Being Miserable is Easy

Maybe you’re stuck in a terrible job.  Maybe your relationship is toxic.  Maybe you just got dumped.  Maybe you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one.

Whatever the reason(s), your life sucks. 

Yep.

So why don’t you make it better?

Well, you may be suffering from a phenomenon known as learned helplessness.  What is that?

The TLDR version is this: when things have been crappy for a long time, or you’ve been unable to improve things, you just stop trying.

This is one of the soul-crushing forces that stops you from improving your life actually a fascinating topic, and there’s some good science on the matter.  If you’re interested, I’ll let you read a bit more about it on your own; as with a lot of things, the Wikipedia article is a good place to start.  Fair warning, it revolves around a totally-not-unethical experiment involving electrocuting dogs.  Weren’t the 60’s great?

Yes. Really.

Now yes, some things you can’t change, I’ll admit.  And no, I’m not trying to trivialize your very real problems.  No, you can’t bring people you love back from the dead, and no, you’re not suddenly going to cure your mental illness.  You may be going through things that I can’t even fathom, and I hope you get the help and relief you need.

What I am talking about is the stuff that you can do something about.  A lot of the time we’ve trained ourselves that there’s nothing we can do to make our lives better, when really there is.

Take this for example: You hate your job.  You’ve spent the last 10 years climbing up a career ladder that you’d much rather kick over and light on fire.  Now you’re stuck… or are you?

Could you find another job?  Could you go back to college?  Could you start a business with the skills you’ve learned?  Can you transfer positions within your company?  There’s probably something you can do.

The problem is that these things are really hard; isn’t it easier to not do those things?

And that brings us to the title of this post, which I acknowledge may be controversial:

Being miserable is easy.

Now bear with me for a minute…

It’s easy to look at all the crap in your life and say, “you know, things suck, but there’s really nothing I can do about it.”  And now, just like that, you’re done.  You’ve just passed off the responsibility you have to yourself to make things better, and now you can go sit back in your misery chair (probably eating taco bell and drinking a fifth of whiskey… not that I know about these things…)

It’s hard improving your life.  I mean, I’m overweight.  It makes me unhappy.  I’d love to lose weight.  But you know what?  I’d have to stop eating taco bell, and I’d have to start exercising more than not-at-all, and I don’t want to do that because it’s hard!  So I’m just going to sit in this chair and complain about being a fat person on the internet instead.

I’ve got a helpful illustration for this.  Once upon a time I was a chemist, and believe it or not there’s actually a useful analogy to be found in chemistry for what I’m talking about.  I’ll try to keep this light because I don’t remember anything from college because I was drunk the whole time I don’t want to bore you.

Let’s talk a little about chemical reactions and a little concept called activation energy. 

Here’s a basic illustration:

activation energy example
This will be on the exam.

 

So this may be intimidating if you have no exposure to science, but it’s actually quite easy if you take a minute to think about it.

In plain English, this just means if you take THING A + THING B and add the energy required, you’ll get THING C and release the amount of energy indicated.  The solid orange line shows the energy of the system during the course of the reaction.

To make your life easier, you can take THING A THING B + a catalyst and add a lesser amount of energy to get the same THING C and release the amount of energy indicated (The green dotted line indicates less energy is required for this reaction to occur).

OK, so now that nobody’s confused, let’s apply this to your life:

activation energy and you
Science!

At the start, is YOU NOW.  It takes a lot of effort just to get through your day.  If you don’t change anything, it’ll keep taking a lot of effort to get through your day.

But you can change; the downside is that for a short amount of time, it will take even more effort.  Maybe you’re going back to college, or maybe you’re sobering up.  Whatever the case, this is the hill you’ve got to get over.

Maybe you have a friend, maybe you have someone who can help you make that hill just a little bit smaller.  I hope you have this help, but if not, you’re not alone!  Just look at this page!  There are more people just like you and I!

There will come a point when you’re reaching maximum effort; you may be unsure you can go on.  But stick with it and…

BAM!

The reaction completes.  The transformation happens, and your life improves.  You breathe that gigantic sigh of relief, and now it takes less effort just to get through the day.

You made your life better.

But it took energy, it took effort, it was hard.  Being miserable is easy, being happy takes work!

But it’s worth it!

The Day I Murdered My Best Friend – A Poem

I killed my best friend just the other day.

 

Lord knows it was hard, and maybe it was

over the top, but she’d started to hurt

virtually every aspect of my life.

Even still, she poisons my memory.

 

But now I’m afraid of what I must face.

Over the years she helped soothe my loud mind.

Only in her presence did I reach my

zenith, and now without her I feel the

emptiness I’ve been drowning all along.

 

 

 

Parenting and Mania: 5 Tips to Keep Your Head On Straight

Parenting is hard enough as it is, but parenting with bipolar disorder introduces its own set of unique challenges.

We all know little kids are certifiably insane energetic.  They’re excited all the time!  And why not?  Everything is new to them, everything’s an opportunity to learn!  We have so much to do, and we have to do it right now!  

Childhood really is kind of like mania… but unlike you and me, kids don’t really have the ability to completely destroy their lives.  Ah, the good old days!

I mean, I guess your kid could do this too.

But look, when you yourself are going through a manic episode, it’s hard enough to concentrate on 1 of 1000 things running through your head.  Add in some little kids running around, screaming, demanding your attention, and well… it’s enough to make you lose it.

But since losing it is generally undesirable, expensive, and you know… potentially marriage ending, it behooves us to keep it together.

So here’s 5 things I try whenever I feel a hard-core, mania-fueled, child-ignited, explosion of a freak-out session coming on.  And by the way, these 5 tips apply just as equally to those who aren’t suffering from bipolar depression.

 

#1. Drink.

 

 

#2. Get in the Car and Just Start Driving for a While.

 

 

#3. Freak-out just a little.  You know, scream into a pillow and then sob quietly in the closet.

 

 

#4. Maybe gamble a little… like a few hundred bucks… to start…

 

 

#5. Start that brewery!

 

#6: Buy a motorcycle.  #7: Grow a beard.  #8: Get in a high speed police chase and run from the cops?

 

OK, don’t do any of those things.  Seriously, try this instead:

#1. Keep a Schedule.

It’s easier to get through the day if you know it’s going to end.  If the kids go to bed at 8 or 9, then there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.  Set a time, then divide and conquer.

Here’s what I mean: say your kids are driving you to drink enjoying the innocence of childhood, and it’s… stressful.  Don’t think this is endless.  Think, I just need to get through the next 30 minutes.  Then another 30 minutes.  Then 1 more hour and it’s bedtime and I can get some sanity time to myself.

#2. Set Me Time.

So I said put the kids to bed at a decent time.  How about after that you stay up for an hour or two?  Make sure you have some you time.  Chances are your mind’s racing, and there’s a bunch of stuff you need to get out.  Well that’s no good if you don’t have any time dedicated to you.

I’m not saying sleep isn’t important, of course it is.  I’m just saying, get that me time (Also known by my family as “F-You Time”… as in, “F-you, I’m doing what I want to do”).

I know this one seems obvious but it can be really hard.  I’m too busy I can almost hear you saying; or I don’t have the time.  But chances are you just aren’t making the time.  Or maybe you feel guilty making the time?  I have to catch up on whatever chore, or maybe I have to spend every waking second with my significant other. 

Again, not saying you shouldn’t spend time with your significant other… and maybe that’s exactly how you want to spend your free time, and if so that’s great.  But you shouldn’t feel guilty carving an hour or two out of the day for just yourself to do what you want to do.

Besides, you want the time you spend with your partner to be quality time… and it’s not going to be quality time if your manic hyper-brain is making you trace patterns on the brick wall, or if you’re counting bumps in the ceiling, or if you just noticed the floor board joints make a pattern if you look at them from the right angle; or if you’re trying to write a blog post… oh wait.  Hold on honey, yeah, yeah I know, I just need a couple hours to finish this post.  Also, I’m taking the van this weekend, I’m going to Jimmy’s place on the lake… no, no, it’s just a dude thing, you can’t come.  Oh come on, don’t be like that, you’re so unreasonable.

#3. Get a Sitter.

It takes a village.

Ever hear that?  Well it does.

Don’t try to raise these kids by yourself.  You’ll die trying.  My wife and I were too proud to ask for help for the first 6 months of the life of our first daughter.  You know what happened?

Get some help.  Hire a sitter.  Call in a favor with that friend.  Get the grandparents involved.  They’ll love seeing your kids.  And then when things get hard for them?  They can leave!  And by the time you get back you’ll be ready to go again!  2 hours out on the town is like 2 months in parent-years.

#4. Get your kids into something interesting.

I’m not saying take your son whose clearly more into dancing than football and have him try out for the squad.  Don’t force your kids do do something they don’t wan’t to do, or be something they don’t want to be.  Don’t impose the same paternal inferiority complex on your kid that your father imposed on you.  Break the chain!

It looks cute to us – but that kid is devastated.  He’ll remember that forever.  This is how super-villains are made.

Get your kids into something they enjoy, and something you enjoy.  Get them, and by extension you, off the couch.  Make the time you’re going to spend with them no matter what fulfilling and interesting and you’ll both benefit.  You’ll get some of that manic energy out along the way.

But I’m a dude, you say, and I have daughters.  I don’t want to get into dance.  Well whatever dude, your loss.  Get over that toxic masculinity and start living the best life you can.

Get creative.  Go out of your comfort zone.  Don’t you want your kids to do those things?  Well set the example.  And make yourself better, and scratch that manic-itch to learn something new.

#5. When it gets hairy – take a minute.  Or ten.

You’ve been pushed to your breaking point.  Your kid is inconsolable.  You feel stressed.  You feel helpless.  And then you feel angry.  I do everything for you, you have everything you need, why are you still crying?!

What happens next isn’t going to be pretty.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my kid safe?
  2. Are their basic needs satisfied?  i.e., are they clothed, dry, warm, clean, fed?

If the answer to the above is yes, and you feel yourself crossing that threshold into anger, then walk away.  Put the baby in the crib, make sure the toddler can’t get into anything, and walk out of the room.  I’m not saying leave the house.  I mean, you have to stay in the house, pretty sure it’s a crime if you leave (definitely is).

But you can walk out of the room for a minute.  Collect yourself.  Don’t feel bad, it’s OK!  Really!  Sometimes you have to chill.  We all do.  That’s completely understandable.  You might have to do this everyday!  You’re still a good parent, this is really hard man!  Your kids will forgive you… hell, they probably won’t even notice.  You need to forgive yourself.

What’s not good is freaking out in front of the kids, hurting them, or hurting yourself.  Or punching the drywall.  Or kicking the dog.

So that’s it friends!  What helps you?  Let me know below!  Follow me for more!

 

 

 

2 Ways to Change Your Thinking to Get Mental Health Help

I’m a man.

For some reason that single fact alone creates a multitude of problems when it comes to improving my life, or seeking treatment for bipolar disorder… or you know, any number of other “mild” medical issues.

A mild medical issue.

I’m talking of course about toxic masculinity, and the culture that surrounds it.

The key word there is toxic.  Masculinity in and of itself is not a bad thing.  Why would it be?  I’m a man who does man things; that’s all good.

A man thing.

OK, so what do I mean by toxic masculinity?

Well, imagine you see a man sitting with his young daughter having a tea party.  He’s really engaged – hell maybe he’s wearing a tiara, or whatever else his daughter has deemed fit to bedazzle him with.  Masculinity is toxic when your first reaction to that scenario is “WOW, GAY!”  (The inherent logic of said statement being that having a fulfilling and engaging relationship with your daughter makes you enjoy sex with men… somehow?  What?  Also, do we really care about that still?)

Here’s another example: If you’re a straight man, and your reaction to seeing a beautiful woman in public is to shout a pathetic pick-up attempt out of the window of your 2005 Honda Civic that has an aftermarket spoiler that looks like it was designed by Boeing – well first of all you’re an asshole; and also, that’s what I mean by toxic masculinity.  (Again, the inherent logic here goes something like this: she’ll be so impressed by my assertiveness that she’ll start running down the road after me, perhaps stripping naked as she does so, and hopping into my sweet-sweet ride for some road-sex).

This car.  You’ve seen this car.

So, before moving on to the main point of all this, to briefly summarize:

Masculinity:

Car chase added for emphasis.

Toxic Masculinity:

See the difference?

So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about why this is a problem for getting treatment for mental health in particular.

Well, talking about your feelings is not manly.  Admitting you have an issue is even less manly.  You know what is manly?  Bottling all that emotion up for a decade and masking it with an alcohol addiction.  I mean seriously, that shit’s considered manly!  And you’re a real man, aren’t you?

Look, I hate talking about myself too (says the guy currently talking about himself on the internet)… No but really I do.  It’s hard!  Men, we’ve spent our entire lives being conditioned that talking about your feelings makes you less of a man.  But you know what really makes you less of a man?  Being emotionally distant and not present in your kid’s lives.

To quote Salt-N-Peppa:

“…spends quality time with his kids when he can – secure in his manhood
’cause he’s a real man.” – Salt-N-Peppa, Whatta Man.

You know what else isn’t manly?  Bottling all that shit up for years at a time until one day you unleash it on the drywall:

That man is really passionate about his work.  Promote that man!

That shit’s weak.  And I know, because I’ve put more holes in drywall than I’m comfortable admitting to my court mandated therapist.  Come to think of it, I’ve got enough experience patching drywall that I just got another great idea…

rage quit drywall repair

But Matt, how am I supposed to overcome the paternal inferiority complex that’s been drilled into my monkey brain for the past 3 decades?

Well, here are the two very simple things that I’m drilling into my own head to try to get over this… with some success too I might add.

#1: Stop Belittling What You’re Going Through

Depression is real.  It’s not fake.

Bipolar disorder is real, not fake.

Mania is real, not fake.

Mental illness is a real thing.  You’re not a wimp.  You have a disease.  You have a potentially terminal disease if you don’t treat it.  You’d probably treat cancer if you were diagnosed.  You’ll probably do something about that cholesterol.  Why not do something about this too?

#2: Realize You’re a Bad-ass

You wake up every day and immediately go into battle with your own brain.  That’s fucking intense stuff man!  You’re a bad-ass!  You’re a warrior!

You know who else are bad-asses?

These guys:

action-army-battle-163347 (1)

But they’re not too manly to call in the air support when they need it:

I guess in this metaphor this is… therapy?

You’re a bad-ass.  Mental illness is an entrenched enemy – entrenched in your mind and body.  Call in that airstrike!

Ladies, the two tips above apply just as much to you.  Mental health stigma isn’t just a dude thing.  Plenty of women are too proud to talk about this stuff too.

So let’s talk about it!  It’s time to get better.

Talk to this toxic male whose brain doesn’t work down below!  Follow for more.

 

 

 

4 Things You Can Do To Curb Your Manic Symptoms

Your mind is racing, you’re not sleeping, you just maxed out your third credit card, and you’ve started scoping out properties for that brewery you’ve been planning (We’re going to be rich honey, I swear!).  Uh oh, it’s obvious- you’re manic as hell!

It starts young.

Alright, but your wife told you that you can’t quit your job to start that brewery, so what now?  Well, here are four tips I use when trying to quell that loud mind:

…(Oh, and obviously, listen to your doctor and take any prescribed medications).

#1: Put the Drink Down

This one’s tough.  It’s very common for people like you and me who suffer with bipolar disorder to self-medicate with alcohol.  Trust me, I know.

The thing is, you really shouldn’t.

I’m not going to pretend to be holier than thou; this is one I struggle with in particular.  There’s a reason I listed it as number one.

But of course you shouldn’t drink alcohol in excess if you suffer from bipolar disorder (or really at all). It’s a depressant drug that has a significant effect on mood.  This one’s obvious.

So why are you drinking then?

Well, let’s be honest, it’s hard not to drink.  I mean, it’s the end of a shitty day at work.  You and your colleagues just got over the hump.  What do we do now?  Drink.  

Happy birthday!  How do we celebrate?  Drink.

Happy Friday!  Drink.

But it becomes a problem when:

“Hi Daddy!  Can we… – ” Drink.

I’ve found that the urge to drink often passes like a wave.  When experiencing the intense urge to drink, maybe instead you could:

  • Go for a walk.
  • Call you parents, or another loved one.
  • Read a book.
  • Play video games.
  • Take a bath.
  • Drink some tea.
  • Tell your friends you’re cutting down on drinking.  Or if you’re too proud…
  • Tell your friends you’re on some crazy diet (that your wife’s making you do… ugh!) and you’re not allowed to drink.  For some reason we’re not allowed to talk about alcoholism or mental illness, but you can definitely talk about whatever diet craze you’re dabbling in.

Another one that works great for me is:

#2: Better Yourself – Learn Something New

Your thoughts are racing, you’re not sleeping, your brain is on overdrive.  If you can, focus that, and use it to your advantage.  Learn something new!

Personally, when I’m experiencing a period of mania, I like to use that energy to obtain new knowledge, or a new skill.

It’s the 21st century.  There’s no excuse for not knowing anything.  They call this the information era for a reason; you can learn anything online!  Why not use your overclocked mind to your advantage.

Yes, I understand that this is not a silver-bullet for everybody, and it comes with its own drawbacks.  But it’s better than a lot of other things you could be doing.  And honestly, what better use for your time, what surer investment, than increasing your own knowledge?

#3: Spend Time With Loved Ones – Do Something Different

If you have young kids then congratulations!  You’re not the only one with an inordinate amount of excess energy needing to be burned off.  Why not do something with them?

Go somewhere new.  Try something new.  Go out to eat.  Go for a walk.  Switch it up a bit!

No kids?  Do something with friends, your wife, your girlfriend or boyfriend, whatever.  Just don’t spend all your time alone trying to keep it on the rails by yourself.

And lastly…

#4: Talk it Out, Sleep On It

This one applies if you’re thinking about doing something… well, something stupid.  Like buying that BMW right now.  Or quitting your job today.

Talk about what you’re wanting to do with someone you trust.

I find talking to my wife helps when I’m thinking of doing something particularly rash.  Sometimes just saying it out loud will make me realize that quitting my job and moving out of state to start selling bicycle parts out of the back of my mini-van is probably a very terrible idea.  Otherwise, if I don’t reach that conclusion myself she’ll help me find the right path.

Being patient, sleeping on it (if you’re sleeping) can help too.  Anything that slows you down and makes you think through a big decision is important – especially if you identify that you’re experiencing a manic or hypomanic episode.

In conclusion…

These are things that help me.  Your mileage may vary.

What helps you?

 

 

 

 

 

Mania: My Superpower

You know, mania might be considered a kind of superpower.  Just check out some of these benefits!

  • Learn much faster than the average person.
  • Full energy with just a couple hours of sleep.
  • Suppressed appetite.
  • Accelerated weight-loss.
  • Greatly enhanced productivity, critical-thinking, and innovation leading to promotions and financial rewards.
  • A suddenly outgoing personality.
  • and so much more!

What’s not to like?  This superpower has enabled me to become more successful in 5 years than most people will be in their entire careers.  I’ve learned more things than a lot of people will learn in a lifetime.

My other superpower.

Here’s the thing though:

I’d give it up in a heartbeat if I could.

The truth is I’m sick of manic-me leaving depressed-me hung out to dry.  Manic-me promises greatness and elevates me above mere mortals, only to abandon me, and make me watch as it all crumbles like a house of cards.

No, not that house of cards.  And damn you Kevin Spacey.
That’s better.

Manic-me got a great job that depressed-me has absolutely no interest in doing.  I can barely get out of bed each day knowing the job that lies ahead of me.  Now what?

Manic-me tempted me with the joys of countless hobbies and skills from brewing beer, to programming video games, to playing the piano.  Each time I was abandoned on the cusp of discovering joy… on the cusp of growing a curiosity into a passion.  Each time I have been deceived by mania’s lies, then forced to watch as an all-consuming pursuit decays into nothing; it’s like watching a loved one waste away before your eyes, and I know it will happen again and again.

I’m reminded of the Greek myth of Tantalus, who was made to suffer for eternity by standing in a pool of water below a low hanging fruit tree.  Each time he reached for the fruit, the branches would recoil such that he could never satisfy his hunger.  Each time he bent down to drink, the water would drain away such that it was always just out of reach.

tantalus
Image not altered in any way.

I am a modern day Tantalus, constantly denied the fruit of a true, sustainable passion or purpose – forced to decay for eternity, just beyond the reach of what could sustain me.

If you have bipolar disorder I urge you to please not fool yourself.  Mania is not a superpower.  It’s a purveyor of false hopes, and a truly devastating partner to the destruction that depression already wreaks.

A Definitely-Not-Made-Up Study: Responses to Common Questions From People Suffering From Bipolar Disorder

A definitely-scientific study was conducted while heavily intoxicated using definitely-not-made-up techniques to determine the most common responses of the manic, bi-polar author bipolar individuals to common questions and situations.

The following results were compiled using definitely-not-bullshit scientific analysis of a single bipolar person’s a statistically significant sub-section of the population suffering from Bipolar Disorder.

The results detail responses to common questions as a function of mood.

How are you?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed Good.
Depressed Good.
Neutral Good.
Manic Good, how are you?
Fucking Nuts WOOOOO!!!! What a day to be alive!

Would you like fries with that?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed I want all the fries you have.
Depressed Yes.
Neutral No.
Manic No.
Fucking Nuts I want all the fries you have!

How was work today?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed Fine.
Depressed Fine.
Neutral Fine.
Manic Fine.
Fucking Nuts I QUIT LIKE 3 DAYS AGO, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

What are you doing this weekend?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed I’m busy doing stuff… and things… way too busy to make plans…
Depressed Nothing.
Neutral Not much, what’re you doing?
Manic Nothing, wanna hang out?
Fucking Nuts I’m starting a micro-brewery!  What?  No I don’t know the first thing about brewing, but I’m an alcoholic so what else do I need to know?

Do you have a minute to talk about your cable provider?

Mood Answer
Very Depressed No.
Depressed No.
Neutral No.
Manic No.
Fucking Nuts No.

The author of this completely-real-and-not-made-up study is currently unavailable for comment.  He’ll definitely have your money by Friday – or next Monday at the latest!  Once this brewery takes off we’ll all be rich!  Stop calling me, Rocco!