Today is the end of the four-day week for those of us in treatment. That means there’s a long, four-day weekend ahead of us with Memorial Day tagged on the end of it. To get from this side of the holiday weekend to the other requires planning, setting goals for each day, getting out of the apartment, spending time with friends, tending to chores. A structured mind is a tidy mind.
A couple of Ah-Ha moments this week. My regular therapist, Megan, and I have been working on Mindfulness practices for several months, but one of the homework modules from treatment put that work in a different light. It talked about developing a stronger tolerance to emotional distress. We can’t stop the feelings and moods, but we can become more tolerant of them with practice. Mindfulness is a way to do that. The teaching material called it “doing the opposite” of what we habitually do in times of distress. Most people try to escape the emotional pain, numb it, distract oneself from it. The opposite of that knee-jerk reaction is to accept the current distress. Sit with it. Use meditation, journaling and other methods to pay attention to it and watch how it might shift.
The homework assignments my counselor in treatment have given me come from the Centre for Clinical Intervention, a wonderful Australian website where workbook-type modules on all areas of mental health are available for free. What a wonderful service! Those Aussies have the right idea.
The other Ah-Ha moment came with a suggestion in group. I’ve always maintained a one-size-fits-all management plan for my illness, but it was put to me that I need a different plan when I’m suffering a lapse. A lapse is when symptoms reappear, but haven’t dragged a person into a long bout that effects functioning in the world. As someone with the rapid cycling form of bipolar disorder, I considered myself symptomatic most of the time. But, I can see now that there are symptoms and there are SYMPTOMS. There are signs when my “normal” cycling shifts to a lapse—depression that lasts longer than three days, change in sleep quality, etc. Like an early warning tornado siren, I can watch for the signs of a lapse and put my Emergency Step-Up Plan in place. It gives me more power. And I do love gathering sharp-edged tools for my Bad-Ass armory. I added quite a bit to the arsenal this week.