I am Delicious

One of the things I continue to struggle with as a person with bipolar disorder is my sense of value as a human being.  The distorted thinking wraps around this vulnerability and really dances a tango.  At one time or another, the illness stripped away every aspect of myself that I valued or believed the world at large valued—my ability to work and make money, my ability to live independently, my ability to manage my own finances, my ability to read, my memory, my creativity, my marriage, my friends, my home. For me, the overriding disability of bipolar disorder is the inability to be consistent with anything—to keep appointments, to maintain a routine, to be counted on.

My therapist banned the word productivity from my vocabulary early on.  I constantly worried about being productive.  I wanted to volunteer at the high school to tutor kids with poor English skills, but I knew I might not be able to keep appointments with those kids.  I wanted to work at the calendar kiosk at the mall this Christmas to make a little more money, but I couldn’t keep the work schedule.  I wanted to make art every day, but  some days I could only manage to take a shower.  I felt like a leech on society, a burden, a problem my family had to solve.  So, productivity became a casualty in the bipolar battle. I had to change my definition of value.

Part of the transition came when I started to accept the illness itself.  When the symptoms came, the sadness or the twisted thinking, I could say, “this is the illness” instead of “this is me.”  I started to understand that the illness required care.  Too many expectations, too many commitments, too much stress made it worse.  I had to learn to be gentle with myself, accepting, and flexible.

Each time the illness took away some part of me I valued, I was forced to acknowledge that I’d invested my identity in that piece.  When I lost the ability to read after ECT, I was hysterical inside.  My intelligence was me.  I slowly came to see that I was much more than my language skills or my ability to comprehend.  There was a part of me, an essence, that the illness could never destroy.

In his book, Diamond Heart, Book One: Elements of the Real in Man, A.H. Almaas talks about Value.

For most people, value is the value of the superego…it depends a lot on our unconscious, our imprinting, our beliefs.  What governs most valuing is seeking pleasure and voiding pain.  That means all your defensive mechanisms are valued very much, all your resistances.  You’ve spent years building up all your ideas of how you should be, how you are, how the world should be.  These long-cherished dreams of how things should be and what you should get in your life, are of course mostly based on experiences of deficiency in childhood.

One thing we can observe about our values is that they change over time.  You might fall in love, feel that you value a person, and two years later you don’t like him anymore.  Did the person change?  Not necessarily, maybe not at all.  So what changed his value for you?  Value is something you attribute to objects, or people, or activities.  So it must be something you have in you.  We want to go to the source of value.  We want to understand what it is in us that values.

Value-as-such is an aspect of essence.  My value is independent of what my superego or anybody else’s superego says.  It is independent of what happens.  My value is independent of whether I am married or single, whether I have one car or ten cars or a bicycle, whether someone loves me or not, whether I’m happy or unhappy, dead or alive, sick or healthy.  Value, existing as value, is separate from these things.

Looking for value is looking for oneself.  When you see yourself as value, it becomes much easier to let the essence really unfold, in its beauty, its majesty, its grandeur, with its pleasures and joys.  You will see, when you experience value in yourself, that value is the ground, the basis, of what we call the personal essence, what is in you that is you.

Value is so definite, so palpable, that it has a color, and a taste, and a texture.  When you experience yourself as value, you’ll see that you are delicious.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Visionary
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 12:02:00

    One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn (and am still learning) is how to be realistic with myself. Right now I’m not the most productive member of society. Like you I can’t seem to keep appointments or a work schedule. I feel like a burden on society, a burden on those who love me. However, I need to be realistic and gentle with myself. This is all just a part of who I am.

    Thank you for sharing your story, the journey you’ve taken to find the value you place on things in your life, and more importantly yourself. It’s totally inspirational!

    Reply

  2. Kitty
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 22:32:37

    I read a book 25 years ago called, “A New Guide to Rational Living.” I was just beginning to heal my life and the only thing I could see at that point was that I didn’t want to mess up my beautiful two year old daughter. The reason I bought this particular book was because, when I opened it to a random page, the first thing I read said, “We must teach our children that they have value simply because they exist… not because of what they do.” Well! Nobody ever taught me that. As a matter of fact, when I read that part to my Dad he said, “That’s ridiculous. Of course it matters what you do!” I rest my case.

    Thanks for your courageous sharing, Sandy.

    Reply

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