My life experience is what makes me write. Let me share parts of it with you. The portion that inspires my writing, that I feel most passionately about penning to paper. The portion that led to me walking the path and live my spirituality every day through mediation and deed.
My life’s story is different from that of many 36 year olds and I had strong reservations about coming-out and sharing it. The past twelve years, I have been struggling with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It’s been bad. 20 episodes. Seven of them manic-psychotic. 13 depressions. For a large portion I was just trying to stay alive. The onset of an episode was followed by hospitalization, was followed by reintegration into the job, was followed by brief recovery and the semblance of a normal life was followed by a new break. The cycle repeated itself. The institutionalized system was unable to stabilize, less cure me. I was told to accept what happened. That my condition could only be managed, never healed. I was told to create a version of myself that was ok with what was happening to me. One clueless doctor chased the next, medication was on and off like crazy, dosages changed, pills changed. Nothing. I have been told the usual fairy-tale of biochemical imbalance. As if a serotonine and dopamine imbalance would explain the emotional trauma and pain. On a certain level, I was critical of the paradigm I was being fed. On another level, I clinged to it as there was nothing else to replace it. Maybe if I take my medication, don’t drink alcohol, exercise and do ten other things from the list of my behavioralist it will finally work. I tried it. It didn’t.
At one point in fall 2011 depression was marching in with the usual force and for the first time, I made the conscious decision not to go into the hospital. Even more, I refrained from calling what was happening to me depression or an illness. I decided to study what was going on with an open and unburdened mind, unencumbered by psychiatric theory and psychological interpretation. It was a major step for me. I was so afraid. I debunked all every doctor ever said to me and started my own book. I was open to new possibilities and that by itself was very liberating.
As chance has it, right about that time, I got into contact with a new therapist. A therapist I myself would have considered fringe a couple of years back. Not the usual behavioralist, but a gestalt therapist. I remember my first session like it was yesterday. I came into his office and had to take of my shoes. That alone would have discounted him as an “esoteric” a couple of years back. I entered a room full of cushions and foam blocks covered in cloth. My god, what is going on here? “This is our working space.”, he said. So we sat down and talked. I expected he wanted to hear the whole works, how it all started, how I was treated, how many episodes, what triggered those. And then he asked me a baffling question: “What do you feel in your body when you talk about this?”. I was dumb-founded. My body? What does that have to do with it? Isn’t it all just a brain thing? Behavioral routines gone awry? I described by bodily sensations to him. The numbness, the heavy head, the tingling in my arms and legs, the queasy stomach and the rock in my bowels. “Dive into that sensation in your bowels. Which feeling does that correspond to?”. It was rage. So the set me up with a big foam block and told me to take out my rage on the thing with controlled but heavy hitting. And as I was doing that, “depression” lifted. At the end of the session he said: “See there is a lot of energy within you, you just need to tap it.”. Getting out of the thing, just by this simple exercise, even for only a few minutes, it baffled me. I continued to work with him (still do) and got better.
About half a year later I finally chose to shed a spiritual perspective on the whole thing. I have been meditating for a couple of years already, mainly calming and relaxing meditations without any spiritual colouring. I have had my share of spiritual experiences around and in my manic-psychotic episodes. However, up until summer 2012, I was not able to fullly and consistently embrace the possibility that my experiences had any lasting meaning. I bought into the crap the doctors put out that my experiences are delusions and have nothing to do with reality.
I quickly learned different.
Studying spirituality, I found that many of the ideas and sensations I had during mania are mainstay concepts of many spiritual schools and/or experiences made during advanced forms of meditation.
Given that most are unfamiliar with “manic symptoms” let me explain the experience in very bold strokes. Generalizations based on own experiences may occur :-). Mania is a very heightened state of consciousness. You have a tremendous amount of energy and drive. Your creativity and associative thinking are at astonishingly high levels. You feel elated, bursting with joy and full of bliss. A torrent of energy runs through you. You are like a superconductor, channeling energy effortlessly and without any resistance. Any block in your system is gone. Your perception changes. Colours become more vibrant, sounds more resonant. Everything smells intensely. Every piece of food your eat tastes like ambrosia. Your sense of touch is heightened to a degree that a small breeze of air touching your skin sends shivers of joy and appreciation down your spine. Most wondrously is the overwhelming sense of knowing. A composition of a thousand pages long coming alive in five seconds of divine ecstasy. You perceive, feel even see patterns of energy playing themselves out in forms of people, interactions, things. It’s like hacking the Matrix. Full administrator priviliges. I always felt a most beautiful sense of connectedness. There was no difference between the inside and the outside. The concept of seperation collapsed. All is One. I felt unconditional love, a profound sense of being carried and supported no matter what. I felt guided. My consciousness was making new connections between seemingly unrelated topics at a break-neck speed. Reality became this marvelous symphony. It was a revelation, an awakening – a sunny day after a life in Plato’s cave. Clarity beyond anything ever experienced.
I felt called to share my discovery with everyone else. And doing that unfiltered, assuming everybody to share your perception (as it is so obvious) you appear completely crazy. On top, maintaining this high level of energy is not sustainable. Your body grows tired, your brain overwhelmed. Lack of sleep adds to the toll. A high level of frustration builds once you realize that no one understands you.
Eventually things subside over time or due to brutal pharmaceutical intervention. It is the feeling of loss that ensues that, in my humble opinion, accounts for all of the negative “symptoms” of mania.
So I had all of this in me, and no way to explain it. I felt the truth of my experience but doubted myself constantly. If psychiatry destroy one thing its your intuition.
But enough for now. I will continue this story in my next post. Have a great week.