What’s IQ Got To Do With It?

“Experience is not what happens to you – it’s how you interpret what happens to you.” -Aldous Huxley

 

Fireworks lit the sky with thundering colors, bright and loud tributes to the celebration of the new year.

 

It was beautiful, full of electricity and exhiliration, hope, and promise.

 

I assume that’s how most people felt when the clock struck 12am on December 31st, 2018 – unfortunately, I did not.

 

I was too busy going through the beginning stages of a depressive episode.

 

I was fully aware and had my handy proverbial toolbox of techniques ready to handle the situation – hence why I had delayed writing for a few days, trapped inside depression’s gaping maw, quietly kneeling inside the belly of the beast, meditating, pondering, letting all of the emotions flow through me.

 

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I was lost for days in the labyrinth of my mind, scared, feeling alone, hopeless, confused, wondering why I was feeling the way I was, how in the wake of new beginnings, new ventures, I cried; I lay in bed, my senses being assaulted by everything and nothing, my heart sinking into the messy sludge of stories untold, entangling myself in the web of the unforeseen, tumbling inside the avalanche of the ever-growing snowball that was my imagination running wild.

 

And that’s all it was – my imagination running wild.

 

I was aware, not fully in control, but with one foot in the door of rationality; I kept myself honest, both to myself and my significant other, maintaining at all times the fact that like all things fleeting, the emotions will pass, the tides will recede, and the shore will be closer than I thought.

Slowly but surely, what I thought were centuries of agony passed in a couple of days; I was able to claw my way out of the spiny shallows I was floating in, swim back to the safe shores of reality, and drag myself back to the sanctuary of clarity. I proverbially lay there on the beach, having survived the undertow of depression – while catching my breath I stared up at the cosmic swirl of my thoughts, soaked, exhausted, yet smiling, because I knew the worst was over. I was back at the wheel, in the driver’s seat, and all is at it should be.

 

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Back to every day normal stress, yay! 

 

All it took for me to survive was to learn and assimilate such a simple, yet diverse and debated concept – the concept of emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman revolutionized the mental health landscape in 1995 with his landmark book Emotional Intelligence where he “used the phrase to synthesize a broad range of scientific findings, drawing together what had been separate strands of research – reviewing not only their theory [John Mayer and Peter Salovey, 1990] but a wide variety of other exciting scientific developments, such as the first fruits of the nascent field of affective neuroscience, which explores how emotions are regulated in the brain.”

Emotional Intelligence is defined as the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.

 

Sounds simple, right?

 

Well, to be honest, it actually kind of is simple – just like studying for an exam, learning a new subject, hitting on a girl at a bar, or putting together a puzzle; it just takes constant discipline, practice, and dedication. And maybe just a tad bit of good luck; then again, we are the architects of our own success, yes?

 

It took me years just to accept the validity of the concept and all of its advantages; it took hard work and vigilance to finally understand how important it is to be mindful of yourself and your surroundings, to be aware of every physical and emotional cue. Even to this day, it is a day-to-day struggle – some days are better than others. The good news, however, is that it CAN be done.

 

There are many ways you can make this work for you, but I have found the way to make it work for me is to be absolutely, unequivocally, unflinchingly, brutally honest with yourself, and with others – there’s no shame in communicating your thoughts and feelings, whether they be positive or negative, as long as you do it in a manner that imposes on no one, a manner which is respectful of boundaries, that shows that you care about not only others, but about yourself, and how those interactions can be healthy and fruitful as long as they are handled with care, love, and decorum.

 

In the simplest of terms, and at the risk of sounding like a cheerful, Flanderian automaton:

Image result for you can do it

May the copyright gods have mercy on my soul; it comes from a jovial place!

 

 

 

Out With The Old, In With The New

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.” – Joseph Campbell

 

So I’m sitting here in front of my laptop, thinking, pondering, wondering how to not sound like a cliche – to be honest, there is no way to convey certain messages without sounding like a broken record imitating other broken records.

 

That being said, please allow me to be grateful.

 

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2018 was a turning point in my life; I have had many tumultuous years in my short life span so far, but none have been so transformative, so tempestuous, so life-altering – well, maybe it’s tied with 2005, but that’s a whole other story. This year has been more than the emotional rollercoaster it usually is, year in, year out, day in, day out – it is the culmination of experimentation, and the realization of what I need out of life.

 

Let me start off by saying what I’ve always wanted:

 

I wanted to be “normal“.

(Then again, what the frak is “normal” anyway, right?)

 

I wanted to be free of my disease.

 

I wanted to be rich, infamous, and adored by all, hated by just as many.

 

And then I realized, those are all delusions created by my disorder, dreams and illusions, manifestations of my insecurity, my low self-esteem, my addiction to validation, my desire to be accepted, to be loved.

 

Now all I need is to live, to be healthy.

 

To love.

 

To accept that I will never be “normal”.

 

And that is perfectly fine.

 

In 2018, I lost my job after 4 difficult years of hard work and dedication – a milestone for anyone who suffers from mental illness will attest to – and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I am grateful because even though it was a humiliating experience, it was a learning experience, and I am grateful for anything that will make me learn, that will make me a better person.

In 2018, I lost many friends due to manic episodes, erratic behavior, and other mitigating circumstances that were out of my control – and even though those losses hurt, I learned from them, because I discovered that I am capable of self-soothing, that I do not need validation to give myself worth. My social circle became minute, miniscule, but as many physics buffs might tell you, the more concentrated the mass, the greater the strength.

 

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Friendship is about strength, unity, and support, not how many Facebook likes you garner or how many Instagram cults you develop.  

 

And yet I am grateful because in 2018 I learned so much about my condition, about mental illness in general – I took the daunting step to begin this project, to go into treatment with an open mind, to be responsible and diligent with my treatment plan, to allow myself to be held accountable for my actions, my mistakes, to accept compliments, to respect myself, my significant other, my family, and many others, to discover and embrace my flaws and virtues.

In 2018 I learned that it is possible to live with a debilitating disease, and make the best of what most would see as a no-win situation.

 

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Learning humility is not a weakness; it is empowerment of the will to walk the road that lays ahead. 

 

Today is not New Year’s Eve to me; today is a day just like any other – I woke up, I got up from bed, made coffee, sat down in front of the computer, and smiled.

And now I get to share that warmth and good vibes with all of you; I have the chance to continue sharing those tidbits of knowledge, wisdom, and wit that don’t make me a wise man, a guru, a teacher, a pontificating hoity toity know-it-all – it just makes me a simple man who is working for a better tomorrow.

Every day is a new beginning, tabula rasa, a clean slate for which we are given the opportunity to claim what truly belongs to us: choice.

 

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Here’s your canvas – paint your masterpiece.

 

So now I invite you to embrace a new day, a new year, and make the choice to live a life full of promise, wonder, uncertainty, ups and downs, twists and turns, to look into the unknown with courage, shake with anticipation, walk with caution and maturity towards that fog of mystery that will be 2019 – when the clouds of pyrotechnic smoke dissipate, when the crackling and thundering of fireworks and loud chants of celebration die down, step to the closest mirror, look at yourself, wink, smirk, and be grateful, filled with joy and anticipation, knowing that you are still here, that you still breathe, that you feel, but most of all that you live because you made the choice to do so.

 

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Now go make 2019 your bitch. 

 

 

 

 

They Can’t All Be Winners

“I’ve had the sort of day that would make St. Francis of Assisi kick babies.”
Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

#Trigger Warning: This post contains literary imagery that may be unsuitable for sensitive readers. Reader discretion is advised.

 

Yesterday was a very, very bad day.

 

I woke up groggy, irritable, impatient, intolerable. I wasn’t even able to finish my sacred daily morning coffee ritual before the first phone call with bad news was had. Calm words were spoken at first, then the tension grew until the eventual crescendo of emotions escalated the verbal barrage to surgical strike precision and mean-spiritedness.

More phone calls of the same irritating type kept smacking me in the face, urging me on to proclaim that Thursday, December 27, 2018 was going to be shitty day.

Words, thoughts, and intent are powerful tools; they may be used either for constructive, positive endeavors, or they can be handled as subtly as an angry bull wreaking havoc in a china shop cliche to swathe a path of devastation if someone even looks at you the wrong way. Either way, they prepare and condition the mind for events; that’s why mantras, repetition, affirmations are key to good mental health.

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Don’t maim anyone today. Don’t maim anyone today. Don’t maim anyone today.

 

And I should’ve listened to my own damn advice yesterday.

 

I should’ve cleared my mind, used my techniques, closed my eyes, breathe, self-soothe, etc.

Yet I CHOSE to have a bad day, whether I consciously decided to or not.

I hopped unto social media, opened up the research tabs on my browser, to then be bombarded by a relentless assault of negativity and vitriol not unlike the slime you find underneath and around structures and junk after flooding from rainstorms.

I froze.

I allowed myself to be enveloped in the comfy blanket of familiarity and just go into autopilot mode – I spent more than half the day sitting in my terrace, on my favorite chair, just staring out at the outside world.

 

Despising it.

 

Wishing for a nuclear holocaust.

 

Cars and motorcycles zoomed by annoyingly with their loud, penile-compensating roars; individuals went on with their days, walking, carrying grocery bags, living their daily life.

They were living, and I was seething in anger and loathing, stewing in the cesspool of judgment, uncertainty, confusion, feeling my eyes well up with tears, my arms and legs shaking like a bartender’s blender during Happy Hour, my chest thumping with the incessant need to go supernova, to cave in and just bleed out all over; I wanted to fingerpaint the floor with my entrails and draw a huge middle finger to the world.

Anger Is Not a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder, Or Is It?

An example of how I see myself during an anger-fueled manic episode

 

I screamed in agony, but nothing came out of my throat except a slight whimper, a sigh of frustration, as my eyes darted around looking for some measure of salvation that would not come. I kept swinging in my chair, faster, harder, the rhythmic squeaking of rusty joints singing a lullaby, the familiar sound of anxiety and hopelessness. There was no music for me to dance to and bob my head with, there was no YouTube video playing to make me smile, amuse me and comfort me, and I almost made the mistake of breaking one of the cardinal rules: posting on social media while angry and manic.

 

In the past, I have relied on others to get me through manic episodes, much to the detriment of many interpersonal relationships, therefore I desperately hesitated for a few seconds.

I thought about getting in touch with certain individuals, but that would be an exercise in futility; in my mind, in my experience, people have better things to do than to listen to someone whine and complain, even if there is merit to the pain they are feeling, even if they are just shouting out to the heavens for some release from a force that will not let them go, a specter of mocking indifference that haunts their every thought, every action, every decision.

Also, I would probably tear them a new asshole just for the hell of it, just because I didn’t want to be the only idiot in pain, according to Hulk.

(We’ll eventually dive deep into the subject of abusive behavior in interpersonal relationships soon in a future post.)

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I find comfort in attempting to make my day worthwhile by making others happy.

That is a common trait for someone suffering from mental illness, especially Bipolar II Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.

It is also a very damaging trait that can lead to some terrible and dangerous decisions – I’ll abound on that subject in the near future as well.

 

That being said, I decided to text my niece, whom I trust implicitly.

 

We had a very nice, short conversation.

 

I will paraphrase what she said in one of her messages:

“Well, drama will ALWAYS exist no matter how positive you are or try to be. Don’t believe everything you see; god knows if it’s relevant or accurate or whatever*. Just worry about your work and creativity. In the end, that’s what we take to the grave. Our legacy, not rude, immature comments. Wow, I went deep there.”

*Referring to social media in general.

(On a small sidenote: this 13 year old girl has more wisdom and insight than most “adults” I have seen skulking around social media; I am most definitely a proud uncle!)

 

Those few seconds were all I needed to snap out of it and put things into perspective.

 

An individual’s self-worth should never be measured by their actions or lack there-of. Expectations are appetizers for thought distortion, leading to a manic episode full course meal; eliminate expectation, live in the moment, and the nemesis of irrational thinking will come over to the table and flip it the hell over: lucidity.

I was far from lucid. I was in a state of mania; there was no coming back. The only way through the episode was to embrace it, accept it, find enough presence of mind to communicate it to my significant other who was present in our home at the time of my freak out, and then isolate myself from all forms of toxicity, all possible triggers that could worsen the situation.

So I avoided social media like the plague.

I turned off my laptop.

I put away my work materials, adjourned to the bedroom, lit some incense, allowed myself to cry, and then proceeded to painfully sob and scream into my pillow until my throat fed me cathartic bliss.

My body went limp. I lifted my head and opened my eyes. Light hammered into my eyes, slamming my brain with clarity. The pillow was soaked in a mélange of sweat, tears, saliva, and snot.

I got up from the bed, weakly limped over to the bathroom, feeling the strain of tension slowly melt off my body like a molting snake. I washed my face, rubbed off what little tension was left in my neck , walked over to my significant other, kissed her on the forehead, told her that I loved her, thanked her for her love and patience, went back to the bedroom, fired up my laptop, and played videogames until nightfall.

Unfortunately, I got absolutely no work done yesterday, no goals were accomplished – I felt worthless.

 

Or so I thought until I realized:

 

I didn’t hurt myself.

 

I didn’t hurt others.

 

I survived another manic episode.

 

And here I am able to retroactively introspect on what happened, now sharing a minor tale of triumph in the book of Life, with many more chapters to come.

 

I guess the day wasn’t so bad or such a waste after all, huh?

 

To quote a grand philosopher:

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Id, Egos, and Superheroes

Batman/Bruce Wayne: “What have I done, Alfred? Everything my family, my father, built.”
Alfred Pennyworth: “The Wayne legacy is more than bricks and mortar, sir.”
Batman/Bruce Wayne: “I wanted to save Gotham. I failed.”
Alfred Pennyworth: “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
– Batman Begins, 2005

 

 

Anyone that knows me even in the slightest realizes that I worship comic books. Those bright colors, those awe-inspiring panels full of great deeds, heroic journeys, witty banter, good vs evil; I lived and breathed for every single moment of joy they brought to my childhood, how they allowed me to escape the harsh brutality of a world that didn’t understand me, a world that likewise I was unable to understand.

 

Then in 2008, something absolutely magical happened: Iron Man officially kickstarted the MCU – otherwise known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe for those of you few uninitiated living in a cave since 2008 – and my life was never the same.

Seeing my beloved heroes on the big screen, epic, fluid, majestic, flawed.

 

Wait….flawed?

 

Yes, flawed.

 

What makes a great and compelling hero, in my humble opinion, is not his power, it’s not his courage in the face of adversity, it’s not self-sacrifice; it’s the awareness that he/she is flawed, and they accept and live with those flaws because they are exponentially at risk of bigger failure than the average man.  They hold themselves accountable for their actions (most of the time), and when they do fail, they regroup, recover, adapt to the situation, and fight once again. They do this willingly because they believe in the greater good, because they represent the will to fight for a cause worth fighting for – the betterment of humanity.

No other character better encapsulates this idea than one of the most powerful, most recognized, and most polarizing comic book heroes of all time: David Bruce Banner, also known as The Incredible Hulk.

 

 

I screamed and bawled like a child with pure joy when I watched this scene in theaters on opening night.

The MCU finally gave me a possible answer to my plight, to finally conquering part of my disease.

 

“That’s my secret, Captain….I’m always angry.”

 

Unknowingly, unwittingly, they killed two birds with one stone: they gave me the secret to ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and Narrative Therapy.

 

Unfortunately, it took me 10 years to finally learn what those techniques are, how to use them, and how they would change my life for the better.

 

Better late than never, right?

 

According to Psychology Today, “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you accept the difficulties that come with life. … Categorically speaking, ACT is a form of mindfulness based therapy, theorizing that greater well-being can be attained by overcoming negative thoughts and feelings.”

ACT focuses on 3 areas:

Accept your reactions and be present
Choose a valued direction
Take action.

 

That’s technique number one in a nutshell; we’ll discuss how to apply it in a few.

 

Here’s technique number two: Narrative Therapy.

One of the best definitions I have found during my research for narrative therapy comes from ThriveTalk:

Narrative therapy is a form of therapeutic counseling or ‘talk therapy’ that trains us to identify and change the stories that we tell about ourselves, in a way that promotes mental health. This approach also teaches us to identify underlying skills and positive attributes that can help us to improve our life circumstances.”

 

So what does this have to do with fighting super villains and saving the world you ask?

 

One of my main struggles with Bipolar II Disorder is managing stressful situations, especially as it pertains to anger management and all of the emotional distress that occurs during manic episodes.

 

This brings me to Bruce Banner and The Hulk.

 

For those not familiar with comic books, Bruce Banner is a brilliant scientist, who, during the testing of a gamma radiation weapon for the military, sacrificed himself to save a young man who was idly standing near the test site, by pushing him to safety before the gamma blast goes off, thereby  absorbing the radiation,  unlocking and unleashing his alter ego, the Hulk.

Image result for bruce banner saving rick jones

 

Banner is the representation of repressed emotion, a man who is terrified of the monster that lurks within.

 

Hulk is the manifestation of pure, unadulterated rage; he is a product of the release of anger – raw, powerful, increasing exponentially as his anger keeps growing.

 

After I watched The Avengers in 2012, a running joke began and spread among my family, friends, and colleagues; Marvel had put me on the big screen.

 

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How most people tend to see me. SEBAAAAAA SMAAAAAAAASH!!!!

 

I took that joke and turned it into a healthy coping mechanism.

 

I finally found a way to identify my anger, acknowledge it, and thereby separating it from who I really am, giving me the necessary tools to finally learn more about myself, my condition, how to find better, more productive, healthier ways to manage my emotions – by giving them a name, by creating a narrative of who I am when I am Hulk, I was finally able to acknowledge the problem, be mindful of situations, my reactions, my body language, choose the proper course of action, and then with all of the pertinent information gathered, ACT accordingly. (Pun fully intended)

 

I am writing this right now, crying, because even though Hulk is ever present, ever watching, ever waiting to strike, I now know he is there, and I know who he is; I feel him, I contain him. Hulk is a part of me, and I accept it, I acknowledge it, and when He comes out to wreak havoc, even though I feel guilt over whatever destruction He unleashed around me, I am not consumed by it.

That makes tears of joy stream down my cheeks because that is a breakthrough I will always be proud of.

I learned to separate Hulk from Sebastian*, and in the process shining new light into aspects of myself that I can now work on and improve.

*FYI, my real name is not Sebastian. I didn’t know it back then, but many years ago I had used narrative therapy to create the Sebastian persona, but that is another narrative tale for another day. Just go with it. 

 

I am not a super hero; in fact, I am far from it – but not all heroes wear capes, as they say these days.

No.

Sometimes being the hero is acknowledging that you are, in fact, not a hero; by accepting your limitations, and working on becoming a better person, you are displaying the same courage and fortitude that comic books put on display – the sheer force of will, the motivation to make the world a better place for yourself, and for those around you.

 

We are all heroes in our stories; the key is to write stories that heal and save the world.

 

One comic book at a time.

 

 

 

  

Resolution Blues

“Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” – Mark Twain

 

Oh, it’s that wonderful time of year once again!

 

No, I’m not talking about Consumer-Is-Mass, not Don’t-Krampus-My-Style; I’m talking about whipping out that notepad and pencil, laptop, desktop keyboard, and social-media-ize the hell out of your good intentions to change and be a better person through meme after meme, post after post of New Year’s Resolutions!

 

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Tradition dictates they will last about a day or two, depending on how vain, superficial, idealistic, naive, or stubborn you tend to be. Carry on.

 

Who is it that said “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”? I always get them confused, but whoever coined that phrase is a cynical, bonafide national treasure in my book.

Look, I’m all for change, growth, self-improvement, etc. Hell, this is what this project is all about! But if there is one thing I’ve learned from all of this in 2018, if there is a single lesson I have taken to heart and will death-grip with all of my Force abilities until the day I become a Force ghost, it is this:

 

Intent does not make a person; action does.

 

When I was young – back in the days of cocaine cowboys, kitschy glam rock, big hair, and genius John Hughes movies – I could care less about the troubles of the adult world. Bills, responsibilities, work, adulation, infamy, social drama, gossip, those were all grown-up problems. My biggest concern was making sure I got as much fun out of my toys and imagination before heading off to bed at 7pm EST. I had a strict sleep schedule, even back then, though that was more obligated than self-imposed.

(I would later discover that avoiding sleep deprivation and maintaining a well-regulated sleep regiment is a key component to treating mental illness; go figure.)

Life was all about the now, the current moment, what made me feel good and alive, and all of that was done naturally, unwillingly, without thought or hesitation.

 

And then I grew up.

 

We all grow up, become adults, and get bombarded with the idea that there is a finite timeline to how events in your life should unfold, that a perfect schedule of appropriateness and success has been formulated, prepared, and disseminated unto our society, and if you do not adhere to those sacred instructions, well, you are worth nothing.

 

That, of course, is utter bullshit.
Bipolar disorder tends to wreak havoc with its absolutist sense of morality; good is good, bad is bad, and whatever shakes that foundation, whatever makes us doubt is instantly discarded, like most hangover-laced resolutions being whispered when hardcore celebrations of another yearly survival ritual have ended.

At some point, you realize that life is not supposed to be about constant happiness, eternal bliss, a quirky sitcom with an UH-OH problem with resolution and happy endings in the span of thirty minutes.

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Yes. I did. *cue laugh track*

 

Life is all about moments – strands full of colorful, bright, and dark yarns that weave through the infinite tapestry that is the Universe.

The human experience is not a fixed, resolute, finite, etched in a stone slab for all time; it is the constant ebb and flow, bob and weave, of our collective senses assimilating information, always giving way to new things, wonderful, painful, orgasmic, numbing, chaotic, CHANGING.
So with all of that being said, why do I feel as if New Year’s Resolutions are a bunch of Hallmark obsessed hogwash?

 

Because every day, every single moment, is a new resolution, a new opportunity to make change. You do not need a list, you do not need to validate your intentions with the parking attendants that are the people that surround you.

 

Once upon a time, I used to smoke like a chimney. I would smoke at least three packs of menthols; the stink of cigarette smoke and failed intentions permeated my clothes, my skin, and my soul. I had that hacking smoker’s cough, that alveolus burst of lung failure and despair that always reminded me that I was but a few drags away from calming my anxiety. It wreaked havoc on my health, on my hygiene, and most of all, on my significant other. The stench of constant disapproval and concern always lingered; as the days went by, and the foul stink grew ever more disgusting, I would promise myself and others that I would stop the habit, break free of it, always buttering up the bread with luscious, creamy, convincing lines of assurance and misled, false conviction.

And then, one magical day, this wise woman who saw through my bullshit said to me:

 

“Show me, don’t tell me.”

 

From that day forward, I stopped smoking. Cold turkey. Haven’t had a single cigarette since.
My world view changed once I heard, accepted, and internalized those words.

 

It is a truth the echoes in my mind every day; it is a spark that always lights the kindle for motivation, good will, and prosperity within me.

I no longer make promises, nor resolutions; I just do what I must, accept failure when it arrives, and celebrate victory when I triumph.
You know, live life and stuff.
When you feel tempted to announce how you’re going to “change”, “make things happen”, “insert-motivational-here”, keep in mind the irony that even if in the theater of the mind we have a never-ending adulating audience, the harsh truth is that nobody really cares, and those that do, don’t need to tell you.

 

They just show it.

 

It is up to you if you want to be the voice of change, or the agent who carries out its will. You don’t need a public service announcement, a carefully redacted list, or anyone’s approval to remind you that you, and only you, can make positive change happen.
PS. Write that down.

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Van Wilder knew what was up. Genius. Ryan Reynolds IS a freakin’ national treasure.

 

 

Ob-Noxious Behavior, Pt. II

“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.” – Samuel Johnson

 

So here we were, holding hands, walking along the middle of the proverbial train tracks, when the drama train was gunning for us full speed ahead, remember?

 

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There were three crucial questions I asked before heading for certain doom:

1) How do we avoid a disastrous collision?

2) If the imminent disaster occurs, how do we manage damage control?

3) How do we minimize collateral damage?

 

To answer those questions, we have to view the situation from two distinct vantage points; one, the always-right-kung-fu-master, and two, the punching bag.*

*Otherwise known as the communicator and the receiver, according to Berlo’s conceptual model of human communication, but let’s stick to the more whimsical, appropriate imagery, shall we?

Image result for kung fu master vs student

Yeah, they’re communicating. Really.

 

Here’s where things get a tad complicated.

You see, I was going to waltz into a diatribe on human behavior as it stems from nature vs nurture, the current standard of living as it pertains to social interaction in this current stage of human evolution, facts, charts, diagrams, puppet shows, YouTube clips, social media memes, etc.

And then I realized how simple it truly is to explain, instead of sounding like a pedantic wannabe.

The truth is, speaking from personal experience, toxicity stems from irrational thoughts and fears when it comes to the mentally ill. A mentally ill individual normally does not want to be toxic; quite the contrary – we wish to be at peace, to co-exist in a harmonious existence of perpetual bliss. That, of course, is a fantasy that we project* unto those around us.

*According to most textbook definitions I have found while doing research, psychological projection is defined as a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

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Not to be confused with astral projection; that’s a whole other can of worms.

So you see, when our expectations do not conform to the vision we have of what something should be, we immediately see it as a threat and act accordingly. We expect other parties to fully understand that THEY are at fault of situations that arise, not us; WE did nothing wrong, WE acted according to our perfect little vision of how things should be, so WE prepare for battle – battle flags are hoisted, fortifications are secured, and onward to battle we go.

The aforementioned party then gets blindsided in a stupendous WHAT-THE-FUCK moment that becomes a struggle to survive an unnecessary onslaught of emotions. Many of these moments cannot be avoided; they are just immediate triggers, and it is up to the individual who suffers from a mental disorder to apply techniques learned through experience, treatment, and introspection. After all is said and done, if steps were taken and a crisis still occurs, then all parties involved must be understanding, patient, and most of all EMPATHIC towards each others’ plight.

 

Simply said, it takes two to tango.

 

So that brings me to the extremist meme that I posted last time as an example:

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Nobody, I mean NOBODY is indebted to ANYONE; let me make that abundantly clear.

 

If a friend, loved one, or family member decides to stand by your side out of love and commitment through your disease, then that is a blessing that should be cherished and nurtured.

On the flip side, if a friend, loved one, or family member decides they have had enough….

 

IT IS FUCKING OK.

 

They are human beings, with limits just like any other person; they are allowed to feel frustration, anger, all the emotions that are associated with someone struggling with a painful situation that, in their own heart and mind, they cannot handle or are not prepared for.

 

IT IS OK FOR SOMEONE TO WALK AWAY; THAT IS NOT ABANDONMENT – IT IS SELF-LOVE, DIGNITY, AND SELF-RESPECT.

 

Just because you work in a hospital does not mean that you won’t get sick and need a few days off; does that make you a shitty caretaker?

Of course not.

In order to take care of others, you need to first take care of yourself, to be healthy and to be prepared.

So that brings me to the previous three questions that were asked. The solution is quite simple – really – when you think about:

 

Don’t be a prick.

 

Seems kinda anti-climactic, minimizing, simple and childish, right?

 

Just look at the facts:

  1. If you are a prick, prepare to be treated like one. Deal with it. It sounds harsh, and there is more to it than that because like I’ve said before, life is never simple. That being said, you get what you give; it’s simply the law of reciprocity.
  2. If you deal with being a prick and show you don’t want to be a prick, then allow others to help you not be a prick.
  3. If you decide to continue being a prick regardless, don’t be surprised when people tell you to go fuck off.

What it all boils down to is the fact that you cannot treat people like shit and expect them to just stand there and take it on the chin just because they love you; that, ladies and gentlemen, is called ABUSE.*

*I will be addressing the issue of abuse another day, because it is an extremely important component that affects all aspects of mental illness, both from a victim’s standpoint and the abuser’s standpoint. It is an important, fascinating subject that needs to be discussed with the utmost attention to detail and delicateness.

 

Nobody likes to be abused.

 

Toxic behavior can be modified, and in many wonderful cases, can be eradicated, but it takes a lot of hard work, discipline, mindfulness, and empathy.

In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan melted down, creating a nuclear disaster of unforeseeable magnitude. After 7 years of effort and cleanup, Fukushima has slowly been rebuilt, opened back to the public, repopulated, and is being proverbially healed. The Japanese government estimates the cleanup effort will take around three to four more decades and billions of dollars to complete. They could’ve gone the Chernobyl route and just dump cement over the problem and call it a day; but they want their nation to thrive and grow beyond the wreckage of misfortune.

 

It will take time.

 

It will take insurmountable effort.

 

But they have the commitment and the drive to make it happen.

 

Be a Fukushima, not a Chernobyl.

 

 

Ob-Noxious Behavior, Pt. I

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” – Confucius

Today while I was browsing social media as I normally do when I look for inspiration (also known as extreme procrastination), I happened upon this little nugget of self-empowerment:

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That’s a pretty bold statement; strong, confident, motivational.

 

And dangerously one-sided, incomplete.

 

I take no issue with the act of proverbially, socially, mentally, and emotionally cleaning house, but judging others’ intent and merit on the sole basis of tolerating bad behavior is an extremely slippery slope to navigate.

 

Allow me to elaborate.

 

As I tend to preach, and sometimes prattle on, we all make mistakes. We are not perfect examples of virtue. We, as human beings, are innately flawed, fragile, and fallible, with the incredible ability to adapt, improvise, and improve. The drive to excel, to better ourselves, makes for great stories of drama, heroism, MCU movies, Netflix Originals, telenovelas, etc. We all love a good underdog story, and we all love to hate villains. Such is the way of the world.

It is during this journey that we encounter the supporting cast of our own personal theater of the mind; family, friends, antagonists, foils, the love interest and the occasional one-night stand. These are the markers that impact our lives, that mold our views of the world, set the tone for our present condition, that set up that wonderful character arc we call a lifetime of experience, our own personal hero’s journey. What we choose to do with that experience is what will determine the course of future endeavors, and so each event compounds the next, and the cycle goes on and on, creating routine and behavior.

 

The key word here is behavior.

 

Behavioral psychology – a school of psychology that explains all mental and physical activity in terms of response by glands and muscles to external factors (stimuli) – maintains that behavior is both conditioned and determined by its own outcomes or consequences (rewards and punishments) . *

*According to my initial research, mind you. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

 

This ties back to that dangerous notion of binary thinking that haunts most folk who suffer from bipolar disorder: if you do good things, good things will happen, and if you do bad things, bad things will happen.

 

In a perfect world, bad behavior is condemned and good behavior is rewarded.

 

Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.

 

With that being said, there are many questions to be asked, most without definitive answers. Life and all of its intricacies are impossible to distill into such simple concepts when it comes to how we act upon our desires vs our environment; there are way too many factors, scientifically speaking, countless variables and influences to take into account, so in that maelstrom of cosmic and karmic turmoil we find ourselves right smack in the middle of that ageless argument:

 

What is right? What is wrong?

 

And so that brings me back to that well-intentioned, yet tragically misguided meme.

 

In the world of mental illness, the population can be basically boiled down to two groups: the afflicted and the non-afflicted.*
*I am currently wrestling with the thought of minimizing and dichotimizing such a concept, but bear with me for now.

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*Yep, I went there. Cue rimshot. 

Those afflicted by mental illness tend to see the world in a constant state of confusion because our behavior, as erratic as it may be, usually does not stem from malice; it originates from not being able to comprehend the world in an orderly fashion, so we grab on to dear life to whatever person or behavior justifies not feeling like an utter empty waste of space, a cross-like burden that taints that Rockwellian image we have of what the world should be. That image is distorted, blurry, and quite alluring, like a nice little acid trip; it also leads to toxic behavior, just like any other drug.
However, if you do not conform to how we see the world, you are exiled from our kingdom of joy, you are no longer welcome into our sanctuary of blissful misbehavior, and you are banished, labeled a threat to our feelings of validation and acceptance.

 

That’s where the toxicity kicks in, and why the lines and conditions of what is acceptable and tolerable behavior need to be established to preserve and protect everyone’s mental and emotional health and safety.

 

Who wants to be a buzzkill, right? Nobody wants to be a party-pooper.

 

Except that party that you’re having so much fun with?
It’s a one man wrecking crew, slamming into others with impunity and blind disregard.

 

No one wants to be standing in the middle of the train tracks when the choo-choo is barreling down at full speed….

 

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How do we avoid a disastrous collision? If the imminent disaster occurs, how do we manage damage control? How do we minimize collateral damage?
Tune in to next week’s action-filled episode to find out!