Plato said “An unexamined life is not a life worth living.” It is crucial that those of us with mental illness and addiction examine our lives very carefully. I’ve done so with therapy, AA, mindfulness, and writing. Through this blog, I unravel my own hidden truths. It’s crucial because without self-awareness there is little possibility of getting better.
Last week, I forgot a morning dose of meds. I was as close to normal during the day as usual, but in the evening I became combative with my family. I was self-aware to the extent that I knew that my behavior was problematic even as I experienced it, but it didn’t stop me for awhile. Eventually, though, I went to be by myself for awhile. That’s something I couldn’t do just a few years ago. But yesterday was different. I forgot my meds again. I remembered what happened before and I began to prepare myself for a bumpy ride.
First, I told my wife that I might need to isolate myself that evening. I then began to formulate a plan. I cancelled an evening engagement. I envisioned myself being kind and pleasant to be around. And you know what? It worked. I was a goddamn delight! I was self-aware.
I know myself very well by now. I do not hide my truths from myself. I may not always do something about it, but I’m observant; observant of my thoughts and feelings. Feelings are important. We learn about ourselves in powerful ways when we examine how we feel about things; how we react. It helps us understand why we feel the way we do, and enables us to change the way we respond behaviorally. This is what allowed me to change my behavior last night. I knew that just because I felt a certain way didn’t mean I had to behave in a certain way.
This is key to people with bipolar. It is an illness of feelings. Our feelings betray our reality. We act on an altered reality in part created by feelings. We must separate our feelings from our reality in order to stay grounded in the real world.