother never likes the word being uttered around family or in public as if I was saying God’s name in vain.

Mark’s wife was admitted on a form 5150 which means she was involuntarily checked in and needs to spend 72 hours there as required by law. He describes his first visit with her at the psych ward and it is heart wrenching. She screams at them to leave and that the Devil is there and wants them. She was hysterical with fear and screamed “Don’t you dare come near me!” At one point she rolled onto her back and started to chant “I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.” Mark recalls this moment, “I’m not sure which scared me more: listening to my wife whisper her death wish or scream it.” Throughout all this Mark continued to support his wife and assured her that the Devil would not get her or him and that their love was stronger than any of it, they would get through this.

I similarly had a moment in the psych ward where I wanted to die. They had me on a heavy dose of lithium which we have now learned does not work for me and actually makes me more depressed and suicidal. I laid in the hospital bed crying that I wanted to be with my father and that I thought I was ready to be with him (my father died years ago). My mother just held me crying and I eventually drifted off to sleep and waking to a new day in which they decided to take me off lithium  and instead put me on a nice healthy dose of anti psychotics. Anti psychotics have worked for me then and ever since – keeping me stable.

Once Lukach’s wife was discharged from the hospital she slumped into a eight month depression following her psychosis where she fixated on suicide and was extremely lethargic from the medications she was put on. She was discharged with no firm diagnosis but the doctors had ruled out schizophrenia. Lukach writes, “We had no clear explanation for what had gone wrong. It was probably related to a combination of lack of sleep, stress, hormones, and chemicals in her brain, but not even her clinicians knew what it was.” This meant they did not know if it would come back, however, ninety percent of the time psychosis recurs. They went on with their lives hoping that Guilia  was of the ten percent but as time would tell she was in fact part of the ninety percent.

The reason this book stands out for me not only because it is a memoir about a husband’s experiences with his bipolar wife’s psychosis, but also because it highlights the other side – the caretaker’s struggle with mental health. Lukach mentions he also started seeing a therapist while Guilia was unwell. The therapist wanted to know why Mark wanted so badly to be Guilia’s hero. Mark writes: “I wasn’t too interested in understanding why I devoted to much of my caregiving to Guilia. To me, the answer was simple and cliched: love.”

Mark mentions feeling like shit all the time and wanting to know why. He had never felt so disinterested and lethargic before in his life and was used to having an excessive amount of energy. His therapist said of course he feels like shit because he has been through a lot the past nine months with one month of his wife’s psychosis and following eight months of depression. She also points out that “the worst is over but everything you once knew is gone. The love you had with Guilia, the way you once knew it, is gone.”

Mark reflects on this realization: “Nothing could ever be the same. Our bliss, our puppy love from college, our charmed lives, it was all gone. Guilia’s psychosis and depression would color the rest of our relationship. Maybe even my own happiness wouldn’t come as easily as it always had. I would have to work for it and have the courage to do the work.”

Guilia would eventually end up back in the psych ward following the birth of their son Jonas, after tapering off lithium mostly because she would not be able to breast-feed on it. Instead of a psychosis fixated on hell though this psychosis would fixate on the notion of heaven. After days of not sleeping and rambling about heaven being earth she was admitted to the psych ward for her second time in three years. The doctor believed Guilia was suffering from postpartum psychosis. The doctor would eventually officially diagnose Guilia with bipolar disorder I, characterized by soaring highs and crippling lows. Guilia somehow experienced both as negatives with her mania fast-tracking into psychosis, with paranoia and delusions. The doctor made it clear she will have to be on lithium for the rest of her life.

Guilia would be released from her second stay at the psych ward after thirty two days. Mark would end up feeling uneasy with the two hospitalizations and begin to research bipolar more thoroughly. He spoke with Sasha Altman DuBrul, one of the founders of the Icarus Project, an alternative medical health organization that calls mental illness “the space between brilliance and madness.” Sasha introduced to Mark the concept of a mad map. Mad maps allow psychiatric patients to outline what they’d like their care to look like in future mental health crises. They are designed to encourage patients to plan ahead in order to give them more control and avoid, or at least minimize future mistakes.

They came up with a plan for if Guilia starts to relapse again. If she can’t sleep again, she will take one milligram of Risperdal (an antipsychotic) by midnight. If she still can’t sleep by two a.m., she will take two more milligrams for a total of three. Guilia would relapse again and even though she followed the mad map she would end up in the hospital a third time. However, this time, she was discharged after thirteen days – the shortest of all her stays. This may be because they had the safety net of the mad map which lessened the blow of her episode with medication ahead of time instead of only after the fact.

This book was a beautiful account of a husband’s struggle and triumph being his mentally ill wife’s caregiver. It addresses resentments felt and issues with the mental health system. Mark stands by his wife through three psychotic breaks and proves what true love looks like – it is kind, understanding and supportive. He even struggles with his own depression as a result of his wife’s mental health but finds solutions such as exercising regularly and seeing a therapist. The one thing Mark never does is give up on his wife. He genuinely stands by the vow “in sickness and in health” which some not as strong as him may have taken Guilia’s illness as a way to cop out.

If you are looking for a book that shows the other side of mental health – the side with loved ones who struggle to grapple with and understand their significant other’s mental illness – then look no further. This book has shown me what a true caregiver looks like and how they struggle with a variety of feelings. This book is called “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” and it is written by one of the loveliest husbands who in my opinion is a hero, a hero to Guilia.

You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else)

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As you all know I am a self-help book junkie so when I happened to be in my local library picking up an autobiography, I could not help but be distracted by the self-help section. I was distracted by a small light pink book that might as well have been screaming its title at me: “You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else)” by Elan Gale. I thought now that’s a book that understands me and in general life. Gale is anti-positivity and pro-owning your shit. He promptly states in the beginning of the book that positivity is bullshit and holds you back from being  a better version of yourself. He states that people are more concerned about feeling good about themselves (being positive) then owning their emotions, most negative,  that could catapult you into being a better you.

Gale speaks bluntly and tells it as it is, “Even now you’re probably feeling a little uncomfortable because you’re used to reading self-help books that tell you how wonderful and charming and great you already are and are so complimentary that they might as well just be licking your genitals as they take your money like a prostitute” (Gale 13). Gale has a point because the self-help book industry has a lot of bullshit books that just tell you to be positive and never get to the actual how to improve your life bit. The industry is saturated with feel good reads that beat around the bush when it comes to negative emotions like resentment, jealousy, pride, etc. Gale in his book instead says that these negative emotions can act as motivators to motivate you to become a better version of yourself.

An example of this is when Gale references Michael Jordan and his feelings of not being good enough when he did not make the high school basketball team.  “Whenever I was working out and got tired and figured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and and see that list in the locker room without my name on it,” Jordan explained…instead of feeling good about himself, Jordan felt embarrassed and ashamed, and he USED those FEELINGS to push himself further” (Gale 133). If he had not pushed himself because of his feelings of worthlessness he may never have made it to the NBA.

I can attest to harnessing these negative feelings and using them to push me further. Most of my life I was told I was not good enough to be a journalist so I studied constantly throughout high school to get the grade point average needed to apply and ultimately get into one of Canada’s most competitive Journalism programs at Carleton University. I would eventually change my major however from Journalism to Art History and English with a minor in Psychology but I was still pushing forward to be a Arts Journalist. I became one for the school newspaper and reported frequently on events at art galleries and artist run centers. I was so good students quoted my articles in fourth year papers and I actually manged to get paid for some of my journalistic efforts as a student.

As my followers know I would be later forced to abandon my journalistic cap in order to focus on my mental health with the onset of bipolar disorder happening in my fourth and final year of school. The point is I succeeded at becoming a journalist in my own right and all those people, especially my family, were proved wrong. I’d be lying if I said it was positivity that led to this but rather a deep fire in me to prove every asshole that told me I couldn’t do it wrong.

Gale also states frequently in his book that you are not that great: “The key to getting bigger and growing up is to admit you are small. The less you know, the more you can wonder, and the more you can stop being a narcissistic shithead and start living an interesting life” (Gale 97). He claims that you can become the smartest person in the room by admitting that you don’t know anything. He says there is never a time
when you don’t have more to learn. There is always room for growth and people who think they are the greatest are arrogant assholes who do not truly want to better themselves and rather accept what they are as all they are. Acknowledging that you are not that great in the grand scheme of things is the first step to a better life. From this point on you can start to look for things to better yourself because you REALIZE you could BE and DO better.

Reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment

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This reminder: you could die at literally almost any moment slapped me in the face this morning while I was reading Elan Gale’s “You’re not that Great (but neither is anyone else).” It is a truly ubiquitous reminder for it’s in the back of all of our minds but we simply choose not to acknowledge it. However,  maybe if we acknowledged it a bit more we’d be striving to be the best version of ourselves instead of settling for mediocrity. Why do we always say we are going to do something but put it off for “tomorrow?” I have decided I am officially done with that bullshit.

It’s easy to lie around and accept what is but it takes true awareness and motivation to want to actively change it. If you do not like who you are or where you are simply change it. And I know you’re thinking “well how do I do that, Brittany?” That’s not up to me to answer for you but for you to do the research. For example, I’ve decided I want to lose weight (keeping it simple here) but I keep saying I’ll exercise and then don’t. I have a monthly gym membership (my bank statement each month reminds me) and I barely use it. But I’ve decided enough is enough! I have set a really healthy and realistic goal of exercising 30 min a day whether that be walking, biking, running, etc, as of today. I have also decided to increase my water intake and reduce my consumption of calories (perhaps cutting out that midnight snack). It is up to me to follow through though and realize that today is all I have and hey, this is morbid, but I may not even have today (I could get annihilated by a city bus).

Another thing I want to work on is my finances cause guess what I am done settling with the mediocrity of walking everywhere. Fuck Yes, you betcha I want a fucking car! This means I need to research how to budget my money cause like every other millennial I was never taught these basic skills. But I am committed to change and I am willing to put in the work. You want something more out of life? Cool. Then start actively working towards that goal and stop allowing yourself to settle for less. You got big dreams? Fuck Yes, shoot for the stars! You may fail but you may just fail into something better. Maybe you won’t get that Audi you dreamed of but maybe through your hard work and determination you might just be able to finance a Chevy Cruise (another more reasonable car I enjoy driving). Stop saying that this is it and work for what could be. Put in the fucking work. Let me repeat myself, put in the fucking work.

And you are probably going to struggle but that’s the beauty of life figuring out the stuff you’re made of. You might just discover you’re stronger than you think. I have this reoccurring thought “I’m not smart enough to go to school” or “My brain has deteriorated since being hospitalized as a result of bipolar disorder” and you know what I ve decided rather than sit on my ass (like I’ve been doing the past three years), I am going to try and challenge this thought by actually going back to school part time. I might fail, who knows? But at least I will have tried and that’s worth something in my books. If you constantly sit on your ass instead of working towards your dreams/goals then you guessed it you’re gonna have to live with regret. And have you felt that shit before? Because let me tell you it isn’t pleasant.

So thank you Elan Gale for reminding me that I may die tomorrow because as of right now I am going to use the best of today. Because fuck it, I know I am worth it.

Stop Doing That Sh*t – A second look at Gary John Bishop’s Self-help Book

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“You got yourself to this point in your life, and I’m going to show you how you subconsciously did it. How you fucked yourself. And how to dig yourself out” (Bishop 53).

Gary John Bishop boldly states that he can show you how to unfuck yourself in his self-help book titled “Stop Doing That Sh*t.” He does so by making you more conscious of the “three saboteurs” he claims are the conclusions you’ve made in life about three things: Yourself, Others and Life. Bishop states, “They skew everything. Contort everything. And ultimately burden you with the life you currently have. The one you’re trying to change” (Bishop 114).

We’ll start by discussing the first saboteur – conclusions you have made about yourself. Your conclusion about yourself always begins with an “I” and is stuff like the following:

“I’m not smart enough”
“I’m a loser”
“I’m different”
“I don’t matter”
“I’m incapable”
“I’m not loved” or even all the way down the hole to “I’m worthless.”

Bishop asks the important question, “So what have you concluded about yourself?” and I’ll be honest when I was forced to answer this question I felt extremely uncomfortable and shocked at the answers that so readily flew out of my brain. Things I did not even realize I was holding on to about myself. The conclusions I had made about myself were all negative and I started to realize why my life seems as unhappy as it does. If I was holding on to these things in my subconscious, it was no wonder I was sabotaging myself because clearly I did not think very highly of myself or thought I deserved better. Below is my conclusions about myself:

I have concluded that I am worthless. My personal conclusion is that I am not smart enough to cut it in life and I am not capable of having a job let alone a career. Also I struggle socially with the conclusion that I am different from others because I have bipolar disorder and have experienced a few psychosis. I feel I am not smart enough to hold down a job because I have been fired a few times in my life. I feel I am not capable or smart enough to continue my schooling because in my final year of University I struggled with my mental capacities and things that seemed so easy before like memorization came extremely difficult to me, I know this is backwards logic because I was experiencing my first episode of psychosis ever and previous to this episode had more than excelled at University. I can’t seem to help these conclusions about
myself though, despite trying to look at them objectively and prove them wrong with examples where I did in fact the opposite of what I am concluding.

How could I ever really change my life if I’m rooted in the belief that I am worthless and incapable? Bishop claims in his book that you can have the life you want to live if you willingly choose it: “The good news is if you accept that you made the mess, you are also accepting that you can unmake it. I often have to remind people of their power. It takes as much effort to live a crappy life as it does a great one. And you’re the only one who can choose which you want to live” (Bishop 138). This brings us to one of Bishop’s main arguments for change which is acceptance. He states that we did not ask to be born but rather were thrown into humanity whether we liked it or not and says it is up to us to deal with that fact:

“You had no say in any of this, yet it doesn’t matter if you think its fair. Youre here and you’ll have to deal with it like everyone else before you and everyone after you. This is where the road to peace of mind begins. Acceptance. Acceptance is the gateway to real change” (Bishop 73). Bishop then goes on to say releasing blame is fundamental for real change: “the single most important thing you can do for your life is to release anyone (including yourself!) from blame for how your life has turned out. Even if you were thrown into the worst circumstances, it’s your choice now to turn your life around, make it better, learn and grow and break free of where you came from.”(Bishop 87).

I realized a lot of the pain I was feeling in life was due to not accepting things for what they were. I laid on a couch for six months in the deepest depression I had ever experienced because I could not let go of the notion that I had not completed my Bachelor’s degree. I would not accept it and instead wallowed into a self-inflicted state of despair over never finishing my degree. I wasted six months of my life pitying myself when I could have said “Yes, that happened but now what?” I could have started to make moves to get back to my education or even to find something new to strive for and change my life for the better instead of getting stuck in it, in my mind of “I’m worthless.”

But I digress, to the second saboteur which is the conclusions you make about others. This second saboteur, your conclusion about others could be anything: People are stupid, untrustworthy, a threat, unreliable, uncaring, selfish, cruel, manipulative, untrustworthy, etc.

I have determined that the conclusions I have made about others are that they are selfish, a threat, and untrustworthy, and that people will always leave. Because of my experiences as a child with selfish parents who cared more about the bottle or their gambling addiction than making sure I was properly brushing my teeth or looked after. I also concluded people were untrustworthy at a young age when I told a friend a secret in confidence that she then disclosed to a teacher and the police got involved. Losing my father during adolescence and the trail of exes I have has led me to conclude people always leave as well.

This brings us to the third and final saboteur, arguably one of the most important which is the conclusions you make about life. Bishop asks “How do you feel about life?” (Bishop 157). He claims that “deep down in your subconscious, there resides a life conclusion:

“life is hard”
“life is complicated”
“life is a struggle”
“Life is too much” (Bishop 158).

I conclude that life is unfair and a constant struggle. I concluded this after working my ass off all through elementary and high school to prepare for University. I got to University and struggled to make ends meet while supporting myself at school. I excelled at school for three years of my undergraduate then had a mental breakdown leading to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. I concluded life was unfair when I had this breakdown
because I realized then I would always struggle with a mental disorder for the rest of my life because of what, roll of the genetic dice.

I looked around me and everyone seemed to be thriving mentally whereas I was a disaster. I had to drop out of school, the only thing I was ever good at when I found the things like studying and memorizing facts became too difficult shortly after my first psychotic break with reality. I concluded life was unfair because some stupid mental illness took everything away from me, my sanity and then the only thing I could depend on in life or felt like I could- my education.

Bishop states: “Its what you have concluded about life that has you stuck in a certain place” (Bishop 160) then continues to elaborate: “You don’t have problems! You have your problems! The perfect issues , specific to you, that allow you to continue with this daily absurdity. And that’s what it is. Absurd. Your whole fucking life is absurd now. All because you’ve told yourself that life can’t be any different from what you have come to believe” (Bishop 162).

So what can we do to get unstuck?

Bishop claims acceptance is the key: “Stop the striving and struggling, for starters, and just accept where you are. Be “here” for the moment. This moment” (Bishop 186). He also argues for a future-oriented lifestyle in which the actions you take each day lead to the future you want. He talks about the “limitless potential” one has when they let go of their past and look to the future. He says to accept that your conclusions are a part of who you are but in essence not to become them: “Remember this is not about stopping self-sabotaging behaviors on their own but instead designing a future that compels you to fill your life with new actions, new outcomes – in short, a new life” (Bishop 217).

Bishop asks his readers to ponder the following questions and imagine a future worth living, “Imagine the kind of work you’ll do a year from now, the relationships you’ll have, the lifestyle you’ll live?  What actions are you taking today to reveal that future? Now look at this present moment of time. What actions are you taking right now to reveal that future?” (Bishop 223)

I realized through my conclusions that I have been holding on to the past and that it’s time to focus more on the future through the present moment. I can start today to make small steps towards building the future that I dream of. In the future I am back at school but this time instead of studying Art History and English, I am specializing in Curating. I have already done the research and found a University close to home which offers such a program. Now I need to work towards financially getting myself there which means I really aught to start looking for a job. The steps I can take today to slowly get myself to where I need to be is to apply to jobs. I also imagine myself as a driver in the future and so need to seriously buckle down and save for and attend driver’s Ed. In the future I also imagine myself back at my ideal weight and today I can take the small step of a bike ride and incorporate exercise into my daily life from here on out. I will no longer be a slave to my doubts rooted in the past and focus on the here, this moment, and what I can achieve to gradually get to where I want to be.

In “Stop Doing That Sh*t,”  Bishop hits you right between the eyes with the truth: “Do you know what life really is? It’s an opportunity for you to play with the skinbag you were given. To try it out, to take it for a ride, to work that thing to its very limit, to live this life before you fucking die. The certainty you’ve been craving? That’s it right there. You’ll die” (Bishop 226).

The fact of the matter is we are all going to die one day and if you waste your moments worrying or get caught up in something that was or never will be, you re bound to get stuck in your life. You might as well work towards something and if it takes you longer than anticipated to get there, so be it. You’re working on it, and that’s what’s key.

Bishop ends his book with probably one of the best questions you could ask and I am going to end my blog on this note: “Fuck the past, reveal a bold future, step out there and get into action. Deal with yourself. The future has arrived. Now what the hell are you going to do about it?” (Bishop 227).

 

 

Stop Doing That Sh*T

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”Someone once asked me, “What’s at the core of every human being?” “Bullshit I replied.”

Gary Bishop, though kind of insulting, leads his reader in with this opening line of his second self-help book to “Unfuck Yourself,” titled “Stop Doing That Sh*t  – End Self-Sabotage and Demand Your Life Back.” His straight between the eyes honesty , though highly humorous, effectively gets his point across and with a few choice expletives stops you in your tracks and forces you to think about and reflect upon your life. I enjoyed this book more than its predecessor “Unfuck Yourself” by a factor of ten.

Bishop descries his book and its intent in the first chapter, “…This book is a short , intense jolt to your way of thinking. I’m not out to give you all the answers here. Your answers will come from you…This is more a catalyst, providing questions and ways of looking at things that will spark something in you and cause you to take on your life in a new way.” (Bishop 9).

It is Bishop’s questions that he poses in this book that have you and had me examine my life more closely and understand what was at the root of the problem. He also proposes a new way of looking at things that are more future oriented and that abandon the past or rather accept it and move forward (which we will get into more later). Bishop states that this book began with him asking a simple question, “Why?”

“Why is my life the way it is?” (Bishop 31).

He then asks the reader to stop and consider these questions for themselves, “Why do you do what you do? Think. If you keep living this way, where is it all headed? Not some wispy concept of your future but rather a down-in-the-dirt look at where your
current actions are leading you ” (Bishop 32).

I reflected on these questions and concluded my future looked bleak if I were to continue with the actions I take on a regular day-to-day basis. If I am being honest with myself I do what I do to avoid pain or discomfort. I chain smoke because it feels good and alleviates my boredom but this action will inevitably lead to a future that I am not in, because I will ultimately have died from lung cancer like my father. I eat sugary snacks and sugary drinks knowing its harming my teeth in the long run and causing weight gain that I do not like because in the moment it feels good.

All my actions are about instant gratification and I am starting to realize as this book is causing me to reflect on what I do and why I do it, that I am no better than a child. I spend my money quicker then I get it, on trivial things like new brand name clothing or the latest self-help book (I actually lent this one out from the library, Go Me!). The point is  I spend literally all my money instead of putting even a small portion away because I like the instant gratification that comes with a new purchase. This is going to lead to a future where I am constantly living check to check struggling to make ends meet and never really properly managing my money. I  know if I continue to be a slave to instant pleasure, I will have a bleak future indeed. One where I am fat, broke, and my teeth are rotting out of my head.

Bishop writes, “There’s no end to the possibilities you’ve written off with nothing more than a series of auto-response triggers in the confines of your head.
“it’s too hard”
“It won’t work”
“I can’t do it”
“I don’t know enough”
“There’s no point. It won’t make any difference” (Bishop 43).

We all do it, don’t lie. Write ourselves off before even trying. I know currently I’ve been constantly writing myself off. Writing off applying to jobs or going to job interviews because I believe “I can’t do it or I don’t know enough.” I have also written off something very important to me with those same excuses before even starting and that is to write my memoirs about dealing with bipolar disorder and being hospitalized.

Bishop offers hope in “Stop Doing That Sh*t” though and boldly states, “You got yourself to this point in your life, and I’m going to show you how you subconsciously did it. How you fucked yourself. And how to dig yourself out” (Bishop 53).

So buckle in Fuckers, and read my next blog post for how to unfuck yourself and stop doing that shit – that self-sabotaging bullshit that holds you back.

Stay Tuned Folks.