Non violent communication with the mind (NVCM)

knotted-mind

“Conversations between the different perspectives of the mind can be seen in the same light as a conversation between different persons.  You can have a good conversation, a bad one, or none at all”

The other day I was sat with a friend who shares a mutual passion for discussing mental health.   My conversations with her are some of my most satisfying vocal exchanges I happen to encounter and my last one triggered my desire to write this blog post on non violent communication with the mind (NVCM)
We were sat talking about mania and delusion and my friend enquired into how it was that my delusions stopped.  I explained simply that over time when I focused on other things crisis subsided that the delusions simply stopped.
“Did you do anything to make them stop?” She asked.  The answer was that yes I did, and no I did not.   It was from here that to conversation moved on to an explanation and we came to the subject of my freestyle practice of non violent communication with the mind that I would like to share with you.  My friend told me it had similarities to other practices within the mental health world and that she would be curious to read about it if I wrote it down.  So being as I enjoy writing so much, I decided I would.

A little background 

Whilst I was in the midst of my struggle with psychosis and mental noise I found that no matter how much i resisted or fought against it the struggle in my mind never eased, instead it increased in its intensity.  The more i battled my demons, the louder they raged.  The same was true for other symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety, the more i fought against them, attempted with force of mind to be rid of them, the more they hounded me.

This over the course of many months left me exhausted and flabbergasted. How on earth does one reduce mental noise and suffering if one cant will it away?
In the end, i stopped fighting the thoughts in my mind, I neither agreed or disagreed with the narratives or conclusions they brought forth.  The reason for this was simple, it made absolutely no difference wether i resisted the negative thoughts or not.  Actually that’s not true.  It made a huge difference, When i resisted and fought, my mind was split, each different perspective or preference was in constant battle with its opposite.

The person that wanted the negative thoughts or delusions to go away was of course the same person who was creating them and therefore to take one position over the other simply created conflict.  My solution (more aptly called a survival technique) was instead to let the thoughts and feelings do as they would and instead concentrate on my actions.  Therefore with crazy mind along for the ride I decided to focus on the sane world outside of my head.  Work, activities, relationships.    All things in the external world were going on in exactly the same way regardless of my subjective view of them.  I rationalized that whilst I couldn’t will away my crazy mind, I could focus on the things that I knew in the past brought me a stable, relatively happy life.   As I got more invested in everyday life, the crisis in the mind and the body settled down.   To change an old phrase.  “Actions speak louder than thoughts”

Over many, many days my mind returned to a semblance of its old self.  It was not through positive thoughts winning over negative, or the logical over the illogical.  It was nothing that played out in the mind whatsoever.  I owe my mind “coming down” to the fact that I stopped fighting, let the mind do its thing and set my focus elsewhere.  This does not mean that the mind was suddenly a peaceful haven full of flowers and lovely thoughts, not then, or now but rather that whatever on earth was going in the mind, was left to do its thing without resistance, without a split.
Thats not an easy thing to do, when one part of the mind is sickened or being hurt by the other, but really what else are you gonna do?  If something wants to take space, using force to stop it doing so may work temporarily but it might come back ten times as aggressive the next time around.

This is how i dealt with things in crisis, when the mind was so wild that it becomes nearly impossible to lead a normal life.   After crisis, when things settled is when I began to explore new,  possibly healthier ways of interacting with the multifaceted mind.  In the later stages of recovery, where life felt different but normal again, I was exploring this new terrain.  I was trying to make sense of what happened to me and to do this I had to think a lot.  Think things through and talk them out with myself and others.   Out of this pondering I created my own way of making peace with the mind.  For the sake of this article I will call it “Non violent communication with the mind” or NVCM”.   It is this practice that I would like to share with you today.  Before I get into it I’d like to state what i’ve stated before in this blog.  Im not a mental health expert and this is not a “five steps to reach happiness blog”  It is just me sharing what I have been through and what I experienced.  Im not recommending this practice with any conviction, im  just saying… it was interesting and it worked for me.  Ok that said, heres the practice im rambling on about 😉

NVCM – Preparing for the conversation

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I will describe the practice in an ideal setting but in reality one could of course do such a thing anywhere.  Often i practice or explore at night whilst laying in bed after the rush of the day is settling down.  I will lie on my back, eyes open or closed and begin a non violent conversation with myself in my mind.

The practice will be different depending on certain things.  Here are the two main things I try to identify before I begin

  1. Is there a current conflict between different perspectives within the mind?
  2. What is the dominant perspective, the voice you are speaking with/defending/identifying with the most.

For example.  The current conflict could be you didnt go to work today and one part of the mind is making you feel really bad for it.  The other part of the mind wishes it could be more forgiving and really doesn’t want to go to work anyways.  This is the conflict that will be given room with NVCM.  It is both the conflict of wether one should go to work and the disagreement between different parts of the mind that will be given space.   In this example I will say I feel most identified or I have a preference towards feeling forgiving.  Therefore It is with this part of the mind with which I would begin the conversation. I’ll explain why later.

Personification of the thoughts 

In this practice, I allow the thoughts to speak as if they were completely independent agents.  So I am having an actual conversation with the different sides of myself inside my mind.  For those of us who have had (in psychosis perhaps) very negative personified thoughts take over our heads, this can feel quite intimidating.  In my own journey I only dared to do such a practice after  crisis had passed, with the hope of preventing something similar in the future.  Its worth noting that, whilst allowing the mind to separate and speak as separate parts (with or without different personalities) it is all done so whilst acknowledging that the mind is a whole comprised of many different spectrums.  The aim being to at the end of the practice come back to a more peaceful unified whole.  So we start as perhaps two conflicting sides, we come into the conversation and allow all sides to partake, and then we come back to a single perspective again where hopefully things feel a little less separated and there is less conflict.

The assumption behind this personifying or separating is that for crisis (or conflict)to come into being that  there must of been some friction, or something that was not given focus.  Either that or one particular part of the mind took up all the focus and other parts were not given the space they needed.  Therefore by opening up to a conversation where all perspectives of the mind are honoured, there might be space to figure things out before a crisis occurs.
I enter into the practice and set some guidelines.

  1. All parts of the mind are welcome to speak, give perspectives, share concerns and have time to articulate that which they are attempting to express.  
  2. The main theme to explore will be that which is in conflict, but there is time and space for the mind to shoot off wherever it wishes.
  3. I will return at the end of the session to whatever is the dominant or resting perspective (ie- however the dominant personality feels at the end of the conversation)

How it works in practice

Okay.   So i’m laid in bed and I want to begin.  I start out by addressing whatever it is my mind is struggling with.  From the current mood I am identified with (that which I consider as myself in this moment) I state what is going on, and then I simply say, does anybody, or any part of the mind have something to say?
After this the conversation can begin.  It will often be the secondary dominant voice that responds.  As in to say that which is in direct conflict with the primary voice.  But this is just what happens for me, it could happen many ways for someone else.  When another perspective of the mind responds, I allow it to have autonomy over the mind.  It will respond as if it is the dominant element of the mind.  This is what I mean by personification of the thoughts.  In this way, I allow myself to identify as much as I can with that side of the mind.  I consider this much healthier than the alternative which is to have conflicting sides.

So I present the subject, I ask if anybody has anything to say, and then I allow the responding part of the mind to take over as the dominant voice.  Then I just let it speak.  Or should I rather say,  I speak representing that part of the mind and everything I can think to say from that perspective.  I give it time to express what it thinks, why it thinks this thing and how it came to think it.   I then allow it to tell me what problems it has with the perspective or feelings I (as my every day dominant perspective) am most identified with
When it has finished, I switch perspective back to the original dominant perspective and ask, do you have anything more to share?
Once again I switch back to the secondary dominant perspective and respond.
It is a game of switching back and forth between different perspectives of the mind and giving space for them to speak.
After the two main perspectives have spoken, I will ask, does anyone/any other perspective have something to share or add to the conversation.  At this point, all manner of different perspectives may come in that I hadn’t thought of before.

During this conversation, things are illuminated.  As they are illuminated, they may cause pain, or resistance. Despite negative feelings that can come up there is little conflict, because it is setup is to allow all sides of the mind to speak without judgment.  None of the perspectives are considered right or wrong, they are all considered valid with the assumption that there must be a reason for what they are thinking and they want to be heard.
Often what happens is that through this conversation, a middle ground is found.  A kind of compromise can be reached between the different sides of the mind.  I would say nine times out of ten when I do this practice, the conclusion slowly comes all by itself.  However if it doesnt, I will directly prompt it by asking – “Is there a way that we can honor all feelings in this and go forward in a way that all sides of the mind are happy with?”

Once again I wait.  As before, switching back and forth between perspectives.  I converse and I wait for the answers to come.  What  I have found is that a mind that was previously in conflict begins to speak nicely to itself and that nearly always there comes a solution through dialogue.  If it does not manage to reach a conclusion, often the different sides agree to give it a few days to settle down and take up the issue again.
Time and time again that I have laid down and done this practice and I have seen  similar results   My conclusion is that by giving space and time, the mind has more room to consciously explore its difficulties.  Instead of simply resisting and trying to dominate the mind with a particular perspective I enter into a conversation that allows the mind to come together and talk.  In this way,  I do not believe the different parts of the mind to be so dissimilar from different people in a community.  It is much better to reach a healthy consensus than to repress a particular individual so that the dominant persons get their way.  If we repress or argue, the trouble just keeps brewing up.  If we try to find consensus through compromise and discussion, the pressure starts to release and we can reach a healthier place that suits everyone, or in this case, all aspects of the mind.

Why I start with the dominating voice

I said earlier I would explain why I start the conversation with the voice I am most identified with at the time.  The reason is that I want to start from where I am, present how im feeling and my problem, and then open up and make it the problem of the whole mind.  Then return at the end to a more together position.  To start with the dominant voice means that Im letting go of my position from the starting block and seeing what happens.  Im sure theres many ways to play with this, since I just made it up, but yeah thats what I do.

Some concluding notes

So yeah thats pretty much it.  A non violent conversation with my mind.  The impact on my life from this has been very beneficial.  Its not that suddenly I don’t get depressed or hopeless or frustrated, it’s not that Im in peace all the time from practicing it – But I am on the other hand in conflict less often.  It does not mean that I don’t have harsh thoughts, but it does mean I fight them less and listen more.  In the last five months I got a new wave of the depression, it came out of the blue and took me by surprise.  This time though, I haven’t sunk under and in a large part that is due to this practice and the way that I allow the depression to take the place it wants, trusting that just like last time, it has important things to say.

Thankyou for reading.  Please share, like, pass on if you feel its relevant, and definitely drop me a comment sometime!
The subscribe button is somewhere to the right of this article, good luck finding it, many have failed before you!

Sam Taylor

Crazy Mind Blog 

 

 

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The tides of wonder

cropped-untitled-design.jpegHere is a little late night poetic thinking for you, and a sharing of one of my most terrifying experiences. 

I often wonder, how many people wonder about the mystery of existing and being alive as I do  . I have a few confidants, So I know that Im not totally alone, but I ponder sometimes.  How many out there are as blown away by it all as I am?  As overwhelmed as I am.  Not by the day to day situations, but by being alive itself.   Am I just way too sensitive?

We were born into the world not knowing a thing, totally innocent and just as we were.  Then we journeyed, guided by people who were guided by other people, who were guided by others in the way’s of the world.  I remember as a child, my wonder, I remember the excitement of it all, my curiosity and my sense of self so new, yet so clear.  Yet I also remember that I thought it not strange at all, the experience of being alive that is.  It felt very natural, very organic, as it should be.  There were no existential tussles and turns within my mind.  I want to tell you about something that happened to me that I have shared with very few people a thing that changed my way of seeing the world forever.

At some point, a split occurred.  I can remember it clearly, it was the most terrifying moment of my life.  Up until this point I cannot remember ever questioning or even wondering at all about the nature of existence, my place here in the world, what its all about and whether or not I should think of such things.   Life just happened, I was involved within it but never so much as pondered what on earth it was.   Sure I knew there was death yet death for someone so young almost feels like a joke.

The split occurred in a smoke filled room, into which i stumbled after breathing in a sink full of smoke.   We were kids and we were getting kicks out of smoking hash in the most potent way you could.   I cant remember what you call it or exactly how it worked, but it involved pulling on a bong while it was interacting with a sink full of water.   Anyhows the night with that sink was the day that the world changed for me.
I crashed onto the sofa chair , I was 17.  I was totally and utterly stoned.  I listened to my heartbeat and could feel the fabric of the chair against my skin, its flowery patterns rubbing against my arms.

I listened to my heart beat.  It slowed down.  It stopped.
A surge of panic passed across my body,  everything felt suddenly cold.  I felt for my pulse at my temple.  There was nothing, just coldness, a hard feeling like the world was turning to concrete.  My hands went limp and I believe they fell to my side.   “Im dying” I cried out to my friends at the side of me.  “Im dying” I repeated.  Panic overtook me, this wasnt possible, I couldnt be dying, and yet there was no pulse, no heart beat and that meant death.
Very quickly there came a huge cold pain in the centre of my being, an intense pressure came around my chest and the world faded very quickly.  All the colours in the room mixed together and began to pixelate.   They seemed to be drawn to the centre of my being.  The pixelated world of pain and tension began to spiral inwards and downwards, the pressure growing.  I heard the sounds of my last words “Im dying, im dying” Speed up, faster and faster as the world began to crush into itself, turning and crushing the pixels of my existence together at an ever alarming rate.

Thoughts left and all that remained was a feeling of this can’t be happening, this is it, this is death.    Body had gone, reality had gone and had been replaced by a wild journey into something unknown, something terrifying and alien.

Then all of a sudden there was nothing.  I mean nothing in the way of something observing nothing, which of course is paradoxical since if there is something there is clearlly not nothing, and yet it is the only way I can describe the experience, as nothingness, yet with something in it, that something being me.  That said, the me that I experienced in that state was not a version of me I had experienced before and neither since.

But there I was, existing it felt everywhere at the same time in darkness that also was not darkness, feeling as though I was both ever present and not there at all.
There was no reflection at this point, no thoughts, no anything and yet there was something,  The terror was gone, and perhaps there was wonder, I do not remember.

And then, the process reversed, the universe came back into being, colours whipped into my focus, the spiral began to unwind again, yet this time the other way.  There was a thudding, fast paced sound, like drum and bass speeded up a million times.  As the spiral began to loosen and the pain began to ease, so did the sound begin to slow down.  Until eventually after what felt like an eternity, I began to recognize it as my voice.

“Im back, Im back” I heard it saying.

I realized it was my voice and I took control of it.

“Im back, I’m back” I said as the room began to come into focus.  It began to solidify and balance a little bit like the world does after you have spun around really fast and it takes time to focus again.  Eventually I found myself slowly uttering the words “I’m back, I’m back”  as I sat in the sofa couch with my friends looking down at me, worry on their faces.
I spent the rest of the night in shock.  I was so confused.  What the hell had just happened to the world.

Later of course, I would talk myself into the fact that I had simply had an extremely wild trip.  This of course being the most digestible way to view such an experience.  It would over the years sink into the back of mind, a memory to be for the most part forgotten.
However, I have always known that at such a point the world split for me.
The split brought with it anxiety, but also wonder.  It brought with it a nervous disposition and a mind that would question everything.
It also brought forth a feeling of disconnection and feeling alone, for I felt that I had awoken from a dream, and that perhaps it was only I who was having such a dream, and Only I who had seen that such a dream can be awoken from.
The weeks and months that followed were dream like to me, life felt like a dream, I was in constant fear that the solidity of it all would break away again, I wondered how much I could trust the everyday life in which I was before simply swept away.
There was no way I could ever view my existence the same way again after it had momentarily been so completely turned on its head.

And though even though over the years I have cultivated the surety that regardless of how crazy it all is that the best phrase you can have to hand is c’est la vie, I often wonder how many of us lay awake at night and think how crazy it all is, how many of us sit there wondering as I do.  How many people in between the rush and gush of it all sit awake at night wondering how many other people there might be also sat there wondering about the wonder of it all.  Wondering if they are crazy because they are wondering at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Not Brave

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(this picture is perhaps totally unrelated) 

Ive recently and sporadicly in my occasionally relaxed moments been going through the challenge of editing the book Im working on.  I thought the process may provoke some anxiety however I found that on the contrary it was actually quite relieving.   It was helpful to revisit the reflections that I had during my recovery and in a way, it gave me strength, the strength to accept the simple fact that I may never, ever have my shit totally together and that is perfectly okay.   I was editing a chapter called “Not Brave” and I felt inspired to share some of the reflections I found within it. The basic premise is that one doesn’t necessarily require positive qualities to heal from a mental crisis.    A small disclaimer.  Im writing from my own personal experience of surviving depression after mania, these are simply reflections, not a claim of expertise or any kind of universal truth.  I hope for some this resonates and helps and for others that you will simply enjoy entertaining my reflections.

So here goes!

Can the negative be the raw material for the good?

As I was in the midst of my crisis, going through recovery and after I was lucky enough to have the support of friends.  One thing I heard reasonably often were comments such as “You can get through this, your really strong”  or in the past tense “You were really brave throughout it all”   Although in no way am i critiquing or being ungrateful for this verbal support and encouragement or in anyway urging anyone to steer away from it,  I would however like to explore the idea that it kinda sometimes, if not more often than not doesn’t really strike on the truth of how many people might get through a mental crisis.

I can tell you, matter of factly that there was almost no strength or bravery involved in the way I dealt with or recovered from my severe mental break down.   These qualities were absolutely nowhere to be found.  I know this, because I remember when the depression hit so hard and so profoundly.   I felt completely abandoned by any positive quality I might have once had before.   Gone was my hope , gone was my strength and my vitality and gone was any shred of bravery.  I would tremble from the severity of how harsh it all was.  I would literally lose my ability to speak and could hardly move from the shock of what occurred in my mind.  I felt like a pathetic wretch, no semblance of my old self appeared to remain.

I can still remember what it was like and how I prayed and wished and hoped for some energy to sweep through me that would get me to the other side, prayed for my strength to return.   For those of you who have been somewhere similar, you will understand me when i says that no matter how much one prays or wishes,  that one can still feel utterly devoid of any strength or positive quality.  The feeling is all engulfing and to see light within such mental and physical darkness is nearly impossible. A person can feel irrevocably changed.  Changed into something that doesn’t feel very pretty at all.

Totally Screwed?

The trouble  with linking strength, bravery or quality of character to recovery is that if such things were required for recovery then many of us would be absolutely beyond a doubt totally screwed.  I mean if we need to be strong to recover, and we know for a fact we aint strong, then yeah we are kinda screwed.                                                               Though I have no doubt these positive qualities have carried many out of a mental crisis, what I’d like to explore is what on earth does someone do if such qualities have seemingly abandoned them?   The problem with thinking we have to be strong to recover means that the prospect of recovery can feel all the more out of reach.  If only I was strong enough to stop the torrent of my mind from bombarding me.  If only I could muster the determination to get out of the door and do the exercise I’ve heard is so good for me.  If only so many things!  The idea that I could fight or work my way to recovery through doing certain things felt both unrealistic and overwhelming to me.  The fact I couldn’t act, couldn’t think straight, couldnt muster any courage or hope left me totally distraught.   At this point, these qualities or abilities were simply out of reach.    In the fires of crisis, all things appear to of been burnt up in the sheer intensity of it all and to attempt to fix things things with positive action, intent or bravery when such things are actually physically impossible may only intensify the feeling of been broken  or without hope.

Unlikely heroes

In actual fact it was not hope, optimism or bravery that carried me to the other side of my mental crisis, the heroes that saved me if you like.  But rather more negative qualities that I thank for my recovery.  Shame, regret, fear, exhaustion, a lack of trust for the world and later a negatively biased critical mind.   Feeling good or strong would’ve been extremely counter intuitive during my  crisis.   Although whilst I did not think so at the time, it was negativity that I needed, negative mental states would be my salvation.     The exhaustion slowed me down, the anxiety kept me indoors and kept me from overstimulating an already wired mind.   My fear of death kept me alive in the darkest days.  The harsh feelings and lack of energy in the end humbled me and brought me back to earth and sobriety.   By feeling such dark feelings so intensely and at points not being able to feel at all forced me to face up to the simple fact that for some reason, I was in a very bad place.  It also helped to keep me safe and give me space to recover.

As the months of depression raged on I tried desperately to stay afloat and continued to wish for my old self to return and save me.  My old self of course in my eyes was a lot stronger than the broken, crazy wretch I currently was.  Yet, this version of myself never showed up, not during crisis, not during recovery either.  It was only in fact that I finally accepted I would never be the same again, that I finally gave in to all the negative currents surrounding me that recovery began.   At some point, I gave up the fight and did perhaps the only brave thing I did throughout the whole ordeal.  Surrendered.  Gave up, and let everything that was there just be.
Its feels extremely counter intuitive to surrender to your darkness when you know you want to head back to somewhere that feels good.   However in doing so, I was slowly able to process and accept what had happened to me.  It might not of felt good, but the things that the depressive state of mind fully accepted brought to me, changed and helped me as a person in ways that are difficult to ever fully articulate.  If I should try my hardest to put it into words, I would say that through experiencing myself as my worst, at my weakest,  I was humbled and in the end became more forgiving to the different elements of myself.   Such a positive view was not with me at the time though.

It was in a state of disgusted, broken down depression that life did slowly start to return to me.  From a state of complete weakness I began to set my focus on everyday life again.   Despite the fact I did so dogged by negativity and with a crazed mind and exhausted body, I did never the less slowly begin to move in a direction that felt more optimum.   And so it was as I returned to work, as I laughed for the first time, as  I broke the cycle of insomnia that it was done not with lightness and positive qualities, but with a hesitantly embraced acceptance that I was broken, fucked up and that this simply had to be okay.  It had to be okay, because there was no other way to do it, no angel was coming, no miracle was overdue.  Recovery came and was born from the acceptance and embracing of nothing positive whatsoever.
Although I dance with the idea of using this kind of terminology  I can’t help but naively ponder if the depressive state isn’t in fact one of the smartest most natural survival qualities we might be endowed with.

For me as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months  I moved back into the world, slowly and steadily, held back and looked after by what I previously would of thought of as quite dastardly qualities.
To quote an old proverb the negative indeed was the raw material for good.  Slowly (and i mean very, very slowly) life returned and so did mental stability and so did in time, many beautiful things.
Yet, I was not brave, I was weak.  I wasnt strong, I was pathetic.  I was scared, shaking and broken and in such a way, I survived my mental crisis and recovered.
I guess I want to share this because,  well for the same reason I write anything here.
It makes me feel less alone and I hope it makes you feel that too.

For those who are strong and it works I think that is fantastic.
But for those of us who arent.  It doesnt mean that it’s game over, it might simply mean the rules are changing, or we are changing, or that living life however we feel or cope, is perfectly okay.
That its perfectly okay, to not be okay.

Sam Taylor – Crazy Mind Blog.

 

 

 

My Story Of Mania – Final part – Enlightenment?

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(Podcast version to be released in a few days – subscribe to the right if you wanna catch that and other posts)

Dear reader,  I hope you will feel I have given you some insight into the experience of journeying from mental stability into complete mental instability.  This was my aim, but I have found along the way that the need to be brief and to the point means I can not fully explore the intricacies of the experience as I would like.  Furthermore, my decision to exclude retrospect means that I cannot touch on the discussions I would like to have about this experience.  This has led me to feel a certain sadness and a conflict whilst writing.    Therefore I have had to make the tough call of ending this series now.   I have decided to race you on through to what we will have to call the end.
Thanks for coming with me this far, it has been a challenge but also extremely giving for me to share this with you.  I feel that in sharing this story with those of you who come to read this blog, I will now feel in a better position to share the articles that are derived from the book I am working on.  Now you have more context perhaps it will give a richer experience when reading my texts on mental health.

The Narrative grows

North Carolina could of been another lovely experience in a life that gives many gifts of goodness.  It could of been a nice few weeks spent at a voluntary project.  That is what I had expected, that is why I had written to them in the first place.  Yet, in those weeks, strange things moved inside of me, very strange things.  The time for the volcano to erupt was upon me.  Up until this point, the narrative that I had created to explain my feelings had been pretty simple.  I was opening up and I was letting go of the past.  I was opening up to the wild possibilities of life.  That was it in a nutshell.  It was wild but it had not reached the point of totally unhealthy.  Now though it was time for delusion to arrive.

Life with Brianne and Dave consisted of waking up for the morning fire, sitting in silence as the sun came up and then getting on with the day to day routines and tasks.  As well as working on practical things at the house.  Brianne and Dave also were connected with a Shamanic/Buddhist in the area who was running meditations at their house.  I attended her first session and while being touched by her teachings, I had a strong feeling she wasnt seeing me for who I was, that she did not understand why I was there.  I had an immediate feeling that I had finally found my teacher and that soon she would realize the same thing.  I felt frustrated after the first session and enquired when the next meeting would be.  There would be a fire ceremony on the full moon which was in a pair of days, I decided I had to go.  It felt very, very important.
It was at this point I met another important character, Leah.  We met eyes during the meditation and I felt a certainty that something profound was going to occur with her.  I Wasnt wrong.

The days in between the meditation and the fire ceremony were spent working on odd jobs, playing music and being entertained by my wonderful hosts.   They showed me the local area and introduced me to people I would come to know during my time there.  Brianne introduced me to her healing machines and i spent time laying in the calming room as the machines massaged my muscles, shook my legs around and warmed my body.  It was all part of a process for me.  All this pain I told myself, is finally being released from my body.  I have finally found the place where I feel at home, I am around these machines because it is finally time to release all of the things that have been hurting my soul.    I had the same affirmation and narrative with almost every nice thing and person I was meeting.  It was meant to happen, it was happening because it was time.   Time for my big shift.   I was playing more music because I was finally connecting with who I truly was.  The chord sequences sounded so good because I was tapping into something more pure.   When I would join Brianne and Dave in the morning for their fires, I reasoned that I was tuning in more and more with my true self, finally living the life I was meant to.  Every morning and every fire built up this feeling of aliveness and electricity.  It felt as if nature itself was egging me on, each sunrise intensifying the fire that was burning in me.

The Ceremony

fire

It was cold out as we arrived in the forest for the full moon ceremony.  I did not know what to expect, I was nervous and excited at the same time.  We arrived early and as we waited for the other guests to arrive we walked around collecting sticks for the fire.   We were a small circle of around eight people, it was dark, my feet were cold but the fire warmed the rest of me.  I saw through the flickering fire the same woman I had seen at the meditation.  Leah.  I knew something was very important about this moment, something was going to happen.
The shaman talked about the stars and of the messages in the movements of the planets and we all glanced up at the sky as she spoke.  Every word she spoke appeared to be very significant, to be packed with meaning.  I felt like I was tripping out on something.  The power of the ceremony felt very intense to me.  It felt like the kind of thing I should of been doing my whole life.

After some stories about the sky and the stars, each person was invited to take two sticks. You should take the first stick and stand with it, channelling or thinking into it all the things you wanted to let go of, those things that did not serve you in life any more, whatever was holding you back.  You would then throw this into the fire as all the people around the circle supported you in the act.  The next stick, was your intentions for the future which you would channel into the stick and then throw into the fire.  I watched as the people performed their part of the ceremony and waited anxiously for my turn.  I felt like crying.  This ceremony was just what I needed.  It fit so much with the direction I was on, it was too convenient to be a coincidence.  I was most certainly destined to be here with these people and I was meeting my destiny because I had dared to.

It was finally my turn.  Someone stood behind me and held my shoulders as i leant down with my first stick.  I sat there and felt all the pain I could feel inside of me.  I thought about my family and the struggles and hardships involved, I thought about those I had hurt and how I had been hurt.  I thought about trauma, frustration, dissatisfaction, I though about my heart break about the state of the world.  I thought about so many things in what felt like the blink of an eye and with every ounce of energy I could muster I sent it all into the stick.  I didnt want it anymore, I did not want all that hard, sad, confusing stuff so I sent it into the stick and through it into the fire.

The second stick was more confusing.  What was my intention now.  How should I know. I knew I wanted to welcome love into my life.  So i sent that into the stick.  I also knew I wanted the big change I felt coming to come as soon as possible, so I sent that into the stick.  I want to give, I want to love, I want to find out who I really am, I want to be completely open, I want to heal.  I sent it into the stick with as much intensity as I could find in my soul and  I cast the stick into the flames, watching the smoke rise into the air and mix with the nights sky.   It all happened so silently but in my body and mind the noise was deafening.   As the ceremony ended I felt drunk and confused, I felt like I had been hit with a hammer around the head.  I felt like I had just done something extremely beautiful and extremely dangerous and I loved it.

In Between the work and the spiritual gatherings I was busy on just about anything other than relaxing.  I played music late into the night, started writing manifestos on how I should live my life and headed out to bars stoked up with energy.  Even at this point, I wasnt talking to anyone directly about what was going on.  I was simply embracing the results of it.  It wasn’t until I went to find Leah that I really had someone to talk to about what was happening to me.   I would talk with Brianne about some of my feelings and she would tell me that everyone who came through the house was experiencing strong changes.  She would also tell me that the area was full of strong energies, that the mountains have magic within them.  This kind of stuff, I know now, was not part of some magical manifesto, but it was simply a wonderful woman trying to support someone on their journey with their own beautiful, grounded outlook.  But for me it was like rocket fuel.  She would tell me how she spoke with the animals, and how there was a faerie ring and the bottom of the garden.  She told me she wasnt allowed there, but she had a feeling I was.  This kind of narrative was very appealing to me.  Of course the fairies wanted to speak to me, they knew what was happening and wanted to support me.

After the ceremony I started to feel like the whole of nature was conspiring to make something huge happen.  When the wind blew at night it was weaving intricate patterns around me, the ceremony was actually a magical happening and now I was going to find out what real magic did.  One night I headed out of the hut and tied up all the wind chimes, A part of me could feel that their eerie noises were whispering things I also did not really want to hear.

The Stone Bringer

moldavite

(Moldavite, a stone I used to excel my apparent enlightenment process )

A few days later, The shaman was having another talk.  We drove up to some spiritual centre where it was happening and I stood in the lobby looking around.  Once again, there was Leah, taking donations on the door.  I said a brief hello and entered the room where the talk was to be.
I dont remember so many details of the talk, because my memory fades, but also because it was such an intense experience for me.  I do remember her talking about different ways that people suffer and of work people can do to change this.  I remember being deeply touched, I remember my throat tightening and i began to have a panic attack.  I got up off my chair and sat down in the back of the room.  A huge pain began to form in my back and a pressure grew and grew until all of a sudden I burst.  I began sobbing there on the floor.  I didn’t hold a bit of it back, I just let myself cry.   As I remember it the room went quiet for a small 40 seconds during the most intense part of my cry and then as things calmed down in my body the talk continued.  I felt extremely confused.   Why was I feeling this way? Was it part of the magic of the ceremony?  Was this part of the process? Why would i suddenly feel so bad if I had let everything go?  I got back up and sat on my chair.  “Do you want to leave?” Brianne asked.  “No, im okay” I replied and i continued to listen.

“Some people have a problem with self inflation and self degradation, they yo yo back and forth between these two perspectives” she explained.  “Would it be fair to suggest you struggle with this Sam?” the shaman asked suddenly.   I nodded my head meekly and jotted down what she was saying.  It is ironic that as I agreed, I did not see that I was in that moment going through exactly what she was describing.  After the talk i went and sat by the piano.  I had a brief moment of clarity take over me.  Brianne came over and asked If I was okay.  “Something really weird is going on” I told her.  She agreed with me that it was so and we could talk when we got home.  I tinkled a bit of melancholy music on the piano and felt like I was melting.  It felt as though a huge explosion had just occurred in my body.  “What is happening to me?”, “Something isnt right” I began to think. At that moment Leah approached silently.  We met eyes and i felt like she was looking right through me.  She gave me two stones, one in each hand and said “You should sleep with these, they will ground you”  I felt so grateful, I felt a deep sense of love for this person who I had only just met, we hugged and then everybody started to leave.  That night I slept with the stones and I woke up better but still shaken.  I discussed with my hosts if I should go to the hospital.   I told them I was having palpitations and strange feelings in my body.  We discussed briefly the idea that I might be having a manic episode, but we reasoned that this was not the case.  Its funny really, how quickly that idea was brushed aside and how happy I was to do so.

The Power of ping pong

That night I went to play ping pong with some friends of Dave.  A woman there asked me how I was doing and I told her quite honestly that something very strange was happening.   She was really down to earth and told me these things pass and so I concentrated on the game of ping pong.  It was the weirdest game of ping pong I ever played.  Quite soon into the game I realised that I was a terrible player.   I reasoned to myself that the reason for this is because I had never really tried.  I tried harder.  I started to win a few points over players that were clearly better than me.  In the breaks between games, I watched the other players intensely, watching the movements of their bodies and the glance in their eyes before they outmaneuvered their opposition.   I then began to become aware of my own body and noticed the tension.  I was struck by the strange sensation that my awareness of the world around me had become a lot more acute.   My focus on small details intensified, I straightened out my body and I went back to the table.   As I played i felt like time was being slowed down, I felt It was easier to anticipate the coming plays in this condition, I felt I knew precisely what my opponent was going to do next.  I scored a few more points but I still lost.
By the end of the night however I managed a couple of games where i was neck and neck until the tie breaker.    I sat in the car on the way home, feeling my body tingling, my mind and awareness feeling so sharp and I realized that this was how magic was born, this was what magic was.
Simply put, I reasoned that because this transformation was occurring to me, I was able to focus my attention in ways I had never been able to before, therefore things that were previously impossible became possible.  This could only happen if one had fully opened the mind.  “You will now remember things previously forgotten”.   I was convinced now that reality itself was shifting in ways I had never experienced before, My game of ping pong confirmed this to me beyond all reasonable doubt.    In the next few months this logic would push me to leap from high places, go out at night climbing tree’s and leaping from one obstacle to another feeling that I was “training” this ability to tune into things.

That night as I was falling asleep I tossed and turned between wild dreams and thoughts. “Am I jesus?” I wondered.  “No, no, thats crazy” I told myself.  “But this feels like what has been described as christ energy” I argued back with myself.  I went back and forth with this debate until i finally settled on a story that was both humble (or so i thought) and enchanting.    A sleepless night followed where I weaved the story of what was happening to me, the details so intricate that they might take ten blog posts to explain.  If ever I met an argument to my story from another part of my mind, I would simply rewrite my narrative to find a way around this.  The mind in this condition enters a place that is so hard to relate to somebody who has not experienced it that I struggle to know if I should even attempt such an explanation .  A feeling of extreme intelligence overtakes you as your ideas flow like a powerful river upon which you ride in ecstasy.  Every thing seems to fit and make sense and due to the fact that you haven’t hit the the rapids yet, you assume that your conclusions about this being a great route to go down must be totally valid.  The critical mind is nowhere to be found and if it does utter a protest it is drowned out by the wild ecstasy that the rest of the mind is experiencing. At this point I was totally and utterly drunk on Mania.

What dreams may come

doorway.jpg

In this condition, believing I was on the doorstep of enlightenment and was simply waiting for the right moment to jump through,  feeling as though reality itself was bending to my will I began to put into motion some of the things that would later fall down on me so hard that I would nearly end my life.   I began to feel I was channeling information from a higher source, or alternatively put that I was tuning into the currents of the universe and understanding that certain movements could make big things happen.  The night after my jesus deliberation I laid there half in sleep, half out until the sun came up – “channeling” my plan about how I would help bring the world into harmony.

This apparently was my chief goal after my enlightenment was complete.  The plan involved starting a business grounded on the principles of co-operation and equality.  Once this was established, I would set up more of these businesses, and then more, and then more until there were so many of them that capitalism would simply wither and die.  I would use the functional, smart elements of capitalism and use them against the beast of money.   I proceeded to ring many people in denmark, convinced that I could talk whoever I wished into the project.  When I got a no, it was because the person was not open enough yet, when i got a yes, it filled me full of excitement and I continued my networking.  Imagine if you will, me sitting there in my little cabin ringing around folks in Denmark with my crazy idea, filled with such surety and passion.  You would think people would laugh and call me out for being insane, yet thats where mania is so tricky.  Sense and nonsense can mutually exist.  An unreasonable plan can intertwine with an inspiring one.  The border between sane and insane is incredibly blurry and due to this blurry ness I can conclude that instead of Mania, many people saw passion and creativity.   Due to this, the project became a central part of the focus for my wild mind and by the time I was back in denmark, posters were flying up on lampposts, venues were being booked, bikes were being built and we had a team of seven people working on the project.

As well as the business, I booked a concert, arranged to hold a workshop on lucid dreaming and began pursuing my romantic feelings for Leah.  She is quite possibly the love of my life I told myself.  I was convinced we had spent many lives together.  I told Brianne of my feelings and she said “yes I could feel something very big could happen between you” .  I took this as a clear indication that indeed Leah was the love of my life and asked Brianne if she knew where  I could find her.
Leah worked up at an organic cafe out of town down a windy road surrounded by tree’s. I persuaded Dave to drive me up, he drove me there and wished me luck.  As I was walking into the cafe, Leah walked out, our eyes locked and I smiled at her.
I told her that I felt that we had to meet properly and had been touched by her giving me the stones.  I told her that they had helped a lot.
“I felt we had to meet too” she told me, “I was wondering when it would happen”.

She told me she had to finish some things off but after that we could take a drive together.  We agreed I could enjoy a walk back into town and that she would pick me up on the way.   She did that and we took that drive together, and we did go on to share a lot of love together.   Leah was with me through the duration of my mania, even in Copenhagen.  Sadly, I have never met her as a sober, mentally stable person.  I probably never will.  From that point things quickly accelerated and it was the beginning of the end.  It is this point that I hoped to take the reader to.  The point where mental stability has reached complete mental instability.   The critical mind is gone, one is drunk on mania, the chips will now fall where they may.  I will now attempt to summarize the rest of the journey for you in an attempt to round up this story.

Leah became my confidant and understood and had empathy for many of my conclusions and my feelings about what was happening,
North Carolina ended in a mess.  The mess that comes from somebody running too high and not noticing all the things they are neglecting.
I headed through the hills to Atlanta, then down to New Orleans and spent the week with my mother.  When she left I was convinced we had healed any hurts from the past.  After she left I roamed the streets wondering if I was an angel.  I went to yoga classes and persuaded people to go and look at buildings with me under the pretence we could start a business together (yes another business) I started giving away my possessions to people on the streets.

On my final night in New Orleans, I spent the whole night walking around in a stupor, I found a bar and wrote my manifesto for the healing of the world, I spent the rest of the night talking with enlightened beings in my head.  They told me it had finally happened, I had finally reached enlightenment.  There was no doubt in my mind this was true.  I laughed and cried and delighted at all the magic that was going to come.  That night I slept for two hours on the stairs of the yoga centre waiting for it to open so I could deliver my manifesto to them.  When it didn’t open I found myself in a starbucks trying to buy a coffee.  I had run out of cash.
Suddenly and unexpectedly I burst into tears.  I cried so hard and for so long that the people in the cafe started looking at me funny.  A sweet man came up and gave me a hug and then left.  Does someone who is enlightened really feel this messed up?  I wondered.   It was at this point, the day after my enlightenment had finally happened that I rang home and said I might need help.
My sister and another good friend luckily grasped the severity of the situation.  They booked me a fight home that afternoon.   On the way home, my mind excelled further into delusion and mania.  I would love to tell you I got home and calmed down, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Instead I reasoned Mania was just a word put on people who had reached higher awareness and that any struggles that came about because of this were simply side effects that had to be managed.   I preceded to lie about my condition and hang out only with people who didn’t really know me.   The people who knew me, could see straight through my attempts to convinced them that I was mentally stable.  If they would challenge me I would say stuff like “Maybe you just dont actually like my true self – would you prefer the old unhappy version of me. Im never not going to be myself again – no matter what anyone else thinks”

It took another two months for the crash to begin.  It took two months of believing I was a supernatural enlightened being before the delusion crumbled.  It took two months for the cracks in my logic to grow big enough that reality could flow through and blow my world to pieces.  Another two after that for the delusions to turn nasty and to be admitted into the hospital.  Seven months on medication after that.  Three months of insomnia.  Over a year and a half of my life lost to madness.   So was I enlightened in the traditional sense?  Of course not.  Is anyone?  But did the experience enlighten me to many things about myself, my psyche and life? Yes indeed.  Just not in the ways I thought they were going to.  In the journey I lost my spiritualism, I lost my sense of self and felt my whole identity were ripped to pieces.  Everything I knew about myself and my identity were burned to the ground in the shock of reality meeting delusion head on.

But thats another story, for another time.  The journey from mania, to depression and back into the world of the living destroyed me.  But I would never take it back.  I hope through my articles and my book you will see the reasons I say this.  But for now, I have to put the story of my personal journey back on the shelf of the past where, for the most part, it belongs now.

I once again welcome your feedback, thoughts, feelings and reflections and of course questions.  Though i must admit, much of it still remains one big question.  However when I ask a question these days, I always ask first, what are the chances of me finding an answer 😉

Sam Taylor.

 

 

 

 

My Story of Mania – Part III – Forest Gump and President Obama

forestgump

(Two figures who popped up in my first bouts of dellusion in washington)

Hey, and welcome to part three of my story of Mania.  As usual for those of you who want to listen instead of read – heres the link.   If you have just joined – part one is here , and part two here 

For returning readers, I just want to take a second to explain the slight hiatus in writing.  Putting it simply, I underestimated the challenge that writing this piece would be.  Juggling home life, work life and then making sure Im in the right condition to process and write this all down has required me to take some time, to make sure that I feel a balance while writing.  Firstly for myself and my mental well being but also to make sure I can continue with this writing over a longer period of time.  I have been warmed and touched by the number of people who have spoken to me about this writing and shared their own stories with me.  Warmed and at the same time, taken by surprise.   I think people can be really brave sometimes.  If you have made it this far in the story, I hope you will join me for the rest.  I really appreciate that I can share this with you.

Philly And Pittsburgh

heart

(A photo that kind of captures how I was feeling all the time)

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were my next two stops.   I  will summarize for you as quickly as possible the key changes I experienced in my mental state in these two places.  I could write for hours about all the small details, the nights of tenderness and warmth, the intricate joys I found in small things and moments but I have to remind myself this a blog and not novel.   I  assume by now you kind of get the picture of what the build up to my mania entailed.    To put it as simply as possible I would summarize the build up as – being excited, being open, being a little bit more adventurous and desiring to embrace change.  I would also describe it as being extremely spaced out a lot of the time without totally registering it or wanting to accept that it might be problematic.

In philadelphia I hung out with an old pal, played chess, went to a demonstration, an art gallery and a house party where they played the fresh prince theme tune and everybody danced enthusiastically in an apparently non ironic fashion.  It was here that two things happened.  One of these things I ignored and the other I embraced.   The feeling of anxiety and being a little wired increased with every action that I took, It was starting to make me feel really nervous.  Was i moving around too much? Doing too much? Probably, but I could not see it that way.  Instead my reaction was to increase the volume even more.  In Philidelphia I I pushed back my anxiety and tried to remedy it with good old fashion exploration.  I would walk for miles to find cafes I thought were cool, I would spark up a conversation with a stranger and be taking long walks with them later that evening.  I would walk around and around just for the sake of it, just because everything felt so exciting and alive.  The more I did, the more I felt like I could do more. Something was really opening up.  In philadelphia I lit up what I thought was going to be my last ever cigarette and made a vow to myself that I was done living the way I had.  Any nerves or negative comments I was hearing in my mind were simply my old self trying to hold me back.   It was at this point, pretty much that the conversation with my critical, sober mind ended.  It was around this point I shut the door on my old self and decided to run, completely with whatever the hell was happening to me, I was done feeling crap, I was really just totally fed up with the part of my mind that kept feeling crap.

So in philadelphia I gave in to my adventurous impulses and ended the conversation with my fear.  In Pittsburgh, I began to relax into my new way of feeling and realized that it was time to start loving myself.  Pittsburgh was a beautiful river town with hills and tree’s and old industrial buildings.   It was also the home of an old friend who I met back in 09 during the climate conference.   It was super nice to hang out with her and I felt extremely at home and welcomed.  By now I was just really enjoying my new found happiness and openness to the world.   I felt very accepted and welcomed and loved by my friend, and this loving atmosphere made me feel even more sure that my openness was a good and valid thing.  I remember one night, it was snowing, a lot, it got super thick and deep out, a crystal white blanket formed on everything, the cars, the tree’s the roadsigns, it was breathtaking.    My friend had gone to bed and I was sat drinking whisky (a favourite pastime of mine in this period)  Despite it being late, I grabbed my camera, dressed warm and headed out into the nights sky.  The snow glittered under the warm light of the street lamps.  Everything looked magical and alive.  I ran around all by myself playing in the snow.  I began to write little messages in the snow.  Dare to live, dont freeze, be happy, things like this.  I got pretty excited and started working on a snow sculpture.  I can still remember what I was thinking about as I did it.  I remember thinking, “Shit, when did I stop being a kid? When did I lose my open heart and playful spirit? When did I stop playing in the snow?”  

dontfreezelive

(my original snow art)

In pittsburgh, I felt love.  Love for my friend who welcomed me just as I was and a love for myself and for life.  I found the more I opened up, the more I felt happy, the more I wanted to open up more.  I wondered, where on earth could this end?  What are the limits of happiness?  I had literally never felt this way before.  Life seemed to be dropping gifts in front of me everywhere I turned and I was for some reason was in just the right state of mind to be blown away by life’s generosity.  I mean, totally and utterly high as a kite loving it.  At this point I wasn’t shouting from the rooftops, I was just enjoying it all in my body.  Im not really sure if anybody noticed anything off with me at all.  I mean I asked people afterwards, I asked them what I seemed like.   Was there any hint what was happening?  It is though it seems just as hard for an observer to answer as it is for me.  I mean, until things start getting really whacky, it can be hard to tell.  The only conclusion I could reach given that this state of mind and change in energy was so new to me, was that I had discovered something wonderful about myself.   The philosophy I was cultivating could be described like this.

“Roots, water those that help you grow, uproot those which bind you”

The big shift

With my anxiety gone and my heightened energy starting to feel normal,  I left Pittsburgh feeling totally stoked.  I mean like really really happy and excited about what was to come.  I was on my way to volunteer in the hills of North Carolina.    I was really excited about learning about plants and participating in the meditation sessions they had there.  The couple seemed really sweet when we had emailed and I had this strong feeling that I was destined to be there.   On the trip down I thought a lot about my life and about what I had been through, about where I had compromised in life and what I regretted.  Thinking about that stuff hurt.   I have to let it go I told myself, I have to make peace with my past and let go of all the negative ways of being I have built up.  I decided that when i got there, I would try to give as much as I could to the people there, I would work hard and embrace this new life and the person I was becoming.  This was my big chance to change things.    I rocked into Washington Dc at around 4.30 in the morning to change busses having hardly slept a wink, my next bus was at 7.30.  In this brief break in the journey, pumped up with joy, love and enthusiasm I experienced my first break with reality.  I experienced my first taste of delusion and psychosis.   The scariest thing about it all (in hindsight)  was how utterly oblivious I was to the fact it was happening.  Or said more truthfully how little I cared.

Forrest Gump and President Obama

I had time to kill and a city to see.  It was still dark out and i walked randomly into the city with two intentions.  To visit the white house, and to go to the lake where Forrest Gump had attended the war rally.  The film Forrest Gump was one of the films that had touched me the most in my life, a film that was full of beauty, magic and sadness.  To me it is a film about how to truly live a life.   It felt extremely fitting to me that as such a big story was unfolding in my life that I should be where Forrest Gump was during his big story.   I remember telling myself to remember that there isn’t actually a real connection between me and Forrest Gump.  That it was a film.  Yet my feelings and my thoughts did not necessarily have to agree with each other.  It didn’t really matter either way wether it was logical or not, I felt alive and excited and I felt that it was really important to be where Forrest had been.  So much so that when I could not find my way, I started to get anxious and frustrated.  I started to walk quickly realizing time was against me.  When i found the spot, I felt satisfied for the briefest of seconds, took a picture and then became acutely aware of the fact that it was getting light out and I had a bus to catch in less than an hour.  The anxiety intensified because I remembered that I also had to visit the whitehouse!

I fancied that since it was early out that I might catch Barack Obama taking a brisk walk with a dog or something.  I reasoned that If I did it would be a perfect time to talk to him about the state of the world.  I also reasoned that in my particularly good mood I would be an extremely good influence on him.  I genuinely believed as I got closer to the white house that it might in fact happen.  I mean who knows right? I fancied that because I was finally following my true path that things like this were much more likely to happen.   I never found the white house though, I saw what I thought was the whitehouse off in the distance.  I also saw security people in black suits driving around.  I fancied for the briefest of seconds that they were aware of my intentions and I felt a surge of paranoia run through my bones.   I changed my course and decided it wasnt so important to have morning tea with Barack Obama after all, walking as fast as I could back towards the bus station.    I was aware that it was all a bit strange, but i figured, heck its a big adventure and when all is said and done, who really knows what is possible in this life?  Who knows what the limits are, maybe life could be extremely magical if one would just dare to let it be.  Maybe it could be more magical than i had ever imagined.  Maybe literally anything could happen.   There was only one way to find out.

North Carolina

tiny house

(The tiny house I lived in)

When I arrived in North Carolina I was picked up by one of my hosts, who I will call Dave.  We drove the windy mountain paths in the dark night sky and I talked about my adventure and I asked questions about his life, the project and what we were going to be doing together.  I told him –  I just want to give as much as I can and I want to try to fit into your way of life and see how you do things.  I remember he laughed a little and told me how him and his partner (who I will call Brianne) would get up at sunrise to welcome the day with a small fire ceremony.  “Your welcome to join or get up when you feel like”  he told me.  “You do that every day?” I asked.  “Yep” he replied.   The idea made me feel happy, what on earth could be nicer than waking up to the sunrise with a nice warm fire I thought.  I told him I’d be joining every morning if it was okay with them.

When we arrived the their house,  I could not believe my good fortune.  Dave and his wife Brianne were absolutely lovely.  Their house was for me like something out of a dream.  Tucked a few miles away from the main high way, with a huge garden and tree’s all around, it felt like a small slice of utopia.  The main house was rustic and welcoming and i felt like I was stepping into the kind of house I would have when I was older.  There were two cute little dogs living there who I felt an immediate connection to.  Brianne showed me their healing room which was full of funny gadgets that I didn’t recognize and they told me they would show me them the next day.  We talked a little about what I would be doing there.

They had bought a light system so that we could grow seedlings even though it wasn’t the right time of year for it.  Brianne told me she was very happy to teach me as much as she could about seeds, healing plants and all things relating to this which she knew.  I felt so lucky, so warm and safe.   Before I went to bed Brianne gave me a bottle of holy water.  It had a drop of holy water in it and the rest was purified water.  They led me out to the tiny house where I would be staying.  It was 20 seconds walk from the main building . A small couch, a heater, a little table and chair and above it all on a raised platform a decently sized, super comfy bed.  I realized I had not really been alone since I had started my trip a month earlier.  They said good night and we agreed I would meet them for the fire in the morning.
I sat there and drank my holy water and took in my new surroundings.   I really liked these people.  I felt safe,  I felt like I had landed.  I drank my holy water and liked to imagine that I was only drinking it because I had dared to follow my heart.  I liked to imagine it running through my body and washing away my tiredness, washing away everything that had come before, getting me ready for my big shift.  Something big was coming, I knew it.  The water made me feel intensely alive.
Im gonna give it my all here I told myself.  Not just as a volunteer, but also for myself.  I felt so lucky to be there and I wanted to make the most of it, I really wanted to make sure that the times of not doing my best and being half arsed were behind me.   Its never too late to change, and now I have this perfect chance.
The change was most definitely on the  horizon.  I was whilst simply sitting there and contemplating holy water,  running full speed towards a change that was completely incomprehensible to me. .  I could never of imagined how wild a mind can dream and how gleefully it will do so if nobody attempts to step in its way.

If you made it this far in the story, I ask for your patience as I will stop here for now.  I will attempt to conclude my story in the next chapter.  I hope I have been able to portray for you well enough what happened in that month so that you feel you can empathize or somehow get the jist of how I got from mildly excited to the state in which I was when I reached North Carolina.  How I was simply embracing the idea of letting go, opening up, tuning in to my happy feelings and rejecting my doubt and critical mind.  How I also started to open up to the idea that the world could be extremely different if one simply let oneself run with it.  The fire was stoked and the soup of madness was boiling on the stove.   Now all I had to do was throw some trippy shit into the mix and fly off like a bloody space rocket into the land of the crackerjacks.

Sam Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

My Mind And Me – Video suggestion

 

I’ve decided to take a break from posting my story  (My story of mania) for a week or so – It turns out that the project has been quite an emotional ride.  I’ve finished part four and am working on the finale – part five.  The writing itself seems to come quite quickly and easily, it is the opening up publicly that seems to ruffle my feathers the most.  It would be no good to anyone if writing about mental health led to poor mental health due to me not being able to judge how much I could handle, so therefore im taking it easy – even though I find the process very healing and enjoyable.  However In the meantime…..

I’d like to recommend anybody interested to watch this fantastic video I stumbled across from BBC Asian Network.  It focuses on mental health in black and asian communities in the UK.  I think its very important to consider that depending on our culture, our privileges and other people’s prejudices our experience of a mental crisis may be very different.  I think this show both illustrates this – speaking where often there is silence – and also touches on some really important topics that I feel are universal.
Make sure your snuggled up or something, its kinda long and the kind of topics you wanna be in a good state for.

My story – Part Two – Living life to the fullest?

For part one go here

(podcast version available here for those of you who prefer laying back, cycling or doing whatever your up to and being told a story – https://soundcloud.com/sam-taylor-236/my-story-of-mania-part-two-living-life-to-the-fullest  )

Im going to dive straight in for the fear of never getting this out.  I will once again attempt to write from the perspective of how it felt at the time and ask you to remember that my thoughts at the time do not represent my thoughts now.  I feel stupid asking this of you as I’m sure you can make that leap in reasoning yourself.  But it’s important to me, because things have changed so, so much since the time in which this story unfolded. Being able to hold onto this fact gives me strength and hope that a leopard can in fact change it’s spots and that just because one was once mentally instable, does not mean that one has to be so for the rest of their lives.

New York

newyork

(A picture of me totally wired and happy in my first days in the states)

The main thing I felt in that first week was nervousness, excitement and this spaced out feeling of curiosity.    The most normal everyday things were making me feel immensely happy.  Cooking for my wonderful hosts in New York, or heading down to the grocery store, taking a shower or writing down my thoughts in a book all came with a sense of joy and satisfaction.   I was also at the same time carrying with me a big shaky bag of nerves.  I was feeling very happy by all the new impressions but was also hit quite clearly by the fact that something did not feel quite right and this made me nervous.  My body was stressed and I felt like I was a little too wired.  I made the assumption that it would ease off and that it was perfectly natural to feel that way after such a big change.

Life without a routine gave a lot of space for simply exploring and enjoying small things and despite my small worry about feeling out of sorts, i decided to embrace the high energy and my creative feelings.

When i arrived the first night I exited the metro and walked into a snow storm, it was minus 12 degrees and I had no gloves, I instantly began to freeze.  I wasnt alone.  A guy had helped me find my way from the metro to the intersection close to my friends place.  On the way he told me a fraction of his story about his life on the streets.  I picked up a pack of smokes and we smoked together and then before we parted we exchanged numbers and I handed him ten dollars to help him find a place to sleep that night.  As he left and i waited for my friend, I watched the snowflakes dance in the air and marvelled at how simple and beautiful it all was.   I remember thinking to myself even then a thought that I would wonder a hundred times over the next months.  Whats going on? In this case I went on the wonder,  Why did I just give that nice guy money when I barely have any myself?  “You need to go easy” I told myself.  But I knew already then that I wasnt going to.  I would meet similar situations many times over the weeks that followed, situations where I would ask myself, should I take it easy?  The answer to the question was never going to be yes, take it easy, because everything I was doing felt so good, it felt so right.  I was here to explore and have an adventure and to do that, I would have to embrace newness and go off my gut feelings which I had heard so so many times, are always right.

New York came and went quickly.  I played a concert, I visited a museum I ate vegan food and I began making a podcast about my travels.  These podcasts are the only link I have to my mania that lets me feel with the senses where I was when it all began.  I never listen to them, the happiness in them fills me with a sense of loss, fear and embarrassment.

A sign of things to come 

How-to-Live-Life-to-the-Fullest-2016-Apps-1

(not the actual sign)

My next stop was providence, where a good friend of mine was doing an internship working in a bike frame workshop.  I was really happy to be going there because I figured it would let me ground a little bit to see a familiar face.  While I wanted my excitement to continue a small part of me wanted it to calm down.   I grabbed a mega bus and watched New York grow smaller and smaller behind me.  As we rolled out of town my eyes spotted a sign on the side of the highway.  It said a silly  nice thing like “live life to the fullest” or something to that effect.  I grabbed my camera out and took a shot as quickly as I could.  The sign felt like it had some meaning to me and the feeling it gave me was  one of importance and amusement.   It would be the first sign of many.  It felt like it was very convenient I should see it as I was pondering over my energetic state.  It felt as though life was trying to back me up a little, to egg me on.   There was no way to know that this small feeling of meaning, synchronicity and coincidence was the seed of something much more dangerous and wild that was lurking in the not so distant horizon of my life.

On the bus I hit up few conversations with strangers and was once again warmed by how easy it was to talk to people in the states.  Compared to my life in scandinavia where small talk can sometimes be considered extremely awkward, the way people would fire up a discussion with a perfect stranger warmed my heart.  It reminded me of my home country and of the person I felt I was before I had emigrated.  The more interactions I had, the more I had a feeling that I had lost part of myself since I had moved to Denmark.  I made a deal with myself that I would embrace this openness and try to release the person I had been repressing all these years and i figured it might be one of the reasons for my trip

Providence was a smaller town and I felt a little more relaxed as soon as I stepped off the bus.  When my friend arrived, we hugged and slowly walked home to his place.  He told me of his life there and I told him of my first week and stories from back home.  We grabbed some beers and settled into the couch.  I decided to tell him that I was feeling a bit spaced out, though as I told him i deliberately played down how enthusiastic and alive I had been feeling.  He reasoned quite rightly that it was probably jetlag and that sometimes it can take a small week to fully get out of the system.  I had,  I realised been waking up unusually early feeling quite fresh and ready to start the day (this fit with the jetlag premise). The idea that my spaced out feeling was jetlag and it would soon pass made me feel even more safe and at home.  Over half a year later I was sat with a therapist and she asked me when I thought my mania may of begun.  On hearing that I had suffered from jet lag she explained to me that for a person with bipolar, jet lag can be one of the triggers of a manic episode. If only I had of known earlier that I was prone to mania and of known the triggers and symptoms, the whole thing might of been avoided.  If only.

Instead the information that it would pass and that it was  simply jet lag was music to my ears.  Rather than concluding I should slow down until the feeling passed I concluded my feelings of joy were not related to being spaced out and nervous.   One was an annoyance that would pass and the other was simply a confirmation that I was on the right path, that this was going to be a very good trip indeed.

Deceivingly Normal

I dont want to mislead you into thinking that life was not also extremely normal, because it was.  I also dont want you to think I was thinking about my mental state all the time, because I wasn’t – I mean seriously, I wish I had of been.  I was doing regular things like taking bike rides, eating bagels at nice vegan hangouts, getting tipsy with my friend, cooking nice food and watching films.  The fact that things felt normal and I was with one of my best friends helped me settle into this new cool feeling of everything just being basically awesome.  Its impossible to mention all the small things that should of been cause for concern, because basicly theres too many.  Also at the same time, the things that should of been cause for concern, could also of been called “Living life to the fullest”.  Thats where it gets tricky and where only in retrospect can one find the answers.   As I tell you the rest of my story, I want to ask you to consider a question.  At what point did it turn from normal, to abnormal, healthy to unhealthy?  Simply put, when would you say the mania began?  When should I of started to worry?  Im not asking you because I want you to write me with your answers (I mean you can if you want), but moreover to give you a feeling of how tricky it is to get a hold of, how difficult it is to define and spot the differences between healthy joy, passion, excitement and creativity and the sneaky beast which is mania.  It just is really, absurdly, frustratingly and heart breakingly confusing.

So I would drink a beer which was normal, then head outside with my little notebook and excitedly ask people where I should visit in the town, jot it down and be convinced that I would go and see all those places at the crack of dawn.   I would make a bet with my friends housemate that I could dumpster dive 20 bagels in a town where he swore there were no dumpsters to dive.   I would engage in regular conversations about mundane things and yet at the same time be filled with a feeling that every conversation was meaningful and to be enjoyed to its fullest.  We would take a trip to the beach, covered in ice and snow and I would make little drawings in the snow and sand. I would wonder what it could be like to live out here, just making my little drawings all day in the crisp air and listening to the waves hitting against the shore.    I would ask when along the way had I lost such simple joys.

snowdrawing

(Sand and snow drawing – by Simon Beck)

All these were perfectly normal things, especially for a wild cat like myself, but at the same time as being perfect normal and everyday they were also being gently touched by the first droplets of the wild storm of mania that was about to start raging around me.  How could I of known?  The answer once again can only lay within the convenient calmness of retrospect.  Retrospect is a semi skilled time traveller,  whilst it cannot go back and change the past and undo old hurts,  it has unequivocal skills as a shaper of things to come, it can lay the foundations of a future in which one is more prepared for the things that have come before and may again.

However my story lays in the past and though I hold to my reflections like a pair of crutches, I will cast them down and invite you to head through the suburbs, across a rickety old bridge, grab a smoke and sit there shaking under a church as I await with enthusiasm, my next bus ride.  It takes me to new york, where i play another gig and then early the next morning grab a coffee as I walk under the empire state building, feeling all giddy and high as I watch the metropolis awake around me.  Who are all these people I wonder, what are they thinking, what are they feeling?  I watch them as they go about their every day lives and get enthused because I don’t have an every day life, I dont have anything to do, except the very simple thing of enjoying myself and becoming the person I have always wanted to become.

I finish my coffee, and wait in line underneath the double decker mega bus to philadelphia   I think its so funny that im going to philadelphia and think about the fresh prince.   I get a feeling like I’m in a film, which makes sense, because I’m in New York and New York is where all the crazy shit goes down.  I’ll visit West Philadelphia I tell myself.  I’ll find all the cool anarchists spots, I’ll buy a bike and I’ll ride all the way to New Orleans camping out and watching the sun come up.  I’ll play music on the streets and hit the open mics at night.  I’ll give up smoking and live the healthy life, that’s who I’m meant to be so that’s who I will be.
Ideas can flow past like a river, you can observe them and appreciate them, and not get swept away by them.  But the dreamer was waking up and the dreamer likes to get swept away by ideas, the dreamer unchecked will dive in head first.  My every action was leading me closer and closer to the edge of that river of ideas that would sweep me away.
Philadelphia and pittsburgh would be me dipping my toes in the water of the river of feeling more free,  the rush of life tickling at my itchy feet.  Feeling the love of beautiful people and a different way of life.   North Carolina would be where I would meet the people who helped me jump in head first so that i could be swept away be the insanity that awaited me.  North Carolina would be sacred water and healing machines, magical rocks and ceremonies around fires, shamans and sacred vows.  It would be the beginning of the end for my crumbling self control and my handle on reality as i knew it.
Yet those stories must wait, I’ve reached way over my word count and also I will try to understand and repect my own limit for what I can write and process in one day.

Thankyou again for joining me in this story.  Your comments and messages after my first post encouraged me to sit down and write this next post, made me understand even more there is a value in sharing.  I am very open for hearing your words, reflections or the things you can relate to either publicly or in private message.   Subscribing will make sure you are alerted when the next post comes out, If you want to.  Facebook isn’t so reliable in that way.
I hope you have the best week possible.

Sam Taylor.