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?

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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!

 

 

Depression And Other Fairy Tales

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” – Dr. Seuss

I had so many ideas about what to write about this week. My head was full of ideas; I bought notebooks, downloaded e-books, and wrote down a few ideas. I was motivated, pumped, full of energy and moxie, ready to continue my writer’s journey of self-discovery.

And then depression hit.

Hard.

All it took was a single moment for me to realize, unwittingly, that I was looking at a blank, empty page, a sliver of time that went on for centuries in my head; for a fleeting moment I sat staring at nothingness with that awful sinking feeling in my chest, the absence of feeling, wondering where the world had disappeared to.

I began this blog, this journey, as a way to cope with my disease, to heal, to navigate through the stormy seas of a world that I barely understand most of the time. There are days that fill me with joy, the elation of accomplishment – pride that my work, as minute as it may seem, is the beginning of something special, something more.

And then there are days where I feel that nothing I do is good enough, where I obsess about website traffic statistics and analysis, insights, social media metrics, wondering why nobody is reading, why nobody says anything, why no one will validate me, why cheerleaders with pom-poms and pig tails aren’t ra-ra-ra-ing my efforts, why society doesn’t care about the downtrodden, the unfortunate masses, why people are so uncaring, cruel, ignorant, despicable.

 

Are you seeing a pattern develop?

 

Do you see the jumps and dips, the ups and down, the flips and turns?

 

The fact that I struggle every day with combating the concept of duality and binary thinking is a trademark symptom of bipolar disorder.

 

My first year majoring in Computer Science I discovered the concept of binary systems, how they are the bread and butter of processing data, the life blood of information and electronics theory; all information consisting of 1’s and 0’s, the state of on and off, the duality of existence, of chaos finding order and organization, finally enlightened to how the world should operate.

I was fascinated by that concept because I was obsessed with the dichotomy of everything, the thought that existence, choice, thought, is or is not.

You see, one important symptom that helps identify bipolar disorder is the famous concept of black and white, do or do not, there is no try.

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*insert double entendre meme comment here; wink wink nudge nudge*

 

For someone suffering from bipolar disorder, shades of grey are a fallacy, an impossibility; it is extremely difficult to not deal in absolutes. When confronted with a situation where the dance of nuance, the tango of subtlety, comes into play we become that one drunk guy at karaoke – in his mind, he’s belting tunes out like David Draiman from Disturbed, while in reality he’s just squawking out of cadence like a monkey on horse tranquilizers.

*I just had to do it. Seriously, I had to; my description would never do this perfect moment in time justice. Lords bless the Internet. 

 

I call this common phenomenon the fairy tale effect.

Let’s be honest; we all have delusions of grandeur at some point in our lives (mostly when we’re teenagers who think we’re invincible, indestructible, infallible, in-whatever-word-to-describe-we-are-not-wrong-always-right, yada yada yada). We all have idealistic notions of what we want the world to be, philosophies of life that are set in stone, rigid, inflexible, perfect.

Until we realize the Universe is an ever-flowing ebb-and-flow of chaos; and that is not a bad thing, nor a good thing. It is just the way things are and always shall be.

 

Unfortunately, nobody delivered most mentally ill patients the memo.

 

And no one gave an instruction manual to their loved ones on how to deal with the backlash.

 

So with that being said, whenever things don’t go the way I want, my creative little noggin’ goes into overdrive; it becomes the Shakespeare of logic and reason, weaving tales of tragedy, victimization, and plots against my well-being that would make most JFK conspiracy theorists proud. These are the fairy tales concocted out of irrational thoughts and ideas when our minds cannot reconcile the fact that not everything is as simple as black and white; there are not only shades of grey, but a spectrum of bright colors, a venerable cornucopia of possibilities and solutions.

 

If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is; the same applies the other way around. When in doubt, just take a step back, look at the facts, and throw some introspection into the mix, sprinkle in some reasonable hope, a dash of healthy optimism, and – VOILA – life goes on.

 

Nobody needs to live happily ever after; that, my friends, is a fantasy.

 

Not all fairy tales need to have happy endings and not all fairy tales need to have unhappy endings.
Why?
Because there are an infinite amount of stories waiting to be written; it’s just up to you to write stories that make your world a better place.

 

 

 

The Law Of Conservation Of What Matters

“No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. Though the result were bodily weakness, yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted, for these were a life in conformity to higher principles. If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal,—that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality… The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”
Henry David Thoreau

 

In chemistry, the law of conservation of mass or principle of mass conservation states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as system’s mass cannot change, so quantity cannot be added nor removed.

 

Whoa, dude, English!

 

In layman’s terms, matter cannot be created, nor destroyed, only transformed.

 

Better?

 

Good.

 

I share this example with you because in essence it offers a great metaphor as to the nature of human behavior and personality, growth, and evolution, at least in my opinion.

 

I have been accused many times of being unstable, unapproachable, alienating; unfortunately, those assumptions are correct most of the time, especially during moments of extreme duress. In the past, I was (and sometimes, still am) guilty of erratic behavior, emotional outbursts, and what can only be described as man-child super-tantrums:

 

*I only include the footage as an example, mind you; it’s funny, sad, and creepy all the same.

 

Why am I sharing this with you?

 

Simple.

 

My Law Of Conservation Of What Matters* states that even after extreme episodes of irrationality and stupidity, people are still capable of transforming themselves, because I believe that innately all people are good-natured, and have the capacity to change for the better.

*Patent pending. Psyche. 

 

To believe that life is a constant, static, cemented place is to not have looked up at the sky and wondered about the vastness of the Universe, nor played with Legos (without stepping on them, of course) to build castles of wonder and imagination, or stared at rose petals, watching flowers bloom, whither away, and then grow once again, more beautiful than ever. Perfection is a fallacy; it will never be achieved, will remain the unobtainable prize – the real treat, the real carrot in front of the mule, is in the journey, the brown sugar in the mocha latte being building the strength of will and perseverance to achieve what you choose to achieve.

 

Life is ever flowing, ever-changing, full of chemical reactions, dances of light and energy, miracles and disappointments; it is an everlasting tango of movement, chaos, mystery, and laughter, but at its core it is all the same: an experience.

 

An experience that comes with joy, sadness, pain, triumph, the amalgamation of everything that makes us human – the perception and acceptance of emotional responses.

 

At our core, we are just the accumulation of our surroundings and experiences, the events that shaped us into who we are, but that’s just a malleable foundation; we are still capable of taking those experiences, those emotions and memories, and turn them into something amazing, even through the hurt, through the agony of tears and smacks that life is capable of dishing out at us.

 

Go ahead. Do the math.*

 

 

 

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I’ll wait.

 

In reality, I believe we are all capable of change; true enough, we cannot change the past, but we can most definitely live in the now, and always dream and strive for a better future, because in the end, it is imperative that we conserve what most matters – a healthy life, a healthy mind, and a healthy heart.

 

 

 

Guilt Trips And Broomsticks

“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Humans, in my humble opinion, by nature, are innately flawed and imperfect. That is what makes us beautiful, dangerous, and unique.

People make mistakes; it is an inevitable, inescapable, unavoidable fact of life.

In my opinion, some are fortunate enough to accept this fact and live a life full of choice and consequence, living peacefully, able to reconcile their actions with the result; if they do good, good things happen and if they do bad, bad things happen.

Seems pretty simple and logical to me; it’s the way things should be, right?

Wrong.

For someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, reconciling the fallacy of that seemingly simple thought and absolutist idealization is a world of pain.

Those who suffer from bipolar disorder tend to be extremely sensitive to sensory and social stimulus; we are sponges, soaking up every sound, syllable, sight, gesture, etc. and as the input keeps pervading our senses, our minds kick into overdrive. The world is a very scary place, full of wonder, mystery, danger, and most of all, threats and temptation.

Lots and lots of threats and temptation.

As a byproduct of my condition, I have very poor impulse control; I will flip the nitrous-oxide switch at the drop of a hat, shift my transmission in a split second, and you better sure as hell get out of my way lest you be run over by my 10,000 horsepower top fuel out-of-control dragster of a mind. That’s why when temptations and threats loom, reason bids farewell and gives way to “LET’S DO THIS, LEEEROOOOOY JEEEEEEENKIIIIINS!”*

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*Kudos if you got the obscure computer gaming reference; you’re a geek just like me.

Impulse gives way to action; action gives way to consequence.

And therein lies part of the crux of dealing with bipolar disorder; how do you deal with a mistake, an error in judgment, and the consequences that come along with it?

The sad answer: not very well.

Guilt will make you do many things; some funny, some dastardly, most quite desperate.

Guilt has led me many times to demean myself, to humiliate myself, forcing me to lose my dignity, my sense of self-worth and self-esteem. I have committed acts of self-humiliation and self-deprecation, broken rules of social engagement, disrespected myself and loved ones, all for the sake of hearing those sacred words of validation and forgiveness I so desperately seek when I feel I have failed and disappointed.

Instant gratification of impulse is a dangerous drug whose addiction is a daily struggle for bipolar disorder patients; guilt is our delirium tremens, the come-down, the desperation of withdrawal, the horror of acknowledgment.

So, how do I deal with guilt you may ask? It is not an easy thing for me to do, to be completely honest; it is something I still struggle with on a daily basis, but it is something that I have accepted, something that I will constantly work with for the rest of my life. I have alienated many people in my life due to my erratic behavior and abusive tendencies when I do not medicate nor follow the treatment protocol as designed and prescribed, but the following tips have helped me so far mature in that respect; hopefully these little morsels of wisdom may help you as much as they have helped me:

1) Accept responsibility: Let’s face it; we all make mistakes. Accept responsibility for your actions, accept that you are flawed, and accept that it is ok. Doing bad things does not make you a bad person; it simply makes you a normal human being. Acceptance is the first step to make amends.

2) Forgive yourself and others: To err is human, to forgive, well, the world isn’t very big on forgiveness these days. That does not mean, however, that you cannot learn to forgive yourself. Forgiveness is the second step to make amends.

3) Rectify and internalize: Do what you can to remedy a situation, but only as far as you can go, within measure and reason, and ONLY after the situation has passed – it is not healthy nor wise to try to fix a ship’s broken sail in the middle of a storm. Let the storm pass; cooler heads always prevail.

Patience. Temperance. Clarity. These are key traits that need to be exercised every day like you would work out a muscle group to build up body strength.

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Those steps are just the beginning to dealing with the fallout of manic episodes; episodes leave you weak, drained, and most of all, vulnerable. In this vulnerable state, I tend to lash out at myself for hurting others, and that leads to an everlasting cycle of depression. I have learned, through hard work and introspection and retrospection, to not allow myself to succumb to the manipulation of guilt. I stop and think about what happened, I try to fix the situation, and if the situation cannot be fixed, then I accept the consequence, allow myself to be sad for a bit, and then I move on.

You will make mistakes.

Some people may never forgive you.

And that’s ok.

It is not your responsibility to be forgiven; it is your responsibility to forgive yourself.

To love yourself.

Life goes on.

You will grow, learn, and evolve.

Leave penance to the extremists, self-flagellation to that albino monk in The DaVinci Code, and stop blaming yourself for something that is hard to control. What you CAN control, however, is how you deal with the aftermath of your actions in a healthy, mature manner.

Drop that cat ‘o nine tails, kid, and pick up a broom; instead of making more of a mess, just clean it up, lift your head up, shed a tear, then smile and move along. Better days will always come.

Timing (And Clarity) Is Everything

“Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” – Ambrose Bierce

#WARNING: This post contains language and imagery some may find offensive; if that is the case, then tough titty said the kitty.

Human communication is a funny thing.

We speak, we inform, therefore creating bonds, relating, sharing; words intertwine with meaning, emotion, and intent.

From the beginning of time, we have grunted our wishes, yelled out our aggression, announced our intentions, moaned out our pleasure and pain, through sound, symbols, gestures, and the occasional middle finger or two.*

*How ironic that just like creatures in the animal kingdom, humans do not necessarily need opposable thumbs to wreak havoc; one middle finger is enough to instigate gang warfare, so yeah, take THAT pesky lemurs, bears, and raccoons!

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The universal communicator needs no translation, ladies and gentlemen.

So why is it that now, in an age of technological advancement, of electronic miracles gifted to us by the gods of invention and innovation, have we become so….damn….regrettably….STUPID.

Ok, so maybe the word stupid is a tad harsh.

Snowflakey, perhaps? (Snowflakey is an actual word; go look it up. I swear it’s real! )

#Sucker

No. That’s not it.

The word I’m looking for is desensitized.

Taking out cultural differences, language barriers, and all sorts of myriad variables and complications out of the equation, there is one all-encompassing, crucial component to effective communication, in my humble opinion:

Clarity.

A blessing that many mentally ill individuals sadly do not possess the way most healthy members of society do (and unfortunately take for granted).

I have struggled most of my life with social communication. I was a very awkward child growing up due to my senses being all out of whack; I was a quiet kid with an itchy trigger finger when it came to emotional response, especially in stressful situations. Being bilingual didn’t help matters much since I would think in two languages; a lot of things would get lost in translation. I would stutter, hesitate, become confused very easily, which would lead to anger, frustration, desperation, and finally, backlash. I would constantly get into fights and confrontations in school, in my personal life, and especially in my family life – every day was a constant struggle to keep control, keep myself in check, or get smacked around like a Mexican piñata.

Edgar Sanchez, 10, of Cedar Rapids, winds up to smack a piñata at the Festival Latino de Cedar Rapids on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, July 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis / The Gazette)

Yep, just another normal day at school for me.

That struggle followed me throughout my teen years, where it was amplified by puberty and rebellion, hormonal imbalance, and the constant desire to fuck almost everything in sight.

And then I graduated high school.

Oh boy, did the fun begin there!

You see, I entered college, and then -BOOM- the freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted, however I wanted, was granted to me, except I didn’t count on one simple detail: actions have consequences, and the only sense of consequence I had ever experienced growing up was violence.

You could get away with a lot when you’re 13 – the age I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder – but not so much when you are legally bound to take it up the ass from Chucho El Horrible* after you’ve broken quite a few laws while disturbing the peace getting into drunken bar fights because your mouth wrote checks your body could not possibly cash.**

*I have withheld Chucho’s picture out of respect and fear; needless to say, imagine if Sasquatch and a rhino had a baby, that baby would be eaten alive by Chucho.

**What can I say, I had the need; the need for speed. See what I did there? Twice? Whatever.

I was lucky, though; I never served a single day in jail (though I have been institutionalized many a time), nor have I ever been convicted of a crime, and I am still here, living and breathing because the All-Mighty Lords of the Universe decided I misbehaved, yet learned my lesson so I could tell my story.

You know, communicate.

Properly.

Other people, unfortunately, are not so lucky.

That is why it is so important to be mindful of everything you say, every gesture you make, every syllable you utter – it is exhausting to scrutinize every last detail, but it is a burden that is worth carrying if it means better living and better relationships with those around you.

For someone who suffers from mental illness, even the slightest twitch equals an alien invasion, so if a situation arises, here’s what you do (mind you, it’s worked miracles for me, but please feel free to try your own variations):

1) Speak clearly and intently: No, this does not mean “Heeeeellloooooo Biiiiilllyyyyy, I am heeeeeere toooooo heeeeeeeelp youuuuuuuu” – that’s just being a condescending jackass. Just be clear with your intention if the person seems to be confused or taken aback; when in doubt, explain once again.

2) Be assertive: Translation – this is not the part where you insult someone to the point of chemical meltdown; just get your point across, firmly, affirmatively, with respect and consideration to the other person’s feelings. You cannot control how someone else reacts, but you can sure as hell control how you say things. The second you include a curse word or a combative phrase, it’s game over.

3) Avoid aggressive gestures: Yeah, gesturing is a fine way to emote your displeasure with dramatic flair, but this ain’t the movies nor Broadway, so if you want to avoid getting popped in the kisser, or avoid a confrontation that you will surely regret later, keep your hands at your sides and to yourself; do not fist up, or, better yet, you may try hugging yourself by clutching your elbows or clasping your hands. It’s a self-comforting technique I’ve been advised of many a time, and it has worked wonders when I feel I am losing control of my temper.

4) When in doubt, shut it down: When all else fails, and the communication breakdown is imminent and irreparable, it’s time to pack it up and go home. The situation will only escalate to the point of verbal aggression, or worse. I highly advise to use the first three steps mentioned above when closing an argument; clearly state why you are ending the conversation, do it in a concise, respectful manner, avoid making angry gestures, throwing insults, etc. and most of all explain that the reason you are walking away is PRECISELY because you don’t want to engage in hurtful behavior. Hopefully, the responding party will react in a mature manner and leave it be; if not, fuck ’em – just walk away anyway, but you can be proud of yourself for attempting to diffuse a sour situation and not being an immature jackass.

I have lost many people, and burnt many a bridge, in my life due to miscommunication. It makes me sad when I realize that usually they were just silly things that could have been avoided if I had just kept an open mind, identified and assessed the situation, and addressed it accordingly.

That being said, the beauty of it all is not to look back on past failures with regret; I look back with melancholy, yes, but I also use it as a learning tool, another experience, another opportunity to become wiser, to take one more step towards serenity and peace with myself and with others.

Playful banter, witty sarcasm, cynical jokes, and a satirical outlook on life can be a healthy choice, but like all good things, they must be kept in moderation; not everyone will see things my way (though they should, dammit), nor yours, and that is perfectly fine.

In summation, as two wise men once said:

Be excellent to each other.

A New Life Granted or: That Time I was In a Coma Pt. III

“How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

 

It was business as usual in the world while I lay there, dormant, being fed through tubes, hydrated through IV’s, a breathing tube keeping my lungs functional, multiple closed suction drain tubes pouring accumulated plasma and waste out of my body.

There was no sound, no smell, no touch, no sight, but most importantly of all, or so I erroneously thought later, no world to come back to.

 

I had finally gotten what I wished for.

 

For three days there was nothing. No light at the end of the tunnel, no choir of angels singing, no hellfire and brimstone searing my flesh; nothingness, that’s all there was.

 

And then three days later I woke up and realized how selfish and full of shit I was.

 

The first sensation I felt when I woke up was gagging; I now know that for three days I was an unwilling participant in the BDSM community*

*No offense, I’m sure you are all a lovely group of people, but having my mouth stuffed with a ball gag and deep-throated all the way down to my lungs is not exactly my idea of a good time; it’s funny how most people love to yearn and pine for the fantasy, craving the taboo, then spook the hell out when someone introduces them to the virtues of submission and domination, realizing they  have no self-confidence or sense of trust. Just a thought. 

Machines blooped and beeped rhythmically; the smells of obsessive cleanliness and sterility permeated my nostrils. I’ve walked into meat lockers with more warmth and inviting ambiance than the ICU where I was situated.

I couldn’t speak nor move; I would later learn that I had been restrained for my own well-being, strapped to the bed so tightly that my hands looked like Barney’s, and I was hooked to an artificial respirator due to the collapse of my lungs.

The shift nurse was checking my vitals and noticed my open eyes, blank, confused, scared. She greeted me back to the land of the living.

“That was quite the scare you gave everyone. We’re just glad you pulled through.”

My family was immediately notified of my woken state; they had never left the hospital.

Three days of seeing their child and nephew unconsciously trying to stay alive.

I put them through Hell.

 

Selfish.

 

Egotistical.

 

Cowardly.

 

That used to be the standard Seba modus operandi; sometimes, sadly enough, it still is. Old habits die hard, especially for mental illness patients; we are set in our ways, our routines define us, and most times we believe those routines are our best friends, except when we don’t realize that those rituals, those actions you think are helping you survive are making those around you suffer, because they care, they love, they feel, and feel helpless seeing someone they love suffering and not being able to do anything about it.

 

It was supposed to be a simple procedure. Three days.

 

I convalesced in that hospital for a month.

 

The pneumologist arrived to remove the oxygen tube from my lungs; my blood oxygenation levels were stable, so the decision was made to remove the intubation, that my body was strong enough to breathe on its own, lest the accumulation of bacteria surrounding the tube would cause further damage, a possible infection, or worse. There was a catch, though; if after removing the tube I were unable to breath on my own, I would have to be re-intubated. While fully awake. No anesthesia.

Ouch.

I leaned my head back as staff cut the tape from my mouth; the tension was thick, I trembled, and tears began to stream down my cheeks.

My father held my hand tightly.

The doctor yanked that sucker right out; objects always seem so innocuously small until they come within sight. There was a freakin’ proverbial Go’auld-albino-mandingo-phallic torture device shoved down my throat, now being thrust out of my body by spastic heaving and violent coughing. I felt violated.

Suddenly, someone smacked my back. It was a thunder-clap to my lungs. For a few seconds, I struggled to breath; I thrashed around for a bit, desperately clutching whatever I could get my hands on, my body anxiously battling to take in the smallest bit of air.

A few seconds later, I heard the sound of gasping, felt the comfort of a simple breath, the burning sensation in my lungs as blood rushed with oxygen and life.

 

I was reborn.

 

I endured poking, prodding, constant vigilance; I wallowed in waste when my bowels were trying to adjust to my new physiological changes, so sometimes I would lie on my own filth for hours, until staff would come along and clean up the mess. Bath time was always a treat; I would lay still on the bed while the medical staff would fit me unto a padded sling, like transporting a whale into captivity.* My bloated living carcass would be hoisted up, and spray washed like a caged animal, wiped down, and sterilized; my wounds ached horribly, my tubes would tangle and pull, causing massive amounts of pain.

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*Actual picture from the ICU. At least the whale gets some swimming space. Silver linings.

 

It was a horribly humiliating, yet necessary; naked, exposed, blob-esque.

 

Most importantly of all, humbling.

 

I was allowed a second chance to make things right; my role in this world, no matter how minute and insignificant it may seem to me at times, was not over – it had just begun.

 

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(Taken one month after being released from the hospital, 2005)

 

It took me a year to recover physically from that experience, but every day I wake is a blessing, a constant reminder that things could always be worse.

 

Dying has a way of putting things into perspective. I remember all the times I attempted to end my life because I could no longer cope with the war raging inside my mind and body. After I literally lost my life, I realized that it was my ILLNESS that fantasized with death, it was the impulse, that never-ending push of the mind betraying itself, taunting, laughing, crying, screaming. The child, the king, the emperor, the pawn, the wise man, the warrior, the outcast, the hedonist, the harlequin, the monsters, demons and beasts, they all keep clashing for control, wanting to be the head honcho of SebaLand.

 

 

I died, I slept, and I woke up so I could learn to live again.

 

 

I died, I slept, and I woke up so I could live, so I could share my tales with all of you.