Tigger_flowers Tigger_flowers Tigger_flowers

Ooops I meant triggers!

What are they?

They are situations or things, sometimes they can even be people’s behavior, which actually “re-trigger” an emotional reaction to a past traumatic event. So, when you are triggered, you are really not responding to the present situation, but you are responding as if you were now in the past and the past situation was recurring, and usually it is a very strong reaction. This sounds so weird and so surreal, but it really can happen. Until recently I didn’t know what they were or that I was capable of being “triggered.” I guess I could get angry at my parents, it is the trauma that both of them caused me that is now being triggered. Yes, I am angry, that not only did they abuse me in the past, but even now, 50 years later, I am still paying for it. How is that any kind of justice at all? Oh, well, I’ll get over the anger, because what I really want to do is to find a way to stop being triggered, by anything at all. That means people, places, situations, or things.

I have come to realize that my trigger is always when I feel (even if I really didn’t do anything) I have done something wrong, messed up totally, and now my friends or relations will leave me. This comes from having been afraid and panic stricken that I caused my father to leave, it is the fear in me that I did something wrong, made a mistake and due to that my father left and never had anything to do with me again. That is a fear from when I was 4-5 years old and some things trigger it and then my response to these innocuous things is extreme. My response is not to the things that trigger it, it is a re-trigger of the intense abandonment feelings I must have felt when my father left. Also, my baby brother Farooq’s departure was not easy and probably contributed to my trauma.

I’ve been reading all day about triggers, although I’d have preferred reading about Tiggers, haha 🙂

All the psychologists, therapists, and mental health websites are very encouraging, saying that these responses can be understood and overcome!

“1in6.org Getting Triggered” (1) says the following, and it is very, very optimistic and hopeful: Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to greatly increase your awareness of your own unique triggers, and of what happens in your mind and body when particular things trigger you. With that foundation of awareness and understanding in place, you can learn how to avoid simply responding as you always did in the past, and instead respond in new and much more healthy ways.

Also, I found a book called “Outsmart Your Brain: How to Make Success Feel Easy”                (http://outsmartyourbrain.com/outsmart-your-brain-how-to-make-success-feel-easy/)

This is a book about how to control your emotions so you can be successful in your personal life as well as your work environment. I have it on my Kindle reader and have started reading it, I will post about the book after I’m done.

The blurb says: “Change your thoughts, you change your behavior” has long been the mantra for the personal growth movement. Yet no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to stop the negative mental chatter that leads to needless arguing, tension, frustration, and eventually a numbing process that restricts access to our joy and passion.

What is the reason we can’t stop the noise? We are under the spell of our over-protective brains.

To feel more energy, stimulate creativity, increase persuasive powers and live healthier, more joyful lives, you have to wage war against your brain. Once you know how your brain works, you can harness the processes and consciously choose how you want to feel and act. Knowing how to shift emotional states at will is the most important factor in achieving success and happiness. Outsmart Your Brain! is full of exercises, examples and guidelines that teach you how to tap into your hidden mental powers to make better decisions and influence those around you to create the results you desire.

Learn how your brain works, then outsmart it.

I am seriously so sick of my unruly emotions and getting carried away by them that I will do whatever it takes to get them under my control. I don’t care what it’s called, being triggered, PTSD, trauma, what ever, it’s just going to have to go away and I will be in control of my own emotions, as god is my witness, I will! I am really serious. I am talking to my therapist, I am still doing “inner child” work… I am still doing breathing exercises, whatever it takes, I am going to do, whatever it takes to successfully deal with my emotions, heal, and be a normal effing person!


(1) https://1in6.org/men/get-information/online-readings/self-regulation-and-addictions/getting-triggered/

Suddenly In Defense or Survival Mode

When triggers hit, they’re usually unexpected and beyond your control.

And what usually happens next, right after the trigger: You react with old ‘defenses’ or ‘survival strategies’ that are no longer helpful or healthy (if they ever were), and that only make things worse.

Some simple examples of triggers and the ‘conditioned responses’ they unleash:

  • Someone criticizes something you’ve said or done, and you instantly get defensive and angry, then verbally go on the attack.
  • Someone criticizes something you’ve said or done, and you instantly feel crushed and defeated, then go silent and try to ‘disappear.’
  • Walking into your childhood home, your body suddenly tenses up and your eyes scan for threats.

The Nature of Triggers

Triggers can be totally obvious, like someone touching you sexually when you don’t want or expect it, or someone threatening you or clearly trying to take advantage of you.

Triggers can be obvious or subtle, in our awareness or not.

Or they can be subtle, like someone making a mildly sarcastic comment that reminds you of mean and shaming things a parent used to say, or someone giving you a look that seems to have some contempt in it.

Triggers aren’t always about other people and what they say or do. They can be something like a faint smell of alcohol (that used to be on the breath of an abuser). They could be the shape of a man’s moustache, a style of clothing, a wallpaper pattern, or the sound of a slamming door. They can be an ‘anniversary’ date of a traumatic event like an abuse experience or someone’s death.

What are triggers for a particular man depends on his unique experiences of being vulnerable and hurt in his life, and the unique details of the situations in which those experiences occurred.

The trigger is always real. By definition, a trigger is something that reminds you of something bad or hurtful from your past. It ‘triggers’ an association or memory in your brain.

But sometimes you are imagining that what’s happening now is actually like what happened back then, when in reality it’s hardly similar at all, or it just reminds you because you’re feeling vulnerable in a way you did when that bad thing happened in the past.

Just as triggers range from obvious to subtle, sometimes we’re aware of them and sometimes we’re not. Your body may suddenly freak out with a racing heart and feeling of panic, but you have no idea what set off that reaction. You may suddenly feel enraged in a slightly tense conversation, but be unable to point to anything in particular that made you angry. Sometimes you can figure it out later (for example in therapy), and sometimes not.

Also, though we may not realize that we just got triggered, or why, it can be obvious to someone who knows us well, like a partner, friend, or therapist. When you feel comfortable doing so, with someone you really trust, it can be very helpful to talk over situations where you seemed to over-react.

Triggers that involve other people’s behavior are often connected to ways that we repeat unhealthy relationship patterns learned in childhood. Things that other people do – especially people close to us and especially in situations of conflict – remind us of hurtful things done to us in the past. Then we respond as if we’re defending ourselves against those old vulnerabilities, hurts, or traumas.

But our responses usually just trigger vulnerable feelings in the other person, as well as their own old self-defense patterns, and we both end up repeating the unhealthy relationship patterns we that fear and don’t want in our lives.

As noted above, other common triggers include ‘anniversaries,’ that is, dates or holidays that remind you, at some level, of traumatic experiences, of how your family wasn’t and isn’t so happy and loving, etc.

Triggers’ Power and Effects

The power of a trigger depends on how closely it resembles a past situation or relationship, how painful or traumatic that situation or relationships was, and the state of your body and brain when the triggering happens.

Reactions can be big and fast, or creep up on you slowly.

If you’re feeling very calm and safe, the reaction will be much less than if you’re feeling anxious and afraid. If you’re feeling little support or trust in a relationship, your reactions to triggering behaviors by the other person will be much greater.

A trigger can bring out feelings, memories, thoughts, and behaviors.

Other people might have no idea that you’ve been triggered, but you could be struggling with terrible memories in your head. Or you could suddenly have all kinds of negative thoughts and beliefs about the other person and/or yourself, like, ‘I never should have trusted her,’ ‘Every woman will stab you in the heart,’ ‘What a loser I am,’ etc.

Reactions to triggers can be very dramatic and rapid, like lashing out at someone who says the wrong thing or looks at you the wrong way. In these cases, your brain has entered a ‘fight or flight’ state and the part of your brain that you need to think clearly, to remember your values and what’s important to you, and to reflect on your own behavior, is effectively shut down.

But responses to triggers can also creep up on you, playing out over hours and days, and get worse over time.

You may find yourself depressed and retreating from any contact with friends, or drinking a lot more every night, or smoking way more cigarettes than usual. You may find youself getting lost in TV, videogames, or pornography. Days later you may wonder, ‘Woah, how did I get back intothis?’

Awareness and Learning = Freedom and Control

Basically, if you’re reacting to someone or something much more intensely than seems to make sense, then the situation has triggered something deeper and older in your brain. You’re not reacting to what’s actually happening in the here and now, and you’re certainly not acting freely.

You can change how you respond to triggers.

Instead, you’re feeling and acting, however consciously or unconsciously, as if you’re ‘back there’ in that old painful or traumatic experience, on autopilot and enslaved by old conditioning.

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to greatly increase your awareness of your own unique triggers, and of what happens in your mind and body when particular things trigger you. With that foundation of awareness and understanding in place, you can learn how to avoid simply responding as you always did in the past, and instead respond in new and much more healthy ways.

In this way, you can free yourself from deeply ingrained conditioning, actually rewiring your brain to respond in new and much healthier ways to the inevitable triggers we all encounter in our lives and relationships.

For many men, understanding and reconditioning their responses to triggers will require, or be greatly speeded up, by help from a therapist or counselor. There are also self-help resources available, including those mentioned under Additional Resources below.

Exercise, Reading, Healing

I went to the gym today to begin using my personal training sessions. My trainer, Jaime, measured me and I am so thrilled, I found out my waist is 25 inches! Also, I did 25 sit ups, 20 pushups, and the “wall sit” for over 2 minutes! I could have kept sitting too 🙂 Pretty good stats for the beginning. I feel really happy, and excited to be embarking on a physical fitness journey again. I’ve let exercising slide a bit, but it is time. The beach is only a few months away haha.

Sorry for the “Dear Diary” tone of this post, but that’s all I have today, and actually, considering I feel a real sense of wellbeing, it is enough for me 🙂

The reason I’ve been ignoring the physical side of me is because I’ve been intensively working on the emotional, abandonment, abuse issues and healing from them. I have read one book (a long one), and I still have many more on my list. And happily, what I have learned from the book I’ve read and from perusing many others, as well the wise people who wrote them, is that healing is possible! It is very possible! And unbelievably so, but I have been feeling the beginnings of healing inside me. I recognize my “inner child”, or Little, and I recognize when she is feeling scared and I know to give her love and reassurance. That is healing! Not to get beside myself, and feel bereft, and look to something or someone outside of my self for help or love or anything. But to give this love and reassurance to my self, that is healing! And I am doing this all the time now. And, so, as a result, I am feeling emotionally stronger, more resilient and much less needy. Hallelujah!

Below are the books I have ordered. I have read “From Abandonment to Healing” by Susan Anderson.  And  I’ll be starting “Changing Course” by Claudia Black next.


BOOK 1BOOK 2Book 3

Been tackling abuse/abandonment issues. Thank goodness, bipolar is under control!

 My bipolar disorder (BPD) is under control, has been for roughly a year now! For that I must thank a good friend, who refused to see me any other way than at my best. I took this friend’s advice and increased my lithium to 900 mg per day. And voila! Bipolar wise I am stable. It’s a good thing too, because dealing with this abuse/abandonment “thing” would have been a million times more difficult if the BPD wasn’t lying low. 

What I am learning about abuse/abandonment is that it is one (two?) of the most painful things one can go through. The feelings stored inside me of pain, despair, terror, shame, and fear, massive amounts of anxiety, anger from when I was a little girl being subjected to all this, what is it, insanity, criminal behavior, sociopathy? Well, just pick one. Anyway, those frightening and deeply painful and anxious feelings, forgotten feelings, I now have to bring to the fore and feel them, and process them as an adult and then supposedly, they go away. I am feeling them alright, last night I was reading something about abuse/abandonment survivors and addiction to a variety of things. Something about what I was reading made me feel like I was going to die. At first I tried to run away from it, but then I told myself that this is exactly what I have to feel and process to get better. So I tearfully thanked those feelings. 

So here’s the thing, you are horribly abused, over and over, as a child, you have horrible emotional scars but you hide those feelings away, they are too painful to feel. And you have to survive the next beating, you can’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself. So now, as an adult, you have a repository of all these awful feelings and unmet needs, and they pop up when they are most unwelcome. And you over react, you feel like death, you basically turn into that little battered, unprotected, unloved child you were when you least want to. So now, as an adult, in order to stop reacting like an abused/abandoned child, you have to bring those terrifying feelings to your consciousness, feel them, process them and let them go. This is how you get over the pain and violence that happened to you, the pain and violence that happened to me when I was 4-14 years of age.  One more thing, you cannot just bring up these feelings at will. They are deeply hidden, and anyway, who would willingly want to feel like death? These feelings come up in response to situations where something reminds your subconscious of how things were in your childhood. Or some other stimulus, like reading something, etc.  Writing about each incident you remember over and over so that you go from a child’s perspective to finally an adults view of what happened also helps. There is another exercise that I call “Little, Big, and You as the Mediator” I will post about that next time. 

Healing, love, and laughter. May our lives be full of those! Hugs, my friends. 

Understanding the Pain of Abandonment and Abuse

Here are two things I found on the Internet, the first one is from a treatment facility website and the second one is a sort of abbreviated child abandonment 101, which includes physical abuse.  Yes, folks, here is my history, written out in black and white. The bold ones are mine.  I own them, or have owned them in the past. Lovely way to have been brought up, can not thank my parents enough. The damage was done to me and now I am responsible for reversing it. Well I damn well am going to reverse it. One way or another I am going to! Everyone tells me it can be done, but no one has yet told me how. It’s as if they are guarding some huge secret. But I will find out how and I will do it. I know I have the strength and the perseverance. I’m going to call the place below called the Refuge. If their rates aren’t too exorbitant, I may check myself in there, after my play. And hopefully, out will come a new and improved version of Samina.


Treatment For Abandonment & Attachment

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD of Abandonment

Treatment Options for Abandonment Trauma at The Refuge

Continuing Care- What Comes Next?

Fear of abandonment is among the most anxiety-provoking situations in childhood. When parents get home late from work or suddenly leave town, a child may feel mounting anxiety and fear about their parent’s safety. Children feel an emotional attachment to their parents and feel insecure if this is absent; often going to extraordinary lengths to re-establish it. The loss of a parent due to death or divorce often causes a child’s fear of abandonment to intensify, often well into adulthood. When a child grows up with an absent parent, they may have feelings of grief and blame themselves for their parent’s absence. When the child is completely deprived of any contact with his or her parent, they may attribute parental abandonment as a result of something the child did or did not do. Young children are egotistical, believing they are the cause for events in which there is no logical connection.

The damage caused by parental abandonment is particularly devastating if it happens before the child understands that he or she is not be responsible for others actions. If this happens, the child grows up with the belief that there’s something wrong with them that makes them unlovable. While the remaining parent may be able to provide emotional support and help the child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, oftentimes very young children will still believe they are at fault.
Other types of childhood trauma can also lead to abandonment anxiety, such as childhood abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, depression, or other mental disorders that parents unavailable can lead to long-term abandonment trauma.

Abandonment and Attachment
Children are born hardwired to become attached to caretakers which is critical for adult functioning and the development of interpersonal relationships. Childhood abandonment – real or perceived – causes problems forming secure attachments which can set the stage for poor quality of later relationships. Children who do not form secure attachments to their caregivers face challenges socializing with peers; the way most children learn social behaviors. Fear of abandonment is not found exclusively in childhood and can be seen in adults as well. Some adults who experienced childhood abandonment feel the effects and struggle to form satisfying relationships throughout their lifetime. A lack of a social support network deprives them of resiliency factors that provide protection from stress and a coping mechanism for handling the hardships in life.
While there are many effects of child abandonment, the hidden danger is that the person may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of long-term attachment issues, ongoing fear of abandonment, and lack of a supportive social network. Since an adult struggling with childhood abandonment has been silently enduring the psychological, emotional, and physical effects of abandonment for years, they may not realize that their feelings can be changed.
Signs and Symptoms of PTSD of Abandonment
The symptoms of PTSD related to early abandonment can significantly impact a person’s daily life, activities, and stress levels. Symptoms of abandonment trauma may include:
Mood Symptoms:
Intrusive, debilitating anxiety

Chronic feelings of insecurity

Chronic depression

Decreased self-esteem

Feelings of loss of control over life



Obsessive thinking and intrusive thoughts about the abandonment

Behavioral Symptoms:

Attraction to those who are unavailable to re-enact of the original abandonment
Heightened emotional responses related to abandonment triggers, such as feeling slighted, criticized, or excluded

Vulnerability in social situations

Emotional flashbacks from the time of abandonment/abuse

Addiction to self-medicate

Hyper-vigilance related to perceived threat similar to original trauma

Panic attacks related to unconscious triggers

Treatment Options for Abandonment Trauma at The Refuge

The severe, long-term consequences of childhood abandonment should be addressed as soon as possible; however this does not always happen. A child may grow not knowing there is an alternative to the way they feel. If PTSD does develop, these individuals may take it in stride, failing to identify the symptoms. These people may feel hopeless; that their future won’t be any better than their present or their past. Many have come to believe that they caused the abandonment and deserve to live a life of misery.
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
While the fear of abandonment is a normal in childhood, at The Refuge, we know that there are many people who experienced actual or perceived abandonment during their development which may, in some people, become PTSD. Our PTSD and trauma treatment program includes a variety of therapeutic options to help process your early experiences and connect these with the ways this trauma has led to life-long difficulties. You deserve a life filled with happiness and the support of friends and family. Our compassionate, caring staff will provide you with empathy, treatment, and experiential methods allowing you to travel the path toward the life you want to live. We will show you how to accept your experiences as unchangeable and move past them. We’ll work with you to develop trust with techniques to aid in establishing and maintaining fulfilling relationships. We use empirically-validated therapeutic approaches, as well as experiential techniques to help you begin to heal.

Treatment approaches to abandonment trauma include:
Interpersonal therapy (IPT): focuses on social relationships and re-establishing normal roles in your life. This may include trusting others, increasing low self-esteem, setting emotional boundaries, increasing intimacy, an strengthening social situations. The goals of IPT is to help individuals establish a sense of mastery and control over life through establishing interpersonal relationships. We may use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to teach you to identify inaccurate thoughts and learn to replace them with positive, accurate thoughts. Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) integrates various strategies and validates your experiences, stabilizes your negative emotions, and helps you cope with stress. You will learn to accept your experiences, view them without emotion, and establish a plan to move past them.
Group therapy: We provide a variety of group therapy options at The Refuge. Our process groups will allow you to process your experiences while our psychoeducational groups will educate you about your difficulties, treatment, and other topics. The benefit of group therapy is that you will find you are not alone in what you’ve gone through and will be with peers who understand first-hand your experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Intensive family therapy – Family Week: Families and loved ones are crucial in supporting you during your recovery. It can be difficult for those who’ve experienced abandonment to identify loved ones they feel comfortable involving in their therapy. We encourage you to identify at least one person in your life that you trust and will likely remain a stable presence in your life. Helping your loved one understand your experiences, disorder, treatment, and aftercare plan can help them understand you better and improve your relationship.
At The Refuge, we use a variety of methods to engage the senses as we are a holistic treatment center. Some of the sensation-based, experiential techniques we use include:

Art therapy

Creative expression

Ropes courses

Equine therapy

Music therapy

Dramatic experiencing


Sharing assignments and journal entries with the group and gaining feedback

Continuing Care- What Comes Next?

During your time with us, we’ll learn much about you and the trauma you’ve experienced, which allows your treatment team to identify the most appropriate aftercare options. Many people choose an outpatient setting with a high level of structure such as our partial hospitalization program (PHP). This program allows you to focus on your treatment during the day while slowly integrating back into our community. Other people may feel they’ve made enough progress with us to discharge home with referrals to traditional outpatient therapy and community resources. Whatever the next step on your journey, The Refuge will support you the whole


Claudia Black M.S.W., Ph.D.
The Many Faces of Addiction

Understanding the Pain of Abandonment

Living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame.

When children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical protection they need and certainly deserve, it is most natural for them to internalize incredible fear. Not receiving the necessary psychological or physical protection equals abandonment. And, living with repeated abandonment experiences creates toxic shame. Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: “You are not important. You are not of value.” This is the pain from which people need to heal.
For some children abandonment is primarily physical. Physical abandonment occurs when the physical conditions necessary for thriving have been replaced by:
lack of appropriate supervision
inadequate provision of nutrition and meals

inadequate clothing, housing, heat, or shelter

physical and/or sexual abuse

Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety in their environment. When they do not, they grow up believing that the world is an unsafe place, that people are not to be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and adequate care.

Emotional abandonment occurs when parents do not provide the emotional conditions and the emotional environment necessary for healthy development. I like to define emotional abandonment as “occurring when a child has to hide a part of who he or she is in order to be accepted, or to not be rejected.”
Having to hide a part of yourself means:
it is not okay to make a mistake.
it is not okay to show feelings, being told the way you feel is not true. “You have nothing to cry about and if you don’t stop crying I will really give you something to cry about.” “That really didn’t hurt.” “You have nothing to be angry about.”

it is not okay to have needs. Everyone else’s needs appear to be more important than yours.

it is not okay to have successes. Accomplishments are not acknowledged, are many times discounted.

Other acts of abandonment occur when:

Children cannot live up to the expectations of their parents. These expectations are often unrealistic and not age-appropriate.
Children are held responsible for other people’s behavior. They may be consistently blamed for the actions and feelings of their parents.

Disapproval toward children is aimed at their entire beings or identity rather than a particular behavior, such as telling a child he is worthless when he does not do his homework or she is never going to be a good athlete because she missed the final catch of the game.

Many times abandonment issues are fused with distorted, confused, or undefined boundaries such as:

When parents do not view children as separate beings with distinct boundaries
When parents expect children to be extensions of themselves
When parents are not willing to take responsibility for their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, but expect children to take responsibility for them
When parents’ self-esteem is derived through their child’s behavior
When children are treated as peers with no parent/child distinction
Abandonment plus distorted boundaries, at a time when children are developing their sense of worth, is the foundation for the belief in their own inadequacy and the central cause of their shame.
Abandonment experiences and boundary violations are in no way indictments of a child’s innate goodness and value. Instead, they reveal the flawed thinking, false beliefs, and impaired behaviors of those who hurt them. Still, the wounds are struck deep in their young hearts and minds, and the very real pain can still be felt today. The causes of emotional injury need to be understood and accepted so they can heal. Until that occurs, the pain will stay with them, becoming a driving force in their adult lives.


Learning to ride the waves of anxiety

Just got back from Buffalo last night. Even ordinarily, this is a depressing, and horribly anxiety ridden time for me. All manner of fearful, depressing thoughts swirl inside my brain. So with this abandonment thing going on, I was very afraid, I mean actually afraid for myself, that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. But I am riding the waves of anxiety. Sometimes it feels like my chest cavity is full of hot red pepper, sometimes it’s so intense that it literally feels like a gut punch. But I know it is only anxiety and I ride it out. I tell myself it is only a wave of anxiety and it will pass. The thoughts, which are all fears for my son and his future, I try to keep at bay. I am also reading a wonderful book called “The Journey From Abandonment to Healing” by Susan Anderson. This book has given me so much hope that I have the power to recover and live my life without the constant fear of being abandoned. It tells of people who have recovered, therefore if they could do it why the heck wouldn’t I be able to? Of course I will. And now I’ll ride the anxious waves and try to send them love.

CLINT MALARCHUK: An Amazing Follow Up Interview By Samina Raza.

Clint  Clint

A really AMAZING interview with an incredibly amazing man, Clint Malarchuk. He is the author of a remarkable book called “A Matter of Inches.”

And please take a look at Clint’s website: http://www.malarchuk.com

(Also please see my first interview with him here: https://bipolar1blog.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/clint-malarchuk-interview-by-samina-raza/ )

He is a philosopher, and has a deep understanding of his illness, and what it takes to stay well. He truly understands life in general! Thank you Clint. All my best wishes. So happy to know you! It starts below.

Hi Clint, it’s so wonderful to talk to you again. How are you? Thank you so much for your response to my interview, I was so happy to get your message. I think the interview went really well last time, but I realized that I never asked you any questions about how everything is now…

C: I’ve been busy. Traveling quite a bit and public speaking about mental health, getting busier. Mostly in Ontario and Alberta.. Oh I get it, you mean where I’m at today. Yes, I can talk about that.

How are you doing now, moods, anxiety, mental health?

C: I would say that I’m doing very well today. You know that part of it is educating yourself and through experience you learn when you’re starting to struggle. Like stress, when I start getting stressed out, that’s when I have to take the extra time to check in with myself. I’m not sure if I told you last time, my tools are a 12 step program, I meditate and pray everyday and I try to exercise. I have a workout routine that I try to do every day. Those things keep me balanced. Now I can say that when I feel like I’m stressed out, and I’m starting to maybe slide into obsessive thinking or anxiety especially, it’ll get me so anxious, then I have to take my time and I double up on my medication, because sometimes my habit is to rush through and plow through everything and now I’ll take a step back and I’ll take the time to meditate, to bring my anxiety level down and then I can approach the problem or the stress or what ever is going in my life, whatever is the stressful situation a lot better and a lot clearer.

Oh wow! That’s amazing! Guess what, you just answered ALL of my question. Ok, we’re done. Haha.

C: Haha. It’s almost one question: how are you doing today and what keeps you in the healthy range. I make it sound easy but sometimes it’s not. When your anxiety gets going, it’s hard to just say “Ok, I’m going to go meditate then,” and find a quiet place. You’re trying to meditate and your mind just keeps bouncing back to what you’re trying to forget and ground yourself and center yourself. So it’s not always easy. I don’t want to make it sound like “Oh, I’m doing great because all I do is this and this.” And also the medication I’m taking is in my system and it helps me.

Are you on anti-anxiety medicines, like a benzodiazepine?

C: No. antidepressants. I take Cymbalta. And I take Seroquel, I take it at night because it helps me fall asleep. I take a 100 mg.

Ha! I take 125 mg of Seroquel.

C: Yes. But judging from Facebook and your blog posts, when they come up, I think: when does this lady sleep? So are you a night owl?

I am, I am a night owl. I go to sleep, for example at 3 am and then stay asleep, I’m not working right now, so there’s no reason for me to get up early. So then I get up around 11 am, sometimes noon. It’s BAD! I feel like i’m a teenager.

C: Some people, I think are wired differently. My wife, she gets up at 3:30 or 4’o’clock in the morning. She is a figure skating teacher and she goes up to the rink and they’re on the ice at 6 or 6:30 am. She doesn’t have to get up that early, but she does. She likes to take her time. She says it’s quiet. I can relate to that. There are a lot of people who like the quiet of the morning.  My sister’s like you, she goes to bed late.

How about you?

C: I can go to bed at 9 pm and get up at 7 ‘o’clock.

Wow, that is so wonderful! I wish I could do that! I don’t take my Seroquel till I am done with everything, like posting on my blog. I’m sure if I took it at 9 pm, I’d be asleep by 10 pm. I’m going to do that.

C: You take Seroquel? And what else do you take?

Yes I take Seroquel. And then of course, I take the mainstay for bipolar disorder, which is Lithium. I take everything at night, all at one time.

C: My sister’s like you, she’ll clean the whole house at night.

I feel very creative at night, it seems like my mind works better at night. And in the morning, I don’t want to wake up. Don’t wake me up, please. Haha.

C: I’m like you in that, maybe it’s because of the medication I’m on, I have a hard time waking up. I need a lot of coffee. I drink a whole pot. Over a couple of hours, I’ll drink a whole pot of coffee. And then I’m ready to go, but till then I have a hard time. Don’t let society make you feel bad. There are a lot of people who do better at night, they stay awake till 3 in the morning, they go to bed late. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who says that’s wrong?

As long as you don’t have to go to work.

C: Yeah. Well if you have to go to work and you have to be there at 8’o’clock in the morning, well then… But if you have your own schedule, then what the heck. You know? Society again, just like with mental illness, stigma, society, lets not let society dictate to us.

I agree with you. And you really answered all my question! The next one I was going to ask was “How are you keeping well?” And you answered that. The next one was “Are you on medication?” and you answered that. The next one is: Is exercise and nutrition important? And what do you do for exercise?

C: You know I used to lift weights a lot, but now as I am older, I am careful with my joints. I’ve got dumb bells. I do TRX, it’s straps, a suspension system. They hang from something up high. You can see it on youtube. It’s cardio and muscles. I do that with dumb bells and in my barn, I punch a bag a lot. 

Yes, ok, you look like you’re in really good shape. And you horseback ride, right?

C: Yes, I’m glad you brought that up, because I find that my animals, I have a little dog, and she is my emotional support. When I meditate, I lay down and the cat lays on my belly and the dog curls up beside me, it is very relaxing. Petting them, and hearing the cat purr and the dog all cuddled up, that all kind of gives you that calming feeling. So they’re therapeutic. And of course, when I ride, that’s therapeutic too.

That sounds great! I always feel like animals, like dogs and cats pull out the love that’s inside of you.

C: Yes, yes. Well I’m really in to animals. And people have always said that, when I work on horses for my business, the horses that no one can really get close to, I just walk up to them. And people say “How did you do that, what are you doing? This horse is always afraid of people!” I believe in your energy, we all have it. We’re animals just like they are, so I really believe that my energy is really confident with animals, so they respond to me.

Ha! You’re the horse whisperer!

C: Yes (laughing) some people say that. I take that as a compliment.

I’m going for a weekend for healing therapy with horses. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll blog about it.

C: Just remember your energy and try to be in tune and they will respond. You’ll get more out of it if you’re in tune with the animals. Be confident with them, and supportive and you’ll get a lot out of it.

Yes, you’re right, you’re right. That is great advice and I am definitely going to follow it!

C: And you can just call it love, that’ll simplify it. Haha.

So true. It’s the energy of love. And what they do at the ranch I’m going to is, you walk into the herd of horses, and whichever horse picks you, is your horse for the weekend! Isn’t that cool?

C: Yes, it’s cool. It’s kind of what I’m talking about. Yup.

Yes, like your energy sort of matches that particular horse’s, so he’s yours.

C: Yup.

The next question was “Have you or would you try meditation?” and you just answered that. So here’s the next one: What has been the most helpful thing in your recovery and well being?

C: Well I’m a big proponent of getting yourself treated because you’re sick. You’re not weak. Because some people say “Just don’t be depressed” or “Don’t be bipolar.” They don’t know. But once they understand it’s a sickness, it’s a chemical imbalance, then they say “Oh ok.” It’s ok, I go to the doctor, it’s like diabetes or another illness. So once they realize that, they understand. I am a big proponent of medication. Some people aren’t, but I believe that when you’re sick, you go to the doctor. And if you’re chemically imbalanced, whether it’s your pancreas/diabetes or if it’s your brain/serotonin, it doesn’t matter. So I believe medication has saved me. And that in itself was not easy. As you know, you try different medications, different doses. And it’s not immediate, you have to be on it for a while before you figure out if it works or it doesn’t work. So, that was a long trial for me.

Yes, yes. Well they used to give people who have bipolar d/o SSRI’s like Zoloft or Prozac. But now they say that SSRI’s cause more mood swings, so they are taking us off them. I was taken off Zoloft, something I’d been on since the 1990’s. So I have been having some trouble coming off it after so many years.

C: Yes, me too. It’s like you have withdrawals, it’s not a good feeling. You feel sick.

Yes. But almost, the physical symptoms I can handle, but sometimes I feel depressed or anxious… but eventually it’ll go away. They say that for people to come off Zoloft takes 6-12 months for their brains to normalize! I’ve been off it for almost 6 months now. So I am hoping things will get better soon!

C: Yes, right. But don’t forget, it takes a long time to be on those medications before they either kick in if they’re going to work, or you figure out “Oops they don’t work, I have to try something else.”

You are so correct! I was on a LOT of medications. But the side effects were so awful, seemed worse than my illness. I’ve found 3 medications I can take, one was Zoloft, and then Lithium and Seroquel. That’s it.

C: I took Zoloft for a long time too.

It didn’t work?

C: Oh no. It worked really well. Then I think I was on it for so long that my body got immune.

True, your brain gets used to it. There are semi permanent changes that happen in the brain when you’re on something like Zoloft or Prozac. And when those changes happen, your brain stops responding to the drug.

C: Yes, I think that’s what happened. Because I took it for 14 years. I wasn’t getting checked by the doctor regularly either.

Oh yes, I read that in your book. I’ve had some good doctors, and then I’ve had some who were not good at all.

C: Yes. Same here! I’ve spent years trying to find a different doctor. It’s difficult to change, especially if you had one who you trusted a lot.

So true. It’s a bit scary to change doctors due to moving or their retiring. I feel it’s a traumatic event. And on to the next question: Is there something you feel you need to work on, if so how will you work on it? You sound really good…

C: No, I still have to.. and whether this is exactly mental illness, but for me it seems somewhat it is, that I have to work on my issues. There’s self love, and I don’t know if this is a product of my upbringing, what I went through with my dad. They’re just issues. I think we all have different issues. I have to be kind to myself, and remind myself that I deserve to be happy. I think that growing up in turmoil, that anxiety was the norm for me. And sometimes, if I’m not feeling anxious, I feel like I have to think of something to worry about, to get anxious. Because that’s where I’m comfortable, Even though it’s not a good feeling, but when you grow up that way, you feel like something’s missing. I think a lot of people may be able to relate to that but it’s a bit of a hard thing to understand. Think about it. You probably know people that love the drama, they love it when something’s going on, when it’s not good. Maybe that’s what they miss in their life, because as kids they had that. I don’t know, but I know for me, I think that’s pretty accurate. I have to be conscious of it, I have to be really in tune with my feelings, and my thoughts. What’s going on? Why are you feeling anxious? Why are you not feeling anxious? Be in tune with myself. And this is where medication helps too.

I think medication is key too. I would not be sitting here interviewing you without the Lithium and even Seroquel. I’d probably be in a hospital.

C: Oh I’m sure I would too. I’d probably be dead.

Oh gosh, I hope not. That’s so scary!

C: No, it’s true though.

Needless to say, I am really, really glad you’re here! Lets just keep it that way!

C: And you are doing a great job with your blogs. They are very educational. Sometimes when you read something, you say “Yeah! I just couldn’t put it into words. That sure describes me.” That’s educational.

Thank you so much! I started this blog in August of last year and I said if it helps even one person, then I am successful. So if you say that it means something to you, I appreciate it so much!

C: Oh for sure! And that helps you too because you’re supporting people whom you’re helping and when you do that, it gives you support. And you’re supporting them, that’s what this is all about. Helping each other.

Absolutely. The people who comment on my blog, and post something and the other bloggers and people who subscribe to my blog, we really have a conversation about the things that I write and it helps me and hopefully it helps them.

C: Have you heard of the magazine called Esperanza? They did an article on me.

Oh Congratulations! I’ll find it and post it on my blog.

If your emotions boil over, how do you control them?

C: That would be part of my keep checking to see what I’m feeling and why and what I’m thinking. To figure out what’s going on, if I’m feeling anxious, to ask “Why are you feeling anxious, what are you thinking?” So those things, but also everything else you do, like meditation, and working out. Those things help you keep that balance. So you don’t boil over, that is the number one thing. It’s probably as important as taking your medication. My routine of all the things I do to keep my balance.

How are you managing the alcohol issue?

C: I go to AA. I try to go to a meeting almost everyday. It’s important for me, I feel the more meetings I go to, the more I learn the tools of the 12 steps, how to properly apply them.   

Yes that is really very important.

C: To me it’s like a course in life. Because it’s not just about not drinking. The 12 steps are a lot deeper than that. (Maybe I should go to one, haha, I don’t know if they’ll let me in.) All of them are the same, whether they are for drinking or for gambling, they’re all the same 12 steps. They use the 12 step program in everything. Just look it up, 12 step AA, they’ll be the same as any 12 step program. You don’t have to be an alcoholic or anything, you can follow a 12 step program in your own life. (Ok, I’ll look it up.)

It’s a very spiritual program. It’ll help you. The first step is admitting you’re powerless over alcohol, well, your first step could be you’re powerless over your… life… (laughs.) It doesn’t have to be alcohol or drugs or anything like that. (Right, it can be anything, it could be moods.) Anything, you can apply it to anything. (Hmm, it’s a cool way of looking at it.)

Is alone time important or are you very social?

C: I’m both. I like being with people, I joke around, and I make people laugh. But I also really value my alone time. And my alone time includes my wife. I can’t be around people all the time, it’ll drive you crazy. But when I am around them, I enjoy them.

How do you think you can stay healthy?

C: Continue to take my medication, but also to be monitored, to see the doctor regularly. Because the last time I was taking the medication, I never checked in with my doctor. And I think my body just became immune to it. So, I think it is key to stay on top of things. We’re creatures of habit, and I don’t want to slip back into my old habits of not going to meetings, not doing my meditation, not working out. These things keep me healthy, and the 12 step program, which is very spiritual. So I don’t want to lose my contact with my higher power, so to speak and start thinking I can do it on my own. Sometimes I feel like I’m being selfish, because I’ll tell my wife that I have to go meditate, or I have to go to a meeting, or I have to go workout. I feel like I am being selfish. But I have to do that to be healthy. She understands that. She understands I need to do certain things to keep my balance. It’s just me communicating to her that this is what I need to do, and she says “Yup, that’s good, do it.”

Right, probably if you weren’t doing all those things, it wouldn’t be very easy to be with you and it wouldn’t be very good for your health.

C: Oh yes, she understands. So I have to communicate that to loved ones that this is what I need to do. I hate to be thought of as selfish, if you want to label it as selfish. (I don’t think it’s being selfish.) No. But again society might perceive it as being selfish, but it’s not. (No, it’s taking care of yourself.)

Have you ever looked at this book called “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle?

C: Yes. I’ve read quite a few of his books. I have all of them.

Do you feel they help you in any way?

C: Yes. But personally, I find his writing to be a little more complicated for what I like. The book that I really like is “The Four Agreements.” Those four agreements are simple. I really like the simplicity of that book. I try to use that one.

Yes, I agree, Eckhart Tolle sort of blends Zen Buddhism with New Age spirituality, so it can be complicated. But for me, when I first read it, I was like: Wow, this is a new way to be! But then I sort of forgot about it so I think I have to read it again.

C: And that’s the creatures of habit! If we’re going to change habits, we have to replace them with other habits. Like when you said: Wow this could change my thinking and my everyday living! And yet we forget, because it’s a habit. So you have to resolve to practice them everyday. Like “The Four Agreements” is easy, it’s just four things.

Well that’s it, that was the last question. Unless you would like to add anything else. Thank you very much for your time and for answering all my questions. I am so happy you are doing so well. I’m going to start doing all the things you are doing. Stay well and we’ll talk soon.