Peaks & Valleys: Be Grateful for the Little Things
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
I woke up this morning and I already knew it was going to be one of those days...
In the past when I was less aware of my mood swings I would already have begun to spiral upward toward my peak (which as anyone with bipolar understands inevitably results in a spiral downward; a crash and burn into a deep depression). The best way I can describe it is like a plane taking off reaching record height making the pilot feel invincible only for all systems to shut down unexpectedly resulting in a rapid decent, major explosion, and what feels like eminent death.
But that was not going to be my day.
Recently I put into practice being grateful for the little things. And I don't mean a roof over my head, food in my stomach, a healthy body, no. Though it is fantastic and humbling to remember to be grateful for our basic needs being taken care of, when I feel an episode coming on, emphasizing those things sparks guilt in my soul. And guilt is the opposite of what I need in that mindset. No. I mean being grateful that after laying in bed for two hours I mustered up enough energy to get out of bed and start my day. Being grateful that I got up and made breakfast for my husband and myself. Being grateful that I brushed my teeth, that I took a shower. This is a practice I do daily, even if I am feeling balanced. Why? Well, if I can instill this habit in my everyday, when I have my off days it will happen naturally and little by little I will regain my balance without having to scale the most drastic of peaks and valleys.
This is the key to maintaining a healthy, balanced emotional body when the bipolar pilot starts to take over. Whatever practices you set in place have to be done daily and turned into habit because whether you are on medication or not, the episodes will come and try to rip your balance from you. I have experienced it first hand.
Even when I was on the highest possible doses of my mood stabilizers, I would still find myself in rollercoaster episodes that left me feeling like an empty shell of what used to be myself. And at that point I honestly could not have told you who "myself" even was. Somewhere along the way I got lost in the masking, the trying to fit in, and the blackout periods caused by my episodes. My brain was so topsy-turvy my thoughts were like an endless array of circus acts and somehow I was the star in all of them. Each costume and routine significantly different from the last and I couldn’t seem to keep up.
It wasn't until I lost everything I counted as valuable that I truly gave myself permission to find “me” again.
I must emphasize, I do not wish for you to lose everything you hold dear nor is it necessary for your growth. I believe I was led down this path so that you wouldn’t have to. This is simply my story and the journey it took for me to make change in my own life.
When I hit my personal rock bottom I was 2 years off of medication due to the physical damage the previous 5 years had done to my liver, kidneys, and digestive system. And quite frankly at that point I still hadn’t the slightest idea of what I was doing when it came to managing myself both physically and mentally. Even though I had taken some courses at UCLA that could have been incredibly helpful (had I applied them into my life), I instead had been sucked in by substance abuse, sex, and quite honestly feeling sorry for myself. I cursed God for my situation.
But then, overnight, in what was either the most productive mania I had ever experienced or a miracle from God Himself (to this day I’m still not sure... it could have been a combination of both), I decided to make a change.
That morning I reached out to a few friends for book recommendations and the first suggestion they sent me was The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. To this day when clients come to me asking how to change their life, this is the first book I recommend.
Reading The Mastery of Love was the start of my practices of gratefulness and awareness of self. It was from Don Miguel that I learned, ”All of our drama and suffering is by practice. We make an agreement with ourselves, and we practice that agreement until it becomes a whole mastery. The way we think, the way we feel, and the way we act become so routine that we no longer need to put our attention on what we are doing. It is just by action-reaction that we behave a certain way.” So if I was ever going to have a chance at changing the outcome of my episodes I needed to change my routine and become aware of every action, especially the little things. It was the empowerment I needed to be my own pilot and leave my bipolar in the copilot seat.