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Divine Feminine Power

Divine Feminine Power (Photo credit: Kathy Crabbe)

I am reposting this from a year ago. I hope you like it: 

One ship drives east and the other drives west by the self-same winds that blow. It’s the set of the sails and not the gales that determine the way they go.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sometimes we feel like the winds of fate continuously buffet us around, thwarting our every dream. We may fall into a deep depression and give up. Psychologists call this “learned helplessness”. It is important to note that what can be learned can be unlearned. We can choose at any moment to take our power back. It may not be easy, it may take time, but we can learn to control our lives again instead of drowning in our depressions. The point of power is in you and the key is Intention. We are made in the image and likeness of God; therefore we have all of God’s attributes, including power. We are powerful! All you have to do is claim that power and know that God is more powerful than any circumstance, internal or external that you may encounter.

Write down every situation that feels impossible for you to overcome. Then repeat after each one, “I AM more powerful than this.”

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Thinking

Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

 

I came across an interesting article from Natural News that I want to share. Usually I don’t like their articles because they are very anti-medication and anti-psychiatry. However even in the worst places you can always find a gem! This fits in well with my ideas about positive thinking and how we should not force ourselves to think a certain way. It also discusses the fact that we actually need to pay attention to our negative feelings because they are our teachers, not our enemies.

Spiritual, psychological and holistic reasons to  avoid the positive thinking mentality

Monday, March 11, 2013 by: Mike Bundrant

(NaturalNews) Mention a problem to just about anyone and you’ll be inundated  with positive advice. “Things will get better soon. Just keep a positive  outlook. Chin up, my friend! Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining. When  one door closes, another opens. Your attitude determines your altitude. You’ll  be fine. Everything turns out for the best in the end.”
Positive thinking  dominates our conscious minds. When we have a thought we can control, we try to  make it positive. This is a massive problem; it may be humanity’s deadly flaw.  All those negative thoughts you cannot control, therefore, have a basis in unconscious negativity, an area we are motivated to avoid, especially  since the advent of the positive thinking culture.
What is unconscious  originates outside of our awareness. What is outside of our awareness is outside  of our control. To control negativity, we need to be able to see it, focus on  it, confront it, deal with it – NOT avoid it.
The positive side of life  is valid part of the story. Denying the rest of story goes against  ancient spiritual wisdom, psychological evidence, common sense and sets you up  for a lifetime of disappointment and self-sabotage.
Look at the world around you. Look at  your own mind and behavior honestly. It is not all positive. Focusing only on  the positive and denying the negative is a recipe for disaster. The disaster is  in full force all around us. We continue to deny it at our own peril.

We need holistic thinking, not positive thinking.

Positive thinking is  the act of thinking good or affirmative thoughts. Many people engage in positive  thinking to rid themselves of negative thoughts, even though it is the worst way  to get rid of them.
Positive thinking goes against holistic  thinking on so many levels. Holistic thinking embraces all of life, the  positive and the negative, to the point of transcending them. By transcending  them, I don’t mean avoiding negativity, but achieving balance between these  opposing forces that are not going away, no matter how much we pretend  otherwise.
Focusing solely on the positive  empowers the negative, because the negative and the positive are connected. It  works like a teeter-totter. Sit on one side and the other pops up. Put equal  weight on both sides and you can live in balance and harmony.

Lessons from Taoism

Taoism teaches us that the seeming opposites in  life actually give rise to each other. Many natural dualities (such as female  and male, dark and light, low and high, cold and hot, water and fire, life and  death, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang  concept.
Christian apologist C.S. Lewis spoke highly of the Tao in  his book, The Abolition of Man: The Tao, which others may  call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical  Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of  value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all  value is rejected.
Denying negativity – especially our unconscious  attachments to it – is a flat rejection of the Tao.

The Old Testament lays it out clearly, in Eccelesiates 3: 1-8

There  is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the  heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time  to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to  build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time  to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to  keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be  silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war  and a time for peace.

If a “positive thinker,” as opposed to  (theoretically) King Solomon, had written Ecclesiastes, here is what we might  have gotten:
A time to be born, but you never have to die if you  see the glass as “half-full.”
A time to laugh, but weeping is not  necessary because nothing in life is sad if you have a positive mental  attitude.
A time to search, and never give up regardless of the  evidence.
A time to love, but we’re not comfortable mentioning that other  word.
A time for peace, so let’s pretend there are no bad guys in the  world.

A time to heal, but we’re not comfortable admitting there  is such a thing as killing, or even suffering.
If we are going to  deal with the negative before it swallows us, we need to learn to focus on it,  intentionally. This involves learning how it operates in our own psyche. We need  to face it productively, rather than ignore it. Facing negativity can change  your life for the better in ways you have never imagined.
When you face  negativity – including the natural negativity within you – with open eyes and an  open mind, you naturally put your magnificent intelligence to work to solve  problems, not deny them. Self-sabotage, which results from an unconscious  attachment to negativity, becomes a thing of the past. .

Learn more:  http://www.naturalnews.com/039430_thinking_positive_mentality_holistic.html#ixzz2OTv5q3ua

Thinking

Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

In my last post. Are Negative Emotions “Unspiritual”?   I talked about how we need to go easy on ourselves when we find that we can’t always think positively, especially in light of the fact that we have a mood disorder. I also questioned the idea that the so-called “negative” emotions are always a bad thing, because they can teach us about ourselves and others.  A good analogy is that of physical pain, if we always ignore it then we would never learn not to touch a hot stove!

So pain is designed to tell us when something is wrong.  With bipolar disorder somehow our emotional pain signals have gotten screwed up. This is not our fault, although the outside world tends to judge us harshly for it. When we feel the pressure to “just think positively’ it is very difficult to get people to understand that there are times when we just can’t!

But does that mean that positive thinking doesn’t have a part in our recovery? No, because even if at a particular moment in time where we cannot actually believe something, just being exposed to a positive affirmation often enough can help change our beliefs. I am not saying permanently, because we are going to have mood swings. But maybe that positive thought can help slow our decent and help us get back on our feet again.

That is why I often put affirmations around my house and read them daily. I can make up my own or find quotes that inspire me. This isn’t about trying to make myself believe something, that would be counter-productive because I can’t do that. It is about planting a seed that (hopefully) will grow in my sub-conscious mind.

I want to share with you all one of my favorite inspirational quotes of all time. I am sure many of you are already aware of this one, but I think it bears repeating over and over. Enjoy!

Our Deepest Fear

by Marianne Williamson from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles *

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

*Note: Many people incorrectly attribute this quote to Nelsen Mandela

Psalm 137

Psalm 137 (Photo credit: Mouse)

One of the greatest problems that I have had my entire life is that I expect myself to be perfect.  This not only stems from my childhood but also from a culture that seems to demand perfection. Virtually every day I hear some celebrity saying that if I just take a positive attitude that all my dreams will come true seemingly without effort. There is a lot of talk about “The Law of Attraction” and if my life isn’t what it should be that it is somehow my fault because I haven’t thought the “right” thoughts.

Now let me make this clear: I am not totally against the concept of the Law of Attraction, but I am not sure that it always works the way many people seem to think. I think we attract into our lives situations that we need to learn from. I don’t think life is always meant to be easy. I also think that the subtle implication that if someone’s life sucks that it is their own fault is patently unfair and in fact a very uncompassionate and unspiritual point of view.

Even among those who don’t embrace the philosophy of New Thought, such as mainline Christians, there is a tendency to judge others when they are feeling down.  We are told that we have to “have faith” and if we don’t it is an affront to God.  I would challenge these people to read the book of Psalms, which is full of existential angst.  We often quote the inspirational parts of the book, however, the majority of it is actually quite pessimistic in nature. David was a man who was literally drowning in depression.

I have to admit that I often judge myself harshly for not being more positive, even though I know that I have this disease that at times makes this extremely difficult, even impossible. I feel like I should be better than this, even though I don’t expect that from any other people I know who have bipolar disorder. Even though I have dreamed of being a writer for a long time, I have held myself back because I felt that unless I could always be positive and have some piece of profound wisdom to give, then I would be a fraud. I am finding that the opposite is actually true, by being authentic and admitting that I don’t know all the answers, my writing is considerably more authentic and meaningful. I don’t have to be the expert, because I am simply sharing my journey with my readers. If there is something they get out of it then that is great, if not then they are free to look elsewhere for answers.

This seems to be a lesson that I keep having to learn over and over. When I was younger I had thought that I wanted to become a therapist. However I held myself back because I knew that I was really screwed up myself. I thought that if I became a therapist that I would be a “pretender” and a fraud. However, later on I had the opportunity to become a peer supporter with a local mental health center. This was not a professional position, but rather went along the lines of what the twelve-step groups do in that they share their “experience, strength and hope.” I jumped at the chance, because I did not have to be the “expert”. I could just be me.

The fact is that there is nothing wrong with having negative emotions because it gives us the opportunity to work with them and learn from them. I don’t have to be “Miss Mary Sunshine” all of the time.  I can be pissed off, depressed, sad, lonely, fearful etc. I can experience the whole gamut of emotions common to man as long as that doesn’t lead to destructive behavior on my part.

There is nothing spiritual about denying one’s thoughts and feelings. We should go easy on ourselves.  Life is about learning, not perfection.

This is a very eloquent exploration of suffering and faith.

The Discerning Christian

I wrote this essay for my philosophy of religion class in the spring of last year. In reflecting on the intense suffering of a relative, I want to make this public. It is by no means an airtight account of suffering and evil. This is a piece meant for reflection, not for careful analysis, that in reflection you might glean at least something true. In the absence of justice, mourn and be frustrated.

__________

Justice comes across the works of Fate, having decimated a seaside village in the aftermath of a tsunami. Appalled at the devastation, Justice seeks the one responsible for the deaths of the villagers. Her search begins at the scene of the atrocity, where Fate lingers and engages him in discussion.

Justice: This is a travesty! What sort of horrendous evil has murdered these innocents?

Fate: What murder do you speak of?

Justice: Do you not see…

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Being Bipolar

Bipolar Disorder doesn’t give two shits about your relationships.   It doesn’t care about your mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, coworkers or lovers.   I told you it was a selfish whore.

Relationships are hard work even for the “normal” people.  Think about how many “normal” people you know that have family conflicts, multiple failed marriages, constant drama with friends, hell, even trying to find a compatible date for Friday night on Match.com is a trying experience.  You throw a mood disorder into the mix and it is almost always recipe for disaster.  It is easy to fall in love with a person with Bipolar Disorder because they are intriguing, dynamic and they have a type of magnetism that draws you in immediately  but you have to be a special kind of person with a special kind of patience to endure the ups and downs of loving someone with…

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My Upside Down Bill of Rights

It's not that hard to say no

It’s not that hard to say no (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

 

I have still been doing a lot of thinking about my relationships with my family and as upsetting as this whole situation is I know that this is a learning opportunity for me (although the lessons SUCK). The truth is that spiritually anyone who pushes our buttons is our teacher. In this case I need to separate myself from other people’s hurtful behavior and learn where my boundaries lie. This is very difficult for me because it is hard for me to know when something is legitimately my fault or the other person’s fault. I go back and forth between feeling like a completely worthless person who can’t do anything right so I try to please everyone, to feeling like telling everyone to leave me alone and go to hell. But one thing I am learning is that even if I have done something wrong, IT IS NEVER OKAY TO BE TREATED LIKE A WORTHLESS PERSON.

Some of my relatives have had legitimate reasons to be upset with my behavior in the past with my bipolar disorder. And yet what I have found is that as I have tried to make things right with them it seems to have given them permission run right over me.  They insist on standards for me that they are not willing to abide by themselves. So for instance it is not okay for me to yell and scream and make wild accusations and I haven’t done that in years. But it is okay for them to yell and scream and make wild accusations against me! I feel very betrayed because frankly they are taking advantage of my genuine desire to make things right.  Nothing is good enough for them. Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I got a while back:

“YOU HAVEN’T YELLED AT ME FOR A WHILE, SO YES, THAT’S AN IMPROVEMENT. BUT IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. NOT EVEN CLOSE. THE NEXT STEP IS TO LEARN HOW TO GENUINELY CARE ABOUT PEOPLE, AND SHOW IT, AND PUT A STOP TO THIS CONSTANT SELF-PITY.”

Learn how to care about people? I gave them my car for FREE, low-mileage. That was several thousand dollars in their pockets!

I got another e-mail saying that my standards of treating them weren’t good enough, and THEY DEMANDED THAT I LIVE UP TO THEIR STANDARDS (without specifying what they were).

Apparently living up to their standards involves doing everything they say without question.

That was from about a year ago and I thought we had recovered, but no things fell apart again and this time I’ve had it. I can’t deal with this anymore. It doesn’t work to do everything their way just because I feel guilty about the past. It is time to move on and if they don’t like it, tough.

IT DOESN’T MEAN THOUGH THAT I DON’T HURT. I CRY A LOT. BUT I AM NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE ANY FEELINGS AT ALL BECAUSE THAT IS “SELF-PITY.”

Anyway these are some thoughts I’ve put together about MY RIGHTS in a relationship:

1. I have the right to make mistakes and learn from them

2. I have the right to be imperfect and be okay with that

3. I have the right to not take on other people’s emotional baggage

4. I have the right to not live up to other’s expectations if I don’t agree with them

5. I have the right to negotiate the terms of any relationship I choose to be in

6. I have the right to expect mutual respect in a relationship

7. I have the right to have my feelings be taken seriously

8. I have the right to express my needs

9. I have the right to end unhealthy relationships without being made to feel guilty

10. I have the right to live my life as I choose without anyone’s permission or approval

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spend a lot of time wandering around the blogosphere looking at websites like Patheos that talk about issues in Christianity. Generally my feeling is that people are entitled to believe what they want as long as they are not hurting anyone. So I don’t care whether someone is Christian or if they believe in the Great Pumpkin as long as they respect other people’s rights. I am not of course saying that Christianity is comparable to believing in the Great Pumpkin but there is a parallel there in that what seems perfectly logical to one person may not be to another.

I will say that my own personal view is that God does not belong to any particular religion. So yes I do believe in God and yes I do think that there are useful lessons in the Bible.  And I believe that the purist teaching in the Bible is what Jesus said, love God and love others as yourself.

Everything else is window dressing.

I suppose a lot of people would choke on that. What about Jesus being the Son of God? What about eternal salvation? This of course being the central doctrine of Christianity. Or is it?

I don’t deny that the Bible says these things, although it can be argued that we can’t say for sure that Jesus considered himself to be the Son of God.  However, in practical terms I don’t see this as the basis of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ teachings mainly had to do with how we relate to God and others. And the Bible says he who loves knows God.

I think a lot of Christians have forgotten that.

How important is the doctrine of salvation when you treat your neighbor like crap? Is it really important to argue about predestination, or salvation by works or by faith?

A case can be made for many interpretations of the Bible, which is why we have 30,000 denominations of Christianity. While a lot of them have enough in common theologically that they wouldn’t differ much from each other, many don’t agree on much at all.

AND YET EACH ONE BELIEVES THEY ARE RIGHT.

I find it odd that the conservative Christians are blaming the liberal Christians for the mass exodus of people leaving the churches. From where I stand it is the uncompromising rigidity and argumentativeness of the conservatives that alienate others from Christianity. It is the insistence that everyone has to agree on every point theologically. In other words “MY GOD IS BETTER THAN YOUR GOD.”

Actually it is often more like, “MY GOD IS THE REAL GOD AND YOURS IS THE DEVIL”.

Where exactly did we get the idea that we can OWN God?

One of the arguments that is often used to trump another’s position to say that since they have the indwelling “Holy Spirit” that enables them to “know the Mind of God.”  Hmmm, are you sure you aren’t listening to your own ego instead???

What I see in these arguments is an attempt to make God as small and petty as we are. We have the audacity TO TELL GOD WHO HE IS rather than let him reveal himself to us. We focus on the splinter in the other’s eye rather than the log in our own.

This is why I consider dogma to ultimately be irrelevant and in many cases destructive because it only causes us to TAKE OUR EYES AWAY FROM GOD. God wants us to have a relationship WITH HIM, not a book and not a church. The book and the church may be helpful, but these are not the most important things.

We Are All Broken

Brokeness

Brokeness (Photo credit: TheMarque)

 

I was discussing with a friend of mine our mutual frustrations with our families and she pointed out something that someone had told her: We are all broken.

All of my life I have felt that something was wrong with me, even before I developed bipolar disorder. The wrongness I felt had nothing to do with mental illness, it had to do with something more basic than that. It had to do with being imperfect, being held to a standard that I could never attain. Now I want to make it clear that I am not saying that I didn’t deserve discipline from time to time. It was my mother’s over-the–top reactions that was the problem. Even though she never abused me physically, her words cut me to the core. The difference between constructive criticism  and emotional abuse is that the first addresses your behavior and the later attacks your character.

As an adult I still have trouble differentiating between the two. I have a tendency to beat on myself about every little actual or perceived  mistake. It doesn’t help when my sister chimes in and does the same thing to me.

I have been hurt so much by my sister and yet I need to acknowledge that she has suffered from the same perceived need to be perfect that I have. That isn’t apparent at first glance because she never received the harsh judgments that I did from my mother. In fact, she was held out as the example of how I should be, and I was constantly told “Why can’t you be like your sister?” This in spite of the fact that I was a different person, with different needs and a different personality. Also I was three years younger than my sister and my mother had no concept of age-appropriate behavior. Whenever she said this to me I felt an extreme sense of shame and also confusion and the question that always came up in my mind was “How can I be like my sister? I am me!!!” In fact in my immature reasoning I felt like my mother was telling me that I had to be my sister, not just follow her example. Not literally of course, but the basic idea was that there was something fundamentally wrong with who I was and not just my behavior.

That must mean that my sister had a better time of it than I did, right? Well, yes and no.  She was never subject to the verbal abuse that I was but I really don’t see was spoiled in any way either. She was expected to tow the line too and yes she was punished from time to time. One time she put off doing a school report until the last minute and she was forced to stay up all night to finish it. I consider that appropriate punishment.

Surprisingly one of the few things that my sister and I do agree on is that she was the favorite (although both our parents denied this).  So I have learned a few things about her perspective of what went on.  While I was expected to be like her, I was also held up to her as an example of who not to be. I was the “bad” kid and she was the “good” kid and while that provided a certain sense of self-esteem (which I argue was not true self-esteem because it was not based in unconditional love) for herself it also created anxiety. She was expected to take on the responsibility of being a good role model. To a certain extent that is fine, but I get the impression that she was expected to take this on at a very young age, possibly when I was a toddler. In a sense she was robbed of a normal childhood and held to an unrealistic standard just as I was.

She has never gone through a lot of the normal development that kids have growing up. She never went through the teenage “rebellion” stage which is necessary to building a sense of self-identity.  She is extremely dependent on other people’s opinions, and belongs to an extremely controlling church that tells her exactly what she should do at all times.  I have always been wary of this church, and although I have heard that it has changed, I am still not convinced. One of the many things that I was worried about years ago is that every member of the church that was single was required to go on a “Saturday Night Date” (with only church members of course and always in a group). Eventually this was supposed to lead to marriage. In other words it was wrong if you just wanted to be single and enjoy your life on that basis! This was labeled “New Testament theology” but to be quite honest I have never found anything in the New Testament to support this kind of extreme control over its members.  Eventually their own leader got expelled from the church because he broke one of his own (ridiculous) rules! He had a rule that anyone who was a leader in the church had to control his own family. If one of the family members left the church then the person could no longer qualify to be a leader. So the mighty emperor was defrocked when his own wife left the church!! Sweet justice!!!

This kind of environment is extremely attractive and yet also very toxic. It is seductive because if you have all the answers handed to you then you can believe that you can never be wrong and thus it relieves anxiety. It is toxic because the people who claim to have all the answers usually don’t. Advice turns into abuse and you are locked into a certain mindset where if you question anything then you are questioning God himself and you are in danger of going to hell.

Even as I am writing this I realize how much of a victim my sister is and how impossible it is for me to expect her to change. She has created the same environment that she grew up with where if things are not perfect she flips out. I have a hard time understanding why a small change in her plans (which she expected me to magically know) would cause her to get angry and throw me out of her house. But here is the thing, I don’t think she was reacting in anger alone. It is hard for me to see this when she is being sanctimonious towards me. But I think she was panicked because she thought our father would get mad. Of course this was never the case.  Our dad is not like that and for him it was a non-issue. It was a non-issue for everyone involved except her.

As wrong as she was I can definitely identify with the fear of not being perfect. In that way, we are the same although we deal with it in radically different ways. I have always wanted her to be something that she can’t be, a nurturing and unconditionally loving sister. But she is as trapped in her role just as I have been in mine.

Should I have compassion towards her? Yes. Should I accept her improper behavior? No, because I can’t take on the responsibility of trying to heal her. That is her responsibility alone. I have the right to be treated with respect and when I am not then I have the right to separate myself from that person.

I do miss her and in my better moments I have prayed for healing for both of us. I have trouble with this as I tend to nurture my anger, however I keep having to remind myself that her journey is different than mine. We are both wounded and in essence I cannot expect her to be anything other than who she is.

Sad Clown free creative commons

Sad Clown free creative commons (Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography)

Here is something I wrote in 1997 during my “depressed poet” phase:

i anorexically

keep to myself

i want, i need,

i want

Deprivation is a form

of Saintliness

i am not the Bitch,

the Whore,

the War-monger

i just starve

i hurt no one

I am not anorexic and never have been, but the symbolism of a starving young girl speaks to me.  It is the loneliness of the damned, the crying out for love, and yet knowing that you deep down you don’t deserve it.  It is a self-imposed prison of course, but the iron bars seem real enough, solid enough that you know you will never be free. Who erected those bars? Was it me or others? I can’t tell anymore.

I have grown a great deal since I wrote that poem sixteen years ago. Yet I still find myself in that cage. I venture out into the world to forage a bit for sustenance and then quickly duck into my hidey-hole when I sense a shadow above me. In my mind it could be a hawk, circling around and waiting until I have let down my guard. Hawks have good eyesight, they can see my vulnerabilities, my weaknesses, my shame. I am not afraid of dying. I am afraid of living under its unholy gaze pinning me up against the wall, letting me know that he only lets me live so that he can remind me of my sins and how unworthy I am.

Ironically enough, I have learned to become much more social since I wrote that poem, but only to a point. I am most comfortable in support groups and I am very vocal. I feel safe in that environment. However I still have trouble with making one on one friendships. I am pretty much terrified because I feel so ashamed. I am constantly afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. I am too needy, and weak. They are going to see me as a burden at best, at worst as an evil person who they would avoid like a leper.

I know that much of this comes from my childhood environment, where I felt like everything was my fault. I was a scapegoat then, and even now there are some family members who still treat me that way. I am fortunate that my dad does not see me that way at all. He actually loves me and does not see me as a “bad” person at all. I literally owe him my life. He is the main reason that I haven’t offed myself a long time ago. He is my best friend. Still he is eighty-five and I do not want to burden him in his old age.

I have to venture into the big, bad world and make some friends. Right now I have only one and she is dealing with her own issues right now. I try to be supportive of her and not burden her too much with my problems.

Another friend that I had turned out to be completely unreliable and took advantage of me. He has schizophrenia but decided to go off his medications. He ended up jobless, homeless and demanded that I take him in. Long story short, instead of sending him to the local mental health agency so he could get help and a place to live, I felt that as a friend I should take care of him.  I felt I owed him (he used to be my boss as well).  While I understand that someone who is schizophrenic may not be in complete control of his behavior, the fact was that when he chose to go off of his medication (and knowing perfectly well what could happen since he had done this before) he chose a course of action that affected others. By taking him in I was acting like an enabler, just as much as I would if I had taken in an alcoholic or a drug addict. Unfortunately I ended up losing what I considered a good friendship.

I realize that many of my problems with people are due to not knowing how to set good boundaries and not knowing how to determine whether someone is trustworthy or not. I grew up not being able to set boundaries for myself in my family. Basically only my mother’s feelings mattered, not mine. The same with my sister, and I am still having problems with her and her family. In fact at this time I don’t consider them trustworthy at all. I do not want to be estranged forever, but I can’t let them trample on me anymore.

My dad, who seems to be the only voice of reason in the family, has in frustration pointed out that my sister has never been sympathetic towards me and has told me that I need to make more friends. I am trying to hold on to someone who has never been there for me and most likely never will be. Her reaction towards my bipolar illness has been that of sheer rage, even when it hasn’t been warranted, such as just wanting a shoulder to cry on. The first time I ended up in the hospital (in my twenties) we were working for the same company, although different shifts. Our boss asked my sister to cover my part-time shift. She was already working full-time so it meant that she was working seven days a week. When I was released from the hospital I was on medication, but I was far from well. My sister raged at me and said “I thought you would be better by now!!”  I was clearly not in shape to go back to work. I literally could not stop crying. But I felt guilty of “inconveniencing” my sister and so I went back to work. Fortunately I worked the night shift and pretty much worked alone except for people who were passing through. I had a big roll of toilet paper beside me to wipe my tears and told anyone walking past that I had a cold. I did my job even though I was crying the whole time.  It never occurred to me or my sister that maybe our boss could arrange for someone else to cover my shift.

That was a long time ago (I am pushing 50 now) but she really hasn’t changed much. I think for a long time she thought I was faking or exaggerating my problems. Now she says that she does believe that I have bipolar disorder, however she shows little understanding of what it actually is. She still treats it like it is a moral problem. She accuses me of “using” my bipolar disorder as a “weapon to manipulate her.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I thought that if I could explain my illness that she would understand things better.  But no, I apparently still am the “brat” who is an “inconvenience” or worse according to her.  So it is patently obvious that she has not changed in twenty-some years. Only the vocabulary has changed. She still thinks I am a brat, just a bipolar brat.

So why do I keep going back for more? Because in my family we are Christians who “love” each other. That rational has been used many, many times to gloss over our problems. I let my sister off the hook because I don’t want to be responsible for “breaking up the family.”  And I am sad because when my dad passes on I won’t have any close family. I am also sad because I want to get to know my nephew, which seems impossible now. In four years he will be eighteen. Will he even want to have any contact with me? I hate the way things were left between us, my sister threw me out of her house and he thought it was his fault that we were fighting.

But there is a more basic reason for why I have continued to be in a destructive relationship with her. I think it is the same reason why anyone stays in an abusive relationship. I just want her to love me, pure and simple. I want her to see who I really am, to acknowledge that I am a good and worthwhile person. Instead I get morsels of approval and get led about like a horse with a carrot dangling just out-of-reach. And even though the track that I am on looks different, it is actually the same stupid circular road we have always been on.

So right now seems a good time for me to learn to recognize what a trustworthy relationship looks like and how to set healthy boundaries. I will talk about that in my next post.