Happiness is as Happiness does: Musings from a Bipolar Brain

Happy is a feeling and feelings are fleeting. Happiness is a state of being and takes work.

The experience of Happiness is more challenging for some more than others and may seem impossible to achieve.

That’s because Happiness isn’t a goal or destination, but a byproduct, a side effect of the combination of our genetics, circumstances, beliefs, attitudes, and actions.

For many of us coming from lives filled with trauma and/or mental illness it will look different than it does for neurotypical people. We have to work through the trauma and confront ourselves to heal and grow. These are our prerequisites to Happiness.

There is no set formula for experiencing it. However, common and necessary elements include self-care (nutrition, activity, personal hygiene, etc.), engagement in healthy community, gratitude, service, and passionate purpose.

Pain, loss, grief, and other feelings and experiences, often considered “negative,” may suppress Happiness and cause us to lose it. But, what is lost can be found again. The negative doesn’t necessarily negate the ability to experience Happiness.

Of course, I could be way off and this is hypomania talking…but, I don’t think so.

What say you?

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C’mon Get Happy

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This week’s WW topic is “Happiness.”

Today was the first of seven of these workshops I’ll be attending this week on my “90 meetings in 90 Days” journey. (I owe you a post to explain that. Tomorrow. Maybe.) Today’s discussion was interesting. I’m looking forward to see how it gets addressed in the other workshops.

The weekly handout suggested that being happy makes the healthy activities we do in our lives more possible and increases the experience of those things. It also acknowledged that partaking of those activities increases happiness.

The workshop’s Coach listed a formula that determines one’s happiness level:

50% Genetics
+10% Life Circumstances
+40% Attitude, Thoughts, & Actions

My immediate reaction was to scoff at the Life Circumstances percentage. I mean, although it hasn’t been as painful and difficult as other people’s, it’s been generously peppered with a lot of trauma. Consequently, I have PTSD. Plus, I experience Depression, Bipolar 2 Disorder, fibromyalgia, and am parenting a child with regularly tells me things like she wishes I would kill myself or that I had been born dead.

Yeah. Happiness is HARD. That’s a LOT of genetics and life circumstances.

I spend a lot of time fighting tears, dealing with bureaucracy, and managing conflict. I’m skeptical that Happiness is a state of being that’s more than occasionally possible for me.

I think Acceptance and Contentedness are much more doable. I think there can be moments of happiness. I think we have to be emotionally and mentally healthy and functional to be able to experience even those moments of happiness. I simply don’t believe that Happiness is achievable as a permanent state.

All that being said, I have my own formula:

Psych meds
+A supportive community
+Choosing to be in positive environments

The ability to experience happiness.

What say you?

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The journey of self-care

“For to see the end from the beginning is a sign that it’s already finished. It’s just a matter of walking it out to completion.“
Dorothy E. Young

I read this on another Tiny Pepper’s NanoPoblano 2018 blog the other day.

It struck me with its profundity. It seemed quite biblical.

  • I can’t see the end of this journey I’m on. I see the transformation pictures of other women who started out my weight and judgy, cynical, self-defeating thoughts start popping in my brain like popcorn. Thoughts like:
    • How skinny is skinny enough?!?
      I could never get THAT small.
      That’s just too thin.

    The fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter what their size is and it’s not mandated that I get that small and have my body look like theirs. Their journey is different than mine. Their whys are probably different than mine. They are different from me. We are all unique and special in our own way. So are our journeys.

    We do have something in common, though, other than our need/desire to lose weight.

    Learning how to care for ourselves well is key to making it through to the end of this stage of our life’s journey AND not having to go through this stage again.

    Ultimately, many self-care habits and routines are going to vary as much as those of us on this journey do. However, the basics are all the same:

    • Nutrition
    • Activity
    • Rest
    • Relaxation
    • Passionate purpose

    There are some internal prerequisites to achieve those basics. The first of which is deciding that you have value, that your life matters, and your needs are as important as anyone else’s needs.

    That belief in one’s own value leads to the second prerequisite: boundaries. What are those?

    • The ability to say, “No,” to unreasonable demands and requests, is a key boundary.
    • The ability to decide how to deal with and whether to take the criticisms, snide & snarky remarks, manipulation, and verbal abusiveness, all of which are so prevalent in our lives.
    • The ability to stand up for one’s self and assert the right to exist, breathe, and occupy the space you’re in, unapologetically.

    These are the foundation of this journey of healing, recovery, and growth we’re all on. Once those things are in place, as much is possible, then, self-care is possible. Once caring for and about oneself is primary, then, belief in our own abilities comes next and we become unstoppable…even if we can’t see the end from the beginning, at first.

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    Writing Prompt: lettrs – Dear Self

    Dear Self,
    Being bipolar, depressed, and anxious, means feeling insane, sometimes acting the same. The thing is, you’re not crazy or lazy, you’re amazing!

    You are neurodiverse, your brain is structured differently. You think differently, experience the world differently, and process those experiences differently. Your capacities, abilities, skills, and talents are different than those with neurotypical brains, not affected by chronic trauma.

    That doesn’t make you bad or wrong and it doesn’t mean you have to change the things which make you, you, in order to conform.

    Yes, medication may be useful, but, it isn’t a cure, because a cure isn’t needed. Think of it as the difference between “breaking” a horse and developing a relationship of trust while training the horse.

    Stop fighting to conform and force your brain to be something it’s not, not allowing it to do what it’s built for, and hobbling it’s ability to move and flow.

    Think of the medication as the tack – the bridle and reigns to direct, the saddle to stabilize, and the stirrups for holding more balance and control. When you lose your grip, slip, and fall, it may take a little bit of work and time, but keep getting back in the saddle and, each time, you’ll stay on and ride, going further and lasting longer.

    The world needs you to be you, not a copy or imitation of anyone else. Otherwise, God would have created you to be them and not you.

    Remember, you’re the only one capable of being you and you’re pretty special.


    You’re not crazy. You’re pain is not a pathology. Your pain makes sense…You’re a human being with unmet needs.
    Now This Op-Ed video about depression


    “She’s just crazy. I’m done.”

    “That’s just crazy talk.”

    “How crazy is that?”

    “What are you, crazy?”


    How often do we throw that word around? We use it as a throwaway label for people and situations we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to try and understand. It’s mostly a word which people who consider themselves as “normal” use to explain away and dismiss the abnormal.

    Guess what? It’s ableism.

    What is Ableism? According to The Urban Dictionary, “Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.”

    This definition isn’t only about physical disabilities, it also counts for those experiencing mental health issues due to atypical brain structure and neurochemistry.

    Bipolar Disorder
    Borderline Personality Disorder
    Anxiety disorders
    Compulsive Behavior disorders
    Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)

    These are but a few examples of things which people with non-neurotypical brains and brain chemistry experience.


    It is a word which holds a strong stigma. The thought of being “crazy” often causes people not to seek help for symptoms and behaviors which make them feel mentally and emotionally out of control. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy.” WE don’t want to be labeled and dismissed as being “crazy.” We don’t want to be treated as defective or dismissed because having atypical brains makes us “less than.”

    I say “WE” because I have a Bipolar brain which has been affected by ongoing and varied trauma experiences. Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 2, and PTSD. Around the same time, my youngest child was educationally identified as having “High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Recently she received the official diagnosis of Autism AND ADHD.

    These things cause us to think, react, and act differently than those who have neurotypical brains. We aren’t “crazy,” we aren’t disabled. We are neurodiverse and differently abled.

    The thing about the word, “crazy” is that it’s such an inherent part of our American vernacular that even those of us who have been affected and marginalized by the term frequently use it ourselves.

    I’m not going to “go off the deep end” (another phrase often used instead of “crazy”) and call out everyone, every time I hear the word used. However, I will start with myself and maybe those closest to me. I haven’t figured out what to say instead, but, I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

    Maybe you’ll think about it the next time you hear or use the word.

    In case you’re wondering, the August Scrawls Day 3 word is “atypical.”

    Mind over matter: Mental habits

    Yesterday, the teaching elder of our church introduced the next sermon series…mental habits. He explained the connection between that and spiritual growth. It got me to thinking about implementing the healthy changes I need and want to make in my life – especially around nutrition and physical activity.

    I realized that I have some pretty painful and counterproductive mental habits which have contributed to how I got to the point I’m at, both in life and in health.

    Be aware when you compare. Even though I know it’s counterproductive, I still do it…seemingly unconsciously and involuntarily. I’ve gotten in the habit of comparing myself to others, almost always to my own deficit. Especially when it comes to my body.

    First the comparison. Then the story I tell myself must be true. Then the self-judgment. Sadly, it’s all about determining my self-worth through vanity. It’s an unproductive habit, done in vain.
    It goes something like this:

    I walk past a reflective surface and catch a sideways glimpse of my image. I cringe at my physical appearance and begin thinking about what others must see and think when they see me. Shame rises within and births embarrassment. I walk past an ad for a weight loss program and see the beautiful, smiling image of someone who has lost weight and appears happier and physically smaller than their “before” picture. I think, “if she couldn’t get it done without paying for a program, I know I can’t. I don’t have any money to pay for anything like that. I don’t have what I need to lose weight. I’m just going to be fat forever. No one wants a fat person. I’m unlovable.”

    This entire process takes less time than it takes to read about it. I’ve practiced it so often, I’m an expert at it and it is now an involuntary, automatic response to looking at my reflection.

    Well, it needs to get disrupted. What if I do this instead?

    I catch a glimpse of my reflection.The cringe starts to happen. I stop, turn, and look at my reflection and smile. I tell myself, “Your body is strong and capable. Be proud. Be grateful it functions as well as it does.” I keep walking and see the weight loss advert. I think, “Good for them. I am capable of getting healthy, too. I am not my body. I am worthy and deserving of love no matter what my body looks like. I am loved. I love myself.”

    This process takes time, attention, and energy. It may feel false because I’ve believed the lies too long. But, it’s important to practice it, go through the motions, and deliberately think the thoughts if I want to change.

    Change begins in the mind. Healthy thought habits lead to healthy action and healthy habits are formed.

    Think and say the good things you want enough instead of focusing on what you don’t want. Easier said than done, but worth it, I believe.

    What are some of your mental habits?

    We didn’t start the fire, but we sure know how to keep it burning

    When are we ever going to understand that we are all in this thing together?

    Regardless of skin color, country of origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, country of residence, religion (or lack thereof), language, political party, favorite music, or any other factor we use to individuate, separate, segregate, or identify ourselves differently from others, we are ALL human, we ALL share this planet, we ALL bleed, sweat, cry, dream, hope, and aspire toward something better.

    Fighting fire with fire only works in actual firefighting and has to be done in a strategic, planned, controlled and skilled way that requires the ones setting the control fire to be well trained, working as a team, and is still very dangerous.

    Combatting racism, real or perceived, can never effectively happen by using racist tactics, rhetoric, propaganda, and fostering racist attitudes.

    I have a very dear friend who’s heart is bigger than the state of Texas. She’s experienced poverty, conflicted family relationships, health and disability issues. I honestly don’t believe she would ever consider excluding or judging anyone based on race.

    Yet, I just saw that she posted something that had come through in an email that supposedly addresses the issue of reverse racism. I considered posting that content here, then decided that I didn’t want to give any space to propaganda and rhetoric designed to incite emotional reaction, disguised as information utilizing faulty comparison and blanket categorization, leading the reader to jump on another “us vs them” bandwagon.

    I understand why she posted it. In the wake of the outcome of the Zimmerman/Martin case, there has been A LOT of racist rhetoric and accusation floating around. There have been many counterproductive and destructive responses in different areas.

    I have another friend who has experienced a lot of similar things. She’s younger, has young children, and lives the daily reality of what it means to have dark skin and have that singular physical characteristic inform and impact just about every aspect of her life.

    So much so that I don’t think she sees or understands how much of what she says and does now seems to perpetuate the very thing she claims to be fighting, racism.

    I don’t think either of these women would consider herself racist. However, based on my observation, at the very least, they propagate it.

    I exist in a racially confused limbo land. Often people, regardless of race, relate to me as if I’m white. This, despite the fact someone is continually asking me to tell them if I’m part this race or from that region. PI’m half Mexican and have some of the expected physical characteristics. However, I grew up completely disconnected from the culture and without familial or community ties. I was raised by undereducated, lower-class, blue-collar/service industry workers where literacy and academic performance was emphasized and somewhat prioritized. That means I’m more of what’s perceived and identified as a middle class communicator.

    I’ve experienced the effects of racist attitudes and perceptions from all sides: black, white, brown and all shades in between. Yet, the barriers I deal with, ultimately have little to nothing to do with the color of my skin or anyone else’s attitude or perception about my race. It is my own attitudes and perceptions that have held me back and kept me stuck.

    We all three live in the same metro area. We all three experience health issues, we all three have young ones in our lives whom we want to offer better and different than what we had. We all three share spiritual beliefs and identify ourselves as Christians. The issues we face are not separated by race. The solutions we need to work toward don’t have anything to do with race. Perhaps, once upon a time, paler skin was an advantage. No longer.

    As educational costs have risen, as manual and unskilled labor jobs have been outsourced and automated, as snake oil salesmen disguised as bankers and people with opportunities to get rich have played into and taken advantage of fears and character flaws, poverty has spread. Economic hardship has become the great leveler. Violence against women, many of whom are mothers, continues to run rampant and the extended family supports that used to exist are diminished and non-existent.

    These are things being experienced regardless of skin color. Perhaps it’s still affecting more people of color than not, but from where I’m sitting, all the different places I’ve lived and worked, I can say I’ve seen people of all races doing better than me and most people I know, economically speaking. I’ve also seen people of all races more economically disadvantaged than I am.

    Until we stop looking to blame others for the societal ills in our world and in our nation and until we start taking whatever action we can as individuals to find solutions and spread hope instead of hate we will just continue burning ourselves, our country, and our world by setting fires that only add to what’s already burning, instead of suppressing the wildfire that’s destroying everyone and everything in its path.

    As Billy Joel sang so eloquently, We Didn’t Start the Fire.