Having bipolar disorder means life is a balancing act. Trying not to go too far on the manic side and not fall too far on the depressive side. It’s fitting that I’m a Libra. The symbol for Libras is balance. The scales. Life, for me, is constant turmoil trying to stay in that balance, and this monkey brain of mine does not make it easy.
I am an alcoholic. The most difficult part of my recovery was to learn to accept that I have little control over most things in life. The world does not operate on my wants and perceived needs. The following are excerpts from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful.
What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making
I am a Buddhist. The Buddha taught that life is suffering. The cause of suffering is craving or thirst. We continually search for something outside ourselves to make us happy. But no matter how successful we are, we never remain satisfied. The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. Live in a state of acceptance. Seek balance.
The Christian Bible teaches of acceptance in Matthew 6:25-26
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Even psychology gets in on the act. The late psychologist, Abraham Maslow stated that, “The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.”
Okay, so you get my point. The point is that I believe the key to balanced living is through living a life of acceptance and apparently I’m in good company. But, how does one live a life of balance when in the grips of depression? How is it possible to overcome the racing thoughts that come with mania? We all know that one cannot think their way out of depression or mania. We are frequently offended and hurt when people tell us to just “snap out of it.” Don’t they understand that if we could we would? Who would choose to live in depression and despair?
My Three Steps Toward Acceptance
There are times it is difficult for me to accept life on life’s terms. There are times that no matter how hard I try I can’t reach the balance I strive for. Fortunately most of time I am successful if I follow my three steps below.
1. You don’t have to like it. There are no good or bad feelings. They just are. They act as signals to what is going in with you, but they don’t define who you are. Accept the feelings. Stay in touch with them. Take a moment to stop and be still. If you are depressed, allow yourself to feel it, acknowledge it’s there and that it will eventually go away. It always has, hasn’t it? Accept it. Touch it, feel it, then let it go..
2. Look around you; there’s beauty all around. There is so much to live for. Don’t try to overcome your pain by focusing on those who may have it worse than you. Yes, there are people who are hungry in the world, but I’ve found that focusing on those in greater need is rarely, if ever successful. At times, when I am in the midst of despair, I go to the window and look out and see that everything is in its place. The world is fine and spinning as it should.
3. Meditate. This can be a tough one when we are not balanced. Who wants to sit quietly and meditate when you know your monkey brain is going to chatter away? Meditation takes time to learn. There is likely a meditation group in your area to help you learn. I’ve been meditating for years and I still struggle at times. If necessary, I chant. Meditation does not have to be silent. Depending on where I am, I chant verbally or silently in my head. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. I’ve found that meditation puts me at peace and one with the universe. It puts me in a state of total acceptance.
Do you have specific methods that you take to maintain balance in your life? Shut off that chatter brain? Leave your method in the comments section. I’m anxious to hear from you.