Pluses and Wishes
I used to do an exercise in the classroom called “pluses and wishes.” I would ask students to give me feedback on something we had done as a class, such as a field trip, but to try and couch the negative aspects in terms of wishes, rather than in dislikes. Thus, when referring to food, instead of saying the food was bad, a student might say the she wished the food were better.
The idea was to foster on ongoing positive attitude, rather than focusing on the negative. I am ready to do the same with mood spectrum disorder, now that I am entering the sixth month since my diagnosis began. I can only assure you that I have come a fair distance to be able to look for the silver lining in my illness.
I will begin with a plus: Annie and I are on the same page, she being the coach and mentor, I being the athlete in the long-distance marathon, with baggage. But at least I am beginning to sort out the baggage, so as to be able to access the tools I need to contend with the ebb and flow of my illness.
I wish there was a manual. There is much written about mood spectrum disorder, but the very nature of the illness, means that no two cases are alike. Each has its own peculiar patterns of manifesting bipolar characteristics. In reading any of the guides involving MSD, I must wade through many examples of extreme behavior, which at this time, are irrelevant. Meanwhile, I try to identify what behaviors relate to MSD, and which relate to life in general.
Another significant plus is my regained closeness with my sons. Prior to being diagnosed, I felt very misunderstood. Regardless of the irony involved, at least the murky haze that has enveloped our relationship for the past couple of years, has cleared, allowing us to reform bonds that have been stretched, over the past year or so.
I wish I knew what others were thinking. Even recognizing that I do not know what others are thinking, is a huge forward stride. Because I cannot read minds, I know it is critical that I not attempt to do so. That allows others to think anything they want, without me making any assumptions. When I make arbitrary assumptions, they are inevitably negative; I want to emphasize the positive.
Taking charge of my own illness, as opposed to allowing someone else to direct me, has had an empowering effect. From the first visit to Dr. Garratt, when Annie and I concluded that the side-effects of the prescribed atypical, antipsychotic medication, were terrifying, I have been able to direct the events associated with my therapy. This is a huge plus, because I no longer feel as though I am being propelled by forces that are greater than myself. My illness may have ramifications that I cannot foresee, but at least I have a thorough understanding of why these characteristics occur, so as to be able to better contend with them as they present themselves.
Though I wish I did not have to go to Ukiah every two weeks for therapy, I am finding that this need to be down in our county seat, has allowed me to address other issues that are arising, so I see it as a plus. A curious result is that I no longer dread the daylong trips, but actually look forward to them, and pack the day with stops to address a myriad of needs.
Another plus is that as time goes on, I increasingly make connections between past behavior, and my new-found knowledge. They say the key to understanding history, is an awareness of what has occurred, to try and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Without knowing that I was ill, this was not possible. By becoming aware of the effect of my illness on my actions, I have learned how important it is that I monitor the critical areas of sleep, exercise and diet. By doing so, I hope to avoid having to employ medication to regulate my illness.
Though I wish I could have just foregone all of the angst involved in coming to grips with my illness, I recognize that the saying about no pain resulting in no gain, has never been more relevant. But all good things must end, so let the pain wane.