Tag Archive: Anger


Are We Too Sensitive?

Being sensitive is a double-edged sword, for sure. But without that sensitivity we would not have empathy for others and also would not have the capacity for introspection. Both are necessary qualities for a spiritual path.

Pressure Sensitive

Pressure Sensitive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The key is not taking on that as a harsh judgment against ourselves. It can be difficult. For me it started in childhood with a verbally abusive mother. Every time I am rejected or perceive rejection it takes me right back to that vulnerable place. I have to remind myself that the situation is not the same and that I am not powerless like I was before. And that my mother was screwed up and her judgments of me were not correct.

Therapy is very helpful in this process. At the same time of course I have made mistakes and hurt people so I have to face that and see what changes I need to make. Frankly at this point the best way I can differentiate between situations that are my fault and those that are not is to talk to my therapist. He is very good at helping me to understand other people’s points of view. That in no way means that other people are always right, but they are not always wrong either.

Ironically, sensitive people can come across as uncaring, even when we care a great deal. That is because of defensiveness. We are afraid that what we have done is an indictment against the core of our being.

In order to face the things I have done wrong and not be defensive I have to remind myself that I am a Child of God and that despite what I have been taught I am not evil, I only make mistakes. There is that part of me that is Divine and wholly good and that will never change. I simply need to align myself with that part of me.

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Another great article from Tiny Buddha and Bill Lee, whose article from Om Times I posted recently. This is more than a simple instruction on mindfulness, but also a story his profound struggle with mental illness and learning to manage his symptoms of bipolar disorder and PTSD.  Even more than that it is a inspirational story of survival and triumph over the odds.

Calm Your Mind Without Sitting to Meditate

Hiking

“Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

Sitting meditation has always been challenging for me; practicing mindfulness, even harder.

As a self-confessed worrywart who has contended with constant ruminations, flashbacks, and nightmares for most of my life (more on this later), all prior attempts at being fully present and not thinking merely served as reminders of how little control I had over my mind. Then I took up hiking and stumbled upon a form of meditation that literally transformed my life.

Initially, just being out in nature on scenic trails cultivated calmness and cleared my head. Almost immediately, I realized that hiking provided a respite from intrusive thoughts that have plagued me since I was a tyke.

They include flashbacks of my mother’s numerous suicide attempts in our decrepit Chinatown apartment, my father’s drunken rages, and recurring images of shootings, savage beatings, and other gory crime scenes from my gangbanging days.

Ruminations include the sound of gunfire along with the replaying in my head of toxic utterances in Cantonese that translate to “Giving birth to you was my biggest mistake,” “I wish you were never born,” and my own father yelling “You bastard!”

Somehow, walking in nature enabled my mind to slow down and rest, which felt liberating.

Unfortunately, the novelty soon wore out. Merely walking and hiking wasn’t enough to prevent symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress from returning. I reverted to rehashing the past and worrying obsessively about the future.

However, I had gotten a taste of the benefits of mindfulness meditation and discovered that it can be practiced while engaging in an activity I enjoyed. These revelations motivated me to keep at it.

After reading what was available on walking meditation, which typically advise focusing on the flow of our “in” and “out” breaths, I developed my own techniques for practicing mindful walking and hiking.

My favorite is to look ahead and select a destination point or object and stay focused on it. It can be a shadow on the ground, boulder, bush, tree, manhole cover, light pole, store awning, mailbox, and so on. Once I reached it, I chose another landmark or object, usually a little further away.

Rough or uneven trails forced me to concentrate on each step for safety reasons. My brain automatically blocked out discursive thoughts; otherwise I could slip, trip, or fall. Other techniques I came up with include fully feeling the ground of each step, following the flight pattern of birds and insects, observing cloud patterns, and being conscious of sounds and scents—moment to moment.

Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, often called “Thay,” which means “teacher” in Vietnamese, is revered throughout the world for his teachings and writings on mindfulness and peace.

He has brought the practice into institutions, including maximum-security prisons, helping inmates attain calmness and inner peace while being confined up to twenty-four hours daily. Many of them have professed that mindfulness meditation is the most difficult endeavor they have ever engaged in.

We live in a culture where many of us want quick results with as little effort as possible. This applies to how we approach our work, health, pastimes, social interactions, and problems. This mindset is the antithesis of mindfulness.

In my opinion, it is virtually impossible to tackle mindfulness meditation without patience and discipline. Fortunately, these attributes can be enhanced by engaging in the art itself.

When I started mindful walking and hiking, my ability to stay present was measured in feet and seconds.

As a highly competitive, emotionally undisciplined, and impatient person, I could have easily succumbed to my frustrations and given up. But the short periods of calmness and inner peace I attained—supplemented by my stubbornness—provided the necessary resolve for me to stick with the program.

As I continued my mindfulness “training,” catching my mind when it wandered occurred sooner, and the ability to refocus took less effort. Using kind, positive messages such as “rest” and “focus” was more effective than phrases such as “don’t wander” and “don’t think.”

Insight and mindfulness meditation are usually practiced separately. Personally, when I am procrastinating about something or seeking a solution to a problem, ideas and answers usually emerge effortlessly during or immediately following my walks and hikes.

These epiphanies and aha moments tend to be inspired by kindness and compassion, as opposed to ego.

I was severely beaten by a rival gang member as a teen. For over forty years, I suffered nightmares, flashbacks, and ruminations of the attack. Both conventional and unconventional modalities of therapy failed to provide much relief.

One morning, I was enjoying a relaxing hike when the familiar image of my attacker suddenly appeared. For the very first time, I remained calm and found myself viewing my lifelong enemy as a kindred spirit. I saw him as someone like me, most likely abused as a child, who desperately sought empowerment by joining gangs.

This awakening, along with my spiritual practice, enabled me to cultivate compassion and forgiveness. The nightmares and flashes of the attack ceased at that point and have not returned.

Mindfulness can be practiced pretty much anywhere and at any time. I do it first thing in the morning when I wake up while still lying in bed, in the kitchen, in the shower, at my desk, and most recently while getting dental work done.

Whether I devote a few seconds by pausing and taking a deep belly breath—or hiking for several hours—benefits are reaped.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, practicing mindfulness has transformed my life. With a family history of mental illness and a violent upbringing, I have been diagnosed and treated for multiple mood disorders, including manic depression, post-traumatic stress, addiction, and rage.

My mindfulness practice has empowered me to rest and calm my mind, as well as intercept and suppress negative thoughts. It serves as a powerful coping mechanism for me.

For the majority of my life, I was at the mercy of gambling urges and other cravings. When I encounter them now, I pause, acknowledge what is happening, take a few deep breaths, focus on my surroundings, and allow the urges to pass.

Staying relaxed enables me to respond instead of react, which places me in a better position to reflect and gain insight into the underlying issues that triggered the desire to self-medicate.

My mood is much more stable and I have better control of my emotions. The benefits I received from mindful walking and hiking has inspired me to practice it throughout the day.

I used to loathe driving because of my road rage. I was terrified of myself, often wondering when I left the house if I would end up in jail or the morgue. My level of stress rose in proportion to the amount of traffic I encountered.

Practicing mindfulness meditation in the car keeps me mellow as well as alert. I have become a patient and compassionate driver, smiling at other motorists and limiting use of the horn for safety purposes. Another insight I gained is that my past aggressive behavior on and off the road attracted like-minded people.

The mental discipline I gained also enabled me to embrace Buddhism, which has interested, yet eluded me for many years. All of this empowers me to attain and maintain equanimity. Now, I can even sit and meditate for long periods without feeling restless or irritable.

So for those who find sitting meditation challenging, or for individuals seeking different ways to practice mindfulness, I recommend mindful walking and hiking.

Not only is it a fun way to quiet the mind while getting some exercise, but it can be life-changing—helping us let go of worries, stress, tension, and even the most painful memories from the past.

Hiking man image via Shutterstock

Avatar of Bill Lee

About Bill Lee

Bill Lee is a second-generation Chinese American who grew up in the Chinese underworld. He is the author of three memoirs. In his new book, Born-Again Buddhist: My Path to Living Mindfully and Compassionately with Mood Disorders, he describes in detail the positive impact that mindful walking and hiking has made in his life. Visit facebook.com/Bill.Lee.author.

See original article here.

Please visit Tiny Buddha for more inspiring stories!

See my reblog of Bill Lee’s article Living Mindfully With Mood Disorders.

 

I am at a point in my life where there are some things I can’t tolerate anymore, especially while dealing with the stress of having both physical and mental problems. As much as I know spiritually that everyone has good within them there are those that simply can’t be trusted. In many ways I am naïve in that I think certain people will change if I just give them the chance or if I conform to what they want from me. The way I am with people is that I bounce between being totally wide open to being totally shut down. Neither side is healthy but I think a good start for me to fix this problem is to figure out what kinds of behaviors are warning signs that I need to pay attention to.

That brings me back to my family problems but instead of talking about my sister and my problems with her as I have done a lot, I will focus on my brother-in-law. In fact I am beginning to understand that some of my sister’s antagonism towards me stems from his behavior and the fact that he is a master manipulator and a liar.

I do realize that there is no point in trying to change him but I am using him as an example of what I need to watch out for. Perhaps this is karma, except that as I frame it (in my better moods) it has less to do with punishment and more to do with second chances. The Universe keeps sending me messages that I cannot afford to ignore.

I will start with an example of how he has set me up to fail.

When we as a family went out for dinner my brother-in-law would pay for everyone. I would have my debit card out to pay and he would tell me to not worry about it since he would get it. I asked him “Are you sure?” He always said yes and I thanked him. It was a break for me as I am on disability.

Later on when my sister and I had a falling-out he sent me a very nasty e-mail and made the charge “Every time I see you, you pick my pocket!” What the hell???

I mentioned this bizarre charge to my father and he clarified what was going on. My father asked my brother-in-law to put my meals on his credit card without my knowledge.. The reason why is simple, my father pays off his credit card and in fact all his bills since he does not have a job. My father was the one who was paying for my meal, not my brother-in-law. He just found it convenient to do it this way.

Now I have tried to blow this off as a simple misunderstanding, but I am wondering if it is more than that. Because how could he possibly think that I put my father up to this when I had my debit card out to pay? And surely he is intelligent enough to figure out the reason why my father asked him to do this. How could I be “picking his pocket” when it was not his money in the first place???

If he had a problem with what my dad asked him to do then he should have addressed it with him. But now I have the reputation with him and my sister of being “a thief.”

Later on my sister told me that he sometimes puts the meals on his business account, which is still funded by my father because it is not successful. In fact the reason why my father is paying their bills is because he refuses to get an outside job as my father has repeatedly told him to do.

How the hell does he expect me or my father to know that he is doing that, especially when it is only “sometimes”?

The irony here is that in actuality he is picking my father’s pocket and mine indirectly because it would be nice if I had an inheritance., especially since I am disabled. But even more important is that my father needs the money for himself. He is 86 years old and retired. He worked hard to save his money, but my brother=in-law has not made a serious attempt to get a job in three years, since he lost his last job.

Because of stuff like this it is becoming more and more clear to me that with all this going on that having a relationship with them at this point would be an exercise in futility. I do realize that I have made mistakes in our relationship but in some cases it is obvious that I am being set up. And my brother-in-law lies about me all the time to make me look bad. He has done it with my father, who doesn’t buy it for a second but he has told me about it. I am sure he is doing the same with my sister.

I once had a dream where I was so mad at my sister I was literally at her throat in anger and then the scene changed to my brother-in-law flying a model airplane with a smirk on his face. While I am not an expert in dream interpretation I wonder if this was a warning about him playing games behind the scenes to intensify the problems with my sister. Flying a model airplane could symbolize manipulation.

This is just one example of many of where I simply cannot trust him and by extension my sister as well. It is a hard lesson for me to realize that not all people I encounter have good intentions. On the surface he is a very nice and pleasant person. And he has done some good things as well for me. But that does not mean that I can trust him. Sad but true.

July 31st was my birthday. The Big Five-O. Yikes!

Like most people I am not eager to grow old, especially when physically I feel like I am turning 90 not 50 due to fibromyalgia. I spent a lonely birthday because I had to cancel plans with some friends because I was not up to going out.

It was lonelier still because I am once again on the outs with my sister and her family. It isn’t all her fault, but I apologized for my behavior while she did not. After wooing me back last year by apologizing for an incident where she threw me out of her house without even telling me what she was upset about, she then decided to take that apology back. How does that even make sense? She told me that she realized that it was just a simple misunderstanding.  Now she says it was because I yelled at her, which is not true in the least. While I do tend to have a hot temper, I very purposely stayed calm because my nephew was there. It goes to show that even when I do everything that I am asked to do, it is never good enough.

No that last statement is wrong. I AM NEVER GOOD ENOUGH.  At least according to her and her husband.

My therapist has spent a good deal of time trying to convince me that just because I make mistakes does not mean that I AM A MISTAKE.

I am a smart lady. I know that. At least intellectually. But the problem is that my emotions tell me different.

It isn’t just my bipolar disorder that is the problem. It comes from a lifetime of being told what a screw-up I am. And certainly I HAVE screwed up many things. I am grown-up enough to admit that.

But rejection and lack of forgiveness sends me into a tailspin. I question my self-worth because I depend on others to tell me that I am okay.

It is ironic that I go to the one person who is not able to tell me that, for whatever reason. Because I confuse her with mommy. Because in many ways, she is just like my mother was. But even my mother eventually changed her attitude towards me, although to be honest I was too immature at the time to see that. She is passed on now, and I regret that.

My sister was told that she was better than me by our mother. There was hardly a day that went by where she did not say to me “Why can’t you be like your sister?” The question baffled me. I was ME, how could I be HER?

My mother was unrealistic. My sister was three years older than me so in terms of maturity I was never going to catch up. The other problem was that everybody thought I was a great kid, except for my mother. My teachers loved me and I got A’s most of the time. I never got in trouble at school, not even once

To my mother I was the worst kid in the world, and although I certainly did deserve punishment from time to time, it was excessive.

Oddly enough considering our rocky relationship, my sister is in fact the only one in the family who acknowledges that that our mother played favorites. She in fact needed no pressure from me at all to admit that. In fact she has told me that she feels bad about that.

My sister was not great to me as a kid, but I don’t blame her. This was a dynamic set up by our mother.  But ironically my sister treats me even worse as an adult. Because on some level, she still believes that she is better than me.

I was never good enough. When I was young, I played with my sister’s Barbie doll and broke it. I was too young to realize that Barbie’s legs could not splay apart to sit on a model horse.

My mother declared that I would not get a Barbie of my own until I learned to take care of my toys. Ironically I was not in the habit of breaking any toys, whether they were my sister’s or mine. I did bathe in the bathtub a cloth doll that had a crying mechanism, and she never cried again. But everyone laughed that one off.

That Barbie doll became a symbol of my mother’s approval and I waited year after year for it. I never got it.

Lest people think that she did not know how much I wanted it, she did after many years of waiting buy me a knock-off doll called “Tricky Micky”.  She was “tricky” all right. She was held together by rubber bands on the inside. She broke.

Granted I am sure my mother did not know how cheaply made this doll was, but she never bothered to buy me a better doll.

It was a not so subtle message: “You will never be good enough for the real thing.”

This sounds so trivial compared to stories of horrific physical abuse that many children have gone through and yet I have heard from many that they preferred the physical abuse to the emotional abuse. And this, along with the other constant verbal put downs I got from my mother, qualifies.  The message was that even the most trivial of mistakes can never be forgiven.

I AM A MISTAKE. Not that I make mistakes that can be forgiven.

As an adult people have suggested that I buy myself a Barbie doll now. I have resisted because I am not a child anymore so what would I do with a toy?

But this year I remembered that there are Barbies that are not made for play. Collector’s dolls. So I half-heartedly went on-line to look. WOW! There are literally HUNDREDS of dolls ranging from around $20 to hundreds of dollars. And they are beautiful!

So I bought one for myself. To tell myself that no matter how much I screw up, IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM UNFORGIVABLE AND WORTHLESS BEYOND REPAIR. It also does not mean that my mistakes are somehow any worse than other people’s mistakes.

I haven’t murdered anyone. I have never stolen anything. That does not mean that I am proud of everything I have done, but quite frankly my sister is far from being a saint and at times has done some pretty crappy things herself. SHE IS NOT BETTER THAN ME.

Forgive me for the long rant. But I need from time to time to hear myself say that I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERYONE’S PROBLEMS!

I was not responsible for my mother’s problems. She did not have a mental illness but that does not mean she didn’t have problems. I used to think it was just me because she only got mad at me, no one else. Actually she probably was mad at a lot of people, but took it out on me.

So I bought my Irish Princess Barbie doll and I have it sitting right in front of me to remind me that I am okay. I make mistakes but I can be forgiven and if no one gives that to me then I can give it to myself.  And my inner child adores her.

Wanna see???? Do you?? Huh??Huh??

Here you go!!!

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Magical Merry Go Round

Magical Merry Go Round (Photo credit: Floyd’s Noise)

There are times in a family relationship when it can’t be maintained anymore. But I feel that it is still my fault, because to be honest, part of it is. But apologies mean nothing unless I totally capitulate to her point of view, that basically I am a horrible person and therefore my position on anything is totally invalid. Because, you know, that “bipolar thing.”

She refuses to acknowledge that I have genuine concerns in this “relationship” Quotes because it really fell apart years ago. There is no relationship, unless it is totally on her terms.

I started the argument. So lots of guilt right there. But after a reluctant look at myself I realized that I was wrong and apologized. But not until after I got blindsided with a whole bunch of rules I should follow, based on grievances that I had no way of knowing about others that I thought had been resolved.

Like the fact that she openly agreed to an arrangement we had and every single time I asked her about it she assured me that she was fine with it. But she wasn’t and so she has a lot of anger about it and so one of her “rules” was that I should not expect that from her and that I apparently should have known that. What is wrong with her just saying “No” in the first place? I would have been fine with that. This has been an ongoing pattern in our relationship, but she will not take responsibility for it. I actually feel completely set-up by her. I go along thinking everything is fine until I get dumped on. And she completely mangled my motives for having this arrangement. I have gotten dumped on by both her and her husband for many years about how selfish and thoughtless I am (which it true that I can be that way, but not most of the time as they claim) but here I bend over backwards to make sure that everything is okay by asking her repeatedly if it was. I did not pressure her in any way.

Then I got a lot of verbal vomit about a situation that I thought we had resolved. She even accused me of things that I had not done. A while back she threw me out of her house over a minor misunderstanding. When I saw she was upset I kept calm and asked her what the problem was. I asked repeatedly but she thought I knew so she did not answer. She just threw me out with no explanation.

Now her version of this is that I yelled at her and that is why she threw me out. So therefore one of her “rules” is that she has the right to throw me out if I yell at her, Well I would agree that she has that right, but I resent the accusation because I took great pains not to yell at her. In fact I was completely and totally stunned.

After months of not talking she reached out to me and she even seemed to reluctantly acknowledge my point of view that the problem had been miscommunication on both our parts. Which is something I told her at the time.

Doesn’t that sound like an apology of sorts?

But now it appears that she still thinks it is my fault and it is not just about my supposed yelling incident but about everything.

I sent an e-mail to her saying that I am willing to abide by rules but that I did not appreciate the nastiness. Then I had a few rules of my own. That went over like a lead balloon!

You see she wants a relationship with me only on her terms. In fact she gave me a condescending figurative “pat on the head” by saying I sounded too upset, implying of course that my feelings were not worth listening to because “obviously” it has to do with my having bipolar disorder. So essentially only she has the right to be angry and make ridiculous accusations, but I am not allowed to respond. Ever.

She has taken a page from our upbringing. The only people who were allowed to have feelings were mom and dad. Actually my father was not hands-on so it was mostly my mother. I can only think of a few times where I expressed a feeling, only to be shot down. I went numb inside. At least until I had a nervous breakdown at sixteen.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that numb state. But I digress.

My mother would often take a minor incident (such as my talking at the wrong time) and turn it into an “attack” on her. She would cry and ask me why I wanted to hurt her. At the time she started doing that I was so young that I actually thought I had wanted to hurt her somehow, even if I didn’t feel it. Because mommy was “always right.” Then one day it dawned on me that I did not have that motive so while I was grounded in my room after the lecture I started crying hysterically. My mother came to check on me and while crying I told her that I did not want to hurt her. She simply said that I was feeling sorry for myself and left.

Now I have forgiven her, but I am simply looking at the dynamics of what went on between us. And to be honest, I have treated people the same way in my illness. I am actually glad that I never had children, because I think I would have been a horrible mother.

So how much am I at fault for what happened between my sister and I? I did start the original argument but I did apologize. But it isn’t just me that is the problem and she refuses to take any responsibility for her actions.

Supposedly she is the “normal” person in the family. but she definitely has issues. Big issues. She is a very angry person, but in her mind I am the only one with an anger problem.

We exchanged a few e-mails but the last time she said she was cutting off contact. I told her that when she was ready to be honest with herself and take responsibility for her actions then I would be here. I don’t know if she read it but if she did I doubt that went over well either. But I am tired of this and I don’t really care anymore.

I have a choice. I can blame myself for the whole thing (which I have certainly done in the past) and become depressed and destructive to myself. I can blame her for everything wrong in our relationship (which I have done also). Or I can simply let her go like I have done in the past. She simply can’t be what I want her to be. Ever.

I could apologize until the cows come home and not only would that not work, but I would be giving away my power. She wants to be in complete control of the relationship. I don’t consider one person being in control as even fitting the definition of a “relationship”

I am exhausted from this and I simply can’t do this anymore.

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I get a newsletter from The Happiness Club. They have support groups all over the U.S and in other countries to help them learn ways of changing their thoughts and behavior. I found a good story here from one of the clubs about changing your perceptions of frustrating situations. She describes a small change in perception that can add up to big results if we practice it:

Shared Thoughts To Keep Us All On The Happy Track.

Sharing an e-mail received from Elisa, an individual that attended a Happiness Club meeting in Fairfield.

Thursday, January 23rd’s meeting presentation: “Creating a Brilliant 2014 for ourselves,” was terrific. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I believe Lionel made it clear that night that we are responsible for our own happiness and that truly the thoughts we think (although they seem so automatic, natural and 100% “correct”) are under our control and can lead to happiness….or not. We just have to overcome our conditioning and habitual way of responding!

Here is one result: this morning getting onto the Merritt Parkway, I had a tailgater on me. So I naturally slowed to a crawl (lol). But then I started thinking that this woman didn’t get up with the intention of ruining my day (as we discussed last night)….I started thinking of other reasons why she was tailing me …things like maybe her son got hurt and she was rushing to the hospital, maybe she got up late and was going to miss her train.

Suddenly, my thoughts changed from grumbling to trying to figure out how I could help her! How could I help her get to her son? How could I help her catch her train? I got out of her way in a loving manner and with godspeed.

The lesson here: all these reasons I ascribed to her for her behavior were just thoughts in my head. The grumbling thoughts made me feel angry and seek revenge (Yes, I know this is hysterical). The compassionate thoughts made me want to help her. So this day, which thoughts will I choose?

I don’t think my change in perspective as described in the tail gating incident would have occurred if I wasn’t in the meeting last night. So again – thank you. Elisa

This newsletter is packed with inspiration so I would encourage you to read the whole thing. You can subscribe to it here

In addition to positive articles on their website, they also have a media section that is worth checking out.

I have a confession to make. I usually don’t find time to read inspirational stuff. Then I wonder why I feel so bad and negative. Duh! I am making a resolution to read at least one inspiring thing a day! I hope you will join me!  Happy Thoughts! 😉

Joel Osteen You may think there is a lot wrong...

Joel Osteen You may think there is a lot wrong with you, but there is also a lot right with you (Photo credit: symphony of love)

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The Power of “No”

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been through some mind-boggling crazy relationships with certain people in my life and I would say that the common denominator is that I always end up feeling completely powerless. Other people have taken over the reigns in the relationship and no matter how hard I fight against it I always end up in the same place, feeling baffled and hurt because they don’t get what I am saying. Admittedly I have not always expressed myself in the proper way because I get to the point of screaming at them just to get them to leave me alone. Part of this could be attributed to my bipolar mood swings, however I have consistently wondered just how much of my reactions are valid. I usually have ended up with a toxic feeling of anger combined with an even more toxic feeling of profound guilt and worthlessness.  Usually what has happened is that they do back off on an issue for a while, but then later on the same pattern repeats itself, over and over.  This may sound dramatic, but there are times when I literally have felt that I was fighting for my psychological survival. I think this reaction goes back to my childhood, where I was literally bombarded with my mother’s intense feelings, which she blamed on me. There was never a point where I could say to her, “You know that really hurts, STOP IT.”

When I hit adolescence, feelings that I had repressed for my entire childhood started bubbling up to the surface. Up until then, I simply existed in a state of virtual numbness, punctuated by periodic crying spells that came out of nowhere. I got labeled as a “cry-baby”, and got the old lecture on “crying wolf” numerous times. It never occurred to anyone that I might have a reason to cry. I wouldn’t have been able to tell them what was wrong anyway, because I myself didn’t know why I was crying. One day at school, I broke down during a test. I was sent to the school counselor who simply pronounced that I didn’t handle stress well. That was all.

By fourteen I started feeling depressed and the only friend I had was a pen-pal. I stopped writing to her because I wasn’t able to write any happy, chatty letters to her anymore. She of course, was very hurt, and I have always felt guilty about that. But I simply did not know how to express what I was feeling.

By sixteen, I was suicidal and I made a half-hearted attempt at cutting my wrist. I was fortunate that at that point, my parents did start to take me seriously. They sent me to a church counselor who said that I just wanted attention, I think that a common misconception among people is that when someone makes a half-hearted suicide attempt, then that means that they really don’t want to kill themselves. They don’t understand the desperate compulsion to die, combined with the fear of actually doing it. I wanted to die, but I just could not muster the courage to follow through.

I was fortunate again that my parents sent me to professional therapist, rather than take the word of someone who really had no idea what she was talking about. The therapist talked with me alone and then talked to my mother separately. He apparently had some harsh words for her, because when she came home she was crying. After that, she never called me “spoiled” again, which was one of her favorite epithets against me.

The therapist did help with getting her to stop a lot of her destructive behavior, although the depression did not abate. He did not recognize that I had a serious clinical condition, which is a shame. But I am certain that my parents would not have agreed to medication anyway, because they didn’t trust doctors. I made still another suicide attempt, by sticking a key into an electrical socket. Of course the sparks frightened me, and the circuit blew anyway. My mother knew this and yet for some reason, either she didn’t tell the therapist or else he did not take it seriously when she did. The entire time I saw this therapist, we never once talked about my suicidal feelings. I would have had a lot to say to him, about the fact that I obsessively read the Bible and picked out every verse that said that I deserved to die. “The wages of sin is death.” But it was never brought up.

His feeling was that I had a lot of repressed anger and that was what was causing my depression. He told me that it was okay to be angry and he was right about that. I wasn’t even aware that I was angry, until he said that. Then, boom! Overnight I became a stark raving bitch and yelled constantly at my mother.  Although he was right about the fact that I had a right to be angry, he never gave me any guidance on how to handle it.  Despite the fact that I released my anger, though, I was still seriously depressed and thought about suicide constantly.

As I look back I find it extremely strange that he never once brought my mother and I into a therapy session together. He counseled us separately. I think he did us both a deep disfavor. By not telling me how to express my feelings appropriately other than simply screaming at my mother, he never gave us the opportunity to actually work things out together. In essence, he stole my voice, the one that wanted to know why she felt I was such a terrible person. The one who wanted to express my pain in a way that she could understand. The one who wanted to say desperately, “STOP IT. THAT HURTS and explain why.

I think that this is why I have found it so difficult to deal with other people in my family who behave in the exact same manner that she did. It is even more frustrating with them because at least with my mother, she did make some changes. It wasn’t until I was an adult though when she finally let go and respected me as a person. Unfortunately, I never really forgave her entirely because I was never able to ask the question “Why?” I should have been more mature about that, but I wasn’t.

Recently, as I struggled with these issues with other members of my family I have asked myself why am I so obsessed with them. I think that there are many reasons, they are my only close family members other than my dad, who is in failing health at age 85. He has been the only member of the family who has forgiven me for my behavior during my bipolar episodes, the only one who has been there to support me through them, and the only one who recognizes that I have changed. We haven’t had a major argument in ten years and I intend to keep it that way. I will not betray him by taking it out on him when I am feeling bad, In fact I have that attitude towards the rest of the family too, but they will not recognize that. To them, anytime we have a disagreement, no matter how well I handle it, is “proof” that I haven’t changed at all. For them, they see that the only way that I can can prove that I have changed is to always agree with them and always do what they want.

Tossing and turning one night, obsessing about this, I asked myself why I was so upset. The answer came clearly, “I HAVE NO VOICE.”  It literally feels like I am screaming inside for someone to listen, for someone to care, for someone to take me seriously. Just like with my mother, anything I say is dismissed as mere excuses.  Nothing that I do that is good matters. I can’t say, “STOP IT. THAT HURTS.”

But I realize now that I CAN SAY IT. Not for them, because it is unlikely that they are going to change. BUT FOR ME. JUST SAYING IT IS WHAT MATTERS. It doesn’t matter if they don’t take it seriously, because I need to draw a line in the sand and stick to it.

This keeps coming up over and over again because they keep trying to bring me back into the relationship, but only on their terms. I tell them that the only way I will come back is if they will agree to respect my decisions, even though they may disagree with them. They keep telling me that I am welcome to come back, as long as I drop that condition.

FORGET THAT.

My dad is a bit upset with me, because he doesn’t quite understand the stakes here. He of course does not want to see the family broken up, but to me this is a matter of psychological survival. I literally can’t be drawn back into a situation where I am being told that I am a horrible person, just because I disagree with them on something. My brother-in-law’s favorite mantra is that as long as he has known me, I have been a completely selfish person who has never done anything good in my entire life. I am demanding, ungrateful and since I don’t care about him, why should he care about me? My sister seconds him on that. All because I believe that I ought to have a say in how I spend my money and how I live my life. The ironic part is that they are describing themselves, not me.

At my support group today I finally said the words: I DON’T OWE YOU A DAMN THING.  Everybody cheered!

I have been a bit down on myself for not being able to move past this issue as fast as I thought I should.  But I realize that it is hard for anyone to leave an abusive relationship. It is never as simple as just leaving, It is a loss, a grieving of what never was and what never will be. A fear of being alone, but then realizing that you are already alone so there is nothing to lose. But I will survive.

I have made a commitment to not waste one more minute on negative, toxic people. I will make a new family out of the kind and wonderful people I have met at the mental health social center.  I will take the chance of actually cultivating friendships with people when I have previously not done that because I was too scared to do so.  It makes sense doesn’t it?

I’ve discovered the power of “NO. I WILL NOT TAKE THAT ANYMORE.”

To Play Or Not To Play

Cover of "Bad (Aerial Fiction)"

Cover of Bad (Aerial Fiction)

 

A relative is coming to visit next week and I am invited.  My sister is upset that I have not gotten back to her yet. The reason why is that I don’t know if I want to come. considering my sister’s behavior. However if I do not go, then I miss seeing a relative that I haven’t seen for a long time.

When there was a get-together on Easter I told my sister that I would come as long as she treated me with the same respect that she would give any guest in her home. She promptly “un-invited” me.

The problem is that she and her husband treat me like I am a child that needs disciplining. I am forty-eight years old.

Actually they treat me worse than that. I am treated like a dog that pooped on their floor. Last time I saw them I was literally tossed out of their house. It’s as if I were a puppy-dog that was thrown into the back yard because I did a “no-no.”

Now if I had been tossed out because I had actually metaphorically taken a dump on their floor, then their behavior would make sense. However, what really happened was that I didn’t perform the right “trick” for them.

Now they want “doggie” to come back in because the punishment is over and “doggie” is being unreasonable by not coming to their beck and call.

The reality is that all “doggie” did was give her nephew a birthday gift rather than pay for his birthday meal.

Woof, woof! BAD, BAD DOGGIE!!!

“Doggie” didn’t even know that that was what they wanted.

Well, you get the picture.

I have tried to talk with them and they don’t want to because I am being “unreasonable.” The problem is solved in their eyes so why should I be so presumptuous as to bring it up again?

This is a pattern that has gone on a long, long time where they do not respect my decisions. In their eyes I am “abusive” if I disagree with them. Because, you know, I am bipolar, so of course nothing I have to say is worthwhile listening to.

Never mind the fact that I have not been in the hospital for ten years!  Never mind that I have gotten my life together while they have not gotten theirs together!

The truth is that usually people who are that controlling have tremendous problems in their personal lives (which they definitely do) that they don’t want to face. Since they can’t find anything real to blame me for then they just make up stuff to suit them.

Ironically they call me petty for objecting to that sort of treatment! Maybe ten or more years ago they might have had some reason to object to my behavior, but not now. Other people in my life recognize that but not them. The fact is that the problem lies with the fact that they haven’t changed. Actually that is not entirely true. In the case of my brother-in-law he has changed for the worse.

He demands that everyone has to cater to him. If I were the problem then why are there others who object to his behavior also? He has expected my dad to support his family for YEARS.

This is clearly a situation of how people in glass houses should not throw stones.

When I try to talk with them about anything their reaction to me is always that I am “just making excuses.”  Not that they ever do that!

Since trying to talk this out with them had no effect then at Easter I simply told them that they needed to treat me with the same dignity and respect that they would treat anyone in their home.  That was my condition for coming and it wasn’t an unreasonable one since I was not asking for special treatment.

That went over like a lead balloon!

How do you reason with people who always think they are right 100% of the time? I certainly do not make that claim for myself but I do know that I am not wrong 100% of the time either.

I get the feeling that they are waiting for the time when I accept the “obvious fact” that they are morally superior to me.

That is never going to happen.

My choices seem to be limited when it comes to the get-together.  My dad has offered to pay for everyone in hopes of preventing any problems however since I do not consider that to be the cause of the problems with my sister and brother-in-law then I have very little confidence that they won’t find some other reason to get mad at me.

Telling them that they need to respect my decisions hasn’t worked either.

So what I am left with is the hope that they will not act badly in front of their guests. There is no guarantee of course that they won’t get mad later.

While I have felt like cutting my sister and brother-in-law out of my life forever I just don’t know how practical that is in the long-run. Maybe I should just focus on limiting contact with them instead.

I am at my wit’s end because I know that they really don’t have any motivation to change. If they really cared at all about my feelings then they would be willing to talk. They have had three months in which to calm down and be reasonable with me.  The fact is that they are set in their ways and they think that the only person who needs to change is me. They won’t even acknowledge that I have changed. Apparently their definition of change has nothing to do with handling my illness and emotions in a constructive manner that does not affect others in a negative way, as they like to claim, because I am already doing that and have been for a long time.

No, their definition of change is for me to always do what they want. Period.

Many, many years ago, before my sister was married and before my most spectacular nervous breakdowns had happened we took a trip to Nevada together. We were getting along very well at that point. At a particular tourist place, she realized that she had no money and there was no ATM around. Neither one of us had a credit card. She and I and another friend of hers had decided to get a tintype photo done. But her friend had to leave so my sister decided she didn’t want to do it with just the two of us. I had given my sister forty dollars to pay for it but since we weren’t going to get it done I asked for her to return my money to me. I saw something that I wanted to buy but she refused to give me my money back, because she thought I was “spending too much money”. Now mind you, she didn’t think it was too much money when it was going towards what she wanted. But when it was going to go towards what I wanted then it was a problem. The fact was that I had a full-time job, I was not in the habit of spending massive amounts of money and this was my vacation!  I saw a lovely piece of Native American Zuni pottery that I could not have found at home so I wanted to buy it.

When we returned to the motel she was still upset, as was I, so she went for a drive. When she came back she had a rock from the desert that she thought I might like and she apologized. I accepted.

For the life of me I never figured out her thought process as to why she thought that she had the right to decide how I was going to spend my money in the first place, because that is so completely beyond anything that I would ever think of doing to someone else. But I accepted her apology and left it alone.

Fast forward some twenty-five years and she apparently has lost the ability for self-reflection to realize that there are times when she is just plain wrong, no doubt about it.  Because I am bipolar so nothing I do is right, ever. And bipolar disorder is a moral issue, not a mental illness. And even though I haven’t been hospitalized for ten years I am obligated to make up to her every little mistake I have made until she is finished punishing me. Which means never. I guess I keep thinking that I am dealing with the person that she was back then, so I try to reason with her even when it feels like my brain is bleeding trying to follow her convoluted “logic.”

Despite all this though, I do want to visit with a relative that I have not seen in several years. So I guess I will just have to bite the bullet and hope that my sister behaves herself.  But I am damn well not going to apologize for spending my money the way that I choose. I did nothing wrong in buying my nephew a gift, rather than  paying for his meal. It was his birthday, not theirs and besides who ever heard of someone dictating what kind of gift to give?  My nephew was happy, why can’t they be happy too?

The fact is that they are responsible for their own happiness, not me. If they want to get bent out of shape over non-issues then that is not my problem at all.

We’ll see how this experiment goes…

 

PH-F-O-0025

PH-F-O-0025 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Bipolar Disorder Does Not Increase Risk of Violent Crime, Swedish Study Suggests

Sep. 8, 2010 — A new study from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet suggests that bipolar disorder — or manic-depressive disorder — does not increase the risk of committing violent crime. Instead, the over-representation of individuals with bipolar disorder in violent crime statistics is almost entirely attributable to concurrent substance abuse.

The public debate on violent crime usually assumes that violence in the mentally ill is a direct result of the perpetrator’s illness. Previous research has also suggested that patients with bipolar disorder — also known as manic-depressive disorder — are more likely to behave violently. However, it has been unclear if the violence is due to the bipolar disorder per se, or caused by other aspects of the individual’s personality or lifestyle.

The new study, carried out by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Oxford University, is presented in the scientific journal Archives of General Psychiatry. Researchers compared the rate of violent crime in over 3,700 patients with bipolar disorder cared for in Swedish hospitals between 1973 and 2004 with that of 37,000 control individuals from the general public.

21% of patients with bipolar disorder and a concurrent diagnosis of severe substance abuse (alcohol or illegal drugs) were convicted of violent crimes, compared to 5% of those with bipolar disorder but without substance abuse, and 3% among general public control individuals. The differences remained when accounting for age, gender, immigrant background, socio-economic status, and whether the most recent presentation of the bipolar disorder was manic or depressed.

“Interestingly, this concurs with our group’s previous findings in schizophrenia, another serious psychiatric disorder, which found that individuals with schizophrenia are not more violent than members of the general public, provided there is no substance abuse,” says professor Niklas Långström, head of the Centre for Violence Prevention at Karolinska Institutet, and one of the researchers behind the study.

According to the researchers, the findings support the need for initiatives to prevent, identify and treat substance abuse when fighting violent crime. Additionally, Långström hopes that the results will help challenge overly simplistic explanations of the causes of violent crime.

“Unwarranted fear and stigmatisation of mental illness increases the alienation of people with psychiatric disorder and makes them less inclined to seek the care they need,” Långström comments.

Karolinska Institutet (2010, September 8). Bipolar disorder does not increase risk of violent crime, Swedish study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100907103613.htm

 

bizarro world

bizarro world (Photo credit: purplepix)

Despite my resolve to stick to my principles, my sister got to me again. This time she pulled out the abandonment card, “When Dad dies we will be the only close family you will have. I will always love you.”

I am not saying that she is a complete liar. I think she does love me on some level. But not enough for it to show in her actions. Love is first and foremost a verb, as I explained in my last article.

The past week has been very confusing for me to deal with in regards to my sister. She was nice to me when our dad got sick and landed in the emergency room. Fortunately he was not in serious condition and was released with a prescription. Despite the fact that this wasn’t the best of circumstances I thought this might be a good time to try to work things out with her. It ended in a disaster when her husband once again accused me of being unworthy of any love and respect. She did not respond at all.

Three days later my sister sent an e-mail to our dad and I saying in a cheerful tone with a smiley face next to her name that a cousin wanted to get together for Easter and “who’s up for it?”

Ugh! Does she live in some bizzaro world where context doesn’t matter?

Her position is that I am being unfair to her because she has made an effort to be “nice.” She wants to put everything behind us and can’t understand why I can’t do that either.

She does not get it that I can’t do that because this is a pattern of abusive behavior that goes back years and years. We have tried sweeping it under the rug and it hasn’t worked.

The other problem with her rational is that it is very condescending. She still believes that everything that happened was my fault but has decided not to let that get in the way of our “relationship.”

Gee thanks, sis, that makes me feel a WHOLE lot better!

This is just another attempt to get out of her responsibilities towards me and our relationship.

I sent her an e-mail telling her that I would not come to any get-together unless she promised to treat me with the same respect and dignity that she would treat any guest in her house. She accused me of trying to bring up “that old argument” and banned me from coming.

It was a simple yes or no question. If she really wanted me in her life she would agree to these terms. I ask nothing more from her than she asks from me, which is RESPECT.

Again she framed it in a very insulting way, “My husband and I feel that since you are so upset that you are not ready to participate in a family get-together. Maybe some time in the future we can reconsider our position.”

WHAT???

I told her that I want no further invitations for family get-togethers and that I don’t want any contact unless it involves a family emergency, such as our Dad becoming ill.

That is what prompted the heart-rending appeal that I mentioned at the top of my post.

I gave her one last chance by telling her that it was not my desire to cut them off, but that I had no choice because of their behavior towards me. I said that if she was willing to treat me with the same respect she expects from me, and is willing to talk through our misunderstandings instead of assuming that I have done something to her on purpose and getting mad at me for it, then I could reconsider. I told that I am not asking for anything more than what she would do with a friend, which is to listen to my side of the story and work through conflicts in a mature manner.

I have had no response from her. So I guess I have my answer. She really does not want a relationship with me at all.

It is time for me to leave this behind and move forward. I am still sad about this but I am working on letting this go. I wish things were different, but as my dad always says, “Things are as they are.”

Read more about abusive behavior in my blog post Characteristics of Emotional Abusers.