I sat in a chair at a psychiatrist’s office and am asked questions that provoke me to describe both my depressive and hypomanic states.
It was painful yet enlightening.
When I am depressed I am stupid, lazy and useless.
When I am depressed I am weak, unlovable and a waste of skin.
When I am depressed I am paranoid, reactive and delusional.
When I am depressed I am pitiful, annoying and ugly.
When I am depressed I am melancholy, bitter and pessimistic.
When I am hypomanic I act confident, charming and charismatic.
When I am hypomanic I act brilliant, energetic and captivating.
When I am hypomanic I think I am beautiful, loving and seductive.
When I am hypomanic I think there is no challenge I can’t overcome, no problem I can’t solve and no goal I can’t reach.
I described my depression and hypomania in two very different ways.
Polar opposite experiences, but it is the language that is telling.
The negative traits are who I am; the positive traits are how I act.
All the negative traits are engrained; the positive traits are impermanent.
Until it was pointed out to me this is something I didn’t realize. I never gave the language much thought.
Are these positive traits part of me, accentuated by an illness, rather than an illness being responsible for them?
What if it wasn’t hypomania that gave me these wonderful gifts? What if they were part of who I am?
There has been no doubt in my mind that the negative traits are part of me, so why not the positive ones as well?
Rick Henson the author of Buddha’s Brain says the mind treats negative experiences like Velcro and positive experiences like Teflon.
Henson also explains that from studies on neuroplasticity we know that these thought patterns not only become habitual, they also change the make up of the brain.
So I have started on a journey to change my brain for the better.
Change My Language
I am confident, I am charming, I am charismatic, I am captivating, I am beautiful, I am brilliant, I am loving and I am seductive.
I can be pessimistic, I can be reactive and I can be lazy.
Embrace and Savor the Positive
Henson says this strategy changes the brain’s structure in a very effective and powerful way.
To change the brain after a positive experience all it takes is 10 seconds. Ten seconds to acknowledge it, to appreciate it and to feel the emotion that comes with it.
Every morning I am taking the time to write down three things I am grateful for.
And I am trying to take a few seconds at different points during the day to be aware and grateful for what I am experiencing.
So, who am I?
I am whom I am willing to create. With both strengths and flaws remembering I do have strengths and not just flaws.
I also need to remind myself I am not my illness, but accept that my illness is part of my life.