I AM JUST TRAVELING ON A PATH CALLED RECOVERY by Andy “Electroboy” Behrman

I AM JUST TRAVELING ON A PATH CALLED RECOVERY by Andy “Electroboy” Behrman

Because of my role as a mental health advocate whose goal has been to motivate and encourage “recovery” to those living with depression and bipolar disorder, I’ve always been hesitant to be entirely honest about my own inner thoughts on the subject. But lately, I’ve been asked quite a bit if there is truly such a thing as recovery from mental illness, or if one just learns to cope with it on a daily basis. And now, after more than 20 years of ping-ponging between the two frightening emotional states of euphoric highs and desperate lows, I’m pretty sure I’ve come up with my answer to this challenging question.
Along with almost 3 million other Americans, I have bipolar disorder. When I’m manic, I’m so awake and alert that my eyelashes fluttering on the pillow sound like thunder and I immediately have to jump out of bed and experience the beauty and glee of the world. I live for these fabulous moments. On the flip side of the coin, I cherish my depression: although it’s dark and frightening, it allows me plenty of time and an incredible perspective in which I can reflect on the darkness and the depth of the abyss of this depression.

So when I’m manic, I can be busy plotting my run for the U.S. Senate or thinking about hopping the next flight to Bali from LAX. And when I’m depressed and in pain, I can find myself questioning the world around me and digging deeper into it. I’ll spend hours lying alone on the floor in my underwear just watching a lone snail crawling on the window pane and thinking about her place as a crustacean in this world (and praying that she doesn’t end up on a plate with garlic and butter sauce).
Many people consider me a “recovered” bipolar patient, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that this part of me is “alive and well” and it never will completely fade. After innumerable trials with medications, electroshock treatments, talk therapy, diet, exercise, nutrition and even spirituality, I’ve been stable, in control and free of major episodes for almost a decade.
At the height of my illness I was virtually homeless, squatting in an apartment in Manhattan and stealing food from the corner grocery store. Today, I have two young daughters. I live in the suburbs in a house with a pool, and my car has toddler seats in the back. But mostly I have my life back, and it’s fair to say that it’s a much more quiet and peaceful one than I had a decade ago.
I never imagined I’d have a life as a parent, let alone one volunteering to serve hot lunches to first graders at my daughter’s school. But I do I feel like I’m a very good example of how treatment, as well as really wanting and working hard to get well, can be successful. That’s what has brought me to where I am today.
Yes, I am certainly one of the lucky ones. But I know that my mental illness is not cured or even under lock-and-key, plotting its next escape. It’s still very much part of the landscape of my life and often seeps out, sometimes when I least expect it. I slip a little and become aware that people around me notice my mania if I’m particularly aggressive, loud or silly. But I have such a better perspective on it now that I can usually rein it in – although sometimes I still act on the impulse. It’s just that the impulses aren’t as dangerous as they were years ago.
The old me constantly focused on the next high, whether it was a $25,000 shopping spree at Barneys, working into the early hours of the morning at an all-male strip club in Times Square, or as an art forger. This extreme behavior has abated, and so have the anxiety, the paranoia and the out-of-control mania. The light is no longer at the end of the tunnel; it surrounds me, even on the days that I am trapped inside the tunnel.
Mental illness cannot be treated separately from the person; they are inextricably linked. Bipolar disorder is not like a physical illness where you can point to an empirical issue and fix it. So I feel I’ve answered the question, “Where does mental illness end and where do I begin?” In my case, we are one. I’ve made friends with the enemy, and the illness is no longer my disability.
My successful and ongoing battle is a matter of understanding my mental illness, realizing when my moods are shifting, and targeting the destructive behaviors through psychiatric, psychological and spiritual professionals. I also rely on a few very close, compassionate friends. My treatment is successful precisely because it takes both me and my bipolar disorder into account and doesn’t delineate between the two of us.
I cope with my mental illness every single day of my life, from the moment I wake up, and I truly believe I now lead a rich life, even with bipolar disorder. For me, recovery is no longer a destination; I am just traveling on a path called recovery.

andy_behrman

 

Andy Behrman

www.electroboy.com

please follow Andy at @electroboyusa on Twitter

Realization

Today I had a thought. I think it comes with awareness. I realized, I complain about life sometimes. I complain about my mental illness, silently. I complain about money. I complain about my job. I complain about people who complain. It’s a weakness. It can become a sickness, if you let it. But, there is a bigger picture.

Have faith.

Realization

An act of becoming fully aware of something as a fact:

My self-realization is that complaining is pointless. Complaining is self-absorbed non-sense. It gets me nowhere. This realization might sound simple, but I’m looking at it in a bigger picture. I’m looking at a lifetime. How long is it? How much time do I have here? I’m not sure. Do you? I don’t want to waste precious time complaining without action. Life is precious.

Have faith.

 Action

The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim:

Action for me starts with this realization, LIFE IS TEMPORARY. No more, no less. Complaining is a lack of doing. Wanting something done or to change something without doing the work is complaining, broken down simply. I believe this comes from awareness.

Have faith.

 Awareness

Knowledge or perception of a situation or fact:

How I perceive things stems from my interpretation of all the ups, downs, trials, and tribulations I’ve had in my life. I think when I complain it’s a surface complaint covering up a deeper perspective. What is it? That LIFE IS TEMPORARY. It’s a scary thought.

Have faith.

Faith

I know this physical life is temporary, and the spirit is everlasting. Having faith is to believe in something bigger than what we know, bigger than the physical life. Sometimes I get lost. Not realizing that this life is a series of ups, downs, trials, and tribulations to get closer to the ultimate goal, life everlasting. This life is just a beginning.

When I begin to complain, and seem to get lost, which will definitely happen, I will remember this: Have faith, be aware, take action, and realize that life is short. This life is just a journey, a beginning, not an end. No complaints, Live.

I have faith.

Defeated?

Defeated?

What do you do when you feel defeated? I don’t mean losing a game or a bout with someone. I mean when life seems to kick you around when you’re at a low point and leaves you at the curb. This might sound abnormal, but is this feeling “normal” for someone living with a mental illness?

Living with Bipolar Disorder, it seems like there are days when feeling defeated comes easy. It’s a low point that I tend to go through. It’s easy for someone to say, “Get over it”. How do I get over of it? I don’t. I go THROUGH it.

Going through a low point is the process of using coping skills to move you through the valley, or low point to get you back to feeling good again. Getting over it? It doesn’t happen. It’s like ignoring that it’s even happening. Going through it, is acknowledging the low point for what it is and moving on.

Living with a mental illness is challenging. Living with a mental illness isn’t for the weak. It’s a way of life that takes a lot of work. In my own life, I can feel defeated but my illness doesn’t defeat me, it challenges me. In the good times it’s great, in the low times it’s hard. Again it’s a challenge.

Learning coping skills is important. Mine is writing. As I write this, it shows what’s on my mind and helps me realize if there’s going to be a challenge. I can tell you there’s no challenge right now, it’s just acknowledging that there is a low point and I know it’s seasonal.

How do I know it’s seasonal? Because I’ve been writing for years and now I know myself through my writing. My suggestion is, if you get a defeated feeling with mental illness, learn some coping skills. If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

Living Life On Life’s Terms

Living With Fear

 What do you do when you’re living with fear? It’s time to evaluate your life. What are you afraid of? I’m afraid of living life on life’s terms. That statement haunts me. I need control over my life. I know that control is an illusion but I still look for it today even after 20 years of recovery. How do you move on from control issues? Control IS an illusion. Acceptance is the start.

Acceptance

 How do you accept to live life on life’s terms if you need to control your life? It’s hard to fathom, but if you’re in recovery, acceptance is the first step. Lets take it a step further; acceptance is the key to letting go of fear. Fear is the enemy. When I hear myself saying this, I have to let go and let God. I know I’m using a lot of 12 step sayings but they’re all true.

Letting Go

Letting go is the way to freeing myself from the control that I try to maintain. When I say, “try” to maintain, that’s the illusion. I need to let go of the STRUGGLE of trying to maintain that sense of control in my life, which leads to fear. Why fear? When I have to live life on life’s terms, life can feel unstable. While living with Bipolar Disorder and addiction issues I want that feeling of being stable. Which leads to trying to have that false control, it comes around full circle.

Letting God

Blind faith. That’s what I need. To believe that fear is the enemy and that God is in control. That alone, is freeing. To know and believe in a power that is greater than myself has the reigns is humbling. Being someone who tries to have control, I need to be humbled. How? Simple, let go, let God.

 

 

 

 

Working With a Healthy Routine

My name is Jason Insalaco. I have been living mentally well for over 13 years. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1 and addictions to drugs and alcohol in 1995. From 1995-2002 was a real struggle for me to keep a job for the long-term. In those seven years I’ve had every job imaginable and have lost every one of them. Why? I didn’t have a healthy routine.

A Good Recipe to Lose a Job
I know now in hindsight that I need to take my medicine at the same time everyday and get enough sleep during the night to function daily. In the first seven years of my recovery I would take my medicine when I remembered to, which wasn’t at the same time and I wouldn’t get a good nights sleep. What would happen? I would sleep through my alarm, miss work, and eventually lose my job. It was a revolving door that wouldn’t stop.

A Healthy Routine is a Good Start
What does this mean for me? Well, I needed to get on a healthy routine. I started to take my medicine at the same time everyday and get a good sleep pattern. It took time but it was good for me to be proactive about it. The result was that I had more energy during the day so I can function better. Not perfect, but better. As a result of feeling better and wanting to work, I had to choose the right job.

Choosing The Right Job
I think that when choosing a job, you need to work with your likes and dislikes. This will reveal if volunteer, part-time, or full time work is what to look for. I believe looking for a job is an extension of your personality. First, I would ask myself a few questions. Do I like to work with people? Animals? Computers? Do I like to work indoors, like an office or warehouse? Or do I like to work outdoors?
I believe that instead of aimlessly looking for a job, it is important to sit down and make a list of your likes and dislikes. This list could be a basis of where to start looking for your next job.
In closing, being a healthier you can be the momentum in getting a job. My advice is to make that list and start looking for a job that is filled with more likes than dislikes

Freedom is Love

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In the center is peace,
It pumps life.
Life can pull you in many directions.
Follow the pull inward.
Get in touch with your inner self.
Feel the pain of sorrow,
Feel the joy of happiness ,
Follow the peace.
It starts from the center,
Moving outward towards freedom.
Freedom is love.

“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” – Rick Warren