I'm a person who does what she loves, everything she loves: teaching, writing, raising her children, and teaching them to be thinking, feeling citizens of the world. I also like working out, baking, running, hiking, gardening, weaving and pulling in the canoe. I like to do so many things that it's actually pretty overwhelming. As someone who is often manic, I want to do everything that I'm passionate about, and when I'm manic I'm passionate about EVERYTHING. So I do. I stay up late planning for class, sending out queries, contacting bloggers, writing short stories or chapters in my novels, weaving, blogging, making trailers, drawing, or doing anything that I feel is necessary to do at that time.
But I've been worn out, recently, feeling depressed and overwhelmed by even the smallest task. I'm hitting a low point in my bi-polar swings. So, I've decided to get help-counselling to start off with. I was talking to my counselor about feeling out of control and she pointed something out to me, something I think might actually be helpful to any person who takes on too much, whether that's due to mania or just due to being an overachiever. Follow your wise mind.
She told me to think about it this way: You have a brain. Your brain sends signals to your body to do something. Sometimes what your brain is telling you to do is stupid, when you're bi-polar or have difficulties with brain signals. My brain often tells me to react in extreme ways. It sends adrenaline through my system, triggering a flight or fight response for inane, unimportant things (spilling something, my kids throwing normal fits, etc.). Thankfully, I also have a mind, and that mind is more capable at wading past the signals and thinking about what should be done.
So, when I am presented with a decision, whether it is small or dangerous big, I have to stop and think beyond what my body wants me to do. For example, a bi-polar brain will sometimes send very powerful lust urges to the body it inhabits. A handsome, funny, smart man might approach my bi-polar body and want to buy it a drink, have a talk, sympathize with me, and probably more. My bi-polar brain will want to say "yes" to that man, regardless of the face that I am married. It's sending me all sorts of "lust" signals. But that would be a terrible idea, since I'm a happily married woman.
My brain is stupid. If I listened to my brain all the time, the signals it sent me would probably have put me 6 feet under by now. I wish I were kidding about that. So I ask my mind: 1. What are you feeling? 2. Assess the positives and negatives of the situation 3. What is the best course of action? 4. How do you need to act to achieve the outcome that follows your values, morals and standards?
These aren't the exact question my counselor told me to ask myself, but they are helpful questions, all of them, because they make me stop, think, and analyze what I'm doing. I've been in the middle of an agitated rage, an oppressive lust and a desperate depression and I've made both bad and good decisions for my life in those moments. The good moments always came to me when I stopped, thought about my values, my responsibilities and made the decision that best fell in line with those values by ignoring the signals my brain sent to my body and using my wise mind to deduce the best course of action.
Even in small decisions: should I buy that expensive dress to make my depression feel less oppressive? Should I take on that third blog when I'm already fairly busy? Should I watch my nephew when I can feel that my mania is a bit unmanageable? My brain will tell me to be rash, to act right away, very quickly. But my wise mind has a better idea of what I can handle. And I'd like to make more decisions with that part of my consciousness from now on. I am going to try to. I might not be successful in always doing the right thing, but being aware that I have a little control does help. I might need to be medicated at some point, so that my wise mind is not overwrought by demanding signals.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, try slowing down, using your wise mind. Your brain will want you to do too much, especially if you're a very passionate, adventurous person. I am very passionate. I'm very interested in learning and do many things and my brain wants me to. My mind is asking me to take a step back, breath and say "not now" to many of the things I feel the itch of inclination to carry out. I don't have to do everything, no matter what my brain is telling me about it. I have a choice to say "no" or "not now" to the things that will add stress to my life. So do you. I hope you find happiness and peace in your moments of wisdom.
H.M Jones is the author of B.R.A.G Medallion Honor and NIEA finalist book Monochrome, its prequel Fade to Blue, the Adela Darken Graphic Novellas, Al Ravien's Night, The Immortals series, and several short stories.