What to expect when reading bi-polar wife

Thoughts and feelings of living with bi-polar as a wife, mother, and person in the world.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The power of sensory triggers (One swear word)

Rumour has it you can hear whilst still in the womb, therefore, when you finally enter the world you can recognise significant people straight away. (http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/fetal-hearing/ ) It's real science and everything! And your senses can play a massive role in your emotional memory in a positive as well as negative way. This is an interesting read. (http://www.livescience.com/8426-brain-link-sounds-smells-memory-revealed.html)

So why am I talking about this today? Well it was parents evening at school. I am a grown up. I don't go to school anymore. Education in England no longer practices violence against children if they speak out of turn. Bullying, although still happening, is dealt with in a much more dynamic and useful way. I know all of this, but as soon as I set foot in the building and smell the floor detergent, the waft of shared toilets, school dinners and sweaty teenagers and I immediately feel anxious and distressed. In my mind I regress to a place of powerlessness and fear, and even when I speak to the teachers about my son, I will feel as though I have been caught out doing something I shouldn't and experience non specific guilt. For all of you out there who say, "School days were the best days of my life" quite frankly, in my personal experience, if all schools were fire bombed it would be a blessing.

It isn't only smell that does it. Sounds and taste do it too. Songs, animal sounds, mashed potatoes and swede to name a few. These sounds, smells and tastes can also generate happy memories and whip you up into a joyous frenzy. Just give me the edge of a silky blanket and I'll love you for ever. But I suppose what I am saying is that the mind is a very powerful thing and memory for me plays a great part in my wellness. How I respond to those triggers is essential to managing my mood. Some things are really manageable for me now as they are quite common to hear. They no longer trigger fear or hideous discomfort that comes, but it brings no pictorial memory with it, just a sense of fear and total powerlessness. Those sounds now register, pass through, and I float above them on a wave of acceptance. Others catch me out.

Recently we went to the Black Country museum. There was a garage area and a man was restoring and polishing old cars. The smell was incredibly strong and distinctive, and out of nowhere I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach and couldn't breathe. I had to walk off and let it move through me. I had been jettisoned temporarily back to the large garage at the house where my parents used to work. As a grown up, I am able to hold the inner child as the terror passes through. I am grateful for this skill, as if I cannot do that, I will be in constant fear and my mood will drop off a cliff. Also, what I need to remember is that the past has gone, and unless I give my permission for it to hang around, it does not need to have a grip on me. It does not need to take me hostage with fear and it does not define who I am as an adult. I am a grown up and I am safe.

Also the things that terrify you as a child are not necessarily actually scary in adult reality. Spiders is one of those. My childhood home and the shed used to have massive Victorian house spiders. When I was 4 they looked like dinosaurs that moved with lightening speed and had a monstrous quality that put the fear of God in me. Dark cupboards, dust, the smell of damp, cobwebs..... That's me in full jitters. In this country spiders cannot do anything monstrous; well other than accidentally fall in your mouth whilst asleep! The fear is in my head.

And that is the point of this for me. Although there are genuinely things that are scary and you ought to have a healthy fear of, in my mental illness journey, some of my fears have been projections of my mind. They have no basis in truth and reality. Some of my fears, of things no longer happening to me, I need to let go of and dissolve their power over me. The recovery journey shows me the nuances of the volume of fear, what triggers it, when it is more noisy. I need to be aware that I am a physical person, with senses, but also a mind that are intrinsically linked. Sometimes, they gang up up and try to fool me into thinking I am a victim of my past and circumstance, that I am powerless and have no choice.

That's bollocks. Yes I have a mental illness, over that I have no control. Yes, I have experience all kinds of weirdness and distress in my life. But what I do have is a choice about my response to all of those things. On a day to day basis, I can show up to the game of life, and live in the solution, work on being emotionally and spiritually free and embrace the challenge of living. Sometimes, out of what you think is a mistake, or slightly broken or not good enough, can change the world. I think there is always a greater good at work even in the darkest moments when we think there is no way.

A case in point:

"Often described as a careless lab technician, Fleming returned from a two-week vacation to find that a mold had developed on an accidentally contaminated staphylococcus culture plate."


Monday, 13 March 2017

Try and be quiet - It actually helps you to be present

From the moment I wake up, throughout my entire day and onward to the evening and bed, I am assaulted by noise. People noise, radio and TV noise, mobile phone notifications, washing machine and tumble dryer noise, food mixer noise, car, bus, plane and moped noise, birds, dogs, cats, my own voice and the non-stop inner dialogue of my mind that quite frankly, very rarely shuts up. 

It's a racket. Let's face it. 

Some noises are more soothing than others. The sea with its ebb and flow; the swish/crush noise of the sandy pebbles being sucked backwards into the foam. Pebbles plopping in the pond. The odd bleat of the sheep in an isolated field. Ralph Vaughn Williams. 

What I find is that noise and sound, although intrinsic to everyday living, can be a vehicle of emotional avoidance and denial. It shuts up the quiet inner voice of truth and blots out the inner reality of your soul. Sometimes you need to shut things out, shut things up and not register what you are feeling or thinking. Noise in this instance is the handmaiden of busyness.

But for me I need to have a balance of loudness and quietness. Having insight, monitoring mood and thought and generally having a handle on stress are critical to my recovery process. The only way I can do that effectively is by shutting the hell up! It doesn't even need to be for a long and arduous time either. I am not a monk. And quietness is not my natural way of being. I'm a talker, to myself and others, and I play my music incredibly loud. I encourage my kids to talk and sing and play instruments. My husband plays guitar well and sings like a gurgling drain. We celebrate his lack of self obsession and joy of the moment! The house is rarely silent. 

However, making time to be quiet is essential for me, and takes commitment. It also takes a bit of planning, especially if you have a busy family life and a job etc. It also means being prepared to sit with feeling uncomfortable at times too. Mindfulness is a great way of slowing down and being still. If you do it with a speaking guide, it isn't silent but it's definitely a way of massively reducing the inner and outer noise. It is brilliant for refreshing, uplifting and easing the spirit and mind.

Total silence is quite tricky. There is always the possibility of interruption but you can achieve mostly silent quite easily by turning everything off, including your mobile phone (Don't have a total meltdown), and just sitting still for 5 minutes. Breathe, absorb the environment, the smells, the temperature, the feel of your body in the seat. Some noises may drift in but let them pass. How do you feel? Are their any emotions floating about? Is there a primary thought popping to the front of your mind? How does your body feel? And for me in this moment I also scan whether or not God is saying anything or guiding me to anything. Please feel free to ignore the God bit! If you want to, you can build up your length of time by increments of 5 minutes. You may find yourself at it for hours as it feels fantastic! I go off every now and then to Launde Abbey or Mount St. Bernard's to get away from it all and shut up. It's weird as when I go, the closer I get to the building the more self aware I become. It's like the lack of noise is deafening, and all I can feel is my inner being in its absolute truth. This is both wonderful and terrifying. It's much easier to pretend I am alright by shouting "I'm fine" at the top of my voice whilst bashing saucepans. 

Many a spiritual community have based their daily practice on being silent, working and praying. Silence is a rare commodity in our 24/7 world. Sometimes, tapping in to something ancient and simple can really nourish you. It might not be trendy or fashionable, but being quiet is actually a beautiful thing to do for yourself in a world that demands so much.