If you're addicted, you know that mood swings
place you in a tug of war between manic and depressed. Even when you haven't
been diagnosed with a mood or behavioral disorder, the mood swings leave you
raw and vulnerable to relapse. Friends and critics will say, "Why don't
you just quit acting like that and get on with your life!? Just make up your
mind and DO it! Why can't you help YOURSELF, for a change!?"
SELF-HELP LITERATURE ABOUNDS,
...and it probably works for someone who CAN help themselves. That brings up a
dicey subject though, doesn't it? I refer to the subject of helplessness.
I might convince myself in my most vaulted manic state, or in my most righteous
high, that I can do anything, but when I look at my track record, I have
generally expended a lot of energy doing nothing. In the depressed state, or my
most total downer, I have no motivation to do anything. If I could live in the
balanced state, neither manic nor depressed, neither "up" nor "down",
would I be able to accomplish something--well focused, evenly applied effort, goal
clearly in mind? I think I have to answer ambiguously, because I haven't ever
experienced a significant state of balance (emotional). I also have to question
whether the mental resources available to me in my manic (high) state would
actually be available to me in the balanced state. I ask that, because those
resources aren't there when I am depressed (down). If anything, I have
demonstrated clearly that I have neither the will nor the capacity essential to
cure myself or make myself better.
That's the oxymoron of self-help. Self help demands that I tap whatever inner
resources are available to me, and, using my will, apply those resources to
what ever shortcoming I perceive in myself; but... I don't seem to HAVE a
reliable reservoir of those inner resources! Of course my "shortcoming" is
always something I want to change about myself or my life.
I think self-help books are popular because they allow the aspiring
reader to apply the book's advice discreetly, often in total private and
solitude--like a secret personal war against aspects of me that don't measure
up to standards. Whose standards are they!? ...they are standards I have adopted
from someone else--someone who has something I don't have; does something I
don't do; lives in a way that I don't live. If I try to "fix" myself
under the terms of the self-help book and my attempt fails, then the self-help
book amplifies my failure, doesn't it? ..., and I feel now not only the stigma
of helplessness, but also the frustration of failure. The fact that I kept
private my effort to make a change and avoided the scrutiny of critics does not
assuage my sense of failure. It is my opinion, by and large, that self-help
books excel best in enhancing the futility and failure I perceive in my life.
Of course I could console myself and say that by buying the self-help book, I
have helped its author!
So I have learned through such failure to sidestep any efforts at self-help by
seeking help from sources outside myself! To justify that thinking, I have to
ACCEPT that, sometimes at least, I need help. Even more fundamentally, I have
to accept that dealing with my disease, lacking any known cure, is actually a
matter well beyond self help (No argument there)! Acceptance of the
debilitating power of my disease DOESN'T mean I allow my addiction and my
bipolar disorder to become my master, but I DO acknowledge that these diseases
are as much a part of me as my arms and legs.
I'll offer you some counterpoint here to highlight the value of submission or
surrender to issues of helplessness (Bear in mind that submission or surrender
DOES NOT MEAN DEFEAT--it merely implies a need to change my battle plan):
When I rely ONLY on myself for help (self-help) and I fail, I have exhausted
my resources; and the only product of that kind of failure is hopelessness. If,
however, I TURN TO OTHERS for help and that help fails, I still have a universe
of people and resources to search for a solution! I can thus continue to have
hope, and I can move forward with that hope. So I argue that accepting my
helplessness, actually increases my resources and my prognosis for success! It's
the same old paradox, "SURRENDER TO WIN!"
Another thing that helps me to accept my disease is the solid faith and belief
that being different from someone else is not necessarily bad. Happiness, as I
see it, is a universal commodity which seems to depend strictly on how much, OR
how little, I demand to make me happy.
So I try not to languish in my "disease." Rather I seek help to deal with it
and move on to what makes me happy. Doesn't that sound like acceptance?
Thanks for being a part of my recovery!
This article was contributed by James Rist, author of "Blessed to be Bonkers"