Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The ECR's of Bipolar Disorder


            

            Having bipolar disorder is similar to wielding a razor sharp double-edged sword.We go from one day being unstoppable; on top of the world.  Then - ‘Poof’. Our confidence disappears. We wake up (at noon) feeling empty and devastated with destructive ‘chatter’ repeating in our heads. For what?! This is the world of bipolar disorder. The highs can be dangerously high and the lows can terribly low. No end in sight. Lost in the depths of hell. This all changed when I finally accepted ‘who I am’(bipolar) and made the necessary lifestyle changes to live(thrive) a productive life.             

                  You Can Do It!

           Panic and anxiety sets in when we don’t know what’s happening to us. It’s like the dreams we have when forgot to study for a test or being late for a meeting. It’s terrible. But you have to trust me on this one - IT WILL PASS. This is the number one fact I want people to know. When you’re in a funk, ride it out. Don’t panic or isolate. Make sure to communicate with friends,  family, loved ones. It won’t be easy. We need to break the grip of anxiety through establishing a routine and/or regime. Whether it be reading, yoga, meditation, going for a walk, going to the gym, calling a friend.  We need to be active.  I mentioned earlier in one of my posts that humans were originally hunter gatherers. They had to move to survive. Well, the same applies to depression.

            During my journey, through all the highs and lows, I’ve discovered that there are three(3) pillars that must be build and maintained in order to support  bipolar disorder (our gift)  : Education, Communication and Respect.

          For starters, we must be honest with what we see in the mirror. There is an imbalance that needs to be addressed. And if done properly, we can change the world. However if not addressed, it could be fatal. The trick is to surround ourselves with a solid support team, get our moods stabilized (w/meds and/or holistically), consciously make an effort to reinvent ourselves and adapt to our new way of life.

                                                   Educate

        First we must learn how to use it. It’s very tough to take a test when you haven’t studied and/or don’t have the answers. Once diagnosed, it’s very important to educate ourselves on the history of bipolar disorder and the many symptoms that go with it.  In addition to assisting those diagnosed, there are many books, websites and publications that can help educate our friends, family and co-workers. I highly suggest it be a team effort. It’s a family illness and should be treated as such. Knowing what goes into our bodies and how our brains react to such foods, medicines and drinks is essential.

                                           Communicate

  Communicating with our doctors, therapists and family members is probably the most important aspect of living with bipolar disorder. Initially, much of our pent up anger will surface. As in any recovery, this is natural. Keep a journal. Chart your moods and Purge the negative thoughts and grudges. Take the time let your inner circle know how you feel. If your meds need to be adjusted, talk to your doctor/therapist immdeiately. Go online and join a support group or start a blog (I did). We need to always stay on top of our moods (meds). In addition to our life adjustments, our inner circle (family) needs to make the effort to LISTEN to US as well. In most cases this will be unchartered territory. But that’s the beauty of recovery. Like it or not, bipolar disorder is a family illness, so all those involved will need to participate. It will be a life changing experience and a great opportunity to be ‘reintroduced’ to family. You’ll finally find out who your true friends are. Unfortunately you’ll have to let some of them go. This is life.

                                                 Respect

      The final pillar is that of respect. The respect of bipolar disorder. We must respect the power of bipolar disorder. Always pay attention …Stay focused…. mind, body, spirit. With bipolar disorder, we must be cautious but never scared.  It’s possible to guide our gift. Steer it any direction we choose – Good or Bad.  Just remember, as Layne Staley said – “Our Pain Is Self Chosen”. This means we need to be careful when start to drift into our ‘old ways’. Make a bold highlighted note in your journal of how you felt at your lowest point……..your PAIN. Never forget the hole you were in and never risk going there again simply because you want to feel’ just a little better’. I call this ‘getting greedy with our mania’.  In the beginning of our recovery, 9 times out 10, as soon as our funk flips to our cozy hypo-manic bliss, we all have amnesia when it comes to our pain…..Danger Will Robinson!!  The ‘extracurricular activities of the past’ need to be just that – The Past. When you get the urge, take out your journal and read your notes on ‘Pain’. Circle it. Feel it. Taste it. .............. You have a choice. 

Good Luck to All -  GM





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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Clarity on Draft Day

    The following is a courageous piece written by my former NFL teammate Craig Veasey. Craig and I are working together in order to raise awareness of mental illness in the NFL.  


                            
                   
                                    
My  Houston Oiler teammate Craig Veasey






April 22, 2010 (NFL Draft Day) 

       20 years ago, on this very day, I was high on life. Life was good, I just went from what I thought was just a life of bad luck, to standing on top of the world, but little did I know! I was a young man with problems, who was just handed the key to Pandora’s box. Football was an unrealistic world, which helped foster my illness; all the while I thought that my actions were just the norm of an NFL player. Alcohol, Promiscuity, Drugs and the excessive spending; that’s normal isn’t it? ..... No, its not. 

      20 years later, I have nothing; all wasted away, including all of my young years. With all of the negative attention given to the actions of a hand full of NFL players these days, is it possible that some of it can be attributed to BPD? 1 divorce and the loss of a relationship with my oldest child later, I final have help, and understanding. It took the love of my wife, Lisa, to not only own up to there actually being a problem, but also to actually accepting and getting help. I was lucky, that Lisa actually graduated with a degree in psychology, and recognized the symptoms, but too many people don’t have that kind of support. 

      I still struggle, and it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, to not give in. Two days ago, I was leaving a building here in Houston, and the police were blocking everyone from entering the parking garage. I noticed the medical examiners van sitting on the far side of the entrance, and an over abundance of police in the area. A building employee standing with us, told us that someone had just leaped from the 7th floor, to his death.  I had just been there 20 minutes ago. It had to happen exactly after I walked past there. A lady standing with us commented, “It’s never that bad.” No, it really isn’t that bad, but for us with BPD and other mental illnesses, it’s not always that clear. For a moment, I understood what he might have been going through, to make him give up his life. Could he have been helped, yes, we all can, but there must be more understanding.

“I yearned to get better; I told myself I was getting better. In fact, the depression was still there, like a powerful undertow. Sometimes it grabbed me, yanked me under; other times, I swam free.” –Tracy Thompson, The Beast: A Reckoning with Depression

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I’m taking my meds …. Now what?!


    This is a very common question for those newly diagnosed with depression and/or bipolar disorder. The answer is not that simple. Due to the fact we’ve dealt with an assortment of highs and lows throughout our lives, which one(level) do we choose to be our normal? What is normal anyway? My normal is/was/ used to be tons of energy, boundless optimism and a drive to take on the world. Ignorance is bliss.

    I've been officially dealing with the stigma of bipolar disorder for 13 years. Before that, I was just crazy. The more I dig into the world of mental health awareness, the more I see those suffering being lumped into categories such as ‘ill’, ‘nuts’, ‘unstable’ and ‘unreliable’. Not cool.  The major reason for this stigma(s) is that the ‘simple minds’ haven’t had the pleasure of feeling the wide range of emotions that come with bipolar disorder. They simply don’t get it. And when something in America isn’t understood, it is criticized………….and most likely “treated’.  Ride the storm, people ……….. it will always pass.

      The hopeless romantic, I believed that people are innately good.  My journey has taught me otherwise. They don’t mean harm. Society has taught them this. But when our presence poses a threat on their job, reputation and/or image, the easiest thing to do is ignor(ant) us. And that’s what they do. Get used to it.

     “What happened to Greg? He used to be such a nice boy”.

     Growing up, most of us tried to fit in. Be one of the ‘in crowd’. We often think - “Why do people look at me like this?”  The answer I’ve found is that we are intriguing, mysterious and constantly misunderstood. Could it be that most people want what we have? The ability to be spontaneous, creative and uninhibited usually brought only frowns and smug comments. So when we finally break, those same people come to our aid……”Are you OK?”.......”What’s the matter?”……. “You’re not acting like yourself”. After years of criticism and unanswered questions, we’ll get to the point of “You want to see crazy?! …. Watch this!"
This is when we go off the grid. We experiment, isolate and fight.  The timing of this revolution is never predictable, but absolutely inevitable.  My D-Day erupted when I was 33.

      Luckily I have a supportive family. It’s taken over 12 years, but I caught my snap. I refrain from judging my self-worth on the opinions of others.  I try to live a healthy lifestyle. I resist seeking happiness in external things.  Some of our brethren aren’t as lucky.  So when you sense a problem, pick up the phone. And be compassionate. Compassionate to those that won’t understand but are willing to help.

    Normal

   Once we’re’ stable’, the real work begins. It won’t be easy, but it’s do-able.  We all need to recover from the social conditioning we’ve been made to believe is the truth. We need to re-invent ourselves and make a conscious effort to establish boundaries and trust the process.

    Communicate. Pay attention to your moods. Set goals. Try to be realistic. Never be too proud to ask for help. And seek advise from those that have dealt with depression and/or bipolar disorder first hand. We have felt your pain and would love to help.  

GM 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

NFL Films documentary on Bipolar Disorder

Pretty stoked Steve Sabol at NFL Films has invited me to do a feature on my NFL career. Being one of the few professional athletes to open up about mental illness,  this piece will be  groundbreaking . I will be talking about my career, my current coaching and my battles with bipolar disorder in 1997-present. The topic of bipolar disorder in this interview could  further our goal of breaking the stigma of mental illness. I've got an idea of how to address the forthcoming questions, but I again say I would like some feedback from my readers. \\

I actually think it would beneficial to film our own documentary during the shoot in May. Maybe some creative art student would like to take part. It would be interesting to see the difference between the final products( cuts and editing.)

Let me know if anyone  is interested.

Thanks in advance - Greg

248-752-7572


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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rise Up

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          Over the last 18 months, I've been struggling with the "Why?". After many sleepless nights and introspection, I've come to find the answer is "Why not?". Our pain is self chosen. If we want to co-exist with others, we must weed our own garden.  Clean up our act. A 'mirror approach' on stabilization/recovery/productivity will restore order to our families and communities. We must start with a solid Foundation. The Roots. The Base. The Source.

      In rebuilding our family relationships as well as our communities, the one constant is change. And change we must. One person at a time.

    Bad News -  Psychologically, most our neuroses are  formed in our youth....our developmental years of 1- 6 yrs old. After this age, the computer(brain) is hard wired. Each situation will vary depending on predisposition, social settings, abuse, neglect, life's experiences(tragic/joyous), but the table is set.

 Good news - These patterns can be re-molded through education and spiritual growth in the  community as well as the family unit. It is my experience, that if all we all participate with an open mind, the sensitive issues can be  identified and resolved. It will take a team effort. And the entire team will need to rise up and be honest with the person in the mirror.

    Never for a lack of effort, we constantly fail to find each other's 'sweet spot'. This leads to the feeling of never  understood and self pity.  We need to find a way to communicate. Be heard...... given a voice. Meaning we all must not only support social issues, but choose to engage in the  re-building process as well.  As we all know, the lack of communication, or lack of effective communication for that matter, is the main cause for destructive and rebellious behavior. Tone. Context. Verbiage.Prejudice. No matter the reason, the results are always the same.


   In all walks of life, one must realize that our environment is product of our own thoughts and actions; hence we are part of the problem. Our friends,  family and co-workers are in essence a projection of ourselves. If we engage in the deconstruction of the ego(the attachment to external things), we can take the necessary steps to 'peel the onion' and start to grow. We all have a choice. If we choose to address our own issues(take our moral inventory) fearlessly, we can recovery as a family/community. And it starts with the image in the mirror.

Rise Up - GM

                      

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