Awakenings or Delusions

 

Drop

In 2012 I was sitting in my psychiatrist’s office having a very pleasant conversation with her about shamans and healers and their moments of spiritual awakenings.  I let out a little chuckle and said something about how unfair it was having the diagnosis of bipolar disorder that any spiritual awakening I may have would likely be chalked up to a delusion. She tilted her head and, as a sad smile crossed her mouth, she nodded in agreement.

“You have a gift, Nicole, but one that requires harnessing. There are records of people who have burned out those parts of their brains. They dedicate their lives to harnessing this energy and it becomes a lifestyle, a very disciplined lifestyle”.

Confession. After 14 months, I had once again jumped off of all my medications. I had been up, down, and rarely in the zone. My frustration, illness, and inpatient stays lead to these decisions. This is how our conversation transitioned from my blurting out the words, “I’m off my meds, I need to be clear again” to a discussion about spiritual awakenings. I had been off of my meds for three weeks prior to this visit, and I felt good. I felt clear. Holy shit–I actually FELT SOMETHING! I could give as many reasons as you want to hear as to why I thought I no longer needed or wanted to take my meds. I’m gifted, from years of practice, at convincing people to jump on board with my decisions. I was truthful with my doctor. I held nothing back and didn’t whitewash my decision with the usual, “I know what I’m doing” cover-up. Although wary, she listened to me. She understood my point of view and was willing to work with me.

You see, when I get sick, my illness becomes a freight train I can’t control, and I leave a path of destruction in my wake. Sadly, I’m not the only victim. But this time felt different to me. I had been a compliant patient for 14 months and had learned an amazing amount of information about my many moods and the meds that control, or didn’t control, them. I’d learned what triggered me and how to handle the triggers I couldn’t avoid with coping and life skills. In other words, my mind no longer controlled me–I was in charge now, or so I thought. l left my appointment overcome with a raw emotion I hadn’t felt in so long that it took my breath away. It was beautiful. It was empowering. I began to reflect–awakening or delusion?  You decide.

I’ve never been a religious person, spiritual yes, but religious no. In manic states I was in-tune with the Universe, I wanted that feeling back. I honestly felt that the medications held that part back from me. Things made sense to me. Balance, although very difficult to accomplish in a state of mania, was actually something that made perfect sense. Balance of mind and body and spirit just clicked. Under the effects of many different medications while trying to find that perfect cocktail for so long, took that knowledge away from me. While the meds helped to stabilize the moods and the behaviors, they also took away part of whom I was. They took my gift, as I saw it.

I enjoyed a couple of med free months, but like bipolar disorder tends to do, it overtook me again. This time we had a plan in place. Scott and I had both met with my psychiatrist and the three of us had agreed on a plan of action for when this ultimately was going to go down. I was prescribed an emergency med to be taken at the first sign of mania, for three days, before non-compliance set in. Unfortunately, we had to follow through with the plan. I was put back on meds, and admitted for a very short stay in the psychiatric unit to get back up onto a new med regime. I think it was three days in total after my three days of emergency crash meds; all I know is that it wasn’t a good time.

I just had to find that balance between over-medicated and under-medicated, don’t we all? I’m happy to report that I have been back on a new med regime for well over a year now, and it’s been working. We’ve had to tweak it a few times, but that’s to be expected. The key for me is to stay mindful and try to be present. Who’s to say I can’t have my spiritual awakening or Aha moment just because I have bipolar disorder and tend to have some grandiose thinking and behaviour? Everyone, regardless of mental illness or not has something a little eccentric about them, don’t you think? I love that about people, I encourage it. Have your moment. Don’t let a label tell you it isn’t something special. And now I ask you this same question-awakening or delusion?

9 comments

  1. words are hard for me after reading this last one. this is a good thing! medicated….treatment! such a finicky fine line in finding peace and destroying the unbridled but sometimes deadly talent that so many suffer. With her meds she could be so drawing or such a train wreck! although her meds saved her from the always impending train wreck they often also took away her from us, leaving us a shell that looked like a tortured zombie version of her but an empty hull on the inside. your words can help so many Nic, those suffering and those he have a hard time empathizing/understanding because they can’t even begin to imagine what is going on. Please keep writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Leea, your Mom woukd be so very proud of you right now. You are such an amazing mother yourself. I know things weren’t always easy, but you are one of the most compassionate people I know. Your story, her story is one that will help me to keep writing. I hope you do too. So much love to you. ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I’ll have to pop up my own disclaimer for this response: I’m in no way encouraging that anyone go off meds. This is something every patient needs to discuss with their doctor and loved ones, but, to answer your question: I’ve had all three work for me.

    I have successfully managed without any medication, with just my spiritual “medicine.” I have to be as disciplined with that as I would normal meds, but it worked for me better than any combination of drugs ever has.

    However, I am not against drugs, and I know I need them from time to time, especially when I start slacking on my spiritual meds. So, right now, since I’m not feeling as spiritual (and I am religious, so that’s what I call spiritual since my religion is of the spirit) and have other factors preventing me from being how I used to be with my faith, I’m back on medications.

    I’ve also been religious AND on medications, with success.

    I’m most satisfied without medication, but I’m aware enough of my conditions to understand (and accept) that I need them. I haven’t decided what I’ll do long term (stay on meds for life or rotate between meds and no meds) but right now I’m doing both: my medication and my religion. Maybe this is the combination I needed because, for me, meds alone just don’t cut it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a difficult topic really well handled, Nicole. I don’t just think–I KNOW my meds stifle my creativity which I really miss the most in post-med life. I’ve only completely gone off meds (not by choice) during a Pajama
    Hilton stay for detox and start all over. It was horrendous and I know why I must take these meds the rest of my life. Interestingly, over time, I’m finding that I can reach down and pop some of that creativity back, without going into full blown mania. Maybe you can have it all. Thanks for blogging this….it must have been hard to write, yet so important to share.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This has been a key issue for me as someone who has bipolar and also follows a spiritual program which includes ‘spiritual awakening’. One of the earliest psychotic episodes I had while manic felt like a spiritual experience. However, it eventually went off the rails. The risk is that I became out of communication with the world around me. I needed to be brought back down with a medical intervention and the inevitable depression followed.

    So, I try to keep my feet on the ground and proceed with caution when it comes to mental flights. Medication helps keep me in bounds, but I have lapsed into psychosis on medication. Lack of sleep was the main catalyst.

    I think of it like this: A spiritual or high experience is a wonderful part of life open to anyone. My pursuit of science in graduate school led me to intellectual peaks that were enlightening. It is like being exposed to a great work of art, a film. For most people, when the curtain closes they go home and have fond memories of the event. As one who has bipolar, I want to make life itself the theater, and the lines get blurred. It becomes the Sirens’ song. I try to remember that the show ends, and most of life is outside the theater where I engage in relationships and responsibilities. If I can keep this balance, more or less, spiritual experiences become more life affirming and less potential descents into serious symptoms of my disorder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ZW, this is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

      “A spiritual or high experience is a wonderful part of life open to anyone. My pursuit of science in graduate school led me to intellectual peaks that were enlightening. It is like being exposed to a great work of art, a film. For most people, when the curtain closes they go home and have fond memories of the event. As one who has bipolar, I want to make life itself the theater, and the lines get blurred.” You’ve nailed it right there, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, it’s really appreciated.

      Love & Light,

      Nicole

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Nicole for articulating so beautifully and thoughtfully your struggle to find balance with and / or without psychiatric medication. Finding the perfect chemical balance to quiet the mania, and the swells requires discipline, resilience and mental stamina. The devastating effects on your ‘derailed freight train’ are all too familiar, and wreak havoc on the pysche and everything in its wake including loved ones. I believe the pysche meds are necessary at times to quiet the chatter, ultimately saving one’s life. They also kill and dull all clarity, spiritual awakening, and insight. Perhaps the ‘awakening’ is merely tapping into a higher consciousness, the mysteries of the mind and places in the brain most don’t ever visit. I do believe our spirit is perfect and we are born sound.

    And I wish serenity, and strength as you navigate your way through your life and illness with grace, mindfulness and a touch of beautiful eccentricity.

    Xx Jackie

    “You have a gift, Nicole, but one that requires harnessing. There are records of people who have burned out those parts of their brains. They dedicate their lives to harnessing this energy and it becomes a lifestyle, a very disciplined lifestyle”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, boy, isn’t that a constant question, “Awakening or Delusion?” Finding the sweet spot between gift and curse, prophecy and raving. And the task of disciplining, taming just enough the wild horses of inspiration. Its no small thing even without the extra challenge of riding the bipolar roller-coaster. Your gift is true, Nicole, and the work you share of managing it is inspiring..

    Liked by 1 person

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