Just a little gratitude goes a LONG way – in feeding my spirituality and happiness.

For most of my life – nose deep in addiction – I was anti-religion.  At that time, I thought “God must hate me,” or, “I’m being punished and this is my hell.”

I still don’t have a religious affiliation, but today I am deeply deeply spiritual and am filled with gratitude.  I feel God’s power (Fate, the Universe, Higher Power, whatever you want to call it) in everything and everyone.  It is my belief that the Higher Power of the universe is like the internet.  I’m not trying to connect spiritually to the source of God; like the internet isn’t a single object that we connect to…  But, God’s power and energy IS IN EVERY LIVING THING and is all energy; as the internet is made up of all computers, millions of miles of wire to connect them, and the frequencies that travel through satellites, space, and time.  When I connect to other people, Mother Nature, and my gratitude – I am connected spiritually.  I am aware.  I am guided.  I am provided for.  I am awake.

This was one of the first steps in my recovery program.  One of the cornerstones is turning our will over to our Higher Power.  I am a curious person.  So I have experienced almost ever religion you can think of.  Church on Sundays and Wednesdays, when I am invited – any denomination.  I’ve meditated with Buddhist Monks in their beautifully manicured gardens, after a variety of delectable Thai foods and flavors.  I have even visited an Islamic Temple – a very small temple that is rooted in the true belief that we must walk the path that God has laid out.  They believed that we must never criticize when someone falls off their path to righteousness, but be there to help guide their brother/sisters back.  A beautiful belief.

At every place of worship that I have been part of, I have found a way to connect in my beliefs.  A way to connect to my spirituality.  A large part of that, for me, is gratitude.  It’s such an easy and quick thing to do, in my daily life, but is one of the quickest and most influential ways to center myself.

Every morning, after my morning prayer and daily meditation, I list 5 things that I have gratitude for.  Try to write it down, but I’m not perfect and it doesn’t always happen.  When I do, I carry it with me.  I try to not repeat things, but that is pretty hard to do.  Did I mention I’m not perfect?  and THAT’S OKAY.

I start my day off in a place of humbleness and thankfulness.  Centered and ready to head into my battles with a level and understanding mind.  Able to have empathy and solve problems without anger and frustration.  There are times, throughout the day, when I feel myself coming out of this place.  Off center, getting agitated, or a growing frustration.  I think everyone has their moments – but I know where mine lead.

This is when I look over (or reflect) on my gratitude list.

There are times that I pull off to the side of the road, climb a nearby hill or wander a short distance off into the landscape, to watch an amazing sunset.  Just sit.  Just breath.  Just be.  I have a link at the bottom of the page to the full collection of photographs from such an adventure. The feature photo of this post came from that collection.

Or, I take a few moments for me.  Two to five minutes is all I need – to find SOMETHING beautiful to look at.  It can be fluffy cloud in the sky, a flower, or piece of art.  It can even be as simple as the way the light reflects off a spoon.  I think about the laws of nature and science, that were spun into action by our Higher Power – giving me something joyful to experience. It’s all connected, to me.

Sometimes, I will simply clear my head and open my senses in whatever I’m doing.  Love the moment.  If I’m writing a work order – I feel the pen in my hand and the thick ink trail slightly drag across the paper.  Look at the ink trail that is drying behind me.  Listen to the whisk whisk whisk noise as I write and think about the electrical power of my brain that is creating these words.  Marvel in the complexity of the human body.

When I am done, I say “Thank you.”  I mean it wholly and with deep gratitude – that I am here to experience all that the world has, and equipped to meet my daily challenges.

I am centered.  I am at peace.  I have found a little piece of joy and happiness and connected with my creator.

To see the full collection of pictures, that were used in the feature image, please click the link below:

https://findingbeazzy.com/portfolio/green-river-utah/

Tears of sadness turn to pure joy – as I connect to my gratitude and spirituality, in the flash of a sunrise.

I think I was driving through Louisiana.  I was tired.  I was alone.  I was wallowing in sadness.

After a short visit with the folks, I had driven all night leaving behind my family, what was no longer my home, and my dear friend Kade.  Kade was my ‘ride or die’ whom I had shared months of spectacular adventures with, on the road.  Anyone, weary and lonely, could travel into the rabbit hole of sadness under these conditions.  I knew that I was treading on seriously dangerous territory, having bipolar disorder.  A trip down that rabbit hole, for me, means violent mood swings – a wild pendulum flinging from high to low, that has repeatedly wrecked my life and almost taken it.

I have worked through Dialectal Behavior Therapy workbook, identifying my triggers and creating an action plan to prevent a deep slide.  Action, early on, is necessary.  If I let my mood swings take hold of me, stopping it is like grabbing on the rear bumper of a car in neutral rolling down a steep hill.  I MIGHT slow it down, but I’m going to get hurt and banged up along the way.

So I pull off the highway, and search for a lake in google maps – found one.  Looks big.  “Great!” I say.  I can catch the sunrise and meditate next to the shore.  Use some tools in my tool bag to rewire my thought process and center myself.  As I meditated next to the lake, one of the most spectacular spiritual awakenings happened.  My tears of sadness that I arrived with, quickly turned to tears of joy, love, and gratitude.  I was centered, I set up my hammock and slept a bit, I continued my 1800 mile road trip that changed my life.  I’ll write more about that as we continue this journey together.

After my meditation, I was inspired to write.  I’ll include that below:

He checks in with his ‘ride or die’ as he had hundreds of times before – over the past 7 months.

A chilling shadow of sadness begins to set over him, as the new idea washes in – this is a complete solo adventure. His dear friend is on his own path, now.

He no longer has someone to keep him grounded, share mystical adventures, senseless laughter, silly jokes, breathtaking scenery, and endless adventure .

Then a smile returns. He looks up as the sky crests with yellow and orange, from the rising sun. Feels the warmth of the first rays of light. He feels the fulfilling sence that he is never alone. God, the Universe, Fate… whatever one calls it… never leaves our side. Even when we have ventured off our path, the road signs are always there to guide us back.

True as it is: there is fear in the unknown, the unknown is part of the adventure, and life is a series of adventures. But, he has faith. Faith that he is on the right path. Faith that he will be provided for. Faith that this is where he needs to be. Faith that the challenges, ahead, are for him to learn and grow and move forward.

The smile stretches across his face, the shadow of sadness is replaced with excitement. The sun continues to rise and light the way, as he sits in awe of the gifts of Mother Nature.

He is now ready to drive forward – into the unknown.

 

To see the full collection of photography, used in this feature image, please click the link below:

https://findingbeazzy.com/portfolio/shreveport-louisiana/

 

 

 

Explode now? Explode later? Implode in silent misery? Not today – I’ll choose healthy boundries, instead, thank you very much…

  1. I immediately explode on the person in front of me.
  2. I explode on the sweet little old lady cashier that is moving too slow.
  3. I stuff negative energy deep into my soul and sit in silent miserable anger for hours or days.
  4. Have a crippling panick attack, that hits like a corner slot machine – random, but usually after a lot of bills are stuffed into it.
  5. Get on social media and viciously trash that person, or someone who reminds me of them.

These were my usual choices to deal with my anger, when I felt like someone was running over me or not listening to me.  When I weakly set a boundary, and let them run all over it, it effected me deeply – no matter where I stuffed it.

This is an old cycle.  I am learning how to tell someone what my needs are, to set healthy boundaries.  In the past, I would accept someone stepping all over my boundaries – putting their needs or wants over mine.  On the outside I was a people pleaser – so much of my self-worth was rooted in it.  But it left me an emotional powder-keg; I was ready to explode at any time.  I’m still practicing my boundary setting skills, but I’m getting better at the word “no” or calmly and respectfully putting my foot down.  I believe that we all have a right to live our lives the way we want – as long as it isn’t breaking the law or disrupting someone elses peace and happiness.

I had the idea for this post, because recently I had to stand my ground.  I was painting on a job site, and I told someone repeatedly that painting is a great joy of mine.  I LOVE to put on some music, clear my head (maybe let it drift a bit), feel the thickness of the paint as I dip my brush, hear the noise as it rolls on the wall or the brush cuts across the surface, and guide the brush with eyes.  Just find a place of zen and find a piece of joy and happiness.

There were several interruptions.  Every time I got a flow going and hit that sweet spot, here it came.  “Hey Brennan….”  “Do you think we can…”  “Can I grab you for second to help me…”  All of it; things that could wait.

In the past, I would smile and say, “No problem!  What’s up?”  On the inside, I would be furious, angry, resentful, be texting friends complaining, making angry posts about something closely related, and screaming in my head, “what is wrong with you??  I TOLD YOU THAT I DON’T LIKE BEING INTERRUPTED WHEN PAINTING!”

I can’t do that any more.  When I allow my emotions to boil up and the kettle to whistle with an explosion of steam – and try to swallow it – it burns me up from the inside out.  All of that energy comes out somehow someway.  I lash out at someone who doesn’t deserve it, drive like a jerk, or have a panick attack.  My panick attacks are what first got me into therapy.  Years and years of swallowing boiling hot emotions caused me to melt down, because my mind could only handle so much.

instead, I took a very deep breath.  I smiles.  I was calm.  I was respectful.

“It really is important to me to not be interrupted when I’m painting.  I don’t multitask well, I’ve accepted that, and every time you stop me, it takes me a long time to get back in my flow.  I need to get this done so we can move forward on the project.  I need for you to respect that, and while I’m painting, work on other things or go relax.”

That didn’t work.  When you have a friend or family member that doesn’t have many boundaries, I have found, it can take a few times of standing my ground.  I uses to fail, here.  Give in.  Submit.  The unhealthy cycle, for me, continued.

I just can’t do that anymore.  I must take care of myself, or I can’t be an effective person.  I know this.

So after a few times on repeat, I said this,”If you can’t respect my needs, I will immediately put down my brush and I will do NO painting while you are on the site.  Period.  This project will drag out for weeks or months.  This is your decision.”

Response: “I’m going to upstairs now.  You won’t see me the rest of the night.”

I finished the job on schedule, proud and satisfied in every way; and they couldn’t be happier with the work that was done.

 

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Work interrupted: Deep breaths and just laugh. Be silly. Have fun.

I was trying to make a short clip for Mandy. 😂😂 Turned into an ordeal. 😳🙄😂😂 Love my buddy. 🙂

No more excuses. I MUST re-train my brain and make a CHOICE for happiness.

Everyone has mood shifts – it’s part of human nature – but living with a mental illness means that for the rest of my existence, my mood will be like a beautiful (yet potentially dangerous and deadly) wild animal. I do more work than anyone in my life can imagine, to tame the beast and manage my mood. I felt, for a lot of my life, that I had demons within.  No.  I was battling bipolar disorder and had no idea.
I have made the choice to find joy, love, healthy connections with others, and happiness.
I have friends who are stuck where I was, for years – after I was diagnosed (my handful of diagnosis). I was relieved while feeling stuck in it; this was just who I was and used them as an excuse and rationalization for my bad behavior in past, present, and future.
I would be telling a sick tale to my friend Kat, and she would give her usual “Oh Geez!” In delight I would respond, “I’m bipolar, it’s okay.” On the other side of the pendulum, I would stay in bed for weeks crippled with suffocating anxiety and deep black depression and say, “I can hide here under the covers as long as I like because I’m cursed with this mental disorder.”
If you aren’t aware of mental illness, I would recommend you do a little research. Bipolar and depression are interesting animals, and a lot more of us suffer constant attacks, than you can image. We don’t just get sad or energetic – but we have a shift in our brain chemistry and science still doesn’t fully understand it.
Someone with true depression has an almost complete shut off of the chemicals that produce happiness. It’s not just a matter of saying “cheer up.” Our brains have cut off happiness at a chemical level. It’s like telling someone who is out of gas to speed the car up as it sputters to a dead stop and all electrical functions of the car die out with a dead battery.
Someone who is manic is flooded, according to mentalhealth.net, in the core of the brain with several neuron transmitters – including dopamine, serotonin, and MDMA. The same chemicals released from a handful of illegal drugs (that coincidentally were my choice of drugs. Not a coincidence, as I continue to research).
I am high as a kite. I feel as though I have taken small hits of meth, cocaine, and ecstasy at once. For days or weeks or a month at a time. When I used to induce mania – I was relapsing in my addiction recovery – because I knew mania made me high. This typically led to a full relapse, because another one the beasts I battle is addiction and alcoholism.
At the end of the article, there are actual brain scans of someone who is “normal,” manic, and clinically depressed – to show what happens to brain activity.
Then I thought I just needed meds to set me right. I JUST had to get the meds right. But we learned in the (several dual-diagnosis treatment centers that I have been to) that meds are a small piece of the pie. That we must work to manage our illness. I did not. I took the meds and suffered horribly for a few more years. I had no joy and did not want to live. I tried in a number of ways to make that happen.
NO MORE EXCUSES
I believe that anyone that has identified traits and cycles, that are unhealthy, can change them. The brain can be rewired and our thought patterns can be changed. It takes time and work, but is happening for a once hopeless and dreamless case like me. I believe that almost everybody can make the choice to find joy and happiness, and find it from within.
Now, I work to stay spiritually connected.  I also am constantly reading books, online articles, and belong to several support groups – to see what works for others. I experiment, I read books on co-dependency, shame, recovery, and being healthy. I exercise, I’ve done a lot of Yoga, and guided meditations. I am working through my Dialectal Behavioral Therapy workbook, a second time, to be sure I keep my tools and weapons sharp.
When the beast emerges from the dark haunted woods, I am ready to fight. For me, It’s a fight for my life. I’ve almost died in my drug use – and mania leads to using. I’ve tried to take my own life, in depressions. Last attempt, years ago, landed me in the hospital in a locked facility for a bit.
So this morning I woke up with a deep deep sadness. In the past, I would watch old videos and pictures and romanticize about the times of my life that were good – no – great. I would fully submit, and chase the rabbit deep into the rabbit hole and it would take me weeks to climb out and see the light of the sun, again.
Not any more. I watch those same videos and look at those same pictures with a retrained mind. I don’t wish or want to go back to the past. I smile, and today it was through tears, because through the sadness shines gratitude and love. This lifts me so much stronger, now in my daily life, than the sick shifting emotion’s gravitational pull. I feel gratitude to have those memories. Gratitude to have experienced those relationships. Honored to have walked, even if it was a short walk up a very steep hill, with such amazing people who have changed my life; and, I think about the ways that my life has improved from  the changes I made (to become the person that I am becoming) from the pain of that hurt or separation.

Besides, as my Auntie Mikki says… “We don’t say goodbye. We say see you later.” I am often surprised and delighted as I end up reconnecting with these people and get closure – as they see me battling my beasts and emerging from a warrior into the person they knew I could be.

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Sometimes I have to shut my mouth and open my ears – to connect and open my heart.

 

I love asking someone what their story is. Then shutting my mouth and listening.

That wasn’t always the case. I only wanted to talk. Lol. But when I hear someone’s story, typically my level of respect goes up as I hear the things they have battled, childhood challenges that I couldn’t image, or life tragedies they have faced.

Its not a contest anymore, but a learning experience; and helps me to realize that although the battles are fought in different places and times and the details are different, most of us have fought (or are fighting) a war.

Our own war is the toughest war we have had (or have to) ever face and fight.

But, by listening to and understanding others, I learn a lot of stretigic tactics that make my wins a little less strengent – and build a level of trust with someone that I can share victories, with.