Understanding and Awareness Part II

When I google for the meaning of awareness, I notice common terms like knowledge, perceptions, understanding, consciousness. Its online definition is “knowledge gained through one’s own perceptions or by means of outside information.” By that, it means I know I would need to see my Doctor if my daily functionality was severely compromised by depression. This knowledge came from my perception of past experiences. So I am aware . But awareness did not come to me easily.

Awareness and Me

Awareness The Knowing

Awareness is essential and to keep an open mind for the element Awareness is much needed. As awareness is elusive and spontaneous, I never see it coming and it arrives unannounced. Perhaps another term to describe the moment and feeling is ‘Ah Ha! So that it is!’ the case. Awareness is elusive, either I have it or not. Most of the times being aware is about learning more about myself. Not all awareness is well-received. There are times when being aware is a brutal awakening and an end of being in denial. It took me donkey years to be aware and convinced that I had been ill mentally. I seemingly know that I am sick but I could not understand the-how, as I have been physically all right.

The knowing that I had been anxious and worried on the eve of a major exam, skipping schools for days to weeks, speaking rapidly with racing thoughts, first attempt of suicide at a young age 12 years old — these behaviors blatantly glaring at me, I know and yet the least aware that I have been sick when I was a child. The knowing is present but the level of awareness is almost none. Perhaps awareness and denial are both ends of a continuum on each end. I know but I am in denial or I know, and I am awakened, conscious of its full impact on my life. I can say too, with understanding, awareness becomes more ready to befriend me. So what is the role of awareness on managing my Bipolar journey?

Managing Bipolar With Awareness

Being aware means knowing beforehand and knowing what steps to take for the next course of action. On a bipolar-depressed day, negative thoughts were unrelenting and I would show contempt and behave unreasonably. Often it comes with an abrupt emotional outbursts, loud shouting and screaming on top of my voice, directed at my siblings. At this point in time, it is obviously late to say I was aware as damage had been done, relationship had been scarred. However with awareness it can alert me when I have negative thoughts, I will be able to ask “is this a valid thought supported with evidence?” Should I get a Yes-answer, I can ask again, “do I want and/or need to act on it?”

Similarly on a bipolar-hypomanic day, I would encounter thoughts like “Am I spending too much for this grocery shopping trip? Buying too many biscuits, stocking up too many cooking oil?” Other thoughts like getting a party dress and a pair of new shoe to go with it, buy a new smartphone, a new labtop and a labtop bag, a luggage. Thank goodness no car nor a house loiter into my thoughts. Knowing beforehand, I’m aware of the symptom of hypomania has surfaced, I can act accordingly by asking “I seem to be experiencing hypomanic symptoms, I better not buy this item now? How about take a wait-and-see approach?”

My Ally AwarenessBest Ally

 

Awareness is a powerful tool to aid my thought processing and search for the underlying emotions. With awareness I have more autonomy to make responsible choices on my behavior. It certainly ease the pain of regrets should I not be aware of my thoughts and emotions on day-to-day happenings. On a wider scope, awareness allows me to be pragmatic on frustrating life issues like “Why am I unable to hold on to a job like any other normal being?” The emotions of envy and sadness can be overwhelming. What I perceived has limited my confidence and ability, I have drawn a circle that I walked into it, believing I am unable to deliver and perform. I become aware that I have subconsciously blame my inabilities on my Bipolar illness, using it as an excuse to hide behind my fear of failure or rejection.

In the nutshell, it is fun to ally with Awareness as at any instant one may have an ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment. My two best friends Awareness and Understanding (Part I) will be my lifelong companion. They help me to recover, manage my illness, and grow into a better person I desire to be.

Understanding and Awareness Part I

Understanding and awareness are two powerful ‘tools’ on my journey in managing Bipolar disorder, I am fortunate to own them.

Why Why Why Me?

At the start of my journey, I have asked the sky, the trees, the One Up There ‘Why Me, Why am I ill mentally?’. Searching for the answers has been a futile endeavour, as the knowing is not a practical coping strategy for my Bipolar condition. Rather I have gotten enmeshed in a web of possible answers that makes me feel more lost and dejected, and the act of finding answers gives me a false sense that I had been problem-solving. This is not genuine understanding, the least for awareness.

Hypomania and DepressionShould I ask the question what causes Bipolar-disorder, I’m likely to find that there are several factors attributing to this physical yet invisible illness. Scientists explain that certain brain circuits and brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) is responsible for the mood swings along the bipolar mood spectrum.A person like me either experience the high of hypomania (or mania) or the lows of mild to major depression. Genes and biological differences (significant physical changes in the brain) are the usual suspects (for almost all mental illness), and risk factors like stressful life events either develop or trigger the onset of Bipolar disorder. Seemingly I have a better understanding. So how now?

Admittedly I am curious about the concept of Understanding and its role in helping me manage my Bipolar condition. How much I understand as in having a sharper visual of the malfunction in brain circuits and neurotransmitter, gives me clarity. With this piece of information, I am more willing to accept the inevitability that I need medication (Thank Goodness there are medicine for this illness). For how long? Do I really need to know? With medication, I can function productively on a daily basis. That overwrites all other thoughts, perceptions, and biases.

With better understanding, I can differentiate recurring negative thoughts and energy consuming emotions from being the real me. In the past, I was misled into believing that I was always an angry person, not the least a grouchy one under the facade of Depression. I doubted my intentions, did I become mentally sick so that I could get attention and support, and also shirked off house cleaning tasks at home. Rather, I am able to say “Depression is not me”, what really happened was by-products of being ill with Bipolar-disorder. The understanding and the perception of myself gives me strength to move on, and be not in the dumps of depression.

The Way
The Open Door

Understanding opens the door to compassion. Knowing how impactful my life has been disrupted by the illness, and how much anguish, worthlessness, the “pain syndrome”, recklessness, the job opportunities I miss, this sense of injustice is intense. How am I going to reconcile and move on? Compassion is a gentle partner to my recovery. Have I not understood that these injustices I had lived with it for donkey years, is like the spilled milk, gone and irretrievable, I would have bolted my gate, close all windows, and sunk into a deeper and dangerous pit of depression and/or hypomania.

In the nutshell, this sympathetic awareness and tolerance of my intangible physical illness, understanding, like a key, has opened up the door to recovery. How it intersperses with awareness brings about countless “Ah Ha” moments, and serves me a strong, sturdy walking-stick on my journey. I am and will count my blessings.

In my next sharing, I will be writing on awareness, what exactly it is and how it helps me in managing Bipolar disorder. In the meantime, I will part with a question for you, “how does understanding serves you?” I hope it brings about “Ah Ha” moments, the point in time that let you understand yourself.