My Latest Thoughts About Parenting and More Observations About Stigma

I’ll add part 2 of the previous blog post at a later date.  I apologize…I’ve been caught up in writing quite a bit lately, which is what I’d like to do a lot more of at some point in my life.  I want to express some personal feelings and appreciation, as well as talk a little bit more about the stigma I’ve noticed.

Ever since I began writing, I’ve really spent a lot of time working on different stories, which is really interesting and fun.  Most of them have been about my daughters, how perfect and beautiful they are, what it’s like to look at them from the father’s point of view…whether it’s worrying about them, or figuring out how to instill work ethic, passion, drive, and competitiveness without being overbearing, and playful stories.  I’ve also written some general notes about how to be a great father (biased), although the advice pieces are far less entertaining than the story ones I’ve found, at least to me.

Looking back, November and December were fairly tough months for me…just sort of embarrassed, feeling low, wanting to make everything right…a lot of different emotions.  Yeah, it was tough, but I’m also sort of surprised at the stuff I was able to accomplish in hindsight.  I bought a domain, started a blog, began writing quite a bit, went through a couple different interview processes and the subsequent background check type administrative stuff for getting back to work, on top of staying on top of my home life duties pretty well.  Granted, I wasn’t working a nine to five, but it was among the most productive periods in my life, and it was probably the toughest.  Maybe all of that made it easier.

If I remember correctly, I got the ball rolling in December in regards to getting back to work again (I took a sabbatical in a sense staring last May), then immediately took a family vacation for three weeks.  Since we’ve been back, I’ve talked to consulting firms off and on, and various recruiters, as well as some former employees I’ve stayed in touch with.  I decided to try out contracting and consulting, so the firm I’m with has been working on tracking down my first project, and I’m just waiting for the phone call.

Now, why do I bring that up?  I know you don’t care.  Because, it’s an interesting time in my life; some days I feel restless and unfulfilled when I don’t have to get up and get to work, useless at times, which is all in the mind, but lately, I’ve been enjoying every second of it.  How often am I ever going to be able to spend so much time at home with my baby dolls?  It’s a period in my life that I will never forget, always cherish, and look back upon with a permanent smile on my face.  Knowing going back to a full-time job is right around the corner just makes me think about that concept.

The past week or two, I’ve found myself hoping it’s not my firm calling whenever I hear my phone start to ring, because I know how much I’m going to miss this.  I’m sure it will be really sad to go back to work for the first few days, since I’ve gotten so used to being with my girls, but the experience has been totally worth it. Someday I’ll do it again…I’ve promised myself that.  I find it to be extra motivation to build-up my writing portfolio and try to put some infrastructure in place right now for myself where sometime down the road I’ll be able to help people that have it so much worse than me, and eventually do that as a job.  I recently heard someone say…don’t find a job, find a passion.  Over the past year, if I’ve taken anything away from that, in terms of career goals, it’s that money doesn’t buy happiness, but the fulfillment in the work I do can.

I’ve connected with a handful of people online that struggle with anxiety, stress, depression, or even bipolar disorder and other types of mental ailments.  A lot of times they seem to be genuinely inspired after our conversations, which makes me feel great.  I think at some point, I’ll have a future in helping people, somehow, in a way that I’ll never struggle with the morals or ethics of.  I think…if I believe that will happen, it will.

It is interesting though; when I worked full-time, I didn’t see the side of parenting I’ve been able to since last May.  I used to walk in the door at night, girls running to greet me at the door, and it was instant play-time for both me and them.  My weekdays were full of work, then fun with my daughters.  They listened to every word of mine, never talked-back, didn’t question my authority, and the sailing was smooth as silk.  Parenting was so easy; I was the best dad ever.

Now days, man, it can be a completely different story.  Nobody likes being told what to do, all day long, every step of the way…it’s intuitive that most people would agree.  I never thought about the fact that the same thing applies to little toddlers, because I just hadn’t experienced it before last spring (very often).  I get it now; being at home most every day is a lot of work, takes just about an infinite amount of patience, and doesn’t always feel a lot like playtime used to.  I feel guilty sometimes at how often I have to say no, or become frustrated, or feel like I should be doing more.

I think it’s worse for toddlers actually.  They don’t have any control over their lives, and their parents make almost every single daily decision for them for I’m not even sure how long…hopefully until they’re 30.  It’s funny how they don’t listen nearly as well when they hear me or Mama enforcing rules constantly.  It’s such a tough balance to perfect…guiding and educating toddlers properly, without taking away from who they are, but while keeping them within the boundaries that we’ve decided are important, all without them throwing an absolute tantrum all day long.

Some of the days are mostly tantrums, but that’s ok…they won’t be young forever, as much as I wish they would be.  Right now, it is nice also, because my fiancé and I can spell each other if either of us get frustrated, and we do.  But, they still get tired of us already, and they’re only 4 and 2 years old, and I’m guessing that only gets worse as they age.  I’ve learned so much from them actually, and quite simply…I’ll never forget any of it.

 

Sometimes I like it when the girls get around some new people, like their grandparents, or dance instructors, because it’s a new voice that they get to listen to.  My fiancé and I will spend all day asking them to eat their food or play in their bedroom for a while and get absolutely nowhere.  Then, my mom stops by, or my fiancé’s dad, or whoever, and they become the most obedient little flirts I’ve ever seen.

I know…it’s not a mental health topic, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and I wanted to share it.

 

Totally separate topic, but I wanted to include some more strong and personal feelings about the stigma of bipolar disorder and mental health disorders in general that I left out of my last blog post, and I continue to notice along the way.

I’ve thought for a while that people are scared of things they don’t understand, and that theory has only strengthened more and more these past few months.  It’s something that shouldn’t bug me, and everyone I talk to in psychology circles or who has some type of mental ailment says the same thing, but I want to talk about it, because it is frustrating, and frankly…it’s bullshit.

 

I’ve done a ton of research these past four months about a wide variety of topics: bipolar disorder, anxiety, stress, Buddhism, consciousness, reality, quantum mechanics (yes, it’s true, but I’m not sure I completely understand it yet), spiritual awakenings, evolution, space, and I could go on and on.  Scientists don’t seem to have concrete answers for pretty much anything, yet the mass of people in our culture think they have the answers for everything.  It’s actually more amazing to me than some of the theories I’ve come across.

One particular fact I’ve come across that I find intriguing is that other cultures treat mental ailments so polar oppositely than ours does that it’s hard to believe we live on the same planet.  For example, in some cultures and tribes, people who show signs of bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia at a young age are treated as these very special and chosen healers that have unbelievably valuable talents.  Elderly mentors take them on to nurture their gifts, and they grow up to be the spiritual leader and healer of the group they live in…the Shamans, which is what they are actually called.  Imagine that…even though you don’t have to…it’s real.

There’s no stigma, it’s a positive trait, and in all my research, there aren’t any of those people that jump off a cliff or end up in the local hospital for doing things people think are off the wall.  They embrace it, and those that have the ‘gift’ as they see it learn to use it as a powerful force.  Maybe our culture goes about it all wrong…just maybe.

Now, I’m not saying that’s for sure right or wrong, or indifferent, the way they act, but that’s the way it is in certain places, and it does work.  I watched a documentary about brain activity, and other such related topics, and it was the most interesting point the doctor involved was making.  He said that in all other mental type studies like brain surgery, neurology, anesthesia sciences, degenerative studies, Alzheimer’s, and so on, doctors use actual MRIs and brain scans to decipher what’s going on and finalize a diagnosis.

He talked about how psychologists and psychiatrists are the only brain doctors, or really any doctor for that matter, who don’t physically look at the part of the body they’re actually providing a diagnosis of.  In a sense, they’re guessing, throwing darts, based on a variety of different things.  He wasn’t saying they’re always wrong, but he did prove out that they certainly are on some occasions, and I found that very interesting.  It makes me wonder how many people have been diagnosed with an ailment such as depression or anxiety, or something more severe, and actually had a drastically different affliction.  Who knows?  I’m not inferring that’s me, but more that outsiders seem to love to jump to conclusions, form their opinions, when they have no idea.  That’s why I don’t care what those people’s opinions are, but still feel the need to point out the fact that I don’t care what their opinions are.

 

Now, that aside, in today’s culture and society we live in, I just get flat out irritated with things I’ve seen, heard, and run across recently.  I’m not sure how many times over the past year since I’ve taken sabbatical, someone has asked me, often indirectly, “Are you working yet?  When are you going to start working again?”  To each their own, I get that, but I find those are the people who seem most unhappy with their lives that someone else told them to live.  I recently talked to my old boss, the CFO of a billion-dollar company when we worked together, who took a year off a little bit before I did.

He said it was the best year of his life, he couldn’t believe he hadn’t done it earlier, and thought every person should take a year off every four or five years that they work.  I don’t know a ton of people who have done this, but literally every single person I know that has taken an extended work break not only absolutely loved it, recommended it, and became healthier because of it, but went back to work refreshed and mentally stronger than ever.

Now combine being on sabbatical with dealing with the stigma of what people think about mental illness, and I get to the point where I just have to vent, it’s as simple as that.  I get these people who have no idea how to manage their own money and have the audacity to question how I manage mine.  They are leveraged in debt, have car payments they can’t afford, credit card payments that are too high, live beyond their means, need weekly paychecks to maintain positive cash, and ask me when I’ll go back to work, like I’m a lesser person than them.

All I will say to those people that I’ve encountered like that, or have heard of that act like that, is worry about yourself, or if you think I’m in need of help, then offer it.  Which one is it?  Am I lazy, or am I unable?  I can assure you I am neither.  Either way, tell it to me, not my back.  That says more about you than it ever will about me.  I believe judgmental people that see themselves as superior to others in any way, are the ones who need sympathy.  They won’t get any though, which will be sad for them when they need it.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that it’s paradoxical how the people I talk to who are more on the outside or objective; cousins I don’t talk to very often, psychiatrists, psychologists, old co-workers, people I’ve connected with online…they all speak so highly of me, seem inspired by me, they actually seem to get it.  It’s easy to point fingers; it’s hard to open your mind and learn about something before passing judgment.

Again, in my experience, and in those I’ve talked to and researched, the people on the inside, people that know me more intimately, the ones that have seen my life unfold so “seamlessly” with good grades, solid work history, positive friendships…they’re the ones that seem scared and judgmental…looking at me through the microscope they invented.  I get it…they’re emotionally invested, and care a lot about me, and they’ve never seen me do anything out of the box.

But, they’re the ones I have to defend myself to, hence this blog post, even though they don’t read it, when I don’t actually care if they think negative thoughts or not.  They’re the ones I’m the most disappointed in, the ones that would actually scare me, if I thought about it.  Let me peek inside your head for a few hours and take a look around.  They wouldn’t do that though…it turns out, I’m probably not the one they’re actually scared of.

 

The people that actively look for reasons to judge me and think lesser of me or weren’t supportive of me when it was probably when I needed it the most, well, my opinion is those people are the ones that probably have the more destructive mental ailment between the two of us, because I’ll never fail, when they already have.

I’m guessing the people who read this blog understand every word I’m saying.  But if any of the above statements make you mad, or if you take it personally…then yeah, that person is you.

For those of you that do not understand bipolar disorder, or hypomania, please read A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle.  That is what the hypomanic type experience feels like, at least to me.

Maybe there’s some connection.  Maybe not.

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