Spirituality and Mental Illness

September 16, 2010

Having mental and physical disorders and maintaining a spiritual balance can be difficult and confusing to say the least. How can I suffer these horrible feelings with a loving God in my life?

First of all, let me tell you my concept of God or a higher power of my understanding as they refer to it in 12 step programs. I tend to over complicate and think too much about certain things yet I find life is easier when I dumb myself and make things simple and easy to understand. For instance I have a God in my life that probably differs from the one you have. He is simple and easy to understand because I would drive myself nuts otherwise. It’s a blind faith in a being outside of me that guides me, helps me and is there with me no matter what. I call him or her God out of mere convenience. It’s a more palatable name for most people and the most common reference amongst my peers. Personally, it doesn’t matter what I call Him or Her or even It. The point is that somewhere along the way of my struggles I discovered that there is this power greater than myself that works in my life.

I spent so many years bashing religion and even God because of the hypocrisy of it all. It didn’t make sense that followers of God no matter what religion were pushy and didn’t live up to what they preached. Once I entered a 12 step program for drinking and drug addiction I found that I had to have a “God” in my life or else I was destined to die if I continued on my downward spiral of a life or worse I would live to watch it crash and prolong my inner agony.

My God is pretty vague and unspecific. I am open to the fact that it might be something inside of me acting as as God or it could be the electrons in the air I breathe. God could be anything and I don’t want ot bother myself with details. The one that I pray to works for me for the most part. I took a leap of blind faith and it works. I found that the more I did to help others and to remain on a path of righteousness I felt better. I could go on and on about my reliance of God. The important thing to me is I found a “God” that works for me most of the time. I try to work for him. Faith without works is dead as the religionists say.

Here’s the rub. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and anxiety. Sometimes, the anxiety gets real bad. I can pray all I want and it doesn’t go away. It’s the same when I am depressed or manic. I’ve learned that it’s part of my life and who I am and I have to accept it and go through the pains and take my medications and don’t blame or get mad at God. Otherwise I’ll give up on Him and then I’ll have no God and go back to old behaviors and probably drinking and doing drugs.

A friend of mine who suffers from similar things warned me about praying during episodes of anxiety. He said I could get angry and lose faith if I’m not careful. I have to take action to take care of my “mental illness”  as I refer to it.

That’s how Ideal with it. I pray everyday to an unspecific power that I call God asking for his direction for the day. If I have any anxiety, depression or mania I don’t expect him to remove it immediately. I take my medication and do the things I was taught to handle it like eat and talk about it to someone. Overall it makes my spiritual life stronger and my mental breakdowns and anxiety is tolerable. Deep inside I know He’s with me through the pains of life and I have accept the terms I have been given.

The best phrases I’ve heard and used, as corny as they sound, are one day at a time and this too shall pass. I remember this no matter what I am feeling and going through and in the end I come out better.

I am happy and grateful despite my handicaps due to my strong faith in a God that may or may not exist. It doesn’t matter. He works with me and for me if I ask. Just not in the time frame I want.

My Anxiety Belongs to me. You Can’t Have It.

September 13, 2010

I want to write, discuss, talk or whatever it is I’m doing right now, about anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Since I feel one coming on I figured I’d write about it while I am experiencing it. Why not right?

Anxiety disorders and panic attacks are defined many ways in different medical dictionaries, doctors, psychiatrists and the people who are inflicted. Personally, I never understood the attack until I actually had one years ago as a result of a reaction to an anti-depressant. Then I didn’t have one for years until the stress of my last job combined with being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. I discovered that high anxiety goes hand in hand with the time worsening bi-polar disorder if untreated. I treat both on a daily basis with medications. Nothing too heavy. I’ve been down that route too and it was zombie land for this guy. Me.  So, I can only describe what anxiety and panic attacks are for me.

Remember that nervousness you would get as a teenager when you wanted to kiss a girl or boy in your heart and stomach? It’s like that multiplied by 30 and even 100 depending on the attack. My heart rate goes way up and my stomach has those nervous butterflies then the feeling goes through my entire body while my thoughts race uncontrollably. Usually negative thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts go so fast I can’t think at all. It’s as if too many thoughts create an empty mind or something. Sometimes I sweat and feel like I’m going to pass out but usually it’s the nervousness inside and out that I suffer from.

My anxiety makes me feel immobile and trapped unable to move. It’s crippling at times. Some would say I have agoraphobia because when I am feeling the anxiety and I am supposed to be somewhere I find myself unable to go. Sometimes unable to move at all except to get up and go to the bathroom or move from one room to another.

Luckily I don’t suffer from this everyday. When I was working my last job I had them 3 or 4 times a week at work and once in a while before bed. Now it’s down to once or twice a week. Recently, I’ve been getting them on Friday and Monday nights. I have no idea why. Sometimes the anxiety is triggered by things I don’t want to deal with and things I put in the back of my mind. If something upsets me I get them too. Lately it happens for no reason on the surface and I am afraid to dig for the root cause because it may trigger another one.

For almost 19 years I’ve been going to AA. Yes. I’m an alcoholic too. I’ve been a member of the same meeting group on Monday night ever since. It’s baffling to me as to why I am getting panic attacks on Mondays lately. The closer it gets to the meeting time the more it builds up. Last week It started around 6:30 PM and lasted until 10 PM. I took extra medication and it still wouldn’t go away. I used to be comfortable there withal of my friends that I’ve known for over 15 years and some 18 almost 19.

The new crowd might have something to do with it. Lately it has become a big meeting with 40- 50 people attending and I am used to it having 20 or so. Yes. I’m also claustrophobic as well. This has become worse over the years especially when the anxiety attacks started. It might be the ex-girlfriend that attends that I am mad at. It could be the young lady that rejected me when I asked her out. It could be the loss of friendship I feel with some of my long-term friends there. Oh boy. I’m thinking too mush. Remember I said I felt an attack coming on. Its been getting worse while I am writing.

I love when people tell me to “just man up and get over it.” The same wit drinking. “Just use your will power.” “Your not bipolar you just have ups and downs like the rest of us.”

It’s like any other disease or disorder. If you don’t have it you won’t understand it. I’m just writing about it hoping it will cathartic. It isn’t. At least I had something to write about and you have something to read. I’m going to go hide in a corner now.

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