The Ten Commandments


As I was 'playing around' with the wonderful folk that support me and each other on my Facebook Page, for some reason I was suddenly inspired to write the Ten Commandments of Bi-Polar Land - a cheeky look at the unseen 'rules' that seem to operate in our world. Here is the result of my taking myself for a modern day Moses:

1.  Thou shall not expect what works today to work tomorrow or the day after

Worse still, you shall not expect that what has been working for 30 consecutive days or weeks shall still work on day or week 31. As much as we understand the importance of establishing certain health sustaining routines, we quickly learn that our recovery is a rocky and unpredictable road. Just when we think we have found the way to help ourselves sustainably and reliably (medication, nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc), suddenly it's all back to square one. This highly challenging aspect of our illness is hardly ever recognised by those kind folks who write lists of tips to help us.

2.  Thou shall not confuse remission with recovery

My father had 12 good years between crash No2 and crash No3 from which he never fully recovered. I had 10 good years between my second and third crash, from which I have not fully recovered either. Even if we haven't, our illness has the patience of a saint (either that or the patience of a devilish foe) and it can lie in hibernation for a long time before suddenly waking up and biting us in the butt. Fatalism, defeatism and self-obsession don't help but we are well advised to remain vigilant at all times. We must learn to pick up the little signals that warn us of an imminent relapse before same relapse hits us with the force of a train travelling at full speed. That way we stand a better chance of staying in remission.

3.  Thou shall not kid yourself you are in charge  

The surest way for us to loose our remission battle is to let our ego lead the way. The minute we believe our illness is an issue of character (or lack of it), a test of our mettle, or indeed a wart on the backside of our otherwise spotless intellect, we are finished. We need to do everything we can to take responsibility for ourselves but let's not kid ourselves that we are in the driving seat. The art of living successfully with our condition is to eat humble pie and learn to become a collaborative passenger. Only then do we stand a chance of ever becoming a skilful co-pilot.

4.  Thou shall not expect your medication to do all the work even if it helps

This is where it can get somewhat confusing: we are not really in charge of our illness and yet we need to take charge of ourselves. Medication is a hammer - no more. We remain the carpenter. At its best, medication gives us back enough control so that we can build ourselves a strong platform to live on without constantly crushing our fingers to a pulp. Holding a hammer is not building anything. Using the hammer is what does the trick so we need to be proactive as well as collaborative passengers on our journey with our illness (sorry about the mixed metaphors!)

5.  Thou shall not expect to get quickly and painlessly to a medication that works 

Until such time as psychiatrists are able (and willing!) to target medication to the exact part of the brain that is mis-firing (hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, temporal lobes, all of them) psychiatry remains a black art of trial and error. Going through this process is often the most distressing and painful part of a patient's journey towards remission. That trial and error process can take years (as in my case) and we are not prepared for it. We are not told this is a common experience and not the proof that we are hopeless recalcitrant medical rejects. Others around us would also benefit enormously from this knowledge because despair is highly contagious....

6.  Thou shall not attempt to medicate yourself with booze or any other 'substances'

Tempting as it is to turn to other means of relief, self-medicating with all sorts of alternatives to pharmaceutical medication is a disaster in the long term (I am not referring to complementary medicines). Judgement needs to be taken out of the equation here: believe me, anyone who has experienced the full scale onslaught of our illness understands how someone would want to drug themselves into oblivion and numbness with whatever is at hand. Unfortunately, not only does this only delay the inevitable but it makes the inevitable even worse. Regrettably, it is still very difficult for us to separate substance abuse as a social sport from substance abuse as a desperate attempt to escape the excruciating nightmare that is our condition.

7.  Thou shall not expect psychiatrists to  understand what you are going trough

My psychiatrist put it beautifully when he said "we understand the symptomatic nature of your condition but we have no understanding what it's like to experience it". My psychiatrist is a precious fellow because few medical specialists ever admit to their limitations. The only thing we can do is provide our psychiatrist with as much 'quality data' as we can to help him/her help us. This is a huge challenge for us because we are not best placed to be our own detached observers and data collectors when we can hardly tell our own backsides from a hole in the ground! This is where the psychiatrist's questioning skills and his/her encouragement can make such a big difference. Let's not forget either that psychiatrists are human beings too (even if some of them do a god job of hiding it) and they too get frustrated and even upset when they are unable to relieve a patient's pain. Yes, even psychiatrists can become 'depressed' by repeated treatment failures.

8.  Thou shall not be an idiot and think 'mental' illness is all in the mind

All in the mind means all in our thoughts, conscious or sub-consicous. Such thoughts can be referred to as imaginings - in fact, ALL thoughts are imaginings of sorts. We don't have to believe them and yet it is part of the human condition that we ALL do exactly that. Our thoughts are only thoughts: they are not our reality, even if they end up creating our reality when let loose inside our heads for too long. In my experience, 'mental' illnesses such as BPD are 3 things:

  • A brain dysfunction (accepting that years of repeated unhelpful negative thinking end up influencing our brain chemistry). There's not much we can do about that except of course guard ourselves from long-term ingrained negative thought patterns. Because some of those thoughts are deeply hidden in past memories, paying attention to our feelings is often the best way to bring such deeply rooted subconscious thinking to the surface of our awareness. Having said all that, even a Professional Queen of Positive Thinking such as me could not override a malfunctioning brain
  • The physical effects that our brain dysfunction has on our whole bodies. Let's not forget that our brain is the control centre of our physical selves. This is where being our best observer and encouraging our loved ones to be best observers too (our mirrors) can really help
  • The way we react emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually to our cerebral dysfunction and its physical effects. This the part we must take fully on board. This is where our most important work must be done, understanding that acceptance does not mean capitulation and letting go of control does not mean letting go of responsibility. Not easy but essential.

9.  Thou shall not be a bigger idiot still and expect not to have to mend your ways

Following on from above, we must understand that the attitude and behaviour that brought us to the psychiatric ward cannot be the same attitude and behaviour that will take us out of it. We may not be able to eradicate our illness from our lives but we CAN limit its devastating effects on ourselves AND on our loved ones. A BPD crisis is ALWAYS a call to change something. Once again, a good dose of humility seasoned with a sprinkling of self-reflection must take its place in our medicine cabinet. And another thing: we have no right to take out our frustrations - legitimate as they may be - on our loved ones. Having BPD is not an excuse for behaving like an arsehole (asshole for our American friends), not now, not ever.

10. Thou shall not drown in self-pity and give up hope!

 It is inevitable that we will swim in self-pity some of the time but we cannot let ourselves drown in it. There is a lot of suffering in this world and our own painful little lives are but one insignificant part of it so let's get down from our crosses and keep our pain in proportion, even it it can be excruciating. This is particularly important because our condition is not easily separated from who we are (no excising surgery possible here) and this exposes us to the permanent danger of becoming our illness: I AM Bi-Polar instead of I HAVE Bi-Polar Disorder. I am well aware that hope is a dirty word when we live permanently on the edge of self-destruction. Yet hope there must be - even if it is the hope that ending our lives will end our pain. If hope there must be and we cannot escape it because to hope is to be human, we might as well hope that living our lives will give our pain meaning. Meaning is NEVER a dirty word.

Well, that's my Moses complex (!) over for today - time to go back to sleep.... if I can :D

I'm psyched that you had this

I'm psyched that you had this "Moses Complex" for an evening!!  lol  Really Awesome Job!!!

My Moses Complex!

Ha! ha! ha!  Thank you Shannon  :D xx

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