Karate is changing something in me, on a level so basic that it is before-words.  I don’t really understand what’s happening, on that level, but I trust it, and [Sensei], enough to let it happen. At this stage, I worry that understanding would allow me to evade the ways it’s shaping me.

Six years ago, I would’ve interpreted “not wanting to control” as “not wanting to be responsible”, but my life since then has been a practice in humility; I don’t have to control a situation to be responsible for what I do, and vice versa. Karate has continued developing that humility; to be in classes here is practice in taking constant correction from people who know more than you – correction to which there can be little response other than to seek understanding and to practice, or to quit.

This process of correction is interwoven with the kyu structure. To learn, to advance, you have to teach others – and, of course, to teach, you have to learn. Since teaching is twined with practice, practice here is intrinsically social; just being in class is communal and comfortable.

Because our interactions are formalized, I find it easier to trust people here, which is useful, because a lot of karate has involved giving up control. Giving up control of where to hold my thumbs, of how to tie my belt, of when to bow. Giving up the illusion that competence can be obtained without decades of practice. Giving up the illusion, again and again, that I could defend myself from all physical assaults now.

In my personal symbologies, karate feels like a the exacting-ness of pure math, and also like the abnegation of Catholicism. Two-in-one.

Paradox: karate is about defense of self, but it is also about how to do something bigger than yourself.

After an assault, I journaled a lot about wanting a body that could be something “other than the bait and the catch and the kill”. When kicked into fight-flight-freeze mode, my body always picks freeze. It makes me feel so helpless, that my first reaction to a threat is muscles loosening, throat dropping, thought freezing. I wasn’t sure what chance I had of ever being something other than “the kill“, with a body like that.

But karate consists of talking about assaults, and yelling, and other people yelling, and moving anyways; and doing the same drills hundreds of times so that it’s easier to move anyways, no matter what. (Because if you stay still, you’ll definitely get punched, but if you move, at least maybe you won’t, and slim odds are better than none.)

The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants.

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A List of Bipolar Resources

[Description: List of management options for bipolar that expand beyond “medication & more sleep”.]

  • Community mental health centers.  Besides those which are explicitly centered around mental health, I would also look into other community health centers.  For instance, some LGBTQ centers offer sliding-scale-priced counselling.
  • Prodrome tracking.  “Prodrome” = the warning signs or first symptoms of a mood episode starting.  You can make lists of the warning signs you’ve experienced (or usually experience) for manic episodes, depressive episodes, mixed states, self-harm or substance abuse relapses, paranoid thoughts, etc – and then can start doing preventive actions earlier, rather than when something has already become an episode.  For instance, one of my warning signs for mania is taking long walks in the afternoons and evenings, so when I notice myself having urges to do (or doing) that, I start doing things like reducing stimulation and making sure I’m sleeping and eating regularly.
  • Mood tracking.  You can do this on paper, on computer programs or documents, or on phone apps.  I use iMood journal, which is a $1.99 iPhone app that involves rating your mood on a self-constructed scale from 1 to 10.  I find that mood tracking works best when combined with a) recording what you’re doing and feeling each day (like journaling) and b) prodrome tracking.  This helps you pick up patterns and potential triggers for mood episodes.  For instance, a major mood trigger for me is any sort of travel, and mood tracking helped me notice that.
  • In-person, free support groups.  depending on where you are (rural/urban, country, transportation ability, etc), this will vary widely.  and in my experience in the U.S. they tend to be extremely white.  [from here on this is all US/UK groups:] there are generalized mental health support groups, groups like Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, or those run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  If dealing with substance abuse (as many bipolar people do, and which can worsen bipolar), groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous might be helpful.  If dealing with psychosis (either as part of mania or separately), groups like the Hearing Voices Network might be helpful.  I personally have found that the most helpful groups for me are ones based in Buddhist teachings. different people will find very different things to be helpful or harmful.
  • Workbooks for CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) can be checked out from libraries, found online, or bought online for $10-$30.  I’ve done a CBT workbook called Mind Over Mood (http://www.mindovermood.com/), who also have an amazon page of other cbt books http://www.mindovermood.com/other-books.html.  I’ve also independently used an official DBT workbook called the “DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets” that is used in DBT groups. It is, genuinely. the best $30 i’ve ever invested.
  • If you’re more of a theory person and can currently read at a college-ish level, then reading medical or psychiatric works that have formed the workbooks can be helpful.
  • Getting disability accommodations at work and/or school to try to be able to better accommodate your own needs can be helpful.  The accommodations available will depend on how much you’re willing to out yourself, the resources your school and/or work provide, the laws in your country or area around disability, etc.  But being able to request extensions on schoolwork, leave work for 20 minutes to try to help calm down panic attacks or thoughts that are starting to race, and similar allowances, can be very helpful for many people, and have been for me.  Different accommodations programs might require medical records, but different things meet those standards (for instance, my college accepts notes from its own counselors.) Alternately, getting on disability assistance when/if you are unable to work — though I have never done that, and don’t have any resources. (Comments section is open if you have any! I would love to add them here.)
  • If you want to access therapy sessions and are not sure where to start, Gruntled and Hinged has a series of posts on how to do so here: https://gruntledandhinged.com/2014/05/12/the-s-guide-to-getting-a-therapist-masterpost/
  • Supplements can help some people.
    • I find more studies on depression than bipolar, but omega-3 supplements, vitamin D supplements, B-complex vitamins, and turmeric/piperine are all things I’ve seen linked to helping depression, sometimes explicitly to bipolarand/or atypical (oversleeping-overeating-etc) depressions.  You don’t need a prescription for these. (I’ll save a literature review for another post…)
  • Looking into interpersonal & social rhythm therapy (IPSRT). IPSRT consists of learning or figuring out different ways to help standardize your sleeping times, waking times, eating times, and exercising times, can be very helpful in regulating mood disorders.
    • Basic website here: https://www.ipsrt.org/background. 
    • There’s a free clinician-targeted course you can take at http://www.ipsrt.org/training — you have to register and say you’re a care provider, but you don’t have to validate that. It has worksheets and info sheets!

Various other resources: 

bipolarUK faq page: https://www.bipolaruk.org/Pages/FAQs/Category/i-have-a-diagnosis-of-bipolar – has mood scale & mood diary pdfs that can be used to track mood; has links to phone/in-person/email programs to help you talk to people who might understand.  UK-based.

If you have psychotic symptoms, e.g. hearing voices, then Intervoice Online – http://www.intervoiceonline.org/  – as well as its “child sites” Hearing Voices Network usa http://www.hearingvoicesusa.org/ – and Hearing Voices Network UK – http://www.hearing-voices.org/hearing-voices-groups/find-a-group/

A dialectical behavior therapy skills handbook (NOT the official one) is available here:  https://docs.google.com/file/d/1cyanUui4ZlpL0suxvBoGhgsBQwM5aAsHXKl4U2vdQ7eRPMqcwe-jPuTxqgl2/edit?pli=1

On Psychiatrists Not Respecting Me

[Personal status.]

I’ve been to twelve therapists that I remember.  To three therapists, I had mentioned my discomfort in small, closed spaces.  None of these people had offered to open the damn door, although all of them had made some verbal acknowledgment of the fact that we were sitting together in a small, closed room.  To one of these therapists, I had made an explicit request that we leave the door open, which was not accommodated because it would endanger my confidentiality. (Rhetorical question: What’s the point of confidentiality — to help me, or to avoid a potential lawsuit?)

Today I went to a starter appointment with a “somatic-experiencing”/”spiritual-guidance” person.  During the appointment, I mentioned to this person that being in small rooms with only one exit makes me very nervous, especially when I’m with other people.  Most rooms in which therapy-things take place have this setup, and this room was no exception.  Once I had stated that this made me uncomfortable, without my making a request, she asked if I would like to open the door; when I said yes, she went and opened the door; after she opened the door, she left thirty seconds for me to notice that the door was open, to notice how that affected my body, and to adjust.

I didn’t realize until today, when my discomfort was accommodated, how invalidating most therapeutic environments have been for me.  Something as basic as opening a door has… so often been denied to me, under the guise of others caring for me.