Stress is a major problem when you have bipolar. It is the force that makes your life go all topsy-turvy and chronic stress eventually causes your brain synapses to misfire. You quickly learn that you have to adjust your lifestyle or be a perpetual train wreck. I found that most of these adjustments weren’t that difficult. Healthy diet…not a problem, I had been a vegetarian since the age of sixteen and even ventured into veganism for awhile. Exercise, again, not a problem I am on the manic side of the bipolar spectrum I just need to make sure I don’t over do it. Substance abuse, again…not a problem. I don’t even like to take Tylenol if I can help it.
Here is where it got sticky. I needed to implement a routine and it needed to be strict in the beginning. I waived it off like it was no big deal until of course it dawned on me that I didn’t have a routine. I had schedules; work, school, social, parental/familial expectations, obligations and guide lines and given a stage of life or level of importance of the above, dictated my schedule. I soon found out that a schedule and a routine are two totally different animals. It turns out a schedule is more flexible than a routine. Who knew?
Sleep, also presented a problem. I was a chronic insomniac and I was being told to sleep at least 8 hours every night. I was not allowed to have any stimulants…goodbye coffee and iced tea. I was to limit chocolate and sugar which I thought was going to be horrible but it turns out I really didn’t eat chocolate or super sugar loaded goodies as much as I thought I did. Here is where I really stumbled. I was told to take up some form of meditation. Meditation! I am from the mid-west United States, I grew up on a farm and my parents are bible thumpers…I wasn’t even sure I knew what meditation was.
It didn’t change the fact that my doctors wanted me to find ways to slow down, develop an inner calm and get out of my head. I tried yoga and tried my yoga instructor’s patience. Three sessions in and I was asked to leave. I tried guided meditation and couldn’t sit still, I am not built to sit in odd positions while taking a mind journey to…well…anywhere. I am built to herd goats up the side of a mountain. I am short and squat and that doesn’t contort well. I tried sound therapy which was fun but annoyed our pets…actually, it annoyed everyone.
I tried prayer but at that point I wasn’t even sure who or what I was praying to and I broke about 20 mala beads, obviously counting mala beads while praying is like patting your head while rubbing your stomach in my world.. I tried massage but I am very ticklish and I don’t like being touched by strangers. I did like acupuncture but outside of the treatments in the hospital it was impossible to find practitioners in my neighborhood or those surrounding and I am not certain that it fits the criteria of meditation. I found it relaxing but it lacked transcendence. So…after months of trying…to find something and becoming even more stressed out…
I did what I always do when I am upset and frustrated…I painted. Two paintings and an hour later, voila, I had an epiphany. That; was my form of meditation. The entire point to this was for me to reach a point of calm, to stop that hamster spinning on it’s wheel in my mind and rise above my problems. I had just accomplished that. I was in my zone, so much so, that in an hour of time I had completed two paintings and was almost done with a third and I didn’t even remember painting them. I was gone…somewhere else and it had been my phone that had shattered the bliss and brought me back to reality. I realized that its almost always like that when I paint. It starts out an emotional based problem that I mull over while I mix paint and prep canvases, I choose my music and shortly after brush kisses canvas I have transcended time and space until something or someone jolts me back to Earth.
This epiphany made me curious and so I started thinking and I came to the conclusion that our “God-given” talents are built-in meditation centers. How cool is that? Think about it. Sit with the idea of it for a bit. What is it that you do…naturally…that puts you in a zoned-out space, where you go into auto-pilot and yet come back with a sense of something accomplished, or you’re at peace with yourself or an issue in life? Some process that is cathartic?
Meditation consists of various forms of mind-training and your talent is something that even though you are naturally proficient at, you did have to train for. There is a connection there and its that connection that makes it all work. A cultivation of a state of mind by employing techniques that help to induce that state. It is a marriage of the mundane and the sublime. Once I figured it out it has become easy to slip in and out of this meditative state. I used painting at first and then anything creative and now I can just sit and drift into it without effort and it has helped to reduce stress and that little hamster spinning on his wheel in my mind he decided to stay in another realm and I am okay with that.