“I compare myself with my former self, not with others. Not only that, I tend to compare my current self with the best I have been, which is when I have been mildly manic. When I am my present “normal” self, I am far removed from when I have been my liveliest, most productive, most intense, most outgoing and effervescent. In sort, for myself, I am a hard act to follow.”
― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
Before anyone put a label on it, or on me, I was actively searching for ways to still the madness. Growing up in a household with 8 very lively human beings was always a challenge. There was never space, rarely was there quiet; not even at night, when there were always at least 3 sisters sharing a bedroom.
By my second year, I had acquired the much-coveted single room. It was small, but efficient, and it was mine alone. I was almost 20 years old, and I had my own space for the first time, ever.
It was then that I discovered yoga, and very soon after, meditation. It was to be the temporary calm in my ongoing storm.
It helped with, but did not prevent, the depression and mania that followed just a few short years later that almost led to my undoing. A disorder that I refused to accept or treat until it was almost too late.
It came and it went away. I assumed it would always be temporary, and I could deal with it on my own. My family’s orientation was to avoid medicine and psychotherapy at all costs. They never knew about me; it was never discussed. They certainly never knew how close I came to paying the ultimate cost.
And much like the author of this book, I enjoyed the “mildly manic” state, stayed there as long as I was able; until people started looking at me with concern and fear; until they started suggesting that I needed help.
If not family, friends noticed. They saw the temperament change; how quickly I went from zero to ten on the anger scale; how the tears were followed by jokes and laughter. They saw the bravado and untamed fearlessness; the inflated sense of power and abilities; the risk- taking to the point of danger; the reckless wandering in places and situations that would make a rational mind cautious.
I was in my 20’s, and while I was bright and accomplished in some ways, I also had lost my edit feature. I said what everyone was thinking, but knew better than to express. It created conflicts in my relationships, and in my career. I was out of control, but it lasted months, not years. That came later in the form of regret and depression.
I nursed myself through these ups and downs into my early 30’s before getting the help I needed; the help that saved my life and allowed me to move forward.
But I never forgot those quiet moments of meditation. They worked for as long as they could. And it helped.
I recently stumbled upon this 9 minute segment. It is a great introduction for anyone who wants to try. It surely will do no harm.
Hoping for a 2015 filled with moments of quiet, peace, and a focus on the present.