Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BIPOLAR - The Recovery Road

Reaching for a Rainbow?
"The more conscious you become, the more aware you become of how unconscious you've been." _Patricia Sun.
Recovery seems to be a process made conscious through hindsight, even though our pressing desire is for something to happen right now! Becoming conscious and content with the process of improving self awareness has been a lesson hard learned and automatically forgotten in recent days.
The stress of moving house and high fatigue, saw me drop back into an old unconscious pattern. For over a week now I have been stuck in the bipolar trap? A dissociated mind held hostage by my nervous system? My old all or nothing bipolar response to challenge triggered an unconscious stress reaction.

My mind is not as conscious as it thinks it is?

Worn out by three days of heavy lifting as we moved house and shop items here in Bangkok, I needed to let go of thinking and really relax for a few days. Yet here is the catch 22 of my bipolar pattern, "I can't relax," can't spontaneously let go of tensions and allow proper rest and recuperation. Consequently for over a week I've been more unconscious than conscious again! I slipped back into a primary nervous system motivation of tense posture?

For a couple of days there I worried about falling into a real depression again, scared my recovery had simply been hypo-mania. Familiar feelings of defeat were triggered by a deep weariness, my mind so habitually dissociated it has no sense of fundamental body needs. Here is the unconscious trap of my lifelong dissociation, as a hyper-vigilant mind is energized by muscular tensions. Tension that becomes a threat from within me and maintains a primitive nervous system defense known as the freeze response.

Periods of sympathetic arousal, with high levels of stress hormones, will include symptoms of muscle
bracing, bruxism, ocular divergence, tachycardia, diaphoresis, pallor, tremor, startle, hypervigilence,
panic, rage and constipation. These states will alternate with parasympathetic dominance, including
symptoms of palpitations, nausea, dizziness, indigestion, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and incontinence.
The state of low serum cortisol is associated with behavioral responses including social isolation and
withdrawal, substance abuse, constricted affect, denial, cognitive impairment and dissociation, all
relatively parasympathetic states. http://bit.ly/foqA9Q

In more lucid moments I told myself to let go of the muscular tensions firing this heightened dissociation. Yet unconscious motivation saw me slip back into tense postures time and again with the associated negative thoughts. Tension really has been a life long issue, from the three day labor of my birth to the resentful atmosphere you could cut with a knife in the family home. I believe that habitual and unconscious tensions are the core issue in my lifelong bipolar disorder. A belief formed by an education into neurobiology and the role my autonomic nervous system has in affecting brain chemistry.

For many months now I have been steadily improving my awareness of subtle internal tensions, coming to sense how my nervous system sends feedback signals to my brain. Stress triggers unconscious nervous system reactions based on our life experience, and I'd fallen into a tense muscular stress response. Habitual muscular tension throughout my life seems to be the very nature of my dissociation and the meaning of hyper-vigilance.

Today as I begin to recover normal energy levels, conscious awareness is rising as the unconscious stress reaction from the house move subsides. Today brings the question of just when I slipped into unconscious reactions and just how conscious my mind really is? I certainly lost sight of the rainbow that symbolizes hope for a couple of days there, and I'm reminded of the complex unconscious processes on this recovery road. Others I'm sure will agree that there is no 'this or that' event, no magic recovery moment we can point to.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" _John Lennon

You could say that reality happens within us while we are busy thinking? For what does my first quote really mean? "The more conscious you become, the more aware you become of how unconscious you've been." Stephen Porges "The Polyvagal Theory," shows how the autonomic nervous system is crucial to our unconscious motivation. While others have discovered the motor cortex of the brain seems to be activated before the higher cortex levels responsible for our thoughts.

The brains activity began about 500 milliseconds before the person was aware of deciding to act. The conscious decision came far too late to be the cause of the action. It was as though consciousness was a mere afterthought - a way of 'explaining to ourselves' an action not evoked by consciousness. Peter Levine "In an Unspoken Voice"

Over the past four years a self education in neurobiology has raised my level of awareness, I think? New awareness of subtle body sensations and muscular tensions in particular, not an awareness of mind. My particular road to recovery has taught me that the subjective rationalizations of mind are meaningless unless we understand something of the electro-chemical process that creates it. Learning to feel unconscious chemical activity through subtle body tensions allowed me to see that rainbow of hope again after decades of trying to identify my bipolar problems through my mind.

Persisting with education and new experience, while resisting the impulsive urge to 'fix it right now,' has been key to my recovery. Although the sharp dip in energy and mood over the last week, reminded me just how unconscious life is. In altered states of mind people with mental anguish experiences are accused of loosing insight into normality. As the first quote suggests though normality is not as conscious as people like to believe it is. Normality is perhaps more instinctual than intelligent, more reactive than rational, with normal insights grounded in a dissociation from the mystery of nature.

On my own recovery road I continue to learn from new experience and education, and I continue to ask myself "just how unconscious have you've been?" Learn from experiences like the unconscious motivation of the past week or so, when I'd dropped back into my "freeze response." An evolved response of the nervous system that is below the awareness of my mind? As I write this article I'm frustrated by duller thinking compared to before we moved, and I need to remind myself to feel the nature of this state?

I'm not completely comfortable in this new place yet and my lifelong over sensitivity will take time to settle here. Feeling this reality rather than trying to think of a reason for my frustration, allows me to sense an unconscious freeze response. Feeling it allows me to accept its reality as my nature, my biology of instinctual motivation that no clever mind conversations will alter. Feeling it allows me to get back the kind of body/brain/mind balance that I'd lost during the unconscious stress reaction.

Feeling and its acceptance brings me back from the mirage of subjective thinking that is the nature of my lifelong dissociation. Lost in a subjective fog that was energized by the denied muscular tensions of my evolved freeze response, my animal nature. Feeling gets me in touch with the process of recovery and the power of "now" that the mind seems intent on escaping. Perhaps this is our human dilemma, in that the mind is dissociation, born over millions of years of slowly magnified animal freeze response?

This week though, I'm content to have a sense of that rainbow again, happy to dwell in the feeling process and its direction, rather than think of an "I've fixed it" destination. This week I'm happy to feel and accept my life as it is, as it has been, might have been and could be if I remember to feel more conscious, instead of just thinking "I'm conscious."

"The good life is a process, not a state of being. 
It is a direction not a destination." _Carl Rogers

How do YOU do Dissociation?
Bipolar Recovery
Bipolar Condition
Bipolar Disorder States
Trauma Exit
Bipolar Instincts
Calming Your Bipolar Symptoms
Mania Dreams & the Roots of Psychosis
Neuroception An Unconscious Perception?