Sometimes it helps to close your eyes, sometimes it helps to keep them focused on a blank space on a wall or a picture you like. Do what you need to do. But I want you to imagine a dot. Let that dot be any color you (or it) want that dot to be. Keep that dot in the center of your eye/mind and start to work on your breathing. Start by just breathing in and out regularly. Feel the air enter on the breath in, then feel it pass on the way out. Repeat but with each passing breath, let the air flow a little deeper. With each breath, keep your eye on that dot. Try to make more and more space in your mind for the air and the dot. Focus. Repeat this for a while.
After you’ve taken some time with your breathing and Dot, assess your situation as always but let’s add some additional areas to consider.
Do you hurt physically? Where is your body in this moment? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
Do you hurt mentally? What is on your mind? How are your thoughts organized? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
Do you hurt spiritually? How are you taking care of your spirit? What is on your soul? Can you address your pain? What can be done immediately? Short-term? Long-term?
Have you slept recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in our dreams and rest. Rest if you can.
Have you eaten recently? If not, sometimes answers can be found in the solace of a nourished belly. Eat well, sitting down and focused on your food, if you can.
Have you had a glass of water? If not, sometimes answers can be found in this basic liquid. Drink a decent amount of water (I’d go with a pint this week, if you can handle it) and feel the feeling of it going down. This one is a little non-negotiable.
Now, check in again. How are you? Do you have access to a range of emotions? Are you feeling them? Do you need more assistance than what this list can provide? If so, take a minute to think about where that assistance is located. If you can’t find anyone close to you, feel free to FB message me. From there you can call me. I’ll listen to you.
I talk about fluids a lot. I came by it honest.
When I lost my mind the second time, was hospitalized the second time, and released I had a very different perspective on what I wanted recovery and my life to look like. I took an obsessive approach to being bipolar II, reading everything I could get my hands on. There was a significant portion of my attention spent on cerebrospinal fluid.
CSF keeps out bacteria and other nasty stuff in addition to being a really badass way for your body to protect your brain and spine. Your brain literally makes it (500 mL a day) and uses it. If you’re depressed, there’s apparently a lot of glutamine in there and after reading a bunch of scientific papers I didn’t fully understand I thought the key was to just drink a shit-ton of water. Get rid of the glutamine and all my problems would be solved!
It was a great idea to be hydrated, and there’s something to drinking water as a way to help my body and brain, so I need to be clear that it as probably still a good idea on its face. But I wasn’t solving any problems really. I was just channeling my own nervousness and frustration. There are worse ways to do that, I suppose, but I came to recognize a need to do more than what I was doing to move forward.
I tried all kinds of stuff, but in the end it came down to time and finding a place to put all my feelings when they came. All kinds of shame and guilt would overload me after my original diagnosis years prior. I did some decent work back then, and looking back I know a lot of that energy and anger came from not wanting to deal with my own mind. I had healthy outlets and unhealthy outlets, voids New Orleans was happy to fill with spiritual connection and lots of alcohol. Work was just as willing to accept my brokenness and I let it consume me. I would do anything to push down the rage and sadness.
Later, when the feelings were too much and I had nowhere to hide, I got really lucky in a way. I was able to remind myself that these feelings were coming in a pattern. They were pushing their way through and controlling me. I had a choice: deal with them as they were and recognize they would pass while knowing that there was a root to them that I needed to heal OR live in fear of my own mind.
When I had those initial crises, I hid behind organizing work. I wouldn’t let myself deal with what was going on. I knew plenty of people at that point who completely blew up their own lives because they were bipolar. So much pride and worry about destroying my own life flew through my mind. I was in therapy but I wasn’t really doing it. I went and talked, but I didn’t hear myself. I wasn’t taking initiative at first either… I just plodded along, hiding while knowing things weren’t right. I was scared.
People often ask me what happened… “how did you change? How did you get through it?” There wasn’t one thing, really. There were numerous changes that just came through trial and error. A big one was getting over the idea that somehow I needed to play this transition small. That somehow by shrinking from it that I would survive it. That is a lie told to us by a culture that thinks pain is weakness. My body, my mind were warning me that I needed to change. If I didn’t, and my brain was clear with me about this, these emotions would kill me. I fell down a lot but I the power came from trying.
So I started going to therapy with a new attitude. I would talk as much as I needed to and apologize for nothing. My thoughts were my thoughts and there was no need to give them rationale. It was my space and I owned it. I didn’t take a new job for a while and focused on repairing the relationship I had with my own thoughts. I read a number of books that were funny and pretty much gave up on stuff that was serious. Things got really fucked up sometimes but I stuck to it. My relationships with other people changed. The farther in I went the harder it was to relate to those closest to me. Some of that stuff I’m still struggling with. But I don’t regret it now. I credit that focus with my survival.
I’m saying all this stuff for a reason.
A lot of you are organizing right now exhausted. I got an email in my Bulk folder from a group I work with that warned “Don’t Get Tired Yet!” and I laughed. Most people are already pretty crispy and Donald Trump hasn’t even taken his long ride to the Capitol. I wanted to yell at whoever designed that email that not only was this the wrong message, it misses the point. Bodies get tired and they try to let you know in the only language they have. It’s not something you turn on and off, and you shouldn’t want to anyway. It is completely legitimate to listen to yourself and stop doing that work to give yourself what you need. All signals are valuable, even the ones you don’t want to hear.
This crazy shit coming from the GOP and Trump is by design. Their strategic mind, Steve Bannon, has already told us what he wants to do: destroy the state. So, he’s sending shockwave after shockwave through us. Trump’s tweets, garbage legislation, shitty Cabinet nominees… it’s a political “spread offense” designed to misdirect and wear us down. Following that same metaphor, remember that the way that offense wins is if you start playing their game for them. Spreads are great for high school ball… but in the pros the game is a lot different. Remember that and let’s remind these grade school assholes that Pro Ball is a whole different motherfucking league by keeping ourselves in good condition and remembering our fundamentals.
If no one is telling you now, I’ll tell you that if you don’t want to march today or tomorrow or the next day, don’t march. Stay home and recuperate, love on someone, play with your child, or whatever. If you’re in crisis get help, but there’s no criticism coming from me if you can’t face all this madness and bile with a raised fist or sign.
I will say this: if you oppose what’s happening, silence and fear won’t serve you in the end. Take care of your body and your mind and your spirit, but don’t hide behind anything either. Take responsibility for the things you hold dear and push back with what you have to offer. If you don’t know what to do, find someone you respect and trust to figure out where to go. I personally recommend white folks go to a SURJ group and find a way to pitch in to get started. Resistance doesn’t come from anywhere mythical. It comes from us.
I know things are weird. I know what it feels like to be ready one minute and totally not ready the next. I don’t know everything, but I’ll listen to you and you can tell me all about it.
Over the next few days I’ll tell you the general area of where I’ll be. I’m keeping my phone on so you can call and talk to me and if you’re in the DC area I might be able to find you and meet you. I’m including my standby .pdf from UCCS. Print that fucker out and keep it with you if need be.
Keep your spirit and mind sharp. Take a nap, drink some water, and watch out for your friends and family.
I love you.