Emerging Blogger Series – Mental Health @ Home (Part 2)

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I had the recent pleasure of being featured on the emerging blogger series on Mental Health @ Home. I talk about manic psychosis and my own experiences with it. The blog post on this site will be featured in two parts with the second part having been released today. The post goes into detail about delusions, hallucinations and paranoia I experienced during this episode.

As it is Thanksgiving, I feel the need to add that I am extremely grateful for my sanity today since as you will see in my post I briefly lost it and would ultimately lose it again (see my blog post on my second manic psychosis). I am also thankful for bloggers like @mentalhealth@home who give bloggers like me a chance to share their story on an additional platform. I am grateful for the opportunity to have contributed to the emerging blogger series and hope you all give it a read! Link below to my post on Mental Health @ Home.

And Stay Tuned for a Blog Post about the downs in bipolar disorder, specifically the depressive episodes I experienced and was also hospitalized for.

Emerging Blogger Series: Brittany – Part II

 

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It’s My Birthday! And I’ll Cry If I Want To

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A Birthday is by far the most reflective-inducing day. It is a time to celebrate, yes! But for most people it is a time to reflect on what they have accomplished so far and for most it becomes a trap of reflecting on what they lack. Thoughts like “I should have had a degree by now” or “I should already be in a career by now” or even “I should be married by now” inevitably creep up and sometimes you feel like banging your head against the wall instead of cutting your cake and appreciating what you DO HAVE.

Rachel Hollis outlines this trap in her book “Girl, Wash Your Face” as one of the lies we tell ourselves: “I Should Be Further Along by Now.” She even mentions sitting with a group of women, having a glass of wine, when the topic of age and whether or not they like to celebrate their birthday came up. The general consensus was “definitely not.” The reason was because birthdays serve as a reminder of everything they hadn’t achieved. The passing of another year marked a point in their life where yet another thing they planned on having achieved by that age still hadn’t happened.

Hollis explains that everything in life happens exactly when it’s supposed to: “You look at your life and the eight things you thought you’d have accomplished by thirty-five (in my case twenty-seven) and feel depressed. But maybe it’s just that you don’t have enough life experience yet…or maybe the goal wasn’t ever meant to be yours. Maybe you are destined for something so much cooler, which won’t come until five years down the road” (Hollis 106).

I thought I would have a degree, be in a career as a professor and be married by now, by twenty-seven. I know these seem like lofty goals but if you had seen the trajectory I set myself on at the age of 13 you would have known it was possible and believed me when I said it would happen. However, my mental illness which I didn’t even know I had derailed literally all those plans. Suddenly I was spending my twenties in and out of a hospital bed rather than finishing my undergrad and going on to my masters then eventual PhD. I could chose to reflect on this loss as I have every year up until this birthday but something finally clicked in my brain this year (maybe it was reading a plethora of self-help books) and this year I chose differently.

This year, rather than reflecting on what I DON’T HAVE, I have decided to think fondly on all the things I do have such as a new found empathy for all humans as a result of my crippling mental illness. I also may not have a husband but I have a loving boyfriend who has taught me so much about love it astounds me. I am the healthiest I have been in a long time since I am now sober and cigarette free. But more importantly I am thankful for my sanity another year, something I used to take for granted until I lost it to manic psychosis.

I have figured out that life doesn’t always follow the path you set out on but rather branches off into avenues unknown. I am excited to travel these new and different paths because what I may see on them may not be what I expected but is exactly what I need or was meant to see. I may not have been meant to become a professor but maybe I’ll become something much more worthwhile and time will tell. I have always wanted to be a writer but thought it was not worth investing my time in because I had nothing truly I wanted to share with the world. Now, after having experiences with bipolar disorder, I finally have something I want to write. I want to write a book that outlines my life struggling with this disorder so people with mental illness may connect with the words and know they are truly not alone in this. I’ve been there and I’ve fallen and chosen not to get up but ultimately I did chose to get back up and you can too!

A birthday should not be a day to reflect on what you have not accomplished so far but a day to reflect on everything you did! You survived, you made it this far and that is an accomplishment in itself. My family did not think I would see this birthday and that I was going to die in the hospital but I am here and I am glad. I am proud of the woman I have become – empathetic, strong, resilient, loving, forgiving, you name it! I refuse to negate this by becoming caught up in a shit storm of “if only’s” or “what ifs” in my mind. The fact is I am here and I am able to celebrate another birthday and you know what that is enough for me right now. I also see this birthday as a challenge to live my life as authentically as possible moving forward and to constantly work on bettering myself. I may not have all the things I wanted but heck I have all the ones that I need.

Anxiety And The Dentist

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If you read my blog regularly, then you already know about my fear of the dentist and the horrible shape my teeth are in from battling years of depression where I simply could not even get the energy to brush them. You’ll also know that I avoided the dentist until two months ago for over a period of five years. Now you can imagine the state my teeth are in! I have a bazillion cavities and have, I guess now past tense “had,” a crack running across my front tooth. Because I was able to face my anxiety this past month and actually show up to my appointment  instead of running (which I considered and people can testify), I now have flawless front teeth!

The dentist filled a cavity that has been limiting my smile for years today. Literally, if you scroll through my instagram account and look at selfies I have taken, you’ll notice I do not smile very big. No more! And above is my first selfie (on snapchat to my best friends) with a genuine and big smile. I no longer have to be self conscious about that moment when someone says “Say Cheese!” and snaps a photograph. Now I am going to own it and maybe even work it. But let me tell you it was not a easy process to get me there to here, as in, in the dentist chair. I had to work through some real anxieties and even had to get sober first to realize my health comes first – oral included.

When I was getting high every day I was pushing down and bottling my emotions about everything, including the nagging sensation that I should go to the dentist. When I was high I didn’t care what state my teeth were in and even was able to cope better with the inevitable toothaches. This was not a viable solution to my problem because over the years my teeth became worse and my toothaches more frequent. When I made the decision to become sober and ultimately I did (almost 6 months sober today), I could no longer cease the constant thought processes that my teeth were fucked and something felt seriously wrong about them.

I faced my anxiety one appointment at  a time and that’s all I can really say for those of you who have a lot of dental work looming. Take it one day at a time. I talked myself into going to the initial exam by saying “You’ll be alright. It’s just an exam. They aren’t going to do any actual work that requires pain.” But after my exam and the results came in, I could not put blinders on anymore. He laid it out to be plainly that I had one too many cavities and my wisdom teeth need to be pulled. He confirmed my reality that my teeth were ACTUALLY as fucked as they felt.

The second appointment which was to be my first cleaning in five years, the dentist told me he would have to freeze half my mouth. The panic set in. Needles! I kept thinking over and over about needles for a month until my appointment. Each day I would ruminate about how many and how painful it was going to be. I almost rescheduled but called in the big guns, A.K.A., my dad. I told him about the appointment and how “I know, I know I’m almost 27 but please come hold my hand!” He obliged and it held me accountable because I did not want to look like some giant pussy literally running away from the dentist and my appointment.

Lucky for me this dentist actually uses numbing jelly before applying any needles in the mouth. My previous dentist unfortunately did not spare me any pain and would proceed sans jelly. I barely felt any of the needles except the one on the roof of my mouth. But I talked myself through it, “Brittany, this will be like 30 seconds of your life that is painful. Bear with it. Your teeth are so very important and you are worth it.” This actually helped and soon I found the freezing was over. And within an hour and a half my appointment was over.

Today was the first appointment with fillings (I had two cleanings with freezing) and I had anxiety all month about how I wouldn’t be able to cope and that the needles would somehow hurt more and I would feel the fillings acutely. Boy was I wrong! In a good way! The dentist walked in on me basically almost in tears and informed me that it would be less freezing this time and therefore less painful. I also had the pleasure of holding my boyfriend’s hand during this dental appointment. I had no clue though that in an hour and a half my front teeth would look so vastly different! The crack on my front tooth – I thought he could not fix and wasn’t going to be – was gone! That thing has been haunting my smile for years and I thought was going to be a forever thing.

I am so thankful to this new dentist who makes me feel super comfortable and is very understanding of my anxiety. The two things, however, that help me with my anxiety prior to a visit in the dentist’s chair are talking things through with myself and practicing being in the present moment. When I get anxious about an appointment that’s like three weeks later than the present time, I practice a few deep breaths to ground me in the moment and try to reflect on my five senses and enjoy them. I also tell myself “You’re not going to die but you will feel some discomfort. It is worth it for healthy teeth. YOU ARE WORTH IT! This may hurt in the meantime but in the long run it is necessary for your oral health.” And this generally calms me down to the point I can move on with my day until the next bought of anxiety which I then just repeat the process mentioned above.

I am so very happy I made it to my dentist appointment today for I now know the joy of lovely front teeth. I also am proving to myself that I am capable of more than I think. The above selfie is a testament to my new smile but also my new attitude to stop avoiding things and start tackling shit. I got this! I can finally say I truly got this.

My Second Manic Psychosis

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The third time I was hospitalized was for a manic episode, more specifically a manic psychosis. Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms like delusions and hallucinations that indicate a break from reality.  I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of manic psychosis. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong.

I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely. I was an extreme case of mania in which I generally believed I was a millionaire with tons of money at my disposal and a huge following on social media when in actuality I was on welfare and may have had about 300 followers on my Instagram account. Despite empirical evidence to the contrary, I would not let go of this delusion and even spent my entire welfare check – $800 – on makeup and perfumes at the local shoppers drugmart beauty counter just to give away all the products as part of a “marketing scheme” to boost my following and show appreciation for fans.

It was the receipt from this purchase that my mother found that indicated to her I may be manic and need to be hospitalized. People experiencing mania tend to blow their money without thinking and on unnecessary things. This is an indication that something is going wrong and that their mental state may not be as stable as it should be.

When my mother approached me to go to the hospital, I thought she was out of her mind but decided to go to prove her wrong. I in my deluded thinking thought she just could not accept that I had become successful. I went through a grueling intake in which first I was triaged and then brought to a little room for further questioning then promptly locked up in a padded cell. The bed did not even have sheets which I am guessing is a precaution to people strangling themselves with them.

I could see the camera aimed on me and thought “Big Brother is watching.” I began to scream at the camera saying “this is against my basic freedom and rights! When my lawyer catches on to this, you’re toast! I’m going to sue all your asses including this entire hospital!” (I in fact did not have a lawyer nor never have I had one). As an hour passed, of me screaming profanities at this security camera, and pacing nonstop back and forth in this padded cell, I boldly stated that “I am going to piss all over this bed unless someone comes in here and talks to me face to face!” Well that got their attention (god forbid I make a mess).

A nice lady came in telling me to calm down and that I would be admitted into the psychiatric unit at the hospital but they were waiting for a bed to open up. She explained that I was being placed on an involuntary hold and would be observed for three days minimum. I don’t remember much about my reaction but I bet I uttered more profanities and threatened to sue her personally. Oh, and I might have said some deluded thing like “I have a concert with thousands of fans waiting for me! Who is going to refund their tickets? You?” Needless to say I ended up in the psych ward under a three day observation which turned into a thirty day hold to eventually resulting in me staying at said hospital for three months before I finally “came down to reality.”

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

I never got any serious inquiries (thank god) but I did offer vice presidency of my supposed corporation to my best friend who knew I was deluded and played along. I unfortunately reached out to several people and offered contracts ranging from 10 000 to 50 000 dollars who actually believed me and were pretty pissed when the truth came out – that I was mentally ill and currently living in a psych ward. Some people guilted me when I was out that I had offered to upgrade their car and that I never followed through. I was like “excuse me did you not get the part about how I was in the nut ward?” But they ‘d go on to say I promised even though they finally knew the truth. They didn’t ask me “Are you okay,” instead they asked “Where’s my fucking sunroof?”

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came time to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book (I am writing a memoir on my experiences with bipolar disorder),  I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it.

It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, I rely on a 300 mg dose of abilify (an antipsychotic injection) every four weeks to keep me on the straight. This is a small inconvenience in my life when compared to the reality that I could lose my mind again if I do not keep up with these monthly injections. I do not wish my experience with manic psychosis on anyone because when the fog lifts and you’re left with just yourself, there is a deep sense of shame that overcomes you – that you could think, act and believe so bizarrely.

The important thing to recognize that this is an illness and it is not your fault but rather the brain chemistry you were born with and that it is treatable and possible to live a normal life. I think the shame comes from the stigma of being hospitalized for a mental disorder because it is not as accepted as it should be in society. I did go insane but that is not my baseline setting and is abnormal for me. Movies and Hollywood glamorize mental illness as people constantly living with insanity and being dangerous to others and themselves but this is not always the case. Medication can do wonders to balance out the brain and correct abnormal behavior in those living with mental illness. It is not a death sentence or a sentence to being in a psychiatric unit your entire life – in my case maybe for intervals but the majority of the time I am like everyone else just living my life to the best possible potential that I can.

Emerging Blogger Series – Mental Health @ Home

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I had the recent pleasure of being featured on the emerging blogger series on Mental Health @ Home. I talk about manic psychosis and my own experiences with it. The blog post featured on this site will be released in two parts and details my delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia experienced while under a manic psychosis. I will be posting soon about my second manic psychosis in which I thought I was a celebrity spokes model/singer with billions of dollars while in actuality I was on welfare and barely keeping it together. Check the link below to read the first part and I hope you enjoy it!

https://mentalhealthathome.org/2019/10/09/emerging-blogger-series-brittany-part-i/

 

 

 

 

 

INKTOBER – Empirical Evidence of An Improvement In My Mental Health

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My Inktober sketch for Day Four’s Prompt “Build”

Inktober is a month long art challenge created by artist Jake Parker that is focused on improving skill and developing positive drawing habits. Every day for the month of October anyone participating in the Inktober challenge creates an ink drawing and posts it online. There is a new “prompt” list each year for the challenge which is a one word prompt such as in the above picture where “build” was the prompt. I decided to draw the Brooklyn Bridge because many lives were lost to build it and it still stands today.

Inktober this year when compared to last year’s efforts has already revealed an improvement in my mental health. For example, I lacked the motivation and esteem to follow through and complete a drawing for each of the thirty-one days of October last year. This year, however, I am six days in and have completed a drawing each day and within the allotted day instead of spilling over days’ drawings.

I have noticed this improvement in my mental health since I got sober roughly five months ago. I am starting to challenge myself to set goals and follow through with them with things as simple as Inktober to things such as quitting smoking cigarettes which I am in the process of doing (haven’t had a smoke the entire day! and until a month ago I was a five year straight smoking a pack a day kind of gal). These may seem like simple things but they are building blocks to setting the tone for my next goals. If I can accomplish getting sober, quitting a pack a day habit and well, hey, Inktober then I feel like I can do pretty much anything I set my mind to. It’s about showing up for yourself and practicing self-care. I have also adopted a new habit of running each morning which until recently seemed like an impossible endeavor due to lack of motivation.

The change I’ve noticed the most in my mental health since last year compared to this year is my motivation. I have significantly higher energy levels since quitting dope and have decided to turn this energy into positive things like completing blog posts , finishing a book, running, exercising in general and the greatest thing I have put my energy behind is setting goals. Now last year I could not have even dreamed up a goal much less set one, I was too busy smoking up and wallowing in a pool of self-pity. I had zero self esteem and assumed I was not capable of accomplishing any goals I could think of setting – so I just didn’t set any. This year I have several goals, all kinds of goals, to starting writing those pesky memoirs on my experience with bipolar disorder to trying my hand at going to school again. I know I may not succeed but I know I am in a good enough place that I can handle failure and I think that’s what was stopping me before – a fear of failure.

Inktober has shown me that I am more than capable and yes some days my drawings suck but I still finish them and other days I make a freaking masterpiece and am so glad I put my mind to it. The important thing is to show up and the rest will fall into place.

Below is my latest creation and yes, I am quite proud of it. It’s for the prompt “husky.”

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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.

F**K it – Be At Peace With Life Just As It Is

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I was perusing the book store when I came across John C. Parkin’s “F**k it.” I will admit I was drawn to it more because of my affinity for swear words than anything else but regardless I decided to buy it and give it a read. The book overall was a little bit of a let down, however, there are nuggets of wisdom and surprisingly ideas congruent with that from “The Power of Now.” (see previous blog post) One thought that struck me the most was the following: “We take a big step forward in life when we recognize that working out what we’d like to feel is more important than working out what we’d like to do, or
whatever other aim we have in life” (Parkins 80).

Parkins raises a good point about how to gain peace in life and that is to stop waiting for things to make you feel content such as the next job promotion, the next relationship, etc. Looking to external things for contentment and peace of mind is severely misguided when it is internally that you need to do the work. Haven’t you ever heard you need to love yourself before you can truly love another person. It’s an overused statement for a reason cause its dead right. If you are looking outside yourself for peace such as through a new shiny toy or next big life milestone, you’re missing the point. Life happens now in this moment and waiting around for the next big thing or distraction only takes away from finding the peace of mind to enjoy the present moment for what is. You think you need this or that to be eventually happy but if you’re never happy that’s on you to work through – internally and not externally. You will eventually find you do not even need these things to feel at peace, you just will be. The greatest avenue to finding inner peace is through acceptance of what is and who you are in this moment.

The author himself mentions struggling with his expectations of how things are supposed to go but ultimately to be at peace he had to let that go: “Well, F**k It to how its supposed to go. I hereby (attempt to) embrace how it goes – in real-time-unfolding-reality – rather than how its supposed to go. It is after all, the gap between how I want it to go, and how it actually goes, that will cause me pain. And to close that gap, I must simply accept more what happens, as it happens” (Parkins 168). Parkins mentions a gap between what we expect and what occurs as causing pain. This pain is the emotional unhappiness we feel when things don’t quite go our way. If we can accept life for what is rather than what we think it should be then we will be much more at peace. It is our unrealistic expectations that are slowly killing us and causing deep rooted depressions. If we can be content with what we have then life would feel infinitely more happier which brings us to another helpful activity the author mentions in finding inner peace which is practicing gratitude.

Being grateful comes more easy to some people than others. Most of us focus on what is wrong and what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Parkins says, “being grateful, then, for who we are, what we do, what we have and our lives as they are, is a quick way to find peace in the now” (Parkins 97). Th author mentions that when he feels particularly like moaning he stops himself and writes a list of all things he is grateful for. I strongly encourage creating a gratitude journal in which you can practice this task. You can start light by writing each day three things you are grateful for today – a practice an inpatient group taught me at the hospital when I was hospitalized for major depression. This activity forces you to acknowledge the good things that you are overlooking in your life. They could be simple things like the ability to talk or specific to your life like that you are thankful for your cat who comforts you when you’re down. Being grateful forces you to re-think your life and not fixate on what is lacking but rather look at all the things you should be thankful that you do have in this present moment.

Parkins also references an interesting study in his book that gets you thinking. It illustrates how people most the time are wanting more even when they are wealthy. A survey asked extremely wealthy people, millionaires, and billionaires, if they felt content with their wealth and the majority said no. They were then asked, “How much more would make you feel content?” And they were invited to put a $ figure on it. The researchers turned that figure into the percentage of extra wealth that wealthy people wanted in order to feel content. The figure was, roughly, the same for all of them: 20% extra. Parkins concludes, “It seems then that everyone is 20% away from being content, regardless of their income. And that’s worth bearing in mind as you go about wanting more wealth, more things, and trying to get them. If you believe that you’ll be at peace when you’re wealthy, the research suggests you’ll remain forever 20% away from peace” (Parkins 47).

This reiterates the point I was making earlier about how external things such as money can never truly make you at peace with yourself. In order to be at peace you need to be grateful for what you have and accept it. Even the wealthiest individuals are not happy with what they have and want more so don’t be too upset that you’ve fallen for this trap. Real peace, real happiness, comes from within when you accept that you are right where you are supposed to be. Everything unfolds as it is supposed to and you just got to trust that or you’ll drive yourself insane trying to fill the void of what you supposedly lack. I was thinking a lot about my past and how I refused to accept where I was in life leading to a 6 month deep depression where I literally never left bed and ultimately had to be hospitalized. I am now at a better place because I understand that I am right where I am supposed to be, right now. I can accept my past failures for what they were, a guide to where I am now. Now I am at peace more than ever before because I accept that I have what I have and am thankful for it. I am  happy for the first time in my life, genuinely happy because I am not fighting some idea of what I think I deserve but understand that my life is meant to unfold the way it has and is. The beautiful mystery of life is that you may never truly get what you think you want but you always get what you ultimately need.

So say F**K It! Fuck it to what you think you want and be at peace with life just as it is.

 

The Power of “The Power Of Now”

the power of now

“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle is the ultimate self-help book in which you are encouraged to bring your mind to consciousness, the present moment and to let go of the illusions of past and future. After all, you only really ever get this moment. I am glad I read this book and am already practicing honing in on the present but I will be completely honest the thought never crossed my mind to pick up this book until I had seen it on a list of the twenty-five best self-help books. I am glad I did though and can honestly say “The Power of Now” has the power to change your life and the way you view it.

Tolle explains that there are two levels to your pain that you are harboring: the pain you create now and the pain from the past. He believes you can eliminate this pain and suffering by accepting what is:

“The pain that you create now is always some form of nonacceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgement. On the emotional level it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment…The mind always seeks to deny the Now and to escape from it…The more you are able to honor and accept the Now, the more you are free of pain, of suffering” (Tolle 33) Tolle outlines the cause of emotional pain and suffering as a resistance to the present moment.

People will continue to suffer this emotional burden of pain if they continue to cover up the present moment with the past. People tend to “ignore or deny that precious moment or reduce it to a means of getting to some future moment, which only exists in the mind, never in actuality” (Tolle 34). The main cause of emotional pain is the fixation on the past or future which do not exist. How many times have we wallowed about what has been instead of focusing on what  is? I know, I for one, have gotten caught up in my past and my failings such as the loss of a job or relationship and do not accept it for what it is and let go. I hold on to that pain because it’s what I know. It’s a comfortable pain since I can expect it and depend on it but rather I could be focusing on the Now, the potential of this moment. I could be doing something positive for my life circumstance in the present such as researching schools and reapplying to programs in the area, instead of getting caught up on my past of being forced to drop out from University years ago.

The past is an illusion, it’s already come to pass and so it no longer exists. The future is also an illusion that simply exists in the mind and never actually coming to fruition. I could become anxious about the future and how maybe I will fail again at school so easily, overcome by dark fantasies. The fact of the matter is that has not happened and save me the “yet” because it very well may never. The only thing that matters is the present because it is in the present that you can take action. There is no sense being anxious about a situation you have literally created in your head, now that’s just insanity.

The following statements from Tolle are a bit of a mind-fuck but it illustrates my point and he says it better than I could ever get it across myself: “Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now. What you think of the past is a memory trace, stored in the mind of a former Now. When you think about the future, you do it now” (Tolle 50).

Tolle also discusses doing things in the Now without looking for a future reward and simply enjoying the moment. He claims that when you do this your attention will be more focused on the task at hand and therefore you will carry it out more effectively: “As soon as you honour the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve , and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action” (Tolle 68). When you do something for the sake of doing it, you no longer add the pretense or pressure of a future outcome from it. Simply doing becomes more enjoyable and brings an inner peace not found before. When you focus and hone in on the present moment, you are living your life to its fullest potential and doing so with grace.

Tolle states that: “When the compulsive striving away from the Now ceases, the joy of Being flows into everything you do. The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace. You no longer depend on the future for fulfillment and satisfaction. Therefore, you are not attached to the results. Neither failure nor success has the power to change your inner state of Being” (Tolle 68). By accessing the Now, you access peace, peace from emotional suffering. You become more in tune with yourself and less run by your incessant thoughts. Failure no longer has power over you because you accept what is and move past that. You become whole.

The book itself is posed in a question and answer format with questions from Tolle’s seminars, meditation classes, and private counseling sessions. The answers are provided obviously by Tolle. The question that struck me the most while reading this book was the following: “In that state of wholeness, would we still be able or willing to pursue external goals?” This question raises a good point because if we were truly content and “whole” why change the moment by striving for something more?

Tolle’s answer is profound: “Of course, but you will not have illusory expectations that anything or anybody in the future will save you or make you happy. As far as your life situation is concerned, there may be things to be attained or acquired. That’s
the world of form, of gain and loss. Yet on a deeper level you are already complete, and when you realize that, there is a playful, joyous, energy behind what you do. Being free of psychological time, you no longer pursue your goals with grim determination driven by fear, anger, discontent, or the need to become someone. Nor will you remain
inactive through fear of failure, which to the ego is loss of self. When your deeper sense of self is derived from Being , when you are free of “becoming” as a psychological need, neither your happiness nor your sense of self depends on the outcome ” (Tolle 69).

When you are ever present in the present moment you do not hold on to past resentments towards people and things that happened in your life that led you to this moment and current life situation. You will also not idealize the future as some place where you have what you want or think you need for you will be in the moment, accepting that moment for what it is. You are already complete (let that sink in), you are meant to be where you are, in this moment. When you realize this you will feel the joy Tolle is describing or “happiness” as it were.

Tolle also raises a good point that people seem to be in a perpetual state of waiting, waiting to start living their life: “Waiting is a state of mind. Basically it means that you want the future; you don’t want the present. You don’t want what you’ve got , and you
want what you haven’t got. For example many people are waiting for prosperity. It cannot come in the future. When you honor, acknowledge and fully
accept your present reality – where you are, who you are, what you are doing right now – when you fully accept what you have got, you are grateful for what you have got, grateful for what is, grateful for being” (Tolle 86).

You are grateful for Being when you do not look to the future for things that can be attained to make your life seem better. Accept what you have already got and you will be infinitely happier. It’s not a new concept since people have been spouting this perspective for years, decades even – to be grateful for what you have and to not focus on what you do not. I find writing a Gratitude Journal each day helps with this and it doesn’t need to be lengthy. Write down three things you are grateful for today. I’ll start: I am grateful for my ears so I can hear the lovely Russell Brand narrating his book “Recovery” on the audiotape I have, I am grateful for the taste of coffee and appreciate it immensely, and finally  I am grateful for the relationships I have currently in my life that have showed me so much love. When you take the time to write three things out, you realize wow, there really are things in my life in which to be grateful  even if they are the simple things like the taste of coffee. Another thing is to remember that there is someone out there envying your life. And yes you heard me right! There is someone, somewhere, envying your life no  matter how much you think it’s mundane or problem-riddled. At least your love one is not going off to a war you’re unsure they will ever return from, At least you live in a country with basic freedoms and rights. Think about that when you’re busy regretting your past or looking to the future for some ideal life that is but an illusion.

So the question becomes, How do we ground ourselves in the present moment? How do we bring our consciousness to the Now? Tolle offers some advice and strategies for such a thing: “To become conscious of Being, you need to reclaim consciousness of the mind…A very effective way of doing this is simply to take the focus of your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body” (Tolle 110). He further elaborates a way in which you can focus on your body as a gateway to the Now: “Direct your attention into the body. Feel it from within. Is it alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs and feet – in your abdomen, your chest?…Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments. Do not start to think about it. Feel it. The more attention you give it , the clearer and stronger this feeling will become. It will feel as if every cell is becoming
more alive” (Tolle 112).

If you connect to your body in this manner and reflect on it, you are brought into the Now. The stream of unconsciousness, or rather your incessant thinking will quiet. Your attention will be on the current moment and what your body is feeling such as the sharp intake of air and exhale of recycled air. This connection to your body is a channel to the present moment. Tolle says that while doing this: “thoughts and emotions, fears and desires, may still be there to some extent, but they won’t take you over” (Tolle 117).

The mind is conditioned by the past and can become stuck in it, denying the Now. The mind dislikes and ignores the present moment because it is caught in a trap of the familiar, the past. Even if the past was full of pain or it brings pain to think about, the mind will continue to focus and re-create it because it is familiar. The mind would rather deal with the known (the pain) than something unknown because that is scary due to the lack of control one has over something unknown. That unknown, however, and embrace of the present moment could be and no arguably is, the gateway to freedom from pain. It is insanity to keep trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. So embrace Now, be grateful for Now and who you are in this present moment. Let go of the past and future for they do not truly exist in  this moment. They are but fathoms of your conditioned mind. Embrace the Now, because it is truly all you get. Tomorrow may never come and that is a reality some find hard to admit.

I am ending this blog post with the last few lines of “The Power of Now” and which sum up perfectly the point I am trying to get across: “When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power. You do not need it anymore. Presence is the key. The Now is the key.” (Tolle 229).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Poem About Insanity

Lurking Behind Every Corner,
Is Insanity.

A Drug Cocktail Keeps It At Bay,
Prevents The Hallucinations,
Delusions and Paranoia.

Is My Fractured Mind Any Less Of My Mind?
I still Possess the Memories,
Of Skeletal Arms, and Millions of Dollars.

But What Do These Memories Mean?
If Anything?
A Semblance of Insight.

Insight Into The Darkest Recesses Of My Brain,
Oh My Fractured Mind,
How You Spilled Your Guts.

Dreams and Desires,
Laced In Paranoia,
I Suddenly Realized The Truth.

I Wait For It To Disappear Once More,
Everyday,
My Sanity.