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A couple of months ago I was contacted by the genetics company 23 and Me to participate in a genetics study on bipolar.

I have been talking to my wife for almost two years about doing the 23 and Me thing anyway, just because I thought it was pretty cool and wanted to have a more defined outlook on my genetics. Being a science nerd, I just find it interesting. But also, two of my former psychiatrists have done genetics on me and both told me I have an “interesting combination”, at least as it pertains to medication.

But mostly, I just think it is fun and could be pretty eye-opening. For example, my grandmother on my father’s side has a family name of Burns. And she claims that it is an Irish name, despite having a Scottish spelling (the Irish version would be Berns). However, there is a very small Irish village where this particular surname in this spelling derives from. So, if I turn out to be Irish and not Scottish, then I will have a pretty fantastic glimpse into a very specific place in my lineage.

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Blame and Responsibility

These two things drive a huge amount of the content people process in therapy. It is an incredibly difficult subject for almost every living person, but the lack of accurately attributing blame and responsibility often feels like the keystone in a mentally ill person’s psychology.

I would like to note here that not only am I not trained or educated in psychology, I’m not even poorly read in this area. I know practically nothing about any actual theories, studies, research, major players, or significant findings. I am the utmost of laymen in this arena. All I know is what I have personally experienced and seen firsthand. That experience isn’t insignificant, but don’t take anything I say as gospel, don’t even take it as accurate. This is all personal experience.

The reason blame and responsibility are difficult for people, all people, is because it requires a person to be objective, throw their bias in a box, and be self-critical. Another reason is that after an objective analysis, the most logical conclusion very often is that everyone is somewhat to blame and somewhat responsible. And that can be very unsatisfying.

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With all the hurricanes and earthquakes and fires and everything happening lately, I have seen a lot of footage of people being rescued. You know the image: person lying in a stretcher, being placed into the back end of an ambulance; usually an oxygen mask on their face. They look hurt, but it is an optimistic image. You know that the worst is probably behind this person. They are safe now. The healing has already begun.

I don’t mean to minimize how intense the healing process is, or the struggle some of those people will endure yet. And obviously, some of those people won’t ever leave that hospital. But what I am speaking to is that hopeful image. They put that image on the news because it shows devastation, but it shows humans prevailing, overcoming, helping, healing. It shows us that everything will be okay.

This is meant to depict the end of the struggle. Help has arrived. Safety.

For those of us who have gone to the hospital for mental health concerns, it is often a very different situation. For us, going to the hospital is filled with fear and trepidation. It might save our life, but things will probably get worse before they get better.

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“Perhaps [ideas] are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas.”

“Nothing is as dangerous in architecture as dealing with separated problems. If we split life into separated problems we split the possibilities to make good building art.”

-Alvar Aalto

Aalto is one of my favorite architects/ furniture designers. Most architects I know consider him one of their favorites. I won’t get into anything about his architecture, but you should look him up if you like architecture or design. He was amazing.

Like most of the biggest architects throughout history, he was also a pretty incredible thinker and philosopher. He always spoke of big ideas in relation to architecture, but many of the things he had to say have impact in most areas of life.

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I try to be a fixer. Or, maybe I don’t try so much as I can’t get out of my own way sometimes.

I don’t think I’m particularly good at fixing things, by the way. It isn’t really a strength of mine. But that is where I often find myself.

That’s at least part of why this website exists right?

I am not the type of person that you should call if you just want someone to listen and commiserate with you. I know that often (usually?) that is the best thing to do for someone, just listen. But that isn’t how I’m wired.

When a problem is in front of me, my brain just zeroes in on any possible solution.

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Week three of thankfulness:

I didn’t post one of these last week, and the reason is simple: it was my birthday last Saturday. I turned 32.

Birthdays are never a good time for me. Some of you are aware that two years ago, on my 30th birthday, was my most recent attempt to commit suicide. It came after a couple years of struggling with many episodes, a few other attempts, and a hospitalization. It resulted in another hospitalization and ECT.

Today, I am thankful that I turned 32.

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Week #3 of thankfulness blogs

This week, the purity of sound

A few summers ago I was camping with my family and one entire day was rained out. I had an infant that wasn’t entirely happy, and I was just beginning the recovery process after ECT.

Anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks just after lunch and I went to my tent to lie down and get away. And there is where I discovered something that has been an effective part of treating my anxiety ever since, the sound of a hard rain on that nylon/ polyester blended surface.

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There is a really fascinating phenomenon with the brain where once you understand how to solve a problem, the solution is inherently visible to you when faced with the same problem again.

This is applicable in a myriad of things. This is how we go from seeing the silhouetted faces to the wine glass or the bird and the old lady back and forth once we are aware of the optical illusion, despite only being able to see one or the other upon the first viewing. This is how we can “learn” to increase our IQ or our SAT scores by repeated test taking. This is how we become more adept at puzzles and games, and why you’re no longer play Sudoku.

There is an evil twin sibling of this phenomenon called confirmation bias. And this means that when we believe we are solving a problem we have already learned to solve, we will find clues that helped us solve previous puzzles that might no longer be applicable. This is why you never finished the “expert” level Sudoku book.

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