At this particular mini-retreat, we talked a lot about anger. Bro. ChiSing had an experience with anger this week (yes! Buddhist monks still have tempers!) and we talked about that, as well as the Buddha's advice on how to meditate your way around anger. Short version: Love the person for his positive qualities, even if you are angry with him. If the person has no positive qualities, then love that person even more, because she is very sick, and without your love, she will probably die. (Yes, folks, it's time to embrace Sarah Palin. First one to do it without vomiting achieves Nirvana. Go!)
Seriously, though: As we were meditating after this lesson, I came to a stunning conclusion that may have actually been a Big Spiritual Breakthrough. This is pretty exciting, if you're me. A little background: Since oh, roughly birth, I've suffered from these seemingly random fits of anxiety. They're really kind of hard to describe, except as a feeling of being absolutely not-safe. At any moment the floor's going to open up and swallow me, some random blimp is going to plow into me, another car's going to hit me, I'm going to get fired or shot or nailed by a lightning bolt or otherwise inconveniently dispatched. They last about, say, half an hour and then they kind of just go away. There's sort of a pattern to when they show up but I haven't quite nailed it; all I can say is that they seem to be more common at certain times of the month than other times. And despite the lack of Jen-swallowing floors, random blimps, angry cars, firings, shots and lightning bolts, there seems to be fuck-all I can do about them except ride them out. What I tend to do instead is run around trying to reassure myself of the lack of Jen-swallowing floors and random blimps and angry cars and--yeah. This does not help, but it lets me feel like I'm doing something, which feels slightly better than not doing anything, I guess.
Anyway, today after the whole discussion of anger and meditation, it suddenly occurred to me that the fits of anxiety are caused by nothing. They come from nowhere and they don't mean anything, either. They are products of that wild and wacky organic brain disease of mine, and nothing more. See, bipolar disorder is a lot like epilepsy, which is one of the reasons they treat it with some of the same medications they use for epilepsy. Check out this link for some commentary by a doctor who treats both. One thing that both epilepsy and bipolar disorder have in common is the kindling effect, which can basically be summed up as, "the more episodes you have, the more episodes you're likely to have." And so it is with these fits of
anxiety. They just roll in like the tide.
Taking my regular cocktail of meds probably does a lot to keep them from getting worse, and there's one in particular that I can pop in emergencies, but guess what, people? Trying to figure out what causes them, and what's more, trying to find something to put a stop to them, actually gives them more power. I don't have to like it, but I'd do a lot better to Just Accept It and find some ways to cope with them when they're around (sometimes I can feel them coming, like the barometer dropping before a storm). I even came up with some ideas to that effect, which is also
kind of a new thing.