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Learning some balance

September 18, 2009


I haven’t been spending much time in front of the keyboard lately, and it ties in with the subject of this post. Part of it has been from continuing to feel swamped and trying to push myself too hard through the musculoskeletal problems, so that I haven’t had much time to sit down. At least by this point I can tell that this is not an entirely sane approach, and have been trying not to feel so compelled to push my physical limits.

More of the hiatus has come from trying not to push my emotional limits. I get worked up very easily, and have been deliberately avoiding situations proven to aggravate this while I work on learning better emotional regulation so that I can handle them better. In other words, I’m temporarily trying to stay away from known triggers while I work toward duyukta. Over at Bipolar Recovery, Jane describes a similar recovery process very well in multiple posts and related videos. Some people would pathologize this approach (and have) as unhealthy avoidance, but it only seems smart to me.

Getting some physical distance from destabilizing situations–and people–has already helped me recognize that (a) they were destabilizing me in the first place, and (b) what I really need is to develop better balance and work through some continuing triggers.

I have also realized that I never learned much in the way of emotional regulation, as mentioned in my last post. Excitability was actually rewarded in my family, growing up. My maternal grandmother is a really poor choice to teach people how to develop some emotional balance, my mother learned from her, and so on. A hospice social worker offered an observation which greatly relieved some of my mother’s regrets: if you have not been taught to make good decisions, you can’t be expected to magically do so–that’s something we all have to learn. The same applies to finding emotional balance and peace in your life.

After I crashed out of college–due to rape/stalking-aggravated PTSD, unrecognized learning disabilities/autism, and agitation from antidepressants–I got a bipolar diagnosis. I spent the better part of ten years doped to the gills, and barely able to leave the house. (Some of the complications warrant a post of their own.) It’s only a few years now that I’ve realized that the entire problem was situational, and have been off medications–so that I am able to think better about my life circumstances, much less make some changes for the better. A number of my relatives have also been diagnosed and heavily medicated for bipolar disorder, including my mom, and one cousin’s son who is still in elementary school and on both neuroleptics and anticonvulsants.* The common thread? We never learned to cultivate any inner calm, nor mediate our emotional responses. It’s taken a while, but now I’m finally learning to do that.

This explanation has run longer than I’d planned, so the more general stuff about duyukta and health can wait for a separate post. In short, I don’t want other people to think that I’m just not interested in what’s going on with them!

* His father, who is my age, also received lots of “treatment” when he was younger. At last check, he was no longer homeless (while working as an EMT), but had joined the army and purposely gotten sent to Afghanistan–with plenty of comments about “if I don’t come back”. Yep, getting pathologized and “treated” has done him loads of good. There’s not much I can do to help either one of them, which hurts.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2009 5:00 am

    In the 21st century, people in their 20s are choosing to be calm. It is actually sort of a movement.

    I don’t know that ‘avoidance’ is unhealthy when you have an excitable temperament. Things are easy to get into but hard to stay in or get out of.

    Distance is good, because then you can be more objective and still be yourself.

    I remember when you talked about the cousin’s son on Ballastexistenz. I hope he isn’t being seriously bullied anymore.

    The way she describes ‘fasting from sensory disruptions’ is good.

    • urocyon permalink
      October 5, 2009 1:42 pm

      Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been dealing with verbal retrieval problems, besides trying to avoid getting myself worked up. Thanks for commenting.

      I don’t know that ‘avoidance’ is unhealthy when you have an excitable temperament. Things are easy to get into but hard to stay in or get out of.

      Exactly. It seems almost like another manifestation of autie inertia for me, too; shifting between emotional states is not always easy, especially shifting out of agitated ones. That’s improving some, now that I know I do have some control over it!

      Unfortunately, I doubt that M.’s bullying situation has changed much. After spending some time around him last year, I suspect that he is too heavily medicated to respond as much–heck, he had trouble following a conversation and just switched off–but the bullies are still getting plenty of rewards within the strange pack system they’ve set up. I’d guarantee that this school system has not done anything to help. It’s a sad situation, and not much to be done except hope that the poor kid can dig his way through the psychological damage when he’s older. Maybe some of us can help at that point, once he’s far enough removed from the situation for gentle counseling to do some good. So, this does sort of tie in. 🙂

      The way she describes ‘fasting from sensory disruptions’ is good.

      Glad you made it through the links that far. 🙂 I hesitated to link to such long posts as illustrations without much explanation, but they’re hard to do justice through paraphrasing. Not too surprisingly, the sensory issues have complicated my learning emotional regulation, and I seized on some degree of “fasting” not long after I found out that the sensory stuff was real. That cut down on the “panic attacks” and free-floating dread almost immediately, and by this point applying some mindfulness also makes it so that I can tolerate more situations.

      It’s slow going, but I try to keep in mind that I didn’t get in this shape overnight. There’s already been enough relief that I’ve been able to get more perspective and see the benefit of working on this. Most of the time I can recognize the “terror bird” for what it is, and maybe it will stop coming around as much.

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